WeChat: What Is It, and Should I Use It?
Owned by media conglomerate Tencent, WeChat is China’s answer to Facebook. It is the largest social media platform by volume of users. If your student requests your WeChat ID, they want to connect with you via this app. Like Instagram, it works better on a mobile device than on a desktop. WeChat was first released in 2011, and quickly became the world’s largest standalone mobile app with over 1 billion monthly active users. Because of WeChat’s wide range of functions, WeChat is often described as a “super app” or an “app for everything” WeChat provides hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast (one-to-many) messaging, video conferencing, video games, and can even be used as a payment portal. People often post photos, but it is used more for instant messaging. While WeChat shares some similarities with Facebook, there are many differences such as the additional functionality and added restrictions. Facebook’s policy allows anyone to easily create a new account. It is not uncommon for users to have multiple accounts. WeChat however, requires validation from another WeChat user who has been on the platform for at least six months.
In this post, we would be focusing on the instant messaging functionality of WeChat
Check With Your Organization
Before you entertain the idea of using WeChat, be aware that many companies prohibit their employees or contractors from contacting students outside of the virtual classroom. While this line gets blurred with independent contractors, it is still something to think about beforehand. Read your contract, where it may be explicitly stated that contacting students on social media is grounds for immediate termination.
Even if your organization is ambivalent about their teachers contacting students on WeChat, there may be strict guidelines about how it is to be used. For example, one company I work for asked teachers to not coordinate bookings with parents through social media. Just be cognizant of your organization’s preferences. ESL teachers are often independent contractors, but it is still wise to toe the company line as much as possible.
A billion people actively use WeChat.
I use WeChat mainly for messaging. Most of the online teachers who use WeChat have found they can easily communicate with students and their parents. One advantage is that teachers can notify their regular students about upcoming vacation time. Many have found the app to be a valuable resource, especially when they want to arrange an in-person meeting with their students. Some of my students have their own accounts, but I often prefer to interact with the parents.
My older students message me just to chat. We have great conversations about almost anything. One of my students loves soccer, and because he knows I speak German, we chatted about Germany and FC Bayern! We’ve had completely random conversations–from Western culture to the density of water. I love this forum because I get to know my students and their families on a deeper level, and they have a chance to practice their English with me.
Tap “Settings”, which will take you to your privacy controls.
Tap “Moments” to see the photos and posts your friends share. “Scan QR Code” will allow others to instantly connect with you by using the grid that pops up.
This is what the messaging function looks like. You can use group chats, which is helpful when working with colleagues around the world.
I post photos occasionally. My feelings on this are mixed. Although I want to share my life, I don’t want to overshare. Posting photos could be an invitation for more contact with your students. They may get the idea that because you post photos, you are more willing to spend extra time chatting with them. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m constantly available for cyber-chatter. As it stands, my students and their parents are completely respectful of boundaries. They know that we are separated by twelve hours and that I’ve been working for four or more hours straight.
These are the types of photos I share. Only happy stuff!
Laura Risdall goes through everything you need to know about WeChat for the VIPKid teacher
Privacy and Professionalism
WeChat is somewhat like Facebook, but it has less complicated privacy settings. From my personal observations, you can only see the “likes” and the comments of mutual friends. You can also choose settings that allow followers to only see the last three or six months of your photos.
It might be an obvious statement, but be very careful of what you say and what you post. There are many differences between Western and Chinese culture. Even though we are more informed now than when we first started teaching Chinese children, there is still so much for us to learn. What is not taboo in Western society may be completely taboo in China. When I post pictures, I keep it to:
The more innocuous, the better. Furthermore, your account is for purely professional reasons. Keeping it as uncontroversial as possible is a good rule of thumb. There are also a number of other fun things you can do with FeedbackPanda, you can also check out https://www.feedbackpanda.com/feedbackpandas-fantastic-features/