Monday, October 12, 2009

facing Facebook (& Twitter)

Law professors of a certain age may well think of Facebook as inconsequential to legal education, but at the Central States LRW conference, a few presenters disabused us of that notion.  Sonia Green (at John Marshall) and Tracy McGaugh (at Touro) gave an insightful presentation on An Inconvenient Obsession: Facebook in Law School.  And then Jim Dimitri (at Indianapolis) filled in additional details and also spoke about Twitter, in his presentation on Tweeting Isn't Just for the Birds: Using Twitter & Facebook.

So here's the take away:  Law students are checking their e-mail less and less, while communicating more and more via Facebook.  Some of them basically live on Facebook these days.  (When you think they are typing notes in class, they may well be sending a message via Facebook to a classmate or participating in a game.)  To reach law students via Facebook, law professors can set up a group and limit it to just their class members.  Then they can use the messaging function much like e-mail.  Don't worry, if you set it up right, you can do this without sharing with your students your vacation photos or the name of your high school boyfriend.  But you can tell them you've posted something elsewhere for class that they need go look at.

You can use Twitter much the same way, to send brief messages to students.  The only problem is that few of the people using Twitter regularly are in the age group of most U.S. law students.  So a few will get your messages there, but not many. 

Some law professors do use both Facebook and Twitter for professional networking, creating a professional profile on-line, and personal communications.  That part of course is up to you.  Ignoring the fact that your students are getting more and more of their communications via Facebook, however, apparently puts a professor in the category of professors that students these days consider less in touch.


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