Category Archives: EC&I 830

Social Media to Promote Social Justice

Woman Teaching Social Media Course by Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan, CC0

Educators have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice. This was the debate that I was most torn by. I feel really strongly about how important it is to teach social justice to children. I also believe that by remaining silent about social justice issues then you are supporting the injustice.

Is Political Neutrality in Classrooms Actually Neutral?

In Is Political Neutrality in Classrooms Actually Neutral? lead researcher Alyssa Dunn states it isn’t possible for teachers to stay neutral because it creates the opposite effect of being neutral by “choosing to maintain the status quo and further marginalizing certain groups.” But it is hard for teachers to share their opinions because they are afraid of backlash from parents.

It is important that teachers teach social justice. Sonia Nieto in Teaching as Political Work: Learning from Courageous and Caring Teachers defines ” social justice as both a philosophy and actions that embody treating all people with fairness, respect, dignity, and generosity.” Nieto states how there are four components of social justice in education.

  1. it challenges, confronts, and disrupts misconceptions, untruths, and stereotypes that lead to structural inequality and discrimination based on race, social class, gender, and other social and human differences
  2. provides all students with the resources necessary to learn to their full potential, this includes material and emotional resources
  3. draw on the talents and strengths that students bring to their education, this includes their languages, cultures and experiences
  4. create a learning environment that promotes critical thinking and supports agency for social change

It is apparent that social justice issues do need to be taught in the classroom, but do tech and social media need to be used to do that? Using social media to teach about social justice is scary. It is guaranteed that parents from a teacher’s classroom will have a wide range of views. In today’s cancellation culture, will posting about a political or polarizing view cause a huge backlash? Will parents push for a teacher to be fired if they don’t agree with their views? Then the question becomes for teachers, are they willing to fight for the stance they have chosen. I don’t feel this is fair to teachers. It is important to teach social justice issues to children, but social media or tech does not need to be used to do that.

Sad to see it end.

Summary of Learning

My Summary of Learning video was a labour of love. It is an amazing way to reflect on what was learned, but 7 minutes is not enough time to get it all in as you will see as I progressively start talking faster as the video progress (good thing I practiced in my rant, although I hope you find my voice more pleasant in this format). I have to say I think I’ve learned more by doing this project, than any research essay I have written. Food for thought in our classes – perhaps an open assignment like this is better than any final exam!

I want to thank each of you for being a part of this educational journey with me. It is the end of a class, but not the end of my new Professional Learning Network. This class has been an experience that has been revolutionary for me. I only wish I had more time to fully delve into the topics. That will be my summer. It is actually remarkable that we all managed to thrive as we did in the course with all the added pressures in our society right now. Congratulations, we made it!

Hope you enjoy my Summary of Learning!

Click to view video

Yours in Education,

-Sherrie

Openness & Sharing in Schools

Openness and sharing in schools is important.  You need to be careful though because there are privacy issues. I have two children, ages 7 and 9, and the oldest has hit the age where he sometimes thinks about what we share about him on social media.  My husband and I don’t post a lot, but if we do, it usually involves our children.  One day my son approached me and said it would be awful if we posted something about him that he didn’t like. I was surprised by his comment, but the good thing was, it started a conversation between us regarding consent.  We came to the agreement that if we were considering posting something about him that we would make sure to get his approval before we posted.  And we wouldn’t post anything involving him without his consent.

In class we talked about the media release forms at schools.  It was mentioned how for parents whose first language is not English, the forms can be very stressful. English is my first language and I find the media release forms stressful! It isn’t clear what exactly the media release form covers.  If I don’t sign, does this mean that my kids can’t be in the class picture, will I not receive updates through SeeSaw? Or does it only cover postings to the school’s public social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook? I eventually just sign the media release form because I don’t want my children to miss out on activities or be singled out.  I also think that the school and teachers have the best intentions when posting photos and wouldn’t post anything that would harm my children.  It is kind of ironic though, that my son needs to consent to anything I post, but I just sign away his consent the second he enters the school.

Even though I have concerns about children’s privacy, I think openness is very important in schools. Children who are currently in school are going to grow up having never lived in a world without social media.  They are exposed to it at a very young age and it will always be a part of their lives. Having openness in the classroom is the first step to integrating teaching digital literacy. Common Sense Education talks about how “to be true digital citizens, our students need teachers who model pro-social, creative, and responsible social media use.”

It seems like parents should also be modelling responsible use of social media, but the problem is that everyone uses it so differently.  Renee Hobbs in Media Literacy for the 21st Century talks about how the digital divide starts at home for children and it starts early. Hobbs states, “The most significant digital divide occurs as a result of differences among parents in how the Internet, social media, television, news media and video games are used in the home. A child who grows up with a mom who is on her cell phone constantly using Facebook and Twitter will want to use social media tools at an early age. A child who grows up where the Internet is mostly a resource for downloading music and watching dance videos on YouTube will have a different set of knowledge and skills than a child who grows up in a household where parents read a print newspaper and use the Internet to gather information about questions that occur in the context of daily life.” Which is why it is important for the teacher to be the role model and not only the parents.

