Students’ Perceptions of Benefits and Drawbacks of Facebook-Connections with Teachers
The purpose of the current study is to explore positive and negative aspects of student-teacher communication via Facebook, as perceived by students in secondary education.
Student-teacher relationship is key to students’ cognitive, social and emotional development. In recent years, as social networking sites (e.g., Facebook) became popular, these connections have extended to such platforms. However, most studies of the use of social networking sites in the school context are pedagogically-driven, and research on the ways student-teacher relationship is facilitated by these platforms is meager.
We utilized a qualitative approach, analyzing middle- and high-school students’ responses to open-ended questions about this topic (N=667). We used both top-down and bottom-up analyses.
This study contributes to the growing literature about the overall impact of using social networking sites on the educational milieu. Specifically, it contributes by shedding light on students’ perspectives of that phenomenon. Insights from this study are important for educators and education policy makers.
We found that student-teacher communication is mostly practical, although students who are not connected de facto but wish to connect romanticize it as more appealing. Furthermore, we found that students’ perceptions of negative aspects of such communication is complex, reflecting a deep understanding of the social media. Students were mostly concerned with privacy issues, and much less with other pedagogical, technological and social concerns. Altogether, it seems that the students acknowledge the benefits of connecting with their teachers online and implement this communication rather responsibly.
We recommend that educators who wish to do so wisely use social networking sites and instant messaging services as part of their professional conduct, taking advantage of the benefits of using these platforms, and being aware of (and cautious about) potential drawbacks. We encourage educators to learn more about the potential uses of social networking sites and instant messaging services, and then to examine whether these uses may fit their educational agenda. We recommend education policymakers make evidence-based decisions regarding the use of social networking sites by teachers and encourage school communities to discuss these issues together.
As technology develops rapidly, we recommend researchers examine the topics raised in the current research with regards to other platforms, in order to better understand the technological aspects that may affect students’ perceptions of the use of social networking sites and instant messaging services to communicate with their students. We also recommend studying what types of resources are available to education policymakers when making decisions on relevant policies.
Understanding teens’ perspectives of their relationship with their teachers in today’s digital, networked world gives us a better understanding of this generation, hence may assist in planning and realizing a better educational system.
Future studies should focus on other social networking sites and instant messaging services, as well as on other countries and cultures.