Recent Changes

Monday, February 9

    Masters of School Leadership
    University of Melbourne
    An increasing incidence of internet related behavior issues and a desire to provide teachers and parents with an understanding of the contemporary social networking practices prevalent among our students, provided the impetus for this research. While the mainstream media has been quick to report the perceived dangers of online communication, very little research has actually taken place in schools to judge the potential of social media as a learning tool. The project report examines the reasons for using Facebook in a school setting through a discussion of relevant literature and by taking an ‘insiders’ look at way the social network can be used to communicate with students and parents.
    To gather the data, the project team set up a number of different types of Facebook groups and interactions, ranging from closed groups to teachers ‘friending’ students on their own personal Facebook accounts. The project also included an interactive experiment, ‘Teapotting’, to teach students about privacy settings and copyright.
    Data from the entire school cohort of secondary students was examined to establish the frequency of Facebook participation over a 12 month period. Follow up surveys and focus group interview data from a smaller, representative group is discussed using screenshot information taken directly from Facebook pages. While the possible negative implications of using Facebook are acknowledged, the author takes a positive bias toward use of the program. This view is substantiated with reference to the available empirical and professional literature.
    The project team found that it was possible to interact with students and parents via Facebook without compromising teacher professionalism or student safety.
    The primary goal of this report is to present the positive benefits to schools in embracing Facebook as a means of communication with their community. The report is structured in such a way that it will be of value to other schools looking for ways to incorporate Facebook in their own school settings.
    The internet is the ‘brave, new world’ of the 21st century. Unlike other technological shifts in history, this one is being driven almost entirely by children. As a result, it is a society without rules and the adults who share this world are scrambling to impose historically based social mores on a horse that has already bolted.
    Like Richardson (2008), who likens the internet to a runaway bus driven and navigated without adults, I believe that our students are living in a paradigm shift, from our bordered, offline communities to online, networked societies. Just as when our grandparents lived through the evolution of electricity and our ancestors discovered fire, the ‘Information Revolution’ is changing the way our society operates and as teachers we have a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure our students are well prepared to participate in this ‘new’ society.
    The introduction to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) Digital Learning Statement agrees. “Technological change in education means we are facing the largest transformation in how our students receive, interact with and respond to the learning experience that the teaching profession has ever seen” (DEECD 2010, p. 8).
    This study takes an appreciative inquiry approach to the use of social networking, in particular Facebook. Its aim is to highlight the educational potential of Facebook and to discover best practice in helping students adjust and thrive within this technological transformation; to improve learning without compromising safety.
    In this study I outline the background and context of our school and the reason for the research question. I include a literature review of the current research in this area, with a particular emphasis on the positive reasons for adopting social media as a learning platform. I then show the data indicating Facebook usage among our school population; I outline the actions we took to communicate with students via Facebook and discuss the positive benefits and perceived pitfalls of doing so. In conclusion, I reiterate the reasons why an understanding of Facebook is important for teachers and report on where this ongoing research project is headed.
    Our school is a single campus, Preparatory to Year 12 learning environment that serves a rural district arounda country town. Given the small size of the student cohort, (270) and the relative isolation of the community, teachers tend to form quite close relationships with the families of the students and most teachers have contact with the students in at least one other context than the school. The school has a focus on continuous improvement in every aspect of school life and one of the goals of the Strategic Plan is to equip students with the skills they need to become responsible global 21st century citizens.
    Understanding the school context is vital in considering the content and results of this report. As Sheninger (2011) says, “each school is an autonomous body with distinct dynamics that make it unique”. Our setting and school community is unique and consequently provides advantages and challenges that other schools may not necessarily experience in adopting Facebook as a teaching platform.
    All students from Years five through to Year twelve have school subsidised, internet enabled netbooks. They have access to these 24 hours a day and according to my preliminary survey, the majority of students from Year six onwards also own internet enabled smart phones or iPods. The school’s Electronic Device Policy allows students to have these devices with them at school and to use them in class at the teacher’s discretion.
    The impact of online communication has created a significant change for our school community. Given that we provide the students with internet enabled netbooks, we accept responsibility for promoting responsible use of them and for teaching the skills required to prepare ethical digital citizens. With the introduction of the 1:1 netbook program, the opportunity for misuse of digital technologies increased and we found the number of cyber bullying and privacy disclosure issues, although still minor compared to playground and classroom bullying, was increasing. Of even greater concern was the way students were portraying themselves online, the ‘digital footprint’ they were establishing and leaving behind them. Our school has a strong focus on social and emotional education and sees digital citizenship and online relationships as an area of great importance.
