Vicki Davis’ blog titled What Your Students Really Need to Know About Digital Citizenship introduced me to Anne Collier and her perspective on dropping the word “digital” from digital citizenship. Don’t you love technology – with each article I read, I’m instantly connected to other recommended readings and arguments. Anne really got me thinking this week about what it means to be a digital citizen. Anne argues that we should drop the word digital because what we are really teaching is citizenship – “The skills and knowledge that students need to navigate the world today”.
Image via ThingLink
Reflecting on my learning project, implementing Twitter in the classroom and attempting to “do digital citizenship teaching justice” by really focusing into this year. In past years we have discussed digital citizenship and as we use technology I address different things such as passwords, privacy, personal information on a need to know basis as things came up. This year, I want to teach this consistently on a weekly basis, being proactive about it and dig deeper. It seems silly that I waited until I had a lesson that applied to the topic of digital citizenship when the information is likely just as, if not more valuable to students “right now” as they are going home from school and using technology in a variety of ways anyway. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but sometimes the pressure of the amount of content I’m required to teach becomes overwhelming and content like digital citizenship has been taught in inconsistent bits and pieces.
My Top Resource Findings of the Week!
1. Need Help Now
#Change the Story
This week I found a great recourse called Need Help Now which offers support to teens who have been negatively impacted by self-peer exploitation. This was a very insightful site that offers tons of resources, support, and information. The #ChangeTheStory campaign is about empowering teens to take control of their own narrative and how their story is being told.
Since my learning project has sparked so many conversation about social media use in our classroom it was only fitting to run with it for Halloween! I teamed up with my intern Jessica and our EA Andrea to be Social Butterflies.
For the upcoming week I will continue to teach digital citizenship lessons – wrapping up “The Key to Key Words” and begin to share about how to show respect other people’s work.
The school days fly by and I haven’t always been consistent with my classroom Tweets but I continue to make progress each week in my teaching, having deeper conversations, finding new resources or interesting articles about digital citizenship and taking notice of how other teachers are using Twitter in the classroom.
Over and Out!
In a simple answer to this week’s blog prompt: yes.
YES social activism can be meaningful and worthwhile.
YES we can have meaningful discussions about social justice online.
It is our duty as educators to make our students see the world beyond the classroom. In order to teach this effectively, we must first participate. As educators, we need to experience the online world so that we can show our students how it works. It’s just like any other discipline: to become an English teacher I had to take classes on literature, on reading and writing, and I had to write essays (so. many. essays.)
Since I was educated on this subject, I feel confident in teaching it to my students.
It is the same thing with social justice. We must apply ourselves to it, as if it were any other discipline: experience it. Live it. Teach it.
Katia’s comment in her blog post In Online Spaces, Silence Speaks Louder than Words, her final comment:
We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to social inequities and injustices. We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to those who have no privilege to risk.
made me think about “risking” my privilege, in regards to social activism. Christina’s post about slacktivism and band wagon jumping made me think about privilege and social cache in being “seen” to support causes.
The Atlantic piece on social activism as a meme reveals a more selfish part of the concept of supporting something. The piece discusses the Paris attacks in November 2015. Facebook created a way to have a temporary filter over a Facebook profile picture so that people could express solidarity at their convenience. If your Facebook photo wasn’t changed to reflect support for Paris, there was a question of whether or not you really supported Paris in their time of need or not.
The pray for campaigns that come up on social media relentlessly is experiencing blow back as people start to think about how clicks or likes don’t equal actual help as the below video from UNICEF points out.
This graphic from Popular Science shows just how (in)effective liking something on social media is when translating back to real action.
So how does this translate to the classroom?
As teachers we must be aware of the disconnect between liking something on social media and taking action. Social media can spur people into taking ownership of something, but there has to be a connection, somehow, to their immediate life. Some tangible way to take part. As the bar graph above shows, if someone is connected to personally, privately, they’re more likely to volunteer their time to assisting a charity etc than if they just like something on social media.
I will admit, with every article I read I feel fairly overwhelmed at this point. There are so many avenues to share and connect with not only parents, other classrooms, authors -you name it – that it is impossible to predict where this project will take us. I’m a little OCD and am very clearly a type A planner so not having a solid road map is a bit terrifying. I do look forward to exploring with my kiddo’s and evolve as a teacher in the digital age. Perhaps now that I’ve moved up to grade 4/5 this project takes on more meaning as the percentage of students who do use social media after school increases significantly. During a conversation with my class today we did a quick poll of the social media apps my students are using and nearly all hands went up for apps like Instagram and Snapchat – Facebook wasn’t far behind.
I was a pretty shocked. I expected a few hands to go up but not every hand. I quickly can see my Twitter learning project to branch off into another teaching area – implementing a digital citizenship curriculum alongside our use of Twitter within the classroom. The two go hand in hand and make complete sense – although I didn’t expect my project to take me in this direction initially.
Right now I’m battling the pressure (and slight intimidation) of how many amazing ways there are to bring Twitter in the Classroom, yet I want it to be authentic and connect to our learning at the same time. It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves but I want my students to clearly understand what Twitter is, it’s purpose, how to use it – essentially spread the word about everything I have learned up until this point.
- We “toured” Twitter together as a class
- Learning Twitter Terminology – retweet, hashtags (and their purpose) etc.
- Followed other classrooms and people who will add to our learning experience.
