Using Facebook Stories in the Classroom

As the adage goes, “the only permanent thing in the universe is impermanence.” This is certainly true of the Stories feature on social media—made popular by Snapchat—which has recently been implemented by Facebook.

On Facebook, users now can post updates that are only visible to other users for 24 hours, at which point they’re gone forever (or so it seems). The success of Stories suggests an increasing probability that it will find itself implemented as an educational tool in K-12. Already, journalism classes at Junction City High School in Kansas have started to utilize the Stories feature for sharing school activities, like sporting events and pep rallies.

It might be time to revisit the concern many of us once had about ephemeral communication tools (i.e., tools with disappearing communications). Here are some enhancements that would increase the value and safety of the Stories feature for K-12.

Educators and administrators should have the ability to review student use of Stories. Anything students send should be editable and deletable for those who oversee students’ work.

Reporting features should be more flexible and customizable. If “Stories” were implemented for K-12, students should have the ability to report content to administrators. It would be unreasonable to think that Facebook or Snapchat have the knowledge, experience and sensitivity to deal with issues like bullying and harassment. Moreover, it students could report issues to on-site personnel, then action could be taken immediately if necessary.

Even when content expires after 24 hours, it should be accessible in an archive. Educators need to be able to refer to past content, in case students abuse the functionality and need to receive a lesson on Digital Citizenship.

Years ago, I remember when parents and educators were more concerned about mobile apps that allow students to send and receive “temporary” communications. A student could theoretically send an inappropriate message (perhaps containing self-produced pornography or a bullying message), and there would be no proof that the incident ever occurred, unless the recipient thought to quickly take a screenshot of the communication while viewing.

The trend has somewhat normalized in recent years, however, and concerns about safety have dimmed. Let’s be clear, the risk of misuse hasn’t gone away; it’s simply our perception of the app that has changed. It remains important to monitor, as closely as one can, how students use tools like Facebook and Snapchat, if they’re going to be allowed to use it at all.

It would be rash, however, to conclude that a feature like Stories doesn’t have a place within education. Used carefully and intelligently, it could be a wonderful avenue for making announcements and teaching journalism.

I don’t expect these product enhancements to be implemented, because, to be fair, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram are not designed for K-12. It would be unfair to think they would tailor their products to meet the demands of education.

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