    A root cause analysis (Figure 1) indicated a range of possible influencing factors, making it difficult to define and refine a single question for this research. However, a repeated theme was the lack of adult guidance in the online space and it was this factor that became the initial focus of our project.
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    Figure 1. Root Cause Analysis.
    The project began as a very broad study of the educational use of web 2.0 in schools but for the purpose of this report, the focus question has been narrowed down to discuss just one aspect of communication via the internet, the social network application, Facebook. A social network, as described by Boyd and Ellison (2007) is a web based service that allows users to construct profiles, display the list of other users with whom they are connected and view and traverse their lists and the lists of others within the system (p 11).
    Facebook is the tool of choice for the majority of young people (Cowling 2011), but is regarded as a ‘banned’ substance in many schools both here and around the world (Snashell-Woodhams 2011, Squires 2011) and in some instances, contact between teachers and students through the program has actually been prohibited (Tua’one, 2010).
    The nature of technology and the changing culture of teenagers is such that in the near future Facebook may not be functioning in the same way or be as relevant as it is at the moment. However, “future technologies are likely to have many similar characteristics”(Henderson et al. 2011, p.3) and so the implications and possible uses of whatever program replaces Facebook are likely to be the same.
    Last year, our school was involved in providing data for a Monash University study (Henderson et al. 2011). Participation in this survey and focus group activity was completely optional for staff, parents and students and I used the interest from this project to launch my own research. The resultant core group of the project consisted of five teachers, the Welfare Officer, two parents and two students. At the beginning of the year I led a school wide professional development activity on the use of Web 2.0 and this provided an introduction for staff to explore the use of various online platforms. It also led to several more staff becoming involved in the ‘Facebook’ project. My position on the team was as the leader and convenor of the group. In my current role as the Assistant Principal, I was very aware of the need to keep the group open and voluntary.
    Given the context of our school and the increasing issues with online behavior and digital foot printing, we believe that greater teacher participation in and communication through this program could be beneficial to our students. In his review of Christine Greenhow’s research (Greenhow & Burton, in press), Blanding (2009) quotes her as saying, “It is kids who are leading the way on this (social networking)…. If we can’t understand what kids are doing and integrate these tools into the classroom, what kind of message are we sending them? I think we’ll see an even bigger disconnect than already exists” (p 4).
    Although the use of social media in schools is a hotly contested and highly contentious issue, there are very few published findings on the topic and because of the ever evolving nature of social media, published literature, especially that which has had the time to go through the peer review process, is almost certainly out of date before it is published. The digital world is expanding much faster than the research can be undertaken. Bull et al.(2008) note that limited research exists to guide best practice andas Danah Boyd (2008, p.26) points out, “While all cultures change over time, what makes the internet so confounding for research is that the fundamental architecture (Lessig, 1999) also changes rapidly.” Those on the cutting edge of research in this field tend to complete and publish their work in the digital arena that is so relevant to their findings (Couros 2011, Richardson 2008, Sheninger 2011, Truss 2011,). Online forums, message boards and blogspots provide vibrant discussion and debate on this topic. For this reason I have chosen to look at not only peer reviewed work, but also work found on the many blogs and forums that abound on the internet. To honour the validity of the literature I have chosen authors whose body of work in this field is extensive, highly respected and cross referenced by other ‘online’ educators.
    Selwyn (2006) tells us that “schools, up until now, have proved peculiarly resilient to technological change” (p.131). Masseni (2010) agrees. His research indicates that schools have almost no presence in social media even though over 70% of not-for-profit businesses are using social media. The Facebook horror stories in the mainstream press have made schools afraid of social media. Most teachers and parents who have not used social media themselves view Facebook as it is presented in the popular media; a distraction at best and at worst, a harmful and dangerous place full of stalkers, groomers and identity thieves.
    Dana Boyd (2007), who spent 2.5 years studying American teenagers’ engagement with social network sites to understand how their lives were shaped and influenced by social media believes that the widespread engagement young people have with social networking has actually reshaped some aspects of the ways young people socialise. While their parents and grandparents shaped their identities in schools and churches and stable family units, today’s students develop their identity online on their blogs and social networking profiles (Greenhow et al 2009).
