Tag Archives: social media

Do students think we should be using social media in school?

I noticed that I had a blog post in draft form from the summer. Do you do this as a blogger? I’m not sure why I didn’t post it then; maybe it didn’t feel complete or I wasn’t happy with it. Nonetheless, I pushed myself way too hard yesterday and have to be gentle with myself, so this is my 3/10 post.

When I was researching for my Social Media in Education course, I put out an informal survey on Twitter. It was by no means a scientific survey: I didn’t have a control group and the fact is, because I used Twitter to administer the survey, many of the kids who responded had teachers who already use social media in their classrooms. So though so this is not hard data by any means, it is interesting.

The respondents were from grade 6-8 (so ages 11-14 years old) and this what they said when I asked whether or not social media should be used in school:


And here’s the interesting thing I noticed when students responded to the question, “Why” or “Why not”.  Students who had used social media in their classroom for the purposes of learning (three times or more) had a positive attitude towards the potential of social media verses the students who never did.

Look at these extremes:

Here are the responses from kids who said yes. Most of these students had indicated that they had had the opportunity to use social media in their classes:

  • because it is a good way to share how you are learning with people around the world
  • because you will learn about thing all the time and the world is coming to the point where you will need to use social media
  • because it can be educational and fun.
  • because it helps with learning and it gives us an experience.
  • Yes, because it is a great resource for learning, if you go on certain accounts, it can actually help you learn something, all the major companies use social media.
  • it can help you get comfortable with talking to people

And there was a group of students who did not actually use social media in school, but indicated that wished they could be:

  • some social media can help you learn about whats going on in the world right now. Also, some kids enjoy using social media, so maybe kids would be more interested in learning if they could use social media to learn and connect with and about the world
  • I think it should because it could potentially be a resource, and it could help with the understanding of the online life
  • Social media should be used in school as it helps children learn something that they are used to using. Today, almost all children use social media.

There were many students (32 out of 102 respondents) who were not sure, but could not exactly articulate why. There were many, “I don’t know” responses and “I’m not sure” and one student articulated it this way: I’m not sure because I don’t really understand how using social media would help students learn in class.

Of the students who said no (13 out of 102 respondents) to using social media in school, it seemed to focus on hypotheticals and the fear narrative:

  • Because too much social media is bad and could strain our eyes if we’re on it to long.
  • If students were allowed to use social media at school today it would have been a problem because there could be a cyberbully.
  • We shouldn’t because the kids might not be using it appropriately

What stood out most to me from the survey results was the stark difference between the attitudes of the students who used social media daily and were given the opportunity to use social media in the classroom more than 5 times in a school year, versus what students who use social media daily, but who had never been given the opportunity to use it in class had to say.  You see, those students only look that their own social use, their tendency to be distracted by their friends’ posts. They are also likely the students who have been taught nothing about social media beyond how bad it is, so it is no wonder that they could not see any educational value.

And yet, I continue to talk to teachers from across the globe who cannot use social media in their classrooms because it is blocked or banned.

Do we invite students to District-level tables? Do we have a student school advisory team at the school level?

Will anything ever change if we don’t change the path we are currently taking when it comes to using social media in the classroom?

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Here is a link to the questionnaire and here is a link to all of responses if you are interested.

Slacktivism, Social Justice, and Social Media

I want to live in a world dominated by peace, love, empathy, and mutual understanding of differences.  I want my own kids and students to grow up in that kind of world.

And yet it seems that everywhere I turn on social media or the news lately, there is another instance of hate resulting in the loss of life.  I am so grateful that I belong to a Voxer group made up of  so many races and religions which truly allows for multiple perspectives and courageous conversations.  Just listening to everyone talk about their own experiences has helped me to grow in my understanding of the complexity of it all.  My buddy, Justin Schleider said it best when he said that we are forever changed as a result of our group, because we notice inequality more frequently as a result of having participated in these discussions and having our ideas pushed and challenged.

Throughout our discussions, I always bring it back to the classroom.  How do we address important issues of inequality and injustice with other teachers and students?  Do we? How do we help students to see alternative perspectives in the media? Can social media be a vehicle for positive social action and change?

Slacktivism

Some would answer no.  The term “slacktivism,” which is made up of a combination of the words “slacker” and “activism,”  has increasingly been used to describe the disconnect between awareness and action through the use of social media (Glen, 2015).

Slacktivism can be defined as “a willingness to perform a relatively costless, token display of support for a social cause, with an accompanying lack of willingness to devote significant effort to enact meaningful change” (Kristofferson et al., 2014) and thus has a negative connotation.

And yet, isn’t awareness a goal of education?  If a young person learns about deforestation, reads about organizations doing something about it, and “likes” their page, or demonstrates a positive response, isn’t that exactly what we want?  Might that eventually lead to a more active stance as the child grows older?

I think of the Ice Bucket Challenge craze of last year as an example of how awareness can be spread through something going viral on the internet.  If you don’t remember, the movement required that you video-tape yourself throwing ice water over yourself & challenging others to do so as well.  You were also supposed to donate to ALS (Lou Gherig’s disease).  At the time, it was criticized because many people were just interested in the fun of the challenge.  This is in line with typical criticism of slacktivism which is more about “‘feel-good back patting’ through watching or ‘liking’ commentary of social issues without any action.” and the fact that oftentimes there is minimal time and effort, without mobilization and/or demonstrable effect in solving a social issue (Glen, 2015).  And yet, there is no way that people would have had known about the disease without this movement becoming popular on social media.  Just recently, there was a breakthrough in ALS as a result of the money raised during that craze.  So slacktivism, in this case, despite its negative connotation and criticism turned out to be very positive.

Much has been written also about the Kony movement of 2012 (Jenkins, et al, 2015) (Glen, 2015) as an example of social activism on the internet. I remember this campaign vividly because at the time, a friend of the family, who is a non-reader, not interested in school, and generally apathetic when it comes to any sort of causes became very interested in learning about Kony and child soldiers. I directed her to sources and she voraciously read them to learn about the cause.  We often talk about students not coming into our classes with prior knowledge, but I wonder whether or not if we meet them where they are and bring in cultural references from social media, that we might have greater success helping them to build an understanding of politics and culture.