- Shared our favorite learning moments to our families – ongoing
- Taught lessons on Private and Personal Information, The Power of Words and Rings of Responsibilities
- Introduced our “Classroom Twitter Feed” – A practice tweet station on the white board where students can develop tweets. As a class we revisit them and edit and necessary and tweet them out on the projector.
- Connected with other SK Classrooms
Here is a picture of our “Practice” Twitter Feed. Clearly we need to develop our use of hashtags and punctuation – but one step at a time…
I’ve been using my personal Twitter account to seek advice about my project.
Essential Questions Explored:
- What kinds of responsibilities does a good digital citizen have?
- How can you protect yourself from online identity theft? What should you do when someone uses mean or scary language on the internet.
- Continue with Digital Citizenship Lessons
- The Key to Key Words – Which keywords will give you the best search results
- Whose is it Anyway? – How can I show respect for people’s work
- Establish a routine to do the Tweet of the Day
- Continue to explore ways to use Twitter
- Continue to explore digital citizenship resources
Social activism or social slacktivism?
The burning question this week (drum roll please)…
Can online social activism be meaning and worthwhile?
I think the short answer is yes! Of course. There are meaningful examples of social activism online however I do feel this can quickly become overshadowed by social slacktivism which is becoming more and more visible on my own social feeds now that I’m more aware of armchair activism and tuning in.
Take the #bringbackourgirls movement for example. Maclean’s article “The Problem with Slacktivism” argues the #BringBackOurGirls campaign is the” latest disgrace from slacktivists, those who support good causes by doing very little, and achieving even less.
A slacktivist is someone who believes it is more important to be seen to help than to actually help.” It’s become very common to simply comment or share a post of a genuine cause and believe we are helping when in reality it is achieving nothing but a trending hashtag. Is tweeting out a particular hashtag really going to help the cause? The Maclean’s article makes the point that if people really wanted to help, they would simply donate instead of pinning a pink ribbon to their jacket, or not shaving their face in the month of November, claiming “These things are not the talismans of empathetic supporters. They are proof that you care more about yourself than
Image via mirror the cause.”
This leads me to question how many people draw attention to themselves during the Movember campaign or the Ice Bucket Challenge actually fail to donate to the cause, while gaining the positive attention they are looking for.
Image via @ROSAPRINCEUK
To counteract this, I do believe in many of these causes that go viral and explode on social media draw an impressive amount of attention and awareness, and as a result of the buzz generate more donations than they perhaps would have without the use of social media and doesn’t that account for something?
And then there is opposite side of the spectrum – people who demonstrate fear of judgement for sharing their opinion on hot topic issues and social justice causes. This is something many teachers can relate to in the fear of judgement from parents and most often their employer. Katia Hildebrant makes a compelling argument on her blog post that “In Online Spaces, Silent Speaks as Loudly as Words”
What message do we send when we say nothing at all? Katia explains “If we are online, as educators, and we remain silent about issues of social justice, if we tweet only about educational resources and not about the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report in Canada, or about the burning of Black churches in the southern United States, we are sending a clear message: These issues are not important.”
Katia’s argument made rethink my own use of social media and social justice issues. Although I visit my social media feeds often to check the news and occasionally share special events to stay connected to friends and family, I seldom use it as a tool for social activism. Could I be doing more? Clearly the answers is yes. Although I will sometimes share a post outlining a cause I believe in, I very rarely involve myself in political posts and discussions. But why? Was I worried about whether people would disagree or judge? I’m not sure – I think partially yes. There is an aspect of fear of judgement. I haven’t made the choice to use social media in this way. I could relate to blogger Debs post Why I’m Scared to Express my Opinion Online who commented on the “barrage” of tweet replies a friend received after voicing her opinion online. Although I’ve never experienced this barrage, I often choose not to comment to avoid it. She speaks about avoiding the Twitter drama, which is something I feel holds me back from posting my opinion. I don’t want to get caught up in an online battle and it seems as though people love getting into these heated online debates that really aren’t my personality or style. Do I need to become braver? Do these online battles of opinion make a difference?
Katia’s post made me consider my privilege, along with the responsibilities I have as an educator to model active digital citizenship online. In our second reading from Katia’s blog posts titled “What Kind of Digital Citizen?” was an informative read for me, particularly reading into Joel Westheimer’s framework about “Kinds of Citizens”. as I immediately thought of my learning project which combines social media use in the classroom using a classroom Twitter account and implementing a digital citizenship curriculum. I do believe we have a responsibility to teach students how to be responsible citizens and move them along the continuum of being a “Personally Responsible Citizen” who volunteers to someone who advocates organizes, and seeks answers to areas of injustice.
Right now, my project is focused on issues such as “The Power of Words” online and more basic, yet still important, aspects of technology use. I think it’s important to remember that students don’t have to stay in this “box” of general citizenship and to think outside the box in terms of also teaching more justice driven citizens. I think I model digital citizenship but in terms of social activism in an online space, I’m not sure I’m there yet and to be honest I’m not exactly sure how to model this well.
Parting Thoughts & questions
I believe all teachers should share responsibility as educators to provide experiences for students to explore issues of injustice and ways we can help both online and offline. This should happen across all grades so once these students have a foundation of citizenship they can continue to build on this and push outside the box of a personally responsible citizen towards becoming “Justice Oriented” leaders in the community. This is an exciting prospect and I would like to see some examples of how classrooms and teachers are doing this.
Do you keep your opinions to yourself or are you an open book online?
How do you model social activism in the digital world?