Facebook: not just for students

What started as a college networking site now has University faculty jumping on the bandwagon.

You donâÄôt have to be in Assistant Professor Lisa ChannerâÄôs theatre class to know she attended graduate school at Yale University and likes the show Reading Rainbow âÄî just check her Facebook . Facebook isnâÄôt just for students anymore and now University of Minnesota professors are logging on to the popular networking site to openly chat with friends and share interests. Some professors, however, are more willing to share information and befriend students. For instance, Channer has a public Facebook profile, while Doug Kampe, a teaching specialist at the Carlson School of Management, has a private profile and said he rarely uses it.


While students continually post pictures and write on each otherâÄôs walls, University faculty are generally more private, using the site for networking with former colleagues or to send family and friends private messages. Mike Zerby, a teaching specialist in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication , has been âÄúFacebookingâÄù for four years and uses the site to keep up with his grandchildren, former students and colleagues located all over the world. âÄúIt makes me contemporary, even though at this point in my life, I am not really very young,âÄù the 70-year-old professor said. But Zerby is careful not to let the habit consume him, as he has seen happen to some students. When he checks Facebook, he limits his time to about 20 minutes and is careful about what type of information he provides now that the site has become less exclusive. When Facebook arrived in 2004, only college students with a valid e-mail address were allowed on the site. It was opened to high school students in 2005, and it has since been opened to the general public. âÄúIt does put a dampening effect on it,âÄù Zerby said. âÄúIt would be different if it was just my friends, just my colleagues, just students. I think it makes it more plain vanilla and thatâÄôs too bad.âÄù Zerby is thinking of creating another page that he would only let his inner circle of friends and family see. Channer, whoâÄôs been on the site for two years, on the other hand, has no plans to downplay her site, despite the fact she is friends with some of her students. âÄúI tend to be just pretty honest and IâÄôm pretty honest in my classes too, so they know that about me,âÄù Channer said.

âÄúFriendingâÄù Students

Facebook etiquette can get tricky for professors when they are âÄúfriendsâÄù with their students, however. Professors said they generally donâÄôt become friends with students unless itâÄôs someone they grew close with and would have maintained a relationship with, regardless. âÄúI donâÄôt accept every invitation to be friends with every student, there are some students I just donâÄôt want to be friends with,âÄù Channer says. âÄúI am careful about who I choose.âÄù While Channer and Zerby said they usually become friends with a student only after they graduate, Kampe doesnâÄôt use the site to connect with students at all âÄî he said he uses LinkedIn.com for his social networking. Students who havenâÄôt developed relationships with their professors outside of class arenâÄôt jumping at the opportunity to become Facebook friends with their professors, either. First year students Chelsey Sloan and David Pitchford said they would only send a friend request to a teacher if it was someone they had really connected with. If a professor sent a friend request to Pitchford, however, he said he would accept, despite finding it âÄúweird.âÄù

Teaching Opportunity

Faculty frequently use Facebook for networking, but not many have brought the site into the classroom. Associate Professor Bernadette Longo, who teaches in the Department of Writing Studies, is an exception. This semester, she integrated a Facebook group into her Information Design class and asked her students to join. The group, called âÄúFirst Step Initiative,âÄù is centered around an organization by the same name, which works with women entrepreneurs in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The group has 109 members globally. LongoâÄôs students are able to share information with people around the world via Facebook, but the siteâÄôs other opportunities are still unknown, Longo said. Since Facebook is still relatively young, teachers are still figuring out how it can be used to educate students, Longo said. âÄúWho doesnâÄôt love Facebook?âÄù she said. âÄúWe donâÄôt exactly know yet the full potential. It seems like it has a good structure for working with people in the whole world.âÄù