“Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies—it happens when society adopts new behaviors.” Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody
This week for me, started off with attending an Royal Canadian Mounted Police presentation discussing “Internet Safety”. A majority of the presentation discussed the “threats” of technology and mostly social media, which is understandable since the police want to keep our society as safe as possible. With all of that being said, the office delivering the presentation did however say that this technology is going to change, and we need to ensure that our students are safe.
As the week progressed though, I saw many articles discussing issues with social media that spilled out in schools:
- “Attack A Teacher Day” gets 6 students suspended.
- Facebook posting leads to two students being charged.
- Students suspended after posting inappropriate messages on Facebook
- Threats of retaliation for teen’s death spark school suspension.
With all of these issues though (just from this last week), we cannot lose our focus on all of the good things that are happening using social media as well:
We shouldn’t lose our perspective. For every story like this, there are many more about kids behaving well, intelligently, harmlessly, creatively. What an incident points out is that there are new kinds of ethics afoot, and along with them, new kinds of behavioral considerations to deal with.
The reality of the world is though that students are using Facebook (along with other social media sites) and that there are many opportunities to use this effectively in the classroom. The BBC News recently reported that “82% of 16 to 18 year olds” use Facebook everyday. In the same article, the author suggests that these social media skills will be needed to be successful in the work place.
Social networking requires skills that would be useful to employers, he says, such as collaborating and interacting in a creative way. It could also be used to develop communities of interest groups – and he suggests that it could be useful for teachers in subject areas to share ideas.
Now here we are with conflicting viewpoints that on one hand say using social media can be harmful to our students, while the other view discusses how these are skills that are useful to employers. As was stated earlier, this technology is not going away. In fact, the more websites I use the more they become “social” as they know connecting with each other will lead to greater usage. It is not the technology that many of use are enamored with, it is the ability to easily connect with one another.
What are we as schools doing to not only curb these problems but also using this technology to help our students have better opportunities to thrive in the workplace? Many educational institutions have taken the stance that it is better to close down all social media sites as to solve the issues of cyberbullying, but this lends to our students not being prepared for their futures.
So what have we done in other harmful situations? Take the issue of drugs. We do not pretend they don’t exist with our students, but we talk to our children about the dangers of them and educate our students. Over and over again we have shown that education is a way to solve and learn about our problems and a refusal to acknowledge them only makes things worse. The difference however with drugs and social media is that the technology can be used in very effective ways to learn, grow, and pursue your passion. Most agree that there are many benefits of this technology.
I wonder in the cases of all the schools that were listed earlier in this post, if they had used social media in positive ways and educated their students on the harmful effects as well as the consequences of cyberbullying? Although we know that people will tend to do bad things no matter how well they are educated, and that ultimately it is the person using the technology that is the issue, not the technology, how have we dealt with this? We tell our students on one hand that they are accountable for their behaviour on websites and this is part of the “real world” yet sometimes ask them to sign up for sites using an anonymous name. Does that not seem quite contradictory?
As educators, we need to work with our students at an early age and discuss openly the positives and negatives of social media both for their learning, future employment, and even personal relationships. We must do the “driver training” and guide our students before they go out on their own. The fact is that many of our kids are venturing out into this “brave new world” alone, without any guidance from educators and sometimes even parents. As educators, we need to work with our students and even their parents (if they are uncomfortable) to educate them both on the perils and benefits of this technology.
We know that there is more to bullying than just the use of technology but with the use of technology, the truth is that the message and hurt can move a lot further and quicker than ever before. So to answer the title of the post, my own belief is that as educators, we are not necessarily a part of the problem. However, I do believe that we can be a part of the solution. That is more powerful.
Knowledge is power. Let’s work with our students so that they make the right choices in this new world that they are facing.