Common Sense Education lists ways that social media and openness can be used safely in the classroom and things to avoid. It suggests things such as:

  • review your school district’s policy regarding social media use
  • use media release forms
  • teachers should create a separate social media account used only for professional purposes
  • review the privacy settings on social media accounts to ensure only approved members are viewing the post
  • explain to the students that you are using social media and how you are using it
  • turn off location services so that you don’t inadvertently share the exact location of your classroom
  • closely review pictures before you post to make sure you aren’t accidentally sharing private student information

Things to avoid to ensure student privacy:

  • don’t share anything without explicit parental consent
  • make sure not to share any student’s grades or assessment
  • ensure there aren’t any name tags or jerseys visible in photos to accidentally share student names
  • remember that handwriting is personally identifiable information and shouldn’t be shared
  • don’t use student names when naming files because that information is visible

Openness and sharing are important in classrooms because it allows students to be creative and share.  Also it is the beginning of learning about digital literacy and building a digital identity.  There are issues surrounding privacy, but as long you are careful about what you share and follow guidelines to ensure student privacy, it will benefit the classroom.

Summary of Learning

I can’t believe I am posting the summary of learning for my last class towards the Master certificate in educational technology and media!

I can tell you, at the end of this journey,  that this certificate made me better student, instructional designer and possibly even parent.  For me personally, I learned what will last with me beyond the degree, which is the skills and techniques required to become a life-long learner. Thank you very much Alec for giving us a learning experience that was so engaging, informative, creative and inspiring.

Empowerment is essential for social justice

“Engagement is more about what you can do for students. “Empowerment” is about helping students figure out what they can do for themselves.

George Couros

The last debate on the issue of teachers being responsible for using social media and technology to promote social justice involved a very engaging discussion. At a glance, I had an opinion, but the depth of conversation really got me thinking about what it actually meant. Mike and Jacquie were very polished and memorable in their argument for reasons why they agree. However, Brad and Michala had some interesting counter-arguments that got me thinking even more.

After all is said and done, I have to admit that I don’t feel teachers should HAVE to use social media and technology to promote social justice. Although it is a common avenue these days, I don’t feel students (depending on their age and maturity) have the skills YET to successfully navigate this open world full of criticism of free speech. Heck, I don’t feel most adults have the ability either. However, I do agree with Dean when he said that social justice can be as simple as showing kindness with no opinions or perceived hidden agenda attached.

As someone who doesn’t have a social media presence, I for one don’t feel comfortable promoting social justice on social media. That doesn’t mean I can’t learn how to start, but I don’t feel I have the knowledge to lead by example, yet. I compare this to teaching physics. I’ve taken it myself and know some basics, but I can’t teach and lead by example without the potential of leading my students astray.

However, this leads me to the point Jacquie made about remaining silent on social justice issues. I may remain silent on social justice issues online, but that doesn’t mean that I am silent in the classroom. Michala identified that communication, especially with regard to these types of societal issues, is better suited in person for which most aspects of communication can be used to understand others’ opinions. This includes tone, inflection, volume, and non-verbal cues such as body language and facial expressions. These aspects of very difficult to portray online.

Now that I have documented my stance on this topic, I still want to explore how I can promote social justice in the classroom more effectively. Jasmine made an interesting point when she said “I think our job is to make children question what is going on around them and have them search for answers that go with their values and beliefs… guiding them in seeing BOTH sides of issues.” Understanding perspective is key, but how to we go about teaching this in a quality manner, especially when we start to use social media as a platform?

According to this article by Caitrin Blake, there a number of different ways to promote social justice, specifically systemic inequalities, in the classroom. First, teachers can have students answer the following questions:

  • Who makes decisions and who is left out?
  • Who benefits and who suffers?
  • Why is a given practice fair or unfair?
  • What is required to create change?
  • What alternatives can we imagine?

By having them discuss these questions, they will likely start to understand injustice at many levels. Next, I have summarized some other essential steps to discussing social justice issues mentioned in the article.

  1. Foster a safe, classroom environment that allows students to share their ideas and respond appropriately to the ideas of others with understanding and respect (near impossible to curate this type of environment online).
  2. Model questions and answers that show thoughtfulness and acknowledgment of differing opinions. We always have to lead by example.
  3. Help students see each other as co-learners rather than competitors so they can approach a path to solving problems together. When we only see things from our own perspective, it is difficult to make positive changes. Collaboration is key even when opinions don’t exactly align.
  4. Include diverse experiences and backgrounds of the student population to represent multiple perspectives. Give voice to all students so that many angles are looked at and considered within the discussion. 
  5. Analyze and understand the biases in which resources are written from before using or use them as a way to dissect the social justice issue throughout history. These critical thinking skills will only aid in the development of empowerment in our students.
  6. Use real-world issues that affect students’ everyday lives and examine the messages that they are hearing on different media platforms (radio, newspaper, tv, social media, etc).

Regardless of how worldly, educated, or well-traveled we are, we can never know everything. But by recognizing our own biases and accepting that we can learn from others, we establish the groundwork for growth and promote the cultivation of independent and analytical thoughts. Opening ourselves to learning from other’s perspectives is the very foundation for developing more comprehensive views of the world around us.

Ashley Watters

I wanted to leave you with Jacquie’s eloquent and perfectly worded closing statement that left most of us in deep thought, but I was unable to figure out how to upload the audio file that I recorded. As a substitute for this, I would like to redirect you to Mike’s post for which you can read it over and over again.

Summary of Learning for ECI830

It is hard to believe that another class has come and gone.  This semester has been one with plenty of sharing, learning, and debating.  I am grateful for the knowledge of my classmates, and Alec who has guided us through many of the difficult conversations that were had.  Thank you all for being a part of my learning.

For my summary of learning, I decided to use WeVideo as a tool. A tool that I have never used, but was eager to try after watching many excellent videos from classmates.  In my video, I feature my 7 key learnings from the class through personal reflections, the debate videos, and some recommended viewings.

Enjoy!