Facebook Privacy for Teachers

I’m a Facebook user AND a teacher. Here’s how I locked down my profile so that I can have a social life and not worry that the world is watching over my shoulder. A word of warning that should already be obvious: even with the privacy guards in place, I still wouldn’t recommend posting drunken pirate pictures of yourself.

Modify Your Profile

I made a friend list for my students, cleverly titled “Students”. Make friend lists under the Friends tab at the top of every page (a snapshot is below).

Facebook Friend Lists is under the friends section.

Facebook Friend Lists is under the friends section.

Then I set exceptions for my Students list.

Set exceptions under the privacy section.

Set exceptions under the privacy section.

Facebook allows you to set these exceptions (after the colon is the setting I chose):

  • Profile: My Networks and Friends (because I want anyone who’s my friend to get to my profile page)
  • Basic Info: My Networks and Friends. Some might want to block this because it includes political and religious views, birthday, and relationship status (I chose to leave it open but will keep in mind that my students can see this information — for the record, I have Facebook NOT display my birth year).
  • Personal Info: My Networks and Friends. Again, you may want to block this. It includes interests and activities and about me (same as above, I prefer to leave this open but write it so it’s student-safe).
  • Status Updates: My Networks and Friends except Students (because I tend to provide personal happenings, I prefer to prevent my students from seeing what I’m doing all weekend)
  • Photos Tagged of You: My Networks and Friends except Students. A more open stance is to control photos at the album level. I don’t know yet what happens if I’m tagged in a friend’s album. (This is huge! I wouldn’t invite students to a party, so I’m sure as heck not going to let them see the photos.)
  • Videos Tagged of You: My Networks and Friends except Students (same deal as photos)
  • Friends: My Networks and Friends (I’m currently ok with my students seeing who my friends are. This may change in the future.)
  • Wall: My Networks and Friends except Students (unless you want to approve every post to your wall, don’t let your students see — because you can’t be certain what someone else will write about you)
  • Education Info: My Networks and Friends
  • Work Info: My Networks and Friends

Finally, I set exceptions for apps. Because it’s the apps that are often inappropriate for students, this may be the most important step. No need for my students to see if a friend sends me a drink or if one of my bumper stickers is a bit racy.

apps also need exceptions.

Don't forget: apps also need exceptions.

Facebook Can Get You Into Trouble

Teachers should be incredibly wary about having profiles on social networking sites. And even more wary about befriending students. That’s potentially a glimpse into your personal life you don’t need to share. At best sharing the wrong info is unprofessional.

Keeping it professional is the challenge and I’m hardly the only teacher trying to figure out the murky waters of social networking as a professional. Ms. Ward of “I am a teacher et cetera” wrote of keeping the personal social networking separate from the professional social networking in her post “Wasting Time”. She writes:

However, this is also where my professional persona started to overlap with my life outside of school. Technology has a way of bridging gaps in unexpected ways. I originally started my Facebook account so that I could connect with students…This worked well, until my friends outside of school also found me on Facebook. Suddenly, I found myself having to explain my teaching persona to my non-teaching friends.

Ms. Ward’s solution was to un-friend her students so she could separate professional from personal. I think I’ve found a less drastic measure. Exploring and implementing the privacy controls Facebook provides (before school starts) allows me the best of both worlds.

Why Getting Things Done Depends on a Workspace

My user profile didn’t load on my work computer today. “No big deal,” I think, “I’ve been working 100% online for quite some time.” Without my regular workspace, I worked so slowly! Lemme share with you how my day has gone:

  1. Let’s check Gmail. Please log in.
  2. I wanted to add to the Whole New Mind class wiki. Hit wikispaces.com and am greeted with “Log in”.
  3. Bookmark a Dan Pink interview of Thomas Friedman for future reference. Bam! No browser buttons and I’m not logged in to del.icio.us. What a pain in the tuchus.
  4. I want to post this story as a blog entry. Hit wordpress.com and please log in. It’s almost too much to bear! My need to vent is the only reason I bothered to log in.

It’s incredibly time-consuming to move around the web without my Firefox Add-Ons and cached passwords. Everything took longer than I’m accustomed to.

Then I realized something.

My game was “off” today because my work environment changed. When I read Getting Things Done by David Allen, I learned that the key to keeping on top of obligations was to have an organized way of capturing stuff. I opted for a Palm TX handheld. Others like a Moleskine set up for GTD (Just as some folks favor browsers other than Firefox…whatever floats your boat.)

Working on the web is like capturing obligations into my Palm TX.

It’s all about making the workflow smooth and easy. A while back, I suggested my students implement a Web Workspace and did about half the job for myself. I guess now I see why it’s useful to have a web home page with links to my most frequently used websites.

The Web Workspace should also allow you access to usernames and passwords, should you forget any of them. Sure, the workspace doesn’t eliminate the login hassles I experienced today, but I still like the idea.

What if?

I’d love a way to quickly set up a computer I’ve never used before with my accounts, my plugins, and my layout. Wouldn’t it be cool if a web service came along that I could visit and have all my accounts logged in to and browser plugins added? It sounds like a scripting task. Someone may already be doing this. <goes off to Google this idea>

How do you configure a “new” computer (the browser, really) to act the way you like?

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Advice for the New Year from Seth Godin

In his post “The first thing to do this year“, Seth Godin suggests Googling yourself:

If you’re a salesperson, your prospects already do.
If you’re looking for a job, your prospective employers already do.
If you’ve got a job, your co-workers already do.

I’d add, “If you’re a teacher, your students already do.” (An interesting aside: my students frequently Google my name to find the class blog.)