I love this tweet by Curran Dee (a mother/son account) which really does emphasize the difference between activism & slacktivism:

Action vs Slacktivism

Citizenship Education

I really appreciate this framework for Citizenship Education in the new revised Canadian World Studies (and other revised Ontario Curriculum) as it reminds us that active participation in society are a necessary end goal.  Today, this means that technology and social media can help students develop a voice and become actively involved in causes about which they are passionate. But it also suggests that teaching citizenship is an important goal to the development of the whole child.

Citizenship education framework

 

Connecting Classrooms

When we provide students the opportunity to learn about other cultures in the world, by connecting our classrooms, we are helping them to see other races and cultures as human beings.  This can only be a good thing.  This can ideally be accomplished via technology and/or social media.  Students, can for example engage in a Google Hangout or a Blab with other classes to discuss an issue.  They can engage in a Twitter exchange.  I have heard so many powerful stories and have personally experienced transformation of student points’ of view as a result of virtually meeting kids from other countries or communities.  In one case, where one of our local schools connected with Julie Balen’s class, our students admitted that they really had no idea that the students of FNMI backgrounds were “16 year olds just like us”, and a student from Wikwemikong school admitted to thinking that everyone outside of her reserve was white and that she was surprised to see the class had so many “colours”.  One of my friends, Shervette Miller-Peyton spoke about how interesting it was for her class to connect with a class from Brazil because they had made so many assumptions about what students outside of the States would be like.  They were shocked to hear that the students knew about their own culture.   Connecting students allows them to really get to know and understand others.

Multiple perspectives

I would suggest a four-pronged approach to any issue so as to minimize bias and radical responses BEFORE they actually go online.  Something like this which would obviously need to be modified based on the grade:

I am ___________and this is my perspective…:

Respond as the perpetrator’s son (daugher, sister, brother, mother)

I am ______________and this my perspective…
Respond as the perpetrator’s victim’s (daugher, sister, brother, mother)
I am ___________and this my perspective:
Respond as a community leader
I am ___________and this my perspective:
Respond as a bystander
Reflect: I used to think, and now I think…

Student Digital Leadership

We have always included opportunities for learning about social justice issues in the classroom.  Today, we are able to empower our students to use their own voices to advocate for change.  These are just a few examples of kids leveraging social media and technology to spread good in the world.

The other day I read about Two fourth graders who started a plastic bag petition in Houston.  It was shared on Twitter by fourth grader, Curran Dee.

Hannah Alper, a 13-year old activist and social-change maker always posts great ideas for how to help.  Read her post on how to help support Ronald McDonald Houses.

Joshua Williams, founder of Joshua’s Heart an organization dedicated to feeding the hungry, promotes a positive stance on the issue of gun violence.

Joshua

Harry Potter Alliance

I learned about the Harry Potter Alliance from the book, Participatory Cultures in a Networked Era.  It’s a really interesting resource where social activism and different fandoms (primarily Harry Potter) collide.   The website says its goal is to make “activism accessible through the power of story.” The toolkits focus on different issues and provide background as well as concrete ideas of how to build awareness about those issues.  It would be a great resource for teachers and students alike.

Hashtags

A great way to promote activism in the classroom is to check out the hashtags for current events on Twitter or Instagram and contribute positively. I reflect on the power of hashtagshere.

These are a few hashtags shared with me by Alec Couros which he uses in his courses to demonstrate some major online campaigns.

I always check what’s trending on Twitter or Instagram to see if any topical hashtags might be relevant to a unit or theme being studied (or could replace what I had in mind).

Keep it Positive

I would also recommend that you take George Couros’ advice to  Err on the Side of Positive  and beyond that respond with empathy, positivity, openness, sensitivity, and love.   Keeping interactions on social media positive will prevent misunderstandings and negativity.

Err on the side of... (1)

Consider this:  My friend, Rola Tibshirani shared this post by Stephen Downes, called Hey Snapchat Enough is Enough.  It criticizes Snapchat for its filters which stereotype and border on racist.  I look at something like that as a great opportunity to discuss portrayals of diversity in media and social media.  It would also provide an excellent starting point for action: kids can contact the company and share their opinions so they know that they don’t have to passively stand by when they recognize injustice.  To keep it positive, they can suggest some alternative filters that would be more inclusive too!

What do you think of taking action using social media?

References:

Couros, G. (2016, June). Err on the Side of Positive. iPadPalooza. June, 2016. Retrieved July 31, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoMn4063yc4

Glenn, C. L. (2015). Activism or “slacktivism?”: Digital media and organizing for social change.Communication Teacher, 29(2), 81-85. doi:10.1080/17404622.2014.1003310

Groetzinger, K. (2015, December 10). Slacktivism is having a powerful real-world impact, new research shows. Retrieved July 31, 2016, from http://qz.com/570009/slacktivism-is-having-a-powerful-real-world-impact-new-research-shows/

Kristofferson, K., White, K., & Peloza, J. (2014). The nature of slacktivism: How the social observability of an initial act of token support affects subsequent prosocial action.Journal of Consumer Research, 40(6), 1149-1166. doi:10.1086/674137

Robinson, Matthew (2016) Department of Government and Justice Studies. Appalachian State University. Retrieved July 31, 2016, from http://gjs.appstate.edu/social-justice-and-human-rights/what-social-justice

Vanwynsberghe, Hadewijch, and Pieter Verdegem. “Integrating social media in education.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 15.3 (2013). Academic OneFile

References:

http://gjs.appstate.edu/social-justice-and-human-rights/what-social-justice

Vanwynsberghe, Hadewijch, and Pieter Verdegem. “Integrating social media in education.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 15.3 (2013). Academic OneFile

  • Glenn, C. L. (2015). Activism or “slacktivism?”: Digital media and organizing for social change. Communication Teacher, 29(2), 81-85. doi:10.1080/17404622.2014.1003310

Have you checked out Music.ly

Originally posted on uoit.wordpress.com

music.ly

Music.ly is an app that allows for the creation and sharing of music videos. Like any app that allows for public sharing, there are definitely pros & cons. I have heard educators talk about this app as the worst app for kids to be on, and yet when you play with it, you can definitely see why kids (and adults) would be drawn to it!  It allows for the creation of professional-looking videos which are easy to share with friends.  Here’s one that Sylvia Duckworth created during a Pub PD–just for fun!

