- Taking out the fear-factor - Gone are the days when successful teachers were the ones who struck terror in the hearts of students. Contemporary methods of education demand professional instructors to be easily approachable and have a genuine care for the welfare of kids/teenagers. Having brief online chats with teachers from time to time can go a long way in putting students at ease.
- Out-of-classroom help - Facebook can easily serve as a viable medium for extending the trend of increasing decentralization of education. In case a student faces any problems/has any queries while studying at home, (s)he can easily ping teachers and get the necessary answers. Teachers can always inform students about the time during which they can be contacted online. They need not be disturbed by over-enthusiastic kids at odd hours!
- Providing updates about class schedules - The practice of sending customized text messages to parents about the progress of their kids is already catching on, and Facebook can take this teacher-student interactivity further. For instance, if there is a change in the school/college timetable, or a special event has been arranged - teachers only need to send out a group message, to make sure that every student gets the information. That way, they can avoid having to take numerous phone calls as well.
- Getting a glimpse into the social life, inclinations and thought trends of students - This is one sensitive issue - and has been an idea of concern among teens as well as their parents. However, it remains true that the status updates, groups and communities, ‘likes’ and uploaded images can give an educator a handy guide on the overall thought processes and motivations of young people. The teaching/counselling sessions can be molded accordingly. The information flow is two-way, since parents can also frame an idea of the teachers who take care of their students everyday.
- Ensuring that students do not miss out on lessons - Health issues or other personal reasons can cause a child to remain absent from class for a couple of days. Via channels like interactive mobile apps for kids and Facebook, teachers can provide a gist of the lessons that the student might have missed. As a result, the same lessons won’t have to be repeated, whenever the concerned child rejoins class.
- Boosting confidence and self-importance levels - Even a junior school attendee likes to think of him/herself as an important person - and this feeling is vital for the development of the much necessary self-confidence levels in them. The very thought that teachers have actually looked up their Facebook profiles and sent along a ‘Friend Request’ would be a cherishable one for them. For senior students though, it is up to them whether they wish to add their professors in their FB friends list or not.
- Thinking beyond only the academic needs of students - A teacher is not a handholding nurse - but his/her duties do not start and end with delivering informative lectures at class either. There can be a host of factors, ranging from family issues to peer troubles, that might be taking a toll on the psyche of young students, holding back their academic progress. For resolving such problems (which can lead to depression and other issues), interactions outside the classroom environment is essential, and Facebook can be just the right medium for it.
- Checking the sincerity of students - Facebook can help teachers subtly find out whether a student who has called in sick is indeed telling the truth or not. If the reportedly ‘sick’ student is pretty active on FB on the day (s)he is absent from class - his/her teacher can easily see through the lame excuse that has been provided. Of course, students can stay away from Facebook on such days - but then, they won’t be able to enjoy their ‘cleverly taken holidays’ half as much!
- Sharing study material - Thanks to websites like Slideshare and Scribd, as well as the various document-sharing smartphone apps released by top iPhone application development companies - teachers can share valuable study materials (notes, e-texts, etc.) with all their students. Facebook makes this task even easier. An academic instructor only needs to upload the material on his/her own timeline, and tag students from the friends list to the post. From regular class preparations to last-minute exam revisions - such seamless sharing of learning resources would come in handy for all purposes.
- Privacy concerns - At the end of the day, students and teachers are not family-members - and each group deserves some separate, personal space. Contrary to what many people think, it is hardly difficult for teachers to protect their privacy on Facebook, from the prying eyes of students. The visibility of personal posts and photos can be changed from ‘Public’ or ‘Friends’, to only select groups of people. Students can similarly decide which of their FB updates should be visible to teachers.
On Facebook, teachers can take the initiative of creating educational forums, pages and communities - where all students and tutors can exchange their views on different topics, and share their knowledge with each other. A social media connection enables students to stay in touch with the teachers they respect the most, even years after their classroom interactions are over. At a time when flipped classrooms and mobile educational apps for kids have become the order of the day - interacting with students via social media channels is certainly not something to be frowned upon!
Ross Smythe is the chief concept developer at Teknowledge Mobile Studio. He regularly writes on the web, specifically on various topics related to education technology.