Having listened to the discussions surrounding the debates, and reading a number of blog posts, I’ve kept coming back to the idea of brigading, which I will get to shortly. In the meantime, I wanted to give my perspective on debate 4. While I definitely believe that openness is excellent, I’m of the mindset that, in the modern classroom, the price is often too high. I have had students in my class be victims of and perpetrators of all manner of online bullying. The internet is a deeply dangerous place, particularly for students, who are often still learning how to choose their words carefully. The article about reputation management was of particular interest to me. We are, as adults, able to have at least some control over our online selves, but our online selves have a starting point. For me, I didn’t get the internet until my late teens, when I was old enough to understand that I shouldn’t post just anything. In recent years, people are creating facebook pages for their children, their classrooms, their families, and many other things. We are, with our actions, modelling the belief that social media is extremely important and valuable, and forcing kids to make it even more inextricably linked with their lives. Facebook photos of children are a serious issue, and their online presence predates even their own ability to speak. We are exposing children to an unbelievably dangerous world.
I know that we are meant to be focusing on the debate, but I feel as though I cannot divorce the topic of the debate in my mind with the idea of dangers online. For reasons that are not fully clear, people online tend to be terrible to one another. Case after case of teen suicide can be traced back to bullying on social media. All it takes is one impulsive or foolish online action to potentially ruin a child’s life. I can’t help but remember the story of Justine Sacco, who posted a joke that was in poor taste before getting on a flight to South Africa. By the time that she landed, she had lost her job, had countless death threats, and had her life ruined. Whether right or wrong, when someone gets on the wrong side of the internet, things can turn ugly quickly. During the debate, I referenced this article where a journalist simply reported on a game delay and received a barrage of threats.
We are very eager to bring social media in to the classroom and I am very resistant to this for two reasons.
First, we are exposing our students to risk. No matter how cautious we are, there is always risk. While I do believe that education has to involve risks to an extent, I am still risk averse, particularly when it comes to other peoples’ kids. To expose children to the landscape of social media is a perilous activity, and one for which I feel few, if any teachers, are properly equipped. We are largely untrained in this facet of teaching, and it is only lightly brushed upon by the curriculum. Baking it into the fundamental structure of a classroom is a risky proposition.
Second, we are modelling values about social media. If social media permeates the classroom as much as it does all other facets of life, then we are sending the message that social media is extremely important. Students act based on what they see. If they see a teacher spending huge amounts of time running a classroom social media account, then they will come to believe that social media is vastly more important than it actually is. I worry about the message that we send, and I worry about how that will affect our students’ development as individuals.
In short, what I’m really trying to say is, put down the phone, put down the computer, and reinforce in students the value of real, human, face to face connection. Have them look one another in the eye and talk. Instead of sending photos of work home, send work home! Send something tactile and real, rather than another ephemeral piece of data. Instead of tweeting what’s going on in the classroom, focus on being present in the moment. How many important events in our kids’ lives are being seen through the screen of a phone as they try to take the perfect picture to Snapchat or Instagram? I’ll say to you the same thing I say to my students. Put the electronics down, and live your life.