    Today’s students are the iGeneration or as Prensky (2008)calls them, the ‘i-kids’. We can see with our own eyes that their earbuds are almost permanently glued in to their phones, mp3 players or gaming consoles. We know that they are surrounded by ‘infowhelm’ (Fisch 2007), but they are not the technology experts that Prensky’s original definition of ‘digital natives’ (Prensky 2001) may have had us assume. They live in the digital world, but they are not masters of it and therefore need adult mentoring, modeling and guidance to help them filter and monitor the information they are bombarded with 24/7.
    Social media is an integral part of the way that 21st century students learn.“The personalisation, mobility and global reach associated with ICT uses are implicated in an emerging new paradigm. Failure to recognise this will leave parents and educators facing each other over a technological gap; and no amount of innovation within the terms and forms of traditional institutional reforms in education can begin to address this gap. This is because of the fact that even when adolescents are not actually engaged in ICT use, it nevertheless frames their lives, whether they are in a classroom or engaged in face to face interaction” (Holmes & Russell, 1999, p. 77).
    Scott Meech considers that, “Digital citizenship is impossible until we help students live one life instead two. Right now they live two—a digitally unplugged life at school and digitally deluged life outside school” (Meech 2011).
    Ito reiterates this when she says that young people are facing “fragmented learning environments” (Ito, 2011, p.1). They have access to social media via phones and computers but they are not being shown the best or most appropriate ways to use them because they don’t necessarily interact with adults who can mentor them.
    This ‘digital disconnect’ is also identified in Greenhow et al (2009) who note that students in a survey by Levin et al. (2002) claimed that the methods their teachers were using did not match the ways students like to communicate and interact with the Web outside of class time.
    The increasing availability and integral importance of social networking in our students’ lives is an incontrovertible truth. (Subrahmanyam &Greenfield 2008, ). According to Ito et al. (2009), digital media and online communication are becoming a pervasive part of the everyday lives of young people. This was reflected in my own survey (Appendix 1), where 88.9% of students said that Facebook is an essential form of communication and 72% report spending more than one hour per day on the site. Many of those interviewed in our focus groups admitted to sleeping with a mobile phone under their pillow. Facebook is the last place they visit at night and the first place they visit in the morning. According to Social Media News (Cowling 2011), as of May 2011, there are 10.05 million Facebook users in Australia, 13% of whom are aged under 17. There were 9.8 million videos downloaded from YouTube last month and 6.8 million blog posts were written. Lenhart et al. (2005) as part of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, found that 87% of teenagers reported using the internet, most of them on a daily basis.
    Cultural anthropologist, Mimi Ito says, “Facebook is the biggest educational property we have in kids’ lives now,” (Ito 2011), not because it teaches our students what we want them to know, but because that is where the bulk of their learning is taking place. If that is the case then it would seem imperative that educators utilise this resource in their work.
    Brent Davies (Davies 2011) suggests that schools may well be the last repositories of values and morals in modern day society. That being so then the last thing we want is for our young people to be learning in a forum that has very little responsible adult presence. Left alone, children and teenagers tend to make up their own rules. Moral and legal guidance is required in all aspects of children’s learning. Albers-Miller (1999) notes that people will engage in inappropriate behaviour when they have no fear of punishment. The anonymity of the internet offers a reduced chance of detection (Freestone & Mitchell 2004). When you add an absence of adult presence into the online space, the chance that young people will make some poor and uniformed choices, is high. Teachers therefore have a moral and ethical obligation to make sure students are aware of their ethical responsibilities in online spaces as well as within the walls of the classroom. As Picardo (2011) points out, it is perplexing that schools have generally reacted by blocking social networking sites, “effectively abandoning children to learn about their use on their own, without our guidance and without appropriate models of good practice”.
    If the ideas Richard Elmore presents in his recent article are to be believed then the most compelling argument for teachers to become involved in social media may well be that if they don’t, they could soon be out of a job. He predicts that in the relatively near future “schools, as we presently know them, will gradually cease to exist and be replaced by social networks organized around the learning goals of students and their families” (Elmore & City 2011, p 1).
    Although, as yet, research in education is scant, studies among high school students suggest that social networks can serve a range of purposes, including helping users develop and express their identities, learn new skills and behaviors, and practice traditional and novel literacies (Greenhow & Robelia, 2009a, 2009b; Ito et al., 2009).
