If you you have watched Field of Dreams, you may be familiar with the phase “If you build it, they will come”.
You might also know the “If you book them, they will come” from Wayne’s World 2!
Whichever reference you are familiar with, you might know that feeling of anticipation and expectation of putting together something in the hope of something greater forming out of it.
I started a closed Facebook group in 2012 when I was trying to find out how to connect with other Computer Applications Teachers for support and the purpose of sharing resources and materials. In the beginning it was slow. No-one really knew about it, but as more teachers began to find the group and join, the momentum of community began to roll.
In the last four (plus) years that I have managed the Facebook group, I’ve been able to see what works and what doesn’t in the specific context of teachers sharing knowledge, information, resources and materials. With over 650 computer-related teachers country-wide joining up, I have seen the power of communication and collaboration with the use of Social Media such as a Facebook group and cloud storage/sharing facilities.
Here are my tips for running a successful teachers’ Facebook group
- Identify the purpose of the group
- Decide whether it will be an open, closed or ‘secret’ group
- Keep the content relevant
- Keep the group alive
- Maintain control
- Appoint other administrators
- Stay professional and stay positive!
1. Identify the purpose of the group
Make sure you establish, from the start, the focus and purpose of the group. The content and material in the group must reinforce the common goal and the reason why other teachers are joining your group. With so many ways of communicating and sharing on Social Media, the reason that your group exists must stand out and be far more useful than other methods being used.
2. Decide whether it will be an open, closed or ‘secret’ group
Think about what kind of content you are going to be making available online in this social media context. Do you want the general public to also be allowed to view and engage with it? Is the group specifically for a select bunch of individuals and only relevant to those individuals collectively? OR is it for a very few individuals privately sharing over this network?
I chose to go with a ‘Closed’ group. The reason is that I didn’t want school students to be able to see what teachers were sharing and discussing. I wanted to create a space that was for Teachers only!
3. Keep the content relevant
The content : its quality and relevance, will determine how people engage and interact within the group. As my group was specifically for teachers, I made sure to ask questions and post material that mattered to them and only them. Without relevant content, there is no purpose of being part of a group and then membership dwindles with conversations ranging from what someone had for breakfast to what someone does in their spare time (which has nothing to do with Computer Applications Technology)
4. Keep the group alive
The secret to a successful group is : keep your group alive! Engage with your colleagues. Ask questions. Post interesting facts related to the subject you are all connected by. Provide resources and materials for others to use, regardless of whether others are sharing or not. At least once a week, say or post something!
5. Maintain control
You get different kinds of teachers on Facebook (groups) :
- Lurkers – too shy to say or do anything, they just watch
- Engagers – actively involved, post relevant info and are supportive to the group
- Moaners – rant, moan, complain, whimper, grumble…etc.
- Social ad freaks – post ads and links to other groups they’re a part of, not useful
The most important thing is that you monitor the content going up in your group. If anything is not in line with the purpose and focus of the group, remove it. If someone is pestering you or others in the group, remove them.
Here is how to decide whether or not to remove something in your group:
- Is the content in line with the subject you are teaching?
- Does the material help teachers in the teaching of the subject?
- Is the material being posted beneficial to all?
If you answered “No” to any of them, delete it. Some teachers share quotes and pictures from other groups. If it helps the group, great, if not then remove it. This will help your group maintain its professional focus and keep serious teachers engaged in the group.
6. Appoint other administrators
It’s great to start something, but you can’t keep it going all on your own especially if the group starts becoming more popular and active. Have at least another person or two to ‘have your back’ when you are unavailable to monitor the group or add people to the group. It also means that you don’t have a ‘dictator’ rulership of your group – which could also just annoy people if you keep posting your own stuff and deleting everyone else’s!
7. Stay professional and stay positive
Keep the etiquette of the group professional but don’t forget a sense of humour! Positivity is the key to a successful group as many teachers often feel overworked, dejected or even rejected. Your group, albeit a professional discussion and collaborative forum, may be the only place that some teachers find some semblance of joy in their subject and career. Don’t moan about your job, don’t criticise or politicise, don’t rant and complain – there are plenty of moaners on Facebook already! The odd joke or picture here and there is acceptable but, remember, it’s a photo-posting social group. The more you connect with your colleagues from other schools, the more you learn and the better teacher you become.