Recently there's been a really interesting and active discussion on a listserv for those wild and crazy folk to work in big buildings with lots of book and lots of young people making lots of noise. The thread has been about whether or not it is appropriate for teachers to "friend" a student on Facebook.
It seems that people are all over the map on this. Some strongly opinionated old school types go so far as to declare:
My strong advice regarding Facebook:
<<<<STAY AWAY FROM IT. It has NO place in what we do. You will risk getting yourself into BIG trouble. This is no place for any of us.>>>>
Some respondents have been quite rah-rah about the whole Facebook thing:
<<<<I've had GREAT LUCK using FB with my students.>>>>
Most, however, fall someplace in between:
<<<<… this really isn't a clear cut issue. I respect individual choice to use social network sites or not, as long as any contact with students is professional. Many adults think too little about their digital footprint.>>>>
In the interest of full disclosure, I have both a Facebook and a MySpace account, but don't do much with either other than log in and peek around for a few minutes every once in a long while. While I, personally, don't think that a teacher who interacts with students in a social networking environment is automatically "unprofessional" as some respondents to the thread claimed, I'm not in the "OF COURSE, FRIEND STUDENTS" camp by any means.
I was introduced to the technology term, "the creepy treehouse" (I forget where I read it) a few weeks ago and it just seems to make sense to me. The creepy treehouse is a place online set up by creepy adults who want to lure kids in which, in turn, makes kids avoid it.
I think of it this way. There is a mall down the street from the school where I work. Lots of our kids go to the mall to hang out after school and on weekends. If I were to decide, one day, to load a few sets of encyclopedias on a cart and wheel it over to the food court and be all, "Hey, hey, hey … What up, homey???" Now, that would be VERY CREEPY TREEHOUSE, no??? Thinking about doing that makes MY skin crawl so I don't think it'd go over too big with my students …
On the other hand, if my liberry rented some kiosk space and had stuff for kids available if they chose to stop by … Eh … Maybe that'd be less creepy treehouse … From what I'm beginning to read, kids don't mind that model as much. They don't mind using "walled garden" applications (like Moodle or Ning) that are "like" social networking programs, but they really don't want me hanging out with them at the food court with my cart of reference books … Or on Facebook …