    Social media can be an enhancement, an extension of what is happening in the classroom. The YALSA report lists some of the ways they believe social media can improve student outcomes. According to their report (YALSA, p.3): Social media “provides an ideal environment for teens to share what they are learning or to build something together online”; “allows teens to receive feedback from librarians, teachers, peers, parents, and others”; “helps to create a sense of community (as do the physical library and school) and in this way are already aligned with the services and programs at the library and school”; gives young people “the opportunity to learn how to be safe and smart” participants; and prepares youth for their futures as they “learn valuable life skills” using these “tools for communication that are widely used in colleges and in the workplace.”
    Online networks provide an opportunity for teachers to interact and communicate beyond the classroom door, to offer feedback and support and to build strong relationships with the school community. Social networking in an educational setting can help to establish positive relationships between teachers and their students. In their study Simons-Morton et al (1999) acknowledge that the correlation between strong academic performance and behaviour in students with positive social bonds to school are implicit in the concept of middle schooling. They assert that failure to establish this social bond can result in a range of problem behaviours including bullying and truancy.
    As Christine Greenhow points out in her recent study (Greenhow & Burton in press), the kind of skills students are developing on sites like Facebook are the same skills that educators have identified as important for the next generation of job seekers – empathy, appreciation of diverse opinions, an ability to multi task and collaborative skills.
    In light of the literature review findings, the project team acknowledged that adult presence online is important in the development of young people’s digital footprint. We also agreed that current research supports the idea that programs like Facebook can be used to enhance the learning of students. These agreements helped to move the focus of the project from ‘should’ to ‘how’ teachers can use Facebook in schools.
    By using a mixed method approach in this research I was able to use the structured and deductive characteristics of quantitative data to provide structure for the qualitative information. The qualitative approach allowed our initial idea to evolve as we learnt more about the participants and their behavior within the culture of Facebook.
    Both quantitative and qualitative data were gathered from students, teachers and parents, although for the expediency of the word count in this paper while still doing justice to the examination of the data, the majority of data outlined in this report is from students.
    The initial research question has been modified many times. As noted in the root cause analysis (Figure 1), we identified many factors potentially affecting the digital profile of our students and we found it difficult to narrow our attention to just one of these. However, through the iterative nature of action research, the topic started to narrow itself. From a broad and ‘fuzzy’ question of how and why and should parents and teachers become involved with Web 2.0, we narrowed Web 2.0 to social media. Then, after discovering via our surveys and interviews that Facebook is overwhelmingly the platform of choice for our students, we elected to focus just on the use of Facebook. After extensive perusal of literature surrounding 21st century learning, we adjusted our thoughts from ‘should’, to ‘why’ and then to our action of ‘how’ Facebook can be used in schools.
    We used initial survey data (Appendix 1) to gauge the Facebook participation levels of the students from Years 6-11. The parents of these students were invited to complete an initial survey at Parent-Teacher interviews in July 2010. The response rate to this survey was 98%. The eagerness of parents to be involved in the project was seen in itself as a sign that it was an area worth exploring.
    This survey included three particular measures:
    1. How many students were using social networking sites
    2. Whether or not the students had teacher contacts on their list
    3. Whether students or their parents were using Facebook for any educational purpose.
    At these interviews, parents were advised of the project and permission obtained to proceed with further focus group sessions and individual interviews.
    During and after the implementation of our project actions, we used complementary interview data to investigate the use of Facebook as a communication tool in our school. Statistics from the Facebook site were used to calculate visits to particular pages and groups. Existing data in the school, (behavior reports and incident reports) and informal feedback via email and telephone was also recorded.
    Our team took an ethnographical approach, immersing ourselves in the ‘culture’ of Facebook in order to become active participants in the research. We practised ‘participant observation’ and the ‘deep hanging out’ described by Geertz (1973). This posed some risk to the team members as it required them to become ‘accepted as a natural part of the culture in order to assure that the observations are of the natural phenomenon’ (Trochim 2006). However, it also helped the digital immigrant (Prensky 2001a) teachers to bridge the gap in their understanding of the culture of Facebook by ‘going native’ (Greenhow 2008).
    The members of the action research team then set about creating Facebook forums through which they could communicate with the wider school community. These included:
    An official school Facebook page. This was used to make announcements, celebrate success in a very similar format to the school newsletter.
    Subject groups. At the Later Years (10-12) level, closed Facebook groups were set up for Psychology, English and Drama.
