Friday, May 24, 2013

Should lecturers become "friends" with students?

When I was a midwifery educator, on the whole, I didn't become "friends" with my students on Facebook. The reason for my reticence was more about protecting the students' privacy than mine. But I was also concerned about issues of power and control (both theirs and mine), and making sure that all students had equal access to me, if they wanted it. To be was very rarely an issue, most of my students had much better things to do than hang out with me on Facebook!

What I have found interesting is that now I am getting an increasing number of requests to be "friends" from midwives who used to be my students and are now out in practice.

One ex-student is really getting her money's worth. She has now enrolled into a postgraduate course, and is using Facebook to ask me and my other ex-teaching colleagues all sorts of questions about academia, study, writing essays at postgraduate level and so on.

It's lovely to be able to support her in this way. And it's fascinating to see how she is incorporating us into her personal learning network.

What do you think about being friends on Facebook with your students or teachers? Is there ever a time when it is OK? Are there other social media tools that better facilitate learning relationships in a more professional way than Facebook?


Jane M said...

Hi Sarah, I have had similar experiences to you with online relationships with students. I have many Facebook connections with students I taught whilst living and teaching in the UK but here I don't connect while they are students

Sarah Stewart said...

Is there any reason for that, Jame, or is it something that just happens naturally?

Rachele Meredith said...

I had an interesting dilemma with something similar recently. I used to be a primary school teacher and recently came across - in a seven degrees of separation kind of way - a ex student of mine on Facebook. He is now in his twenties and I had a look through his profile and was pleased to see he appears to be enjoying his life, is attending university, etc. I was about to type a quick Facebook message to him when I hesitated and wondered how appropriate this was. I asked my husband and a couple of friends and they were all quick to answer that it would have been highly inappropriate and creepy to do so. I realise this is different to dealing with university students who are, obviously, adults but it is interesting to ponder these sorts of situations as social media is, in the scheme of things, so new.

Pamela Harnden said...

I believe that not being 'friends' on Facebook with students is a very 'white' cultural thing to do. I have found that I have been able to 'connect' with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women quicker and effectively because I am friends with them on Facebook. They then gain a personal insight into my life that makes me more 'like' a real person instead of coming across as a 'heavy' as many white ppl do in their culture.