The app itself offers unique features which is why users would be drawn to it.  It is fun and easy to use. Within minutes you can create professional looking music videos (lip sync or original). Check out an overview Here.

There are teachers and parents who are concerned due to content that may be sexually provocative and issues around privacy.  Despite the fact that the app suggests 12 as a minimum age, parents are saying it’s more appropriate for older kids. This is what parents had to say via Common Sense Media, despite the fact that kids themselves rated it much lower.

Like any social media app or tool, I firmly believe that rather than shut it down, or ignore its existence, it is important to have conversations around privacy and appropriate content in the context of using the tool.

Crucial Conversations:

The most important conversations involve privacy and appropriate content.  You do need an email to sign up and you need to create a username.  Some people don’t feel comfortable using their full name and so a crucial conversation involve pros and cons around real vs user name.

The default is set to public.  This means that anyone can download your music.ly.  For example, I really liked this video and downloaded it to my Youtube channel.  (I love it because it shows how very creative people can be and how some tools may be made for one purpose but offer incredible opportunities for other applications).  You absolutely need to know that someone may possibly download your Music.ly if it is public and need to switch it to private if this is of concern.

Like any app that allows a user to create content and other users to comment, necessary conversations need to be had around how to comment positively and how to react when there are negative comments made on your video.

Use in the classroom

When a tool is used authentically and with the guidance of a classroom teacher, there is an opportunity to have those crucial conversations and explore some of the concerns together.  Music.ly might be a good choice for any extension activity in which students create their own rap or dance or as in the example above for the creation of art with a music background.

The infographic below gives you an overview of the app.

Music.ly app

Link to infographic with hyperlinks here

What are your thoughts on this app?

Social Media in the classroom: What to do when things go wrong

I have been and continue to be a strong advocate for using social media in the classroom to empower students.  I have been an active user of social media since 2011 and have never encountered any of the negativity I have heard people associate with it.  I mean, not ever in the 12, 696 Tweets and various Google +, Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn posts!  I always put out positive and it always seems to come back to find me.

Early this morning, I wavered slightly when I was the target of online threats.

It happened on Blab at 2:30 a.m.  I had only recently explored Blab as a tool for possible integration in the classroom a couple of weeks ago.   I was a guest panelist for, Good Brings Good: Harnessing the Power of Connections for Social Change, as part of EdCamp Global, featuring Matone de Chiwit and Calliope’s Fran Siracusa.  Also on air were Sean Robinson and Tracy Brady along with Manel Trenchs  and Fabiana Cassella as well as others who joined.  We all stayed up for the time slot to share our enthusiasm for the powerful connections made with our classes and the young inventor Karishma Baghani around the topic of water scarcity.

And then the harassment started.  It began with negative comments put forward by “Dawn” who we later realized was not a real person, but a fake account created by someone on Twitter for the purpose of joining Blab to be negative and anonymous.  There were extremely anti-male sentiments and harassing statements directed at Sean.  I proceeded to say in the chat box how disappointed I was that such an important topic was being sabotaged by negativity.  Fran was able to remove “her” and we continued.

Blab chat

Shortly thereafter, another “user” entered the Blab and spewed hateful anti-male sentiments towards both Sean and Manel Trenchis i Mola, who joined us from Barcelona.  I firmly believe it was the same person under the guise of a different username. The abuse was along similar lines. Fran tried to remove the user once again, but this time, it wasn’t working.  I tried to post positive comments but as I continued to do so, the user sent me threatening messages–directed not just at me, but clearly the person had looked at my Twitter profile and realized that I had two daughters and threatened them.

Fran and the panel of guests addressed the issue but also continued on with the presentation remarkably well.  Because Blab does not record the chat, a viewer would find it difficult to tell when this all started.

In the subsequent hours, (between 3 & 4:30 am ET), we each set out to Report and Block both of the users.   I emailed Blab, contacted Twitter.  Fran meticulously deleted all of the negative comments so they couldn’t be seen in the replay. The group of amazing educators who had been in on the planning for the Good-Brings-Good Global Edcamp session got together on our group chat (Direct Message on Twitter) to talk about what happened and to support one another with words, Bitmojiis, and images.  The conversation then extended to Voxer where we continued to support each other and where we talked about what we could have done differently next time.

In my case, even before I woke up, my husband had already talked to my 13 year-old about the incident.  When I came down for breakfast, she told me that she had gone into all of her accounts and checked to make sure nothing was unusual.  She had also checked my 16 year-old’s phone (as she is in Ecuador) and made sure nothing untoward was happening there either.  She told me that she had also strengthened her passwords “just to be on the safe side”.  Then she asked if I was ok.  I just about sobbed.  My biggest fear was that somehow the threats made could actually happen, despite knowing that it would be extremely unlikely that someone would harm my kids from afar.

I don’t tell this story because I want to frighten you. I don’t tell it because I think we should all swear off social media.  I tell it because as distressed as I was,  I am more convinced than ever that we need to help and guide kids to navigate these spaces together.  This negative experience has probably pushed my thinking more than has been possible when I’ve only known the positive.  Sean Guillard shared the image below on Instagram and it immediately resonated.  What happens in the classroom when a wrong note is hit?  Being thoughtful and proactive will ensure that the next note is good.

wrong note

Anticipate that something may go wrong.

Stay Calm.

Do you have children?  If you do, you will be familiar with this scenario.  Your child falls and you react extremely negatively, you screech or cry out or gasp.  What does your child do?  Sobs and wails uncontrollably.  But what happens when I purposefully suck in my breath, carry on, offer support in a very even keel voice as if nothing really frightening has happened?  My children miraculously brushed themselves off and continued to play.    The most important thing to do when something unexpected, unfamiliar, or negative happens when using social media (really apply this wisdom to anything) is to stay calm and think things through logically.  If you watch the Replay of the Blab, you will see Fran as the model of composure even though she was panicking to block and eject the offender.  You will see Sean continue to talk about the power of student voice even though he is being attacked in the chat box.  Your calmness will in turn instill calm.  Your panic will make everyone anxious and fearful.