    Extra Curricula groups. Closed groups for The Performing Arts, New Zealand Camp and the Senior Student Leadership group were formed. These were open to students involved in these activities and, in the case of the Performing Arts and New Zealand Camp, their parents.
    Teacher profiles. Teachers within the action group allowed students and parents access to either their personal profiles or to specially created teacher profiles.
    In conjunction with the VCE Psychology class we created a Facebook‘ meme’, (a photo project that focus on a uniquely contagious idea or theme), called ‘Teapotting’. This page was completely open to all Facebook users. Teapotting piggybacked on the planking meme that attracted so much media coverage at the start of 2011 (Hughson 2011, Reidy 2011) and was used to give the students an experience based lesson on social networking.
    Class time was used to conduct targeted ‘Facebook’ classes, discussing privacy settings and online disclosure and lunch time Facebook 101 sessions were held for interested teachers and ancillary staff. These lessons were conducted by members of the research team.
    To gauge the effects of these actions, we observed and recorded online behavior and discussions. Screenshots of some of these observations have been included in the results and discussion section of this report. We also used Survey Monkey to conduct a follow up survey and ran focus group interviews with two randomly chosen students from each year level of the original cohort. Pseudonyms have been used when quoting these research participants. We also repeated the initial Facebook Participation Survey to monitor changes in adult interaction and use for educational purposes.
    Our results and findings are, therefore, a reflection of our movement between online and offline observations and discussions with students.
    In July 2010, all students in Years 6- 11 were given the Facebook Participation Survey (Appendix 1). This survey was repeated with the same cohort (in Years 7-12) in September 2011. The results of this survey, shown in Table 1, indicate that the use of Facebook among our student population increases with age. Of the 104 students from Years 6-11 recorded in the initial Facebook Participation Survey in July 2010, 82 (75.7 %) had a Facebook account. In a follow up survey in September 2011, the number within the same cohort had risen to 91 (85.6%). Some of this increase can be accounted for by students waiting until they are legally old enough (13) to open an account. Among the older students in Years 10-12, the percentage of students with Facebook accounts has remained consistently high with almost every student, 47 out of 50 (94%) active on Facebook.
    A comparison of the results of the Facebook Participation Survey clearly shows an increase in the number of students adding teachers as contacts and an increase in the number of students reporting that they have used Facebook for educational purposes. (See Table 1).
    Table 1. Survey Findings – Facebook Participation Survey
    Year Level
    2010 /2011
    Year of survey 2010 / 2011
    Total students
    Students with Facebook
    % Students with
    Teacher from school as a ‘friend’
    Teacher as ‘Friend’
    Use Facebook for School Purpose
    / 7
    / 8
    / 9
    / 10
    / 11
    / 12
    (Note – All percentage figures are rounded to nearest whole percentage)
    In the Survey Monkey Poll (Appendix 2) of focus group students, 16 out of the 18 students ( 89%) said they regarded Facebook as an essential form of communication with 13 out 18 (72%) of the students reporting they spend more than 1 hour on average using Facebook each day. Although Facebook is currently blocked from the school computer network, 15 out of 18 (83%) have accessed their accounts via their smart phones or their iPods while they are at school, with 11 out of 18 (61%) confessing to actually checking their accounts while they are in class.
    Similar to the study conducted by Greenhow and Burton (in press), students reported that being part of Facebook helped deepen their existing relationships (including those with teachers) as well as developing or initiating others.
    “Being friends with teachers on Facebook helps you to see them as more human. When you see them at school the next day after you read some of their status updates, then you know why they might be in a cranky mood or something. It makes them seem more like us.” (Lisa, 16).
    On the other hand they also recognize the potential pitfalls for teachers.
    “ There’s a girl in one class who updates from the back of her class with stuff like how she’s learning nothing. I know she has her teacher on her Facebook list and I think it puts Alison* in a compromising position.” (Lisa, 16)
    As with any powerful tool, there are positives and negatives for teachers who choose to use Facebook as part of their teaching strategy. Mainstream media is quick to pounce on any ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by teachers on social networks (Carter et al. 2008).
    “Teachers need to have lessons on using Facebook too. There are a couple of teachers at our school who write silly stuff on their walls and they’ve accepted kids as friends. They aren’t all as smart as you guys (the teachers in the project group) so I think you should run some lessons with them.” (Susan, 16)
    Just as they do in any public arena, teachers need to be acutely aware of the way they present themselves on Facebook.
