Call in the Brigade! – Debate 4 Response

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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.

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13 thoughts on “Call in the Brigade! – Debate 4 Response

  1. Great points. I do agree and I don’t use much social media in the classroom either. This being said, communication is changing and I feel a need to build the skills to change myself. The way in which people choose to communicate is much different than it once was. For example my grandma’s text and have facebook to keep up to date with family. This is far from how they grew up. As times change, I agree we need to encourage face to face conversations, but I don’t see an issue with keeping up with the changes in communication. Parent’s are way more apt to send me an email than give me a call. Home and school communication is essential in fostering positive relationships. If I am able to utilize some sort of social media to share with parent’s learning and engage students in the sharing of their learning I am all for learning how to do that.

  2. Great post Steve! You make some good points and I appreciate your honesty! You will enjoy our debate tomorrow night as my team is arguing that social media is ruining childhood. A lot of your points relate to some of the arguments we will be making!

  3. Some valid points Steve. I agree that social media as one facet of tech in the classroom has some huge risks associated with it. I think this is why I take a very cautious approach with our classroom Twitter account. It can’t be the driving force behind what we do in the classroom but I do find it’s a useful way to connect with other classrooms. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I understand your stance and agree to some extent.

    However, a thought about your suggestion that “Instead of sending photos of work home, [we should] send work home!” — what about work that we (and our students) think should be shared with parents, family, or the community that is not in a format that can be sent home? I feel like a lot of project based and experiential learning could fall into this category. There are plenty of examples of projects or activities that we could invite parents into the school to see, but not all parents can come. There are also a lot of examples of learning that we couldn’t bring parents in to witness even if they were able to come. Videos or photo documentation of volunteerism, community involvement activities and a variety of hands on experiences are a really great way of sharing them.

  5. Steve, I appreciate your honesty. I feel the same way as you do most of the time, although I am learning a lot from this course and am feeling myself starting to pull in different directions. I guess this is where I think we need to differentiate social media from “technology” in the classroom. I don’t think they are always the same. I see teachers using a lot of twitter for learning purposes and right now I don’t get it. Maybe because Im not an avid user of social media…I am hoping to learn more about it (not necessarily take it up as my own practice). I like how you tell your students to “put the electronics down, and live your life.” This is something I try model as a parent and as a teacher, first and foremost.

  6. I definitely appreciate all of the comments, and Ian, you make an excellent point. I share Nicole’s feeling of being pulled in many directions. It’s funny, because I’m not a luddite at all. I use tech constantly, I just feel as though in education it often runs counter to our goals. Plus, it’s just fun to be controversial.

  7. Just like Heather said you are quite brave haha. I appreciate your honesty and the fact that you aren’t afraid to stand up for what you think is the right thing to do. I am also torn in the discussions and debates. I do agree that students really need to work on face to face communication and even body language skills, but I think we can still work on these while using technology. It’s important for us to continue to look for a balance. I like the idea of sharing work online because it seems like an easy way to reach an audience outside the classroom. I also think it’s a great way for them to create a positive digital footprint that could impact them in a good way in the future as opposed to a negative way. I like the idea of students being able to go back and see their progress over the semester too. Although it’s possible for them to see that progress without using technology as well. Like I said, I am torn but I do want to be a lot more PRO technology when I return to work because after 3 semesters with Alec and Katia I have definitely started to see the benefits of more tech integration. Thanks for sharing Steve!

  8. Well written Steve, I agree with you on some aspects of social media in the classroom. It is a great risk, but I feel you are underestimating the importance of social media. It may not seem that important to people of our generation. But, for the youth that have grown up with it. It is a large part of their lives. Youth do and will spend many hours whether we like it or not are spent on social media. If it is such a huge part of their lives. For this reason I think it should be in the classroom. Not as predominantly as some, but still needs to be present.

  9. Great Post Steve, you make an interesting argument about the dangers of the internet. Certain aspects of the Twitter universe serve to only have outrage at whatever the issue is of the day. They serve only to ruin the lives of people who make mistakes in the public eye. This is definitely something we need to be aware of. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Boots,
    I feel the same as your cartoon. I love technology but sometimes hate my students using it all in the same breathe. I appreciate your honesty and the focus on real life, face to face conversations. Rock on friend!

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