Think Aloud

When I presented at the GAFE Summit in Kitchener this past Spring, I decided it would be a good idea to do a live Google Hangout.  As you can imagine, anything that could go wrong, did.  Nothing was working, then I shared the wrong link and had to eject someone (not because he was being inappropriate, but there was audio interference).  Even though I was shaking in front of a rather large audience, my literacy background must have kicked in because I engaged in a problem-solving-think-aloud.  That is, I explained what I was doing to solve the problem in a methodical and practical way. Many people later shared how important that was and how much they appreciated me thinking through and problem-solving out loud as they saw what they would do if the same thing happened to them.  As I was thinking about what I would do if a negative incident happened in the classroom, it would be important to say these kinds of things as you are doing them:

  • “First I will look for a way to block this user because this is extremely inappropriate and uncomfortable.  Blocking them will make sure we don’t see them anymore.
  • “I will take a screenshot of the username and the negative things being said so I can have a record of it”
  • “I will need to report this to the company and talk to the principal about this.  I can send the screenshots I took.”
  • “I think I need to change my password and make it stronger, just in case this person tries to get into my accounts.”
  • “I wonder what we could do differently next time so this doesn’t happen again.”

Making this thinking visible will give them a frame for when this might happen to them as they personally engage in using social media (which we all know they are doing at younger and younger ages).

Plan that Something will go wrong

In an ensuing conversation with Marialice Curran, I spoke about overcoming the feeling helplessness with a proactive action plan.  She made the analogy of a Fire Escape plan which makes so much sense.

We have kids engage in Fire Drills & Lock down drills.  We don’t wish for these things to happen, but when we anticipate that something could go wrong, and talk about it as a class, we empower our students to act in the event that action is necessary.  And we do this to keep them safe.  A simple question like, “What might go wrong if we use this tool and what will we do about it?” may suffice.   In the case of Blab, Fran reflected that having more than one moderator/host would have been helpful since only a moderator can remove participants.  This can be true for other live-streaming tools as well.

It may also help to include the following elements in your action plan:

DO NOT ENGAGE

As much as I always give everyone the benefit of the doubt, someone who is being negative on social media is not likely going to turn around and be grateful to me for helping them to be more positive. Trying to reason with someone who is negative is futile.  It definitely didn’t work for me–in fact in retrospect, standing up to the person is what prompted the threatening messages.  It is important to continue as if nothing is happening and not engage in any way.

DROWN OUT THE NEGATIVE WITH POSITIVE

One of my favourite quotes by George Couros is this:

He coined it after he had a potentially negative situation arose in front of a live audience of students. I vividly remember him sharing his story with me and it was all I could think of during the Blab, but unfortunately, I was the only one who was putting in positive comments and because I was also trying to take screen shots, the effort was not enough.  I keep thinking how different it would have been if we had talked about this beforehand, and how much more effective and powerful all of us would have been at drowning out that one hateful voice.   This was a strategy kids came up with when we had a negative situation on Yik Yak as well.  To me, this is the most important thing we can do to empower our kids in a negative situation.

Jennifer Williams, who also reached out, said this: “Breaks my heart to think that there are people out there that are hurting so badly that they intentionally try to cause harm to others. Just another reason to spread in our world the best we can.”

MAKE THE COMPANY ACCOUNTABLE

Some apps really have no idea that educators are thinking of innovative ways to incorporate them; thus they are not being created with kids and safety in mind.  If something negative happens, talk to the class about what action they’d like to take.

“Should we contact the company with our suggestions about how this tool could be safer?”

Again the intent is to empower.  Kids need to know that if there is something that needs to be fixed that they can be part of the solution.  It could very well be that the company had never even considered the suggestions that the kids might come up with.  They often surprise us and learning should lead to action.

FORGE A POSITIVE CONNECTION WITH PARENTS

If an incident happens in class, it is important to communicate this with parents and families about how to help. It is also important to think about what and how you communicate.  Parents need to know that something happened that made everyone uncomfortable, and what steps that could be taken at home, but it is also extremely helpful that the tone  (or the words) reflect the fact that there are important lessons to be learned by engaging in the guided use of social media together as a class which their child will take with them when they navigate the tools on their own.  If your tone wavers to suggest that you should not have been using this tool in the first place, you are just opening up yourself for trouble. Parents need to be assured that the choices you make in class are for the goal of learning.  A summary of the learning goals and what the children have decided as a plan of action moving forward would also help parents feel that the teacher and the school are being thoughtful and diligent about the choices being made.

MAKE WISE CHOICES

Having said, that, using technology as well as social media always requires critical thinking on the part of the teacher.  Once you establish your purpose, you (or the kids) select a tool which would most easily and effectively help you arrive at your learning goal. Blab is a great tool for discussion and debate.  Periscope is a great live streaming tool. But both are public and anyone can jump in.  The time of day probably matters too, during the school day, you may be less likely to have someone come in than if it’s in the evening (or at 2 am!)  Though it’s never the tool, but the user(s) of the tool which make it negative, you may not necessarily want to engage in a public Blab with kids under the age of 13 or at least practice using it as unlisted first.  If you choose to use a tool, awareness and collaborative conversations are necessary.

Here is an article with some tips for online abuse on Blab which may apply to other tools as well.

The topic and Blab itself was a demonstration of the positive! Despite what happened there was powerful sharing about how students were positively impacted by a project which allowed them to become passionate about a project that could helps make the lives of others better.  Whatever else, getting involved in this project will provide.  Sean’s blog is a great place to learn about this and other Connections-based learning projects.  And check out the Our Blue Earth project in collaboration with Karishma which is still ongoing for the next school year.

I leave you with the sentiment expressed by Manel at the end of the Blab as he is being harassed in the chat:

“There is a lot of work to be done to help use social media in a good way”

Indeed there is.  We can’t let negative experiences prevent us from engaging in these online spaces with kids.  I shudder at the thought of a child or teen going through what I went through all alone because we just don’t feel comfortable going there.  I am grateful to the community of friends that reached out to me and to Sean after this incident.

 And I am ever mindful that it is a community of friends whom I know mostly only virtually: by way of social media.