Seth’s right, you can improve your appearance and “be finished by tonight.” Here are fast ways to spruce up your Google appearance:

  • Get LinkedIn. It’s social networking for your resume and highly ranked in Google.
  • Rate something on Amazon and complete your profile.
  • Leave comments on blogs. Highly-read blogs usually rate high on Google.
  • Do all of the above using the name folks are likely to Google.

What do you get when you Google yourself?

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Send a del.icio.us Time Capsule

TagMindr is a really cool service: remind yourself on a specific day from any del.icio.us bookmark. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Visit TagMindr to subscribe to your personalized del.icio.us reminder feed.
  2. Use del.icio.us as usual, adding 2 special tags: “tagmindr” and “remind:YYYY-MM-DD”.
  3. Read your own del.icio.us reminder feed in your favorite newsreader. Updates will show up when the date in the remind: comes along.

[UPDATE: Here’s what my reminder looked like (it showed up on the appointed day, just as expected)]

(Thanks, Lifehacker!)

But how can I use this in my classroom?

This is where I enter stream-of-consciousness mode, cause I only learned of TagMinder minutes ago. I already have kids using a newsreader. Get them to subscribe to my TagMindr feed. Tag an interesting website to show up every class day. Better yet, line up a series of links to tell a story, make them show up once a day — like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs.

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Cool Website: British National Archives

Learning Curve is the school-focused home of Great Britain’s National Archives. I explored Crime and Punishment, pictured here. See the green, blue, and red tiles? Behind each is a question about Crime, Prevention, or Punishment for a given time period. Click on one and you’re taken to a details page that presents multiple case studies.

In each case study, students examine original source documents to answer questions (like a Web Quest). In my exploration, I read an 1825 letter from the Vicar of Nottingham where he expresses concern about crime in his city.

What age?
High school and possibly older middle school.

In my school, high school students would find this information readable without being juvenile. Beware, though: there’s a lot of reading here. Wandering attentions will make Learning Curve tough to stick with.

Learning Curve presents history (and not just Britain’s) via intriguing questions and quests. This is one Cool Website!

Ze Frank on Creativity

Thanks to 43 Folders for the link to this one: An Interview with Ze Frank. For a year, starting in March 2006, Ze Frank produced a daily video called The Show. I found episodes at times thought provoking or enlightening but always funny. Several episodes merited my showing them to high school students (see the one with Condoleeza Rice’s magic satchel).

What impressed me about Ze’s show was his quick paced witty dialogue. How’d he create something this good every day? I can’t imagine the pressure to produce.

Ze explains the creation process this way:

There’s this thing I try to do that I call “brain surfing.” Do you know the technique “morphological synthesis”?

There’s a really beautiful book by James L. Adams called Conceptual Blockbusting. It’s a book that was written in the ’70s on creativity. The idea is, you just start with a concept that’s immediate to you. I mean “immediate” in that you have some kind of direct emotional connection to it in that moment. And it can be as simple as a word. Maybe somebody pissed you off in line, or you’re worried that your toe is broken. And you just start with that and begin to associate things with it. It’s not really free association, so it’s not just anything that comes to mind. But you tell little stories to yourself that move you away from that initial concept.

So if it’s your toe being broken, you start thinking to yourself, well, what would happen if something else was broken and you tried to drive a car? Then you move away from that and you think about the worst car race ever. Now you’ve moved into a demolition derby. And you just sort of work in circles. At different points you stop and relate wherever you are back to the original concept. And just play. Sometimes I write these things down on paper, and sometimes I just sit there and do them in my head. But for me, it’s a nice little play zone where you can find very weird and silly things.

Reminds me a bit of the brainstorming techniques I learned in middle school. And I think “brain surfing” has cool implications for students.

More about Ze:

Why I Now Leave Web Design to Others

On the EDTECH mailing list, I recently offered the following advice to someone asking for a free hosting service for teachers:

Any chance wikispaces or any of the free blogging sites would work? Unless the point is learning HTML, I find that either of these free options are excellent choices. They let the site builder focus on getting a product done rather than the process of producing a site.

That’s because I don’t think you should have to speak HTML to publish to the web.

Not that I always felt this way

I distinctly remember my first website, written about the time inline graphics were all the rage and Mosaic was the web browser. Websites were something for people who wanted to share information. There wasn’t a lot to HTML in those days, so putting a page up was fairly simple. You mostly could create paragraphs, headings, and links.

The early 90s were a lot like today — the learning curve to publishing on the web was relatively flat. I thought you needed to speak HTML, but — and this is important — there was far less to learn.

Somewhere in the late 90s, coding HTML became difficult. CSS styling is way cool, but it makes publishing a nice looking web page something a relative few people can do.

I continued to run my own web server at home and write all my HTML by hand in a text editor. I spent way too much time making the site look nice instead of publishing.

That’s when I gave it up and learned to love the hosted blog.

I realized recently that the point was what I was publishing, not how it was done. (And chances were that someone else could do a better looking job than me, anyhow.)

The problem now is that…

I merely fiddle with different technologies

Technorati tags, RSS readers, and blogrolls are my new HTML, CSS, and div.

So it seems I’ve come full circle, only the acronyms have changed 🙂

Web Utility for Camera Shoppers

Flickr has a new feature: Camera Finder. Being popular (I own the Canon Rebel XT) never felt so good.

Popular cameras used on flickr

How’s it work? When a digital photo is taken, the camera includes a bunch of info about the picture in what is known as Exif data, which is actually a part of the image file. Exif data includes the camera make and model and the date and time the photo was taken.

As for Flickr making use of that info that it’s had all along, I think this is a neat application. Some folks have called Flickr Cameras a cheap way for Yahoo! (who owns Flickr) to sell cameras. I disagree. It’s a highly useful service and if Yahoo! is there to give me the info and offer me a link to a store, then I’ll shop there first.