    The ability to invite one’s contacts to a group helps form connections and provides peer feedback, including help with school related tasks. (Greenhow & Burton, in press). In our focus group interviews, the use of Facebook for seeking help from teachers and fellow students was identified as a very positive outcome.
    “I use Facebook all the time to ask about homework. Sometimes I just post a help wanted status and sometimes I inbox the teacher or someone else in my class. A couple of times my maths teacher has actually talked me through a maths problem on Facebook chat. It’s like phone a friend.” (Charlotte 13).
    Screenshot 1. Teacher Wall, 19/10/2011
    One of the unanticipated findings from our project was an improvement in grammar for the students who were messaging teachers via Facebook. We found that our own use of punctuation and grammar was being mirrored by the students’ responses.
    Several of the students in my Middle Year’s English class used the message facility of Facebook as a platform for writing letters back and forth to me, in a similar way to how we have, in the past, used a personal journal book. This is an example from Charlotte’s message early in the year.
    Screenshot 2: Teacher inbox 05/03/2011
    And this example is from her in September of the same year.
    Screenshot 3: Teacher inbox 18/09/2011
    Not only are students learning ‘new’ literacies, they are improving their skills in traditional literacies at the same time. This is a validation of the findings in some studies conducted in American High Schools. (Greenhow & Robelia, 2009a, 2009b; Ito et al., 2009).
    Facebook Page
    As of October 2011, the official school Facebook page has 115 people actively receiving notifications.
    Social media makes schools more transparent to the community as a whole. In his blog Eric Sheninger (2011) talks about the way he uses social media as a way of making his own practice more transparent and sharing his own ideas with others. The school Facebook page is enabling us to share real time information with the school community, to celebrate student achievement and provide a window for the greater school community to see what is happening in our school. As Masseni (2010) says, the modern organization recognizes that to get their message heard it needs to be in the medium the customer wants to hear it.
    The school Facebook page puts the newsletter into the pocket of most parents rather than the bottom of the school bag!
    Facebook Groups
    The Facebook groups have been used primarily for notification of events and sharing of photos, videos and ideas pertinent to the members. Students use the pages to check on dates, to exchange ideas, to ask for homework advice and to reflect on their day’s classes. Parents use the groups for similar reasons but more as readers of the content rather than creators.
    Screenshot 4: Closed group, VCE Drama 31/08/2011
    Facebook groups allow teachers and students to communicate without breaching any professional ‘lines in the sand’. All comments are public and the groups can be closed to restrict their viewing to only the people involved in the group activity.
    “ Notifications from school groups makes you think about it out of class. You can be chatting away to someone on msn and then ‘wham’ up comes a Facebook notification from Mrs G saying our novel response is due the next day. “ (VCE English Group, Max 17)
    Screenshot 5: Closed group, VCE English, 02/03/2011
    “I loved being able to check the rehearsal videos at home each night. It was like a practice performance because I could watch it on my own but I knew other people were watching it as well.” (Production Group, Susan, 16)
    “The NZ camp group was awesome. I’m not allowed to have a phone yet but I was able to go to the internet kiosk every night and catch up with Mum that way and she could see the photos of me that the teachers posted. It made it feel like she was part of the trip as well which was good because it cost her heaps of money for me to go.” (NZ Camp Group, Charlotte 13).
    The Teapotting experiment was particularly effective in highlighting the rapidity with which information can be shared and referred on Facebook. The group itself experienced a rapid rise in ‘likes’ and six months after the event, still continues to attract new traffic to the site.
    It raised awareness of the lack of ownership associated with material shared on Facebook.
    “I posted my picture on the teapot wall and the next day my aunty saw it in the paper in Sydney” (Grace, 14).
    and provided a real life experience of copyright entitlements.
    “ I was pretty pissed off when I saw that guy on Sunrise claiming he invented teapotting.” (Max, 17)
    Without exception, the students interviewed spoke about the increased accountability for students who communicate with teachers via Facebook.