School should be that safe community for kids and so should their online spaces.

 

Real, Fake, Edited, and Social Media

As a former English teacher, I am acutely aware of media messages  and the fact that they are a construct of reality.   When I first started teaching (just a few years ago), I taught my students the Media Triangle which we then used as a frame of reference whenever we viewed media:

Media triangle

http://themedialiterateteacher.weebly.com/media-triangle.html

So even before the internet was a thing and social media came to be, those of us teaching English and Media studies have been teaching kids that media is not real: that the audience, the text, and the production (techniques & conventions) are purposefully chosen and represent a construct of reality. This applies to everything: “reality” tv, magazine covers, film, news articles, posters, and now that list includes social media. Most especially, I taught students that we need to ask critical questions when they are confronted with a media text and and we should always be a little skeptical of what is being portrayed.  And so traditionally, media has been the culprit of many negative outcomes including,  

“exposure to unrealistic body images; modelling; pressure to conform; gender-typed socialization; objectification of the body; internalization of appearance ideals; increased negative affect that results from viewing unrealistic images of the body; social comparisons; interactions with peers and other normative influences; the adoption of appearance management behaviors and body change strategies to improve oneself; and compensatory motivations such as disordered eating as a way to validate one’s self-concepts” (Williams, 2014, pg 390)

Blame Social Media

Now, many posts, articles, studies, and musings are about the extent to which social media is to blame for these same issues which I tackled 20 years ago in my Media Studies class. And yet…

Perhaps the reason why there is a more pressing concern is likely because social media amplifies the access to some of these messages. Richard Perloff, in a study examining how social media effects young women’s body image, states that “social media, in Western countries such as the U.S., U.K., and Australia, have infiltrated individuals’ lives in ways that was not possible with previous mass media” (Williams, 2014, pg 389).  This is actually scary when I consider the Dove campaign video which was created in 2008.

In a recent post by George Couros, he references an article about a young woman whose Instagram feed painted a picture of happiness while in actual fact she was struggling with depression and ultimately committed suicide.  The commentary about Instagram is an interesting one:

“With Instagram, one thing has changed: the amount we consume of one another’s edited lives. Young women growing up on Instagram are spending a significant chunk of each day absorbing others’ filtered images while they walk through their own realities, unfiltered. In a recent survey conducted by the Girl Scouts, nearly 74 percent of girls agreed that other girls tried to make themselves look “cooler than they are” on social networking sites.”

I remember reading a post on my Twitter feed a few months ago about an Australian Instagram celebrity, Essena O’Neill, who apparently “blew up the internet” when she swore off social media admitting that every picture, every post was completely contrived and that she was never truly happy.  This line really resonated:

The concept of faking a “perfect” life on social media has been around almost as long as social media itself”

Julie Smith, author of Master the Media, shared this image on Twitter which I found tragically funny:

Instagram vs real life

A proactive approach: Use social media in media literacy lessons

We can limit the exposure kids have on social media (and I’m not saying we shouldn’t), but we may have to take a look at other proactive ways to address the multi-layered issue which arises here.  Research suggests that media literacy is effective in combating body-image perceptions in women and that a multi-system approach is necessary to empower youth and adults” to start to challenge media-propagated images of narrow and harmful idealized bodies.  This approach should include social media which “are capable of dramatically expanding the reach of media literacy programs on body image” (Andsager, 2014). (emphasis added)

Looking back at the media triangle, whether we are talking about an advertisement, a Facebook post, or an Instagram post, we can isolate all of the elements within it very effectively in our classrooms with students.  And so when we include social media examples, we are helping students who may not readily recognize the contrived nature of posts (be it those of celebrities or friends), have a clearer sense of real vs fake.

But as Andsager suggests, social media shouldn’t just be a part of the conversation, it can be a part of the solution  not just because of the potential of widespread messaging, but because when students actually create using technology and social media, they are learning about the interplay of text, production, and audience which may serve to help them to become critical of the media they consume.

I love how Mimi Ito says it in the book, Participatory Culture in a networked age:

Our mindset has to start moving beyond “How can I protect myself from media corporations?” and towards how can I contribute in an effective and responsible way?”

(Jenkins et all, 2016, pp 108).

 

References:

  • Andsager, J. L. (2014). Research directions in social media and body image. Sex Roles, 71(11), 407-413. doi:10.1007/s11199-014-0430-4
  • Fagan, Kate. “Split Image.” Weblog post. ESPN. N.p., 17 May 2015. Web. 6 July 2016.
  • Jenkins, H., Itō, M., & boyd, d. (2015). Participatory culture in a networked era: A conversation on youth, learning, commerce, and politics. Wiley.
  • Perloff, R. M. (2014). Social media effects on young women’s body image concerns: Theoretical perspectives and an agenda for research. Sex Roles, this issue. doi: 10.1007/s11199-014-0384-6.
  • Williams, R., & Ricciardelli, L. (2014). Social media and body image concerns: Further considerations and broader perspectives. Sex Roles, 71(11-12), 389-392. doi:10.1007/s11199-014-0429-x

The power of a hashtag

In the Twitterverse (just like in some other social media platforms), a hashtag unites people, for better or for worse.  So regardless of whether or not you follow a person, by searching a hashtag, you can get the perspective, in 140 characters or less, of anyone in the entire world using that hashtag to post their thoughts.

As I peruse through #PrayForOrlando just now, I am simultaneously heartened and disheartened.  Often, a tragedy brings a critical lens on an issue, in this case the senseless murder of people based on discrimination. A hashtag created in response to such a tragedy, can serve as a collective response in the form of mourning, of prayer, of condolences, of reflection.  But it  can also bring to light further hatred.

So how do we deal with this in school?

Do we, as educators peruse the hashtag with students and have authentic conversations about the discrimination that exists in a real-world situation?  Ask how social media can work to comfort and/or further instigate?

Do we contribute our positive remarks to a hashtag to drown out the hatred, without looking together or acknowledging the negative comments?

Or do we avoid it because to bring attention to it may mean discomfort and possible repercussion?

Does what we do depend on whether a student is 13 or 16 or 18? Whether we perceive them to be “mature enough” to handle the conversation?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Warning: the Twitter moment  embedded below contains inappropriate language (which is one of the reasons why I started to wonder about this topic).

