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We had a discussion about this in a Googlewave started by Pat about digital identity where some of us exchanged our FB stories. For what it is worth here's mine. I joined FB about 3 years ago (I think) to join a Leeds Alumni group but nothing really happened and I forgot all about it. Then about 2 years ago I started getting friend requests from some of my students. Since I was not then using FB for social purposes - none of my extended family or friends were using it - I accepted the student requests and started getting wall posts and DMs asking questions about my courses, course work, readings, assessment and so on. What surprised me is that these were mainly students who had not previously emailed me or come to any of my 'open door' sessions. Some recent anecdotal evidence suggests that quite a few of our students are hesitant to approach academic staff and are not comfortable doing so. It seems that some at least are happy to approach and communicate on more neutral territory or perhaps they see it as their territory. Anyway, as word got around more and more students friended me and it has become a fairly routine communication channel. I have never and will never send send a friend request to a student. Also I have tended to use wall comments and DMs rather differently. It has seemed rather incongruous when I have replied in some detail to a query about, say, SPSS and then finding my reply interspersed with other comments on the student's wall about gigs or parties they have been to and what they had for breakfast that morning and with whom. On the other hand the wall-to-wall question and answer may be of interest to another student. What I tend to do now post a short wall comment and then the more detailed response via a DM. The original question is viewable on my wall and other students can contact me about it if they wish. I can't say this has resulted in much more work for me as the informal feedback I get on students' understanding, or lack of it, is useful anyway and I often reproduce the questions and answers in some form in the VLE for other students. If students find it convenient to communicate with me in FB, then fine. They spend a lot of time in FB anyway! And I would say that it has generally had a beneficial affect on my relationship with the students and helped develop more of a community feel on campus too. It may not work this way for everyone of course. I appreciate that this is specific to 18+ uni students and there are other important issues concenring younger students. On thing that has happeneds is that by now quite a few family members and friends are also FB friends as well. The fact that I have many student followers does have an affect on what I post to friends and family and I rarely use FB for sharing photos, for instance. We started a private FB group for the family but over time this has fallen into disuse and we all use our walls etc. now. I'm not sure what, ir any, lessons, there are to glean from this, but help yourself!
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Dec 1, 2009