    “It doesn’t stop you being who you are but it reminds you to show the best side of who you are. Sometimes I write a really long update and then I read it before I post it and I think what will Mrs D think or I know that if I post it my Nan will be commenting and saying “Why are you saying that Tina?”, and I’ll be like , “Come on Nan, I have lots of other friends than yo”’. But it reminds you in a good way because it makes you stop and think what you say. If you still want to say it there’s always the inbox.” (Tina 14)
    “Having teachers on your friends list reminds you that Facebook is still the real world. It restricts what you post in a public environment.” (Susan 16)
    “ Some people are totally stupid. They take a day off from school and then post that they are in Warrnambool or Melbourne shopping. Duh! Even if they don’t have teachers on their wall, someone that they know will and they are going to look pretty silly trying to explain it when they get back.” (Lisa, 16)
    One of our planned future actions was to try to have Facebook unblocked at school. Interestingly, there was a contrasting opinion on this between the younger students in years 6-8 and the older students in years 9-12. The younger group felt that unblocking the application would remove the ‘naughtiness’ associated with using proxy servers to outsmart the teachers. They believe that removing rules about social media would give them less reason to go out of their way to Facebook in class.
    “ Everyone knows how to get on (Facebook) if they want to. There are people with pages full of proxy servers. There are quite a few people who update from class with stuff like ‘in maths….soooo boring’. It’s more about them having a go at the teacher and showing off to their mates about how they can break the rules. They don’t do that stuff with teachers who know what’s going on.” (Gary, 13).
    The older students however, were more divided in their opinions. They believe that while teachers should be able to show how Facebook worked in class, we should be cautious in allowing students to have access to the site on their computers at school.
    “ I like having the break from Facebook at school. If I was allowed to use it then I would and I think it would interfere with my concentration. Some kids are forever checking their news feed in class with their phones in their pencil cases but I don’t care enough to do that. I think if it was unblocked they’d just be on it all the time.” (Lisa 16)
    “If Facebook is allowed at will really depend on how the school implement the use and having a strong communication with the students and teachers, making the abuse of being able to use Facebook not an issue.”(Max 17)
    All students felt that they were safer online because of the teacher’s understanding of and presence on Facebook. A general theme was that teachers and other trusted adults provided a ‘social conscience’.
    “ When you hear all the bad stuff about the internet and Facebook….I feel really safe on the internet because my Mum and my teachers are on it” (Gary 13)
    “Kids from other schools don’t have any privacy settings. Here the teachers go through all that with you and Ms C actually checks them for us from her private account and lets us know if we need to fix anything. It’s really hard to know if it’s set right unless someone who isn’t your friend checks it for you.” (Mary, 13)
    Despite the confidence of the focus group students, we note that only 2 out of the 18 ( 11.1%), check their privacy settings every time Facebook changes its terms and conditions. 12 out of 18 (66.7%) check them occasionally, 3 out of 18 (16.7%) check them regularly and 2 out of 18 (11%) are still not checking them at all. This would suggest that we still have a lot of work to do in this area.
    Increasingly the burden of online bullying has become part of the responsibility of school welfare teams. We have come to understand that online relationships have a flow on effect into school life and we can no longer dismiss cyber bullying as something that happens ‘outside’ of school jurisdiction. As Shelley Blake-Ploc says, “We are probably the last generation that will make the distinction between ‘online’ and ‘offline’.”(Blake- Ploc 2010).
    Since the implementation of this project there has been a significant decrease in cyber bullying incidents reported to the school or to the police. In 2009, we had 15 documented reports of serious cyber bullying, 3 of which were reported to the police. This year, we have had 3 documented cyber bullying reports, none of which required police involvement.
    There has also been a shift in the way we deal with cyber incidents. The majority of cyber incidents are now dealt with online by members of the project team or successfully peer moderated online by students.
    “Just last week one of my friends posted something really crass on another friend’s wall and it included a pretty awful reference to one of our teachers. One of the Facebook teachers saw it and sent me a text. I rang my mate and told him it was a dumb thing to say on facey and he took it straight down. He just wasn’t thinking.” (Max 17)
    Face to face follow-up discussions follow a restorative practice format and in all cases this year have resulted in a positive outcome.
    Digital footprint
    “It helps to have adults as your friends on Facebook because they help you to make your social footprint good.” (Bianca 14)
    “Does having a teacher on your list make a difference to your digital footprint? Are you kidding? You should see the difference in what people say after they decide to delete all the teachers and other adults from their friends list. It’s massive and not in a good way.” (Michael 15)
    Not only are our students avid consumers of internet content, they are actively engaged as content creators online. This includes sharing photographs, stories and videos and creating and maintaining their own and others’ blogs and websites (Considine 2009). This creative process requires literacy skills beyond those of the traditional classroom. As Westlake (2008) points out, the internet has changed the way we read. It requires non linear reading strategies as it invites and almost demands a kind of ‘choose your own path’ process whereby we surf from page to page and make decisions about clicking on links that make sense to us depending on what we want to read and our cognitive processing style. These reading strategies are not innate: they require specific teaching.