 

 

 

 

Teen Social Media Use, Addiction, & Education

This article, “13 right now” by Jessica Contrera came across my twitter feed via Fran Siracusa with the message, “This topic deserves a chat discussion.” It’s one of a few posts I’ve seen published by the Washington Post in their “Screen Age” series and captures the nuances of a 13-year old, Katherine Pommerening and her life online.

It definitely deserves more than a chat discussion as there are so many different layers and issues addressed about which ongoing conversations at the school level with teachers, at the District level, and with parents are necessary.  I may need a series of  blog-posts to work through it all.

Consider this paragraph written about 13 year-old Katherine:

She doesn’t respond, her thumb on Instagram. A Barbara Walters meme is on the screen. She scrolls, and another meme appears. Then another meme, and she closes the app. She opens BuzzFeed. There’s a story about Florida Gov. Rick Scott, which she scrolls past to get to a story about Janet Jackson, then “28 Things You’ll Understand If You’re Both British and American.” She closes it. She opens Instagram. She opens the NBA app. She shuts the screen off. She turns it back on. She opens Spotify. Opens Fitbit. She has 7,427 steps. Opens Instagram again. Opens Snapchat. She watches a sparkly rainbow flow from her friend’s mouth. She watches a YouTube star make pouty faces at the camera. She watches a tutorial on nail art. She feels the bump of the driveway and looks up. They’re home. Twelve minutes have passed.

It infers that teens today are “addicted” to technology and social media which is a common narrative.  In my recent talk to a group of K-5 parents in Mississauga, I was surprised by how many of their questions were around how much time is too much time online and what to do about their child’s “addiction” to technology.

This also touches on the idea that kids have few opportunities to sit and stare at a blank wall thinking about what they can do, because there is a whole world of stuff to do through their cellphones.   Think about a typical routine car ride: in the twelve minutes that Katherine is in the car with her father, there might have been some light banter but mostly silence.  Once upon a time, that silence would have been taken up with staring out the window, thinking about a variety of things.  Now, it can be taken up with reading, writing (texting), and connecting to others.   Adults see this outwardly as an addiction; as a bad thing.

But is it really?

When I talk to (or more aptly get grumpy with ) my own 13-year old about sitting on the couch and checking her feeds her response to me is:  But we aren’t doing anything. You could argue (as Katherine’s dad states in the article) that when we were young, we would be forced to go and do something–playing outside, playing a game, riding a bike, etc… But truthfully she does go out and engage face to face with friends. If we are having dinner, walking the dog, swimming, when she is horseback riding, etc… she is fully engaged and doesn’t have her phone.   To fill up her time, she’d prefer flip through her phone rather than watch t.v.  And truthfully, I have to admit that as a child who has always been a non-reader, she is reading much more on the Snapchat Discover feature than she has ever spent reading a physical book or magazine.  So this isn’t a bad thing either.

Is it addiction?

addiction

But are kids “addicted”?  And if so are they addicted to social media or are they addicted to being with her friends?

Cecilie Andreassen of the University of Bergen,  Norway who studied Facebook addiction, found addiction occurred more regularly among younger users than older users. She also identified that people who are anxious and socially insecure use social media more than others, possibly because those who suffer from social anxiety find it easier to communicate via social media than face to face. (Harvey, 2014, pg 1).  I haven’t been a teen for a long time, but there is no doubt that adolescence is the most significant time of social angst in one’s life!

In  “The Invisible Addiction: Cellphone Activities and Addiction among Male and Female College Students,” a study based the online survey responses of 164 college students,  found that approximately 60 percent of college students admit they may be addicted to their cell phone” (Baylor, 2014).

Yet scholars actually can’t agree as to whether or not the social media platform itself that is “addictive” or the functionality of the tool and what it does for the user.  The reality is that “[e]xcessive usage of social media is only beginning to be examined in a modern, media -laden world as a possible psychiatric disorder” (Harvey, 2014, pg 4) as the cultural adoption of these platforms are increasing so dramatically.

danah boyd, in her book, “It’s Complicated: The Networked life of teens is critical of associating the word “addiction” with teen’s engagement with social media. She states, “[t]he overarching media narrative is that teens lack the capacity maintain healthy relationships with social media.  It depicts passionate engagement with technology as an illness that society must address.  It is easier for adults to blame technology for undesirable outcomes than to consider other social, cultural, and personal factors that may be at play” (boyd, 2014, pg 79).  So in the example of parenting or education what are such factors that might be at play?

Cellphone/Social Media dependence the classroom

I have spoken to educators who are so frustrated because even with clear boundaries established in the classroom, teenagers cannot help but check their notifications as they pop up. The addiction narrative is intermingled with the distraction one.  Kids are constantly checking their phones, so we ban them as a common response.  There are so many NO CELLPHONE signs that still adorn school and classroom doors.

And then I read a chapter on Education and Flow, by  Mihály Csíkszentmihályi  which speaks to the theory of “flow”  (a pyschological state whereby you are so involved in an activity that you lose track of time or anything else) and started to think about flow and cellphone distraction and/or dependence.

In one of his studies, Csikszentmihalyi  gives teachers and students a pager.  When the pager goes off, both record exactly what they are doing and thinking at the time.  Take a look at the difference of the teacher response vs the student response:

Flow and Teaching

His conclusion is that the kids didn’t engage with the content in a way that the teacher did. He further goes on to say, “…people will seek out flow anyway. If they can’t find it in school, they will find it somewhere else. (pg 140)”

Today, I would argue that the “somewhere else” is the cell phone  where kids have a whole world of connections and entertainment in their pocket.

In the Baylor university study mentioned above, one college student said, “Cellphones may wind up being an escape mechanism from their classrooms” (Baylor, 2014).  This is a very harsh assessment but one that may give us pause to think about the extent to which our classrooms are places where learning comes alive for students and where they are involved?

My wonderings:

Are students less likely to continually check their cellphones if they are engaged in student-centered, inquiry driven classrooms?

Does teaching and learning which involves cell phones reduce the likelihood of students checking their phones for non-school related tasks?

