Two newspaper cuttings have appeared in my office recently, anonymously. The latest is from yesterday’s Independent: Professors – keep out. It asks whether lecturers should frequent a social space popular with students (I choose to keep out of their bars and clubs, after all). Can Facebook ever be used for teaching purposes?
What am I to make of this? Most likely, a colleague thought I’d be interested in the cuttings (I am). More sinisterly, is someone trying to warn me off (why else remain anonymous)?
Let me revisit where I stand on Facebook. It’s above all a social networking space. Want to learn about individuals? Check out their friends and their photos. Want to keep in contact with people whose jobs, phones and other contact details frequently change? Now you can do it. No one has to befriend their lecturer – but some choose to and some find it useful.
It’s my job to show connections that students often struggle to see. Between classroom theory and real-world practice. Between being a student and a practitioner. That learning doesn’t stop when you’re 21. Students don’t see that something they do with their friends can have anything to do with public relations. Yet I’m interested in the blurring boundary between private and public, and networks and relationships are part of public relations. We used to have the little black book of contacts; now we have Facebook ‘friends’.
If lecturers should keep out of Facebook, what about blogging? And should I have just accepted the editorship of ‘the public relations magazine for students and young practitioners’ since I’m self-evidently in neither category?