    One of the key observations from teachers involved in the study was that students who are very reticent to read and write in class are often observed writing lengthy status updates and commenting prolifically on other people’s walls.
    Prensky (2005) , claims that digital natives are alienated and disengaged because they don’t have the same access to technology at school as they do at home. Considine (2009) argues that as educators we need to help students develop the academic literacy skills for success in, out and beyond school. We need to expand our concept of text beyond the printed page to engage and evoke emotional responses in our students through film, websites, music, cartoons and lyrics (Wade & Moje 2001). In doing so, social media can engage reluctant readers and writers in ways that a regular classroom has never been able to achieve (Malloy & Gambrell 2006).
    “Me and my mates post a lot of YouTube clips to facey. It’s a really good way to hear about new songs and stuff. You can see what other people are in to and then you have something in common to talk about. It would be cool if we could do that with stuff at school, like with books.” (Tom 14)
    As Richardson says (Richardson 2008, p19), “educators need to understand the potential of social networking for themselves”. In using Facebook themselves, teachers and parents have the opportunity to model responsible behaviour and to provide a monitored support network in one of their children’s most frequented spaces.
    “ One of the best things is having you (the teacher) on Facebook because if something bad happens then we can come and talk to you about it and you get it. If I said to my dad about a cyber bullying thing then he wouldn’t have a clue. He’d say ‘what?’. He doesn’t even know what a ‘like’ is.” (Charlotte, 13)
    More than just learning to use the tools of technology, parents and teachers need to develop ‘digital wisdom’ (Prensky 2009) themselves so that they can guide and provide context and quality control to the students whose futures are going to be mediated by the continually emerging technology in which they are immersed.
    The greatest impact of this project has been in changing the perception of teachers, parents and students toward the use of Facebook and the ways in which it can be used as a positive vehicle for communication between home and school. It has also highlighted the need for ongoing and embedded social media and cyber safety lessons in our curriculum.
    By generating interest in the potential of Facebook, we have developed a more positive profile of social networking that has opened the door for further discourse from staff on our use of current and emerging technology and hopefully also encouraged students to see more worth in using school based social networks such as Edmodo, Collaborate and the Ultranet.
    Students have broadened their notion of Facebook to incorporate it as a means of educational communication as well as a social tool. By acknowledging the presence of parents and teachers online they have a greater awareness of the need for caution in what they post online. They have become more self -moderating and peer moderating.
    Teachers have realized the potential for tapping into this mode of communication and the positives that can come from increased home-school interaction in an online space.
    Parents are becoming more aware of the need to monitor and understand the way their children are communicating online and to use Facebook as a positive way to interact with the school.
    This report on the use of Facebook is just the tip of an iceberg of ongoing research into the use of social media in our school. The members of this research project team believe pre service and in service professional development within the DEECD should showcase the potential of social networks as a learning platform. Similarly, we believe it is vital that all participants; students, teachers, administrators and parents, are informed of the need for conscientious and responsible use of social media.
    A simple ‘how to’ guide for teachers has been produced and plans are in place to run information sessions on the use of social media for parents and the wider community. Teachers will continue to be encouraged to explore the use of Facebook and other social media with their classes in order to provide a real life, rich task platform from which to model responsible use of digital technology, to engage with students and to extend the strong, supportive relationships of the classroom beyond the physical boundaries of the school gate.
    As part of the state wide, nationwide and global professional learning community that we have become part of during this research, we will continue to ‘push the envelope’ of professional ethics in education in order to earn every adult a ticket on Richardson’s (2008) bus.
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Tuesday, February 8

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Tuesday, November 23

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Saturday, November 13

  1. page Parents edited ... http://connectan…
    ... David Truss' wiki for parents. David is happy for us to use his presentations or adapt them for our project.
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  2. page Parents edited ... http://connectan…
    ... David Truss' wiki for parents. David is happy for us to use his presentations or adapt them for our project.

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Tuesday, November 2

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    11/12 PD day - Twitter / Blog / 24/7 PD on Prezi

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Tuesday, October 26

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    Is this Principal going too far?
    Facebook doesn't get teachers fired - Inappropriate behaviour does
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    ACMA Cybersmart
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