Is it far better to have cellphones on desks and have conversations about dependence and self-regulation than it does to ban them completely (only to have students sneak them in their desks, take frequent bathroom breaks, and other potential behavioural responses)?

Is teaching self-regulation when it comes to technology use as important as any of the 6 Cs?

Despite the most engaging and interactive classrooms and reflective practices, are students still engaging in problematic behaviours when it comes to using their cellphones/social media excessively?  What are some effective ways to deal with this?

Would love to hear your thoughts and strategies!

 

References:

Baylor university; cellphone addiction ‘an increasingly realistic possibility,’ baylor study finds. (2014). NewsRx Health & Science, , 60. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.uproxy.library.dc-uoit.ca/docview/1561337547?accountid=14694

boyd, danah (2014). It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven: Yale
University Press.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Applications of flow in human development and education : The collected works of mihaly csikszentmihalyi (1;2014; ed.). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. doi:10.1007/978-94-017-9094-9

Harvey, K. (2014). Addiction, social media. InEncyclopedia of social media and politics (Vol. 3, pp. 18-19). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781452244723.n5

Screen time guidelines and education

I recently did a talk for parents in Mississauga and in my research came upon this article in Forbes by Jordan Shapiro which speaks to the  American Pediatric Society guideline updates. Interestingly, the American Pediatric Society, which had previously limited screen time to a couple of hours, now recognizes that “screen time is simply time”.  They definitely advocate for balance and moderation, but their approach has really shifted and makes sense to me.

The guidelines can be summarized as follows:

Screentime guidelines

 

Seems to me, we need to do very little for this list to apply to the classroom and to education in general.

Can we simply replace parenting with teaching?

How long before our Educational institutions just readily accept that technology and/or social media are “just another environment” and an integral  part of teaching and learning?

 

 

 

 

Social media and education: my research and wonderings

Yesterday, my friend, Jennifer Williams shared a tweet about how to create Facebook with classes. I replied to her that Facebook was blocked in my District, but that it looked great.  A complete stranger (a grad student from India) jumped in and asked how it was possible that Facebook was blocked in America.  Here is our Twitter exchange:

Facebook Blocked Blog

He concluded by saying, “just us having this conversation sitting opposite ends of the world is example enough”.  And indeed this is true.

This post is not meant to criticize Districts that block or don’t block, but more of an exploration of my wonderings prompted by this exchange. I know the dark side of social media exists.  I really do and keeping students safe is the primary concern of educators.  And yet, I am increasing confused around what we even mean by social media and the criteria by which we should determine what (or if) a site is blocked, not blocked.

I have already done some thinking about what social media means in this  blog post prompted by an experience by Carl Hooker, reflecting on the fact that according to teens, everything is social media. But because I am enrolled in a self-directed grad course called, Social Media in Education, I am wondering about academic perspectives and definitions.

Scholars danah boyd and Nicole Ellison define social network sites rather than social media itself in their 2007 paper, Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship, as online communities that allow users  to

(1 ) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system,

(2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and

(3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system (2007)

In It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens, boyd refers to social media as a collection of “sites and services that emerged during the early 2000s including social network sites, video sharing sites, blogging and microblogging platforms, and related tools that allow participants to create and share their own content”  (boyd, 2014, pg 6).

And according to Kaplan and Haenlein (2014),  Social Media is a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content (media content publicly available and created by end users)”

And so I’m not sure if I’m oversimplifying here, but when I consider those definitions, I think of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Music.ly, and Snapchat, but  also Youtube,  Wikipedia, Prezi, and Slideshare.   But can we also include Google Apps for education? and many Curating platforms?  Basically, can’t we say that anything that allows for content creation or remixing and public sharing social media?

Kerric Harvey, in Encyclopedia of social media and politics contemplates the ambiguity as well:

What is Social Media-

–Kerric Harvey, 2014

So, if academics and students have a tough time defining social media, what is the criteria by which Districts make decisions about which “social media” to block?

Something Henry Jenkins says in Participatory Culture in a networked era really resonates with me :

I could see the first wave of young people who had enjoyed extensive access to digital technologies, observing the ways they were incorporating these tools and practices into all different dimensions of their life and work..[but] many adults were shutting down opportunities that were meaningful for young people out of a moral panic response to technological and cultural change.” (pg 36)

I would extend the idea of moral panic to a very real concern about legal and liability implications that often accompany these decisions.  So in the same way that I understand the notion of blocking “social media”, I am perplexed my many questions (listed here in no particular order):

Don’t we want students to generate content not just for themselves but for others?   Do we still associate creation with something that needs to be done in a classroom for a teacher or are we considering the extent to which some of this creation can become part of a more participatory culture?

If we know that learning is social then isn’t sharing learning (including online) something that we should strive for as educational institutions?  Is the problem the extent to which users can communicate with each other (which may be abusive) rather than the sharing itself? If so, is this not a problem that need to be addressed regardless of whether students are sharing face to face or online?

What criteria determines which sites to block and which sites should be used for teaching and learning?  Is it worthwhile for sites to be open for teachers but not students? (especially in elementary) because of age restrictions of many social media sites?

Should (or could) schools determine which sites can/can’t be used based on their own school culture and the input of teachers and students or is this too complicated from an IT perspective?

What are the considerations that all stakeholders need to consider when making these decisions?

Are there Districts that don’t block anything? and if so, how do they ensure the safety and privacy of their students?

Do students sit at the table to help make sense of it all? Can they?

I think Jenkins states it well here:

Right now, we are at a moment of transition. For many of us, we are experiencing a significant expansion of our communicative capacities within a networked culture, yet very little in our past has taught us how to use those expanded capacities responsibly or constructively…It’s confusing, there are ethical dilemmas, none of us know how to use that power…The only way forward is to ask the hard questions, to confront the bad along with the good, to challenges [sic] the inequalities and the abuses. (Jenkins, 2016, pg 25)

I would love to hear your questions and thoughts as I continue to contemplate this topic.

 

 

References:

boyd, danah (2014). It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven: Yale     University Press.

boyd, d. m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 13(1), 210-230. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00393

Harvey, K. (Ed.) (2014). Encyclopedia of social media and politics (Vols. 1-3). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781452244723

Jenkins, H., Itō, M., & boyd, d. (2015). Participatory culture in a networked era: A conversation on youth, learning, commerce, and politics. Wiley.

