Thursday, November 15, 2007

Talk to the face

An editorial in a college newspaper recently suggested that college faculty join Facebook as a way to show their desire "to connect with" students. The editors gamely suggest academic benefits: chances to create assignments that focus on what students are "already interested in" and chances to find "examples" (of what?) that students will recognize.

I'm always interested in showing the relevance of the works I teach, but it's a professor's responsibility to enlarge a student's understanding of reality, not to appeal to and thereby affirm the present limits of that understanding. And the idea of a grown-ass man or woman wandering about in the teenaged and young-adult voyeurdrome of Facebook is at best slightly absurd; at worst, deeply creepy. Anecdotal evidence suggests to me that many students agree. A much better way for faculty and students to "connect" is to talk, face to face, not as pseudo-friends but as members of a community devoted to teaching and learning.

Related reading
How to talk to a professor

comments: 4

Chaser said...

I don't know--I have a Facebook page and it's possible to have a professional, normal, and not overly familiar web page on Facebook. I have my course schedule up there, and a map of the world up, and what I've been reading. Things that suggest that I am a real person--and an interesting one that at. My students who have seen it usually strike up real-world conversations about it such as "I see that you've been to Botswana. What was that like? What were you doing there?" It's innocent and appropriate--which most technology is if you are discriminating with how you use it.

Frankly, I think there are many many ways that professors can be inappropriate with students. I am an old lady and I remember the pre-Facebook Days when old fart professors stared down my shirt, leering at me at departmental parties--etc. Those types of creepy activities are WAY harder to document than something on Facebook where one screen capture and one filed grievance later somebody could be cooked.

I think all these things come down to judgment and ethics--not the particular technology. I agree that there's too little deliberation about technology and what it can do for us (in terms of our personal lives and our society), but I am not buying in on "Facebook essentialism." A person with personal integrity and appropriate respect for his/her role/obligations can use a variety of means to communicate.

Michael Leddy said...

Lisa, your approach to Facebook sounds totally appropriate and useful. What bugs me though in the editorial is the idea that faculty should use Facebook as a way to learn about their students -- their musical tastes, political leanings, TV habits. (That all goes with creating assignments about things students are already interested in.) Me, I'd prefer to know what students choose to let me know about themselves. Gleaning information by reading students' Facebook pages seems really intrusive to me. I know that's NOT what you're writing about in your comment. : )

Lee said...

I've got both Facebook and MySpace pages and frankly find them terrible time-wasters. I'll probably faze them out in favour of a website, which can do more of your own bidding - though at a price. But of course, I'm old enough to prefer that most of my correspondence remain private.

Anonymous said...

You know what bugs me about the article? It assumes that all students are interested in Facebook. Thanks for the stereotype, article. When I attend a keg party later, I'll be sure to spread the word.

And who cares if a teacher isn't "connecting" to his or her students? I thought the point of college was that students should be interested in or "connecting" with their teachers, well, in what they are teaching anyway.

Yes, I have more to say about this, but you'll have to read it on my Facebook page.