Web 2.0

4 Simple Steps to Setting Up a Facebook Account for Teaching

Michael Staton is the founder of Inigral (inigral.com), which sells Facebook for Schools, a private social networking application used at Arizona State University, Columbia College Chicago, and other institutions. Staton also pretty much lives and plays in Facebook. He offers this step-by-step guide to break through the barrier of setting up a Facebook account for teaching.

1) Set up a (separate) Facebook profile. If you’re new to Facebook, go to facebook.com and fill out the form right there. If you already have a Facebook account because your spouse, child, or high school buddy made you do it, set up a new, separate account that’s strictly for your teaching. Why? Because managing privacy settings and remembering who your audience is can get confusing. This new Facebook profile will be the one you share with students, other faculty, and staff at your institution. Put up a photo with you looking professorial. It doesn’t have to show you in a tweed coat with leather elbow patches, but nor should it expose your affinity for mai tais. Do something “20th century” like hold a book or stand at a lectern.

2) Set up separate groups for each class. You now need to set up a Facebook group for every single class you teach. To set up a group, sign into Facebook (under your new profile if you’ve got a personal account as well) and:

• Click on “Account” in the upper right corner of the page.

• A drop-down menu will appear. Choose “Application Settings.”

• In the “Show:” drop-down box, choose “Authorized.” A list of authorized applications on Facebook should appear and “Groups” will be there.

• Choose “Groups” and look for the button “+ Create a Group” toward the top of the page. Click it.

• Give your group a name and fill out the other details. For a group name, use the course number, since that will probably be fairly unique.

• Click “Create Group” and you’re done.

3) Communicate with your students. On day one of the class, e-mail your group name or publish the URL of the group and invite students to join. Advise students to manage their privacy settings for the sake of both parties. Tell them: “Treat me like I’m your parent.” That way you won’t be put in a position to hear about their weekend parties or fret about their dating angst.

4) Start posting! Remember, Facebook isn’t a replacement for your learning management system. It isn’t a place where people will hand in assignments or look for grade updates. The idea is to help students make connections with each other and you. Students who feel connected to an instructor are going to be more motivated. So what do you put up on your profile? Funny anecdotes. Links to new resources that have come into your field of vision. Current academic news: “I just published a paper,” or “I’m doing a brownbag series….” Don’t publish anything official. Keep it limited to posts that will foster a sense of connection and awareness.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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