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! the challenges and opportunities of social media. Greenwich: Elsevier Inc. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2009.09.003

Curation Tools, Social Media, and Student Digital Leadership

“The sheer volume of digital information that is available makes it increasingly challenging to find the information you are interested in.  Curation in a digital world isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

–Stephen Dale

As I embark on a new self-directed course called, Social Media in Education at the University of Ontario, Institute for Technology (UOIT), I am set with the task of finding a curation tool to keep track of the various resources I accumulate over the next couple of months.  Because of the content of the course, I am thinking that the curation tool I select, should be public and shareable.

What is curation?

I really like Sylvia Tolisano’s definition of curation:

“…the ability to find, to filter, to evaluate, to annotate, to choose which sources are valuable.” (Valenza, et al. 2014)

Stephen Daly, in his article, Content Curation: The Future of Relevance, reminds us that when we think of curation we think of a museum curator who keeps abreast of trends, listens to what guests are discussing and finds resources that resonate well with those areas.  He states that you no longer need to have studied curation : “social media sharing has enabled anyone to share anything with the world.”  (Daly. 2014, pg 1)

Content Curation Tools

The following are a few content curation tools which I either like or want to explore and what I know about them so far:

Storify (13+) allows me to draw content from a Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Google Plus feed or from Google in order to create a digital story with annotations.  It’s also very intuitive; I use it regularly to consolidate learning like here and to summarize events.

Diigo allows me to individually or collaboratively bookmark and annotate links, pages, notes, and media.  I have been able to add tags to make my bookmarks searchable as well as add highlight, sticky notes, or screenshots to my libraries (Valenza, pg 63).   The Chrome extension is extremely useful.  I don’t believe there is an age restriction, but you need to sign up with an email.

Flipboard (13+) also has a handy Google Chrome extension and is a place to not just read content, but curate it as well.  I tried this tool out for one of my previous courses and like that I can add a comment or idea to the articles, videos, or photos that I “flip” and that I can also categorize magazines and share them.

Pinterest  My 16 year old uses Pintrest all the time for decorating and recipe ideas and I follow the Edumatch board, but that’s about it.  I’d like to explore how Pintrest might be used in a school or classroom setting especially because of its incredible visual quality; I know some teachers are already having their students create boards for a variety of subjects.

I have been using Google Plus Communities (13 +) more and more lately to share information, links, videos, or project ideas with various groups of people.  I think this platform has great potential as a curation platform.  I am interested in exploring this tool more in this context.

Bundlr is a tool that I learned about through Joyce Valenza, in Curation Platforms.  The tool allows you to create relevant “bundles” using articles, images, videos, tweets, and links and share them.  Out of all these tools it is the one tool I know absolutely nothing about but would like to challenge myself to explore.

I have also personally used Evernote and Symbaloo, to curate and organize articles, websites, images, and blogposts based on themes and ideas.  This blog  (any blog by virtue of tags) serves as a curation tool for my own learning as well.  Many of my friends (especially my Edumatch Voxer PLN),  also use Blendspace, Livebinders, Educlippers, and Scoop-it,.  Like anything when it comes to technology, there are literally a hundred apps and tools that might serve a similar purpose.  Check out this list.

So how many of these tools are currently being used by or taught to students?

The current practice in many schools when it comes to curating information involves citing or annotating resources for one specific unit or project at a time, usually in the form of research notes, a bibliography or annotated bibliography which is submitted it to the teacher and sometimes even graded.  This is good.

And so I asked the Twitterverse via a poll:

Curation Poll

Only about 35 out of 97 people who responded teach students to use online curation tools. This is by no means reliable data–people may have said no because they teach kindergarten or don’t meet the age restrictions or don’t have access to technology.  The results are interesting nonetheless.  As educators we are constantly seeking ways to be more efficient and productive with finding and organizing information, but this hasn’t quite translated to classroom practice. Don’t our students need these same skills?  I think we need to do better than this in 2016, especially when content curation utilizes so many different forms of literacy. Here is a graphic outlining Content Curation Competencies which I modified from Stephen Dale, and to which I applied three sample tools (Pintrest, Flipboard, and Storify).

Content Curation Competencies

Curation and Student Digital Leadership

In the meantime, I randomly Googled myself (a practice I regularly encourage students and teachers to do) and saw that my Symbaloo account came up. This made me think about Student Digital Leadership.

Why? I wonder about the current practice of showing students how to curate information specifically for a class or a teacher, which then never goes anywhere, when we could be teaching students curation tools that can actually contribute to their online presence and allow them to both learn and share their learning in a guided and scaffolded way.  Better?

What if we modelled what content curation looked like in the early years by having a collaborative online curation space, and then helping our kids select and create content for that online space?  This would work especially well in inquiry-rich classrooms where research is happening based on student interests.  Here is a link to a class-created Flipboards by Lisa Noble’s class.

What if students in older grades were able to make decisions about where to curate their work and that part of that decision included a social networking opportunity which allowed them to share their learning as well as actively learning from the curated resources of other students?

And what if we asked students in grade 12 to reflect on their curated resources from grade 9 and the extent to which they feel they have grown as learners and as information gatherers and seekers?

Ideally, you would compare and contrast the tool’s features, check the terms of service to ensure it doesn’t sell your private information and that you are using the tool with the age suggested.  Even better, why not decide as a class what features you deem important and have your students investigate a few of them and decide on which tool(s) they’d like to use for the year?

 

An emphasis on curation will not only help students to track the plethora of information on the web, and provide them with essential literacy skills but an organizational tool they can readily use if they choose to go to post-secondary.  It also serves to provide students with an opportunity to learn and share their learning and thus foster Digital Leadership skills.

References

Dale, S. (2014). Content curation: The future of relevance.Business Information Review, 31(4), 199-205. doi:10.1177/0266382114564267

Valenza, J. K., Boyer, B. L., & Curtis, D. (2014). Curation outside the library world. Library Technology Reports, 50(7), 51.

Valenza, J. K., Boyer, B. L., & Curtis, D. (2014). Curation platforms. Library Technology Reports, 50(7), 60.