Educators have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice.
Hands down this was the most thought-provoking debate for me yet. This one made me question my own past actions as an educator as well. One of the sound bites that really stood out to me was from the TedTalk Jacquie and Mike shared in their assigned references. “Teaching will always be a political act” (Sydney Chaffee). This really hit home for me because in my 22 years as an educator (plus add on additional dozen years as a student in the public school system and a few more as a university student) I realize that my entire life has been shaped by the education system and the governments that have been responsible for the curriculum.
I have experienced many shifts in pedagogy, assessment practices, expectations, ethical practices, and changing philosophies of how teachers should interact with students. I am guilty of practices that wouldn’t necessarily be recommended today. In the past, I have divided groups by gender, and avoided answering questions that we worried would get us into hot water. When elections came around, I was sure to keep a luke warm stance so I wasn’t influencing my own political views onto students, yet way back, we were taught of the glorious British empire, the explorers, and the building of a great nation; however we neglected to share the real story. Sadly some of us, didn’t know that story because we weren’t taught it in our own schooling. I was teaching students what I was supposed to at the time, according to a set of values and instructions given to me. When the pro-side shared Maya Angelou’s famous words, “When we know better, we do better” it made me feel better because I did evolve and change and do better. I now wonder if I am at a similar crossroads with social media? I have avoided the whole concept of it until recently, and had a fairly strong case built-up in my mind that it wasn’t a necessary “extra” in my life, but now I’m starting to feel that pivot.
That said, being new to the world of Twitter, I need to proceed cautiously. I am a small fish in a big pond and there are sharks out there. The con-side, Brad and Michala, warned of the Internet trolls and I best beware. I could easily fall into the well-intentioned comments of those who say “All lives matter” or send a black square because it seems like that is what is expected, but not really know why. I had a really good conversation at the supper table last week about social media and slactivism. We discussed the reasons why people use social media in the first place. I have joined social media as a part of this course and to build my PLN. Other people use it for a communication tool or to celebrate/document moments in their lives, and there are others who use it for a political platform for social justice. It can be used for all three (and probably many more) functions but it is up to individuals as to how they use it. I can be a social justice warrior in my classroom and my community without doing it on social media; although I can see the power of this medium.
Both sides of this debate agreed that teachers need to promote social justice, the debate was really over whether social media “needed” to be a part of it. I agree with Brad and Michala that face to face learning is best (although we know this can happen on Zoom and Microsoft Teams as well) because we can hear the tone, read the facial expressions and interpret body language. So often the written word can be misinterpreted, just by the voice we attribute as we read (Thank you to Brad for demonstrating this perfectly).
So yes I agree that social justice should be promoted in schools because as Jacquie and Mike pointed out social justice perspectives are already being taught: problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, perseverance, and historical context. I also agree with Jacquie when she said that schools can and should be bigger than their four walls. And whether we use social media or not, “our aim is to empower students to articulate their own opinions not to coerce them into agreeing with us,” – Sydney Chaffee. Teachers need to present both sides so students can make informed judgements, but by remaining silent or impartial does not help marginalized people.
In closing, I want to thank Altan and Melinda for sharing their personal stories, they set the stage for the best closing statement ever by Jacquie and Mike. I had tingles listening to them both. Powerful words.
And I also agree with Michala and Brad that it is hard to argue that social media isn’t an amazing tool for being a social justice warrior globally, but when it comes to the debate statement they were able to find the middle ground that all our debates seem to come back to: “Should we teach social justice? YES. Should it be on social media? Not Necessarily.” That doesn’t me we shouldn’t use it, it just means that we can use it, and know that it has power to influence the world.