Facebook Poses Plenty of Problems for Educators

Be careful what you post on social networks. Dartmouth professor Reiko Ohnuma learned that lesson the hard way when a student visited her semi-public Facebook profile, took a screenshot, and posted it to the school newspaper's blog.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the professor had posted the following on her profile:

"I feel like such a fraud," she wrote. "Do you think dartmouth parents would be upset about paying [US]$40,000 a year for their children to go here if they knew that certain professors were looking up stuff on Wikipedia and asking for advice from their Facebook friends on the night before the lecture?"

As if that wasn't bad enough, she also wrote:

"Some day, when i am chair, we're all going to JOG IN PLACE throughout the meeting. this should knock out at least half of the faculty within 10 minutes (especially the blowhards) & then the meeting can be ended in a timely manner."

Professors, at least most of them, are not celebrities or politicians, but they are in a very public-facing profession.

A few years ago I wrote about teachers on MySpace, who were in some cases using it as a tool to help students with homework. There were instances even then when teachers got themselves into sticky situations.

Facebook is quickly becoming the social network of choice and is also increasingly serving multiple purposes.

People post their vacation pictures on Facebook and exchange banter with friends, but it's also often a place to post jobs and share links with peers and colleagues.

Sree Sreenivasan, a Columbia University journalism professor and the Dean of Student Affairs, has a whopping 3,584 friends, and they include many students and former students.

Sreenivasan, who is also a tech reporter covering Internet trends for WNBC-TV and WNBC.com, told The Industry Standard that professors should be thoughtful and careful about what they post to Facebook. If necessary, he advised putting students (and others) on Facebook's limited profile.

Over the last year, Sreenivasan said Facebook has become an essential part of his life. He finds it "a convenient, effective way to keep in touch with my friends, family and professional contacts." Via Twitter, he often updates his Facebook status several times a day.

Sreenivasan believes that it's important that administrators and faculty use tools like Facebook and Twitter to connect with students.

"Limited, smart, strategic use of these tools is essential if you want to reach students," he said.

At the same time, one must presume "your activities will be read, dissected and forwarded - especially when you are not careful," he said.

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