We are getting into trouble in how we relate to ourselves, and our capacity for self reflection ... we are getting used to a new way of being alone together ...
Last class, we had the wonderful and informative Mary Beth Hertz speak to our class. She was definitely a good choice as a presenter in our class, as the author of Digital and Media Literacy in the Age of the Internet. While I haven't had time to read her book, (would be nice to get around to it... I've actually done a good job so far of hitting my goal of listening to 2 books a month on Audible, I recommend it for anyone who is taking a masters or education and is busy!). It's obvious from my peers, like Melinda, who is, like me, doing a review of apps for education, that Mary Beth would have a lot to share with us. Or like Trevor, who is also in a 1-1 classroom, or Leigh, who wondered about how kids connect and are "addicted" to each other and how social media plays into that connection.
I really enjoyed her talk. I found her to be very focused on how to ensure that students understand the complexities of social media, and how to verify and fact check information, which is totally a thing educators need to do more of!
In fact, I went on her blog and found it to be good additional reading.
Can I Be Alone, Please?
However, as the quote above from my favorite recent TED talk by Sherry Turkle suggests, I think there is more to social media in schools that just teaching students the risks, benefits, and how to utilize it properly. As a bit of a social media/news/technology junkie myself, I think we need a sincere talk about how technology both connects us and yet isolates us at the same time. No matter how much we connect online, no matter how useful this technology becomes, after listening twice now (thanks Audible! I swear I don't work for them!) to Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday, I think more and more we are losing the capacity to self reflect and truly be alone with our thoughts... which is part of being a healthy human. There are just too many distractions, made by people who understand how the brain and dopamine works. We get more and more wrapped up with "me" and things we are interested in only. I appreciated Mary's informative talk, which focused largely on educational moments and fact checking social media, which is admittedly a problem. However, I was largely interested in how to balance social media and technology in our increasingly busy and connected lives.
I believe that teachers and society at large have a vested in making sure our students understand how to balance their phones and social media as part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
... you only want to pay attention to the bits that interest you. And some people think that's a good thing ...
SOMEONE IS LISTENING
The part of Mary's presentation that interested me most (and there are LOTS of things she said that interested me!) was when she spoke to how technology makes it very easy for us to be tracked. We don't know what is done with our information, but often, all we need to sign up to "free" services is to give up all our data, and we do it without a second thought (I certainly have, as a user of the internet and apps).
What struck me was how she got rid of her Dot Mini, an amazon device that can certainly make your life a lot easier and cool. I am glad she shared this story with us, and her students.
Why did she get rid of it? Well, the devices by default record all audio in your home. It gets sent to Amazon, or Google, depending on the device you buy, for "processing". "Smart" and "connected" products are spying on you.
Does Anyone Care?
Anyone who says they like companies knowing what products they might be interested in so they can buy stuff easier needs to get checked up. It goes far beyond that. Giving away vast amounts of information about ourselves to strangers and companies who reap maximum rewards from it cannot be a "good thing" for you. What do you gain? Would you tell a complete stranger named Amazon on the bus where you live, what you like to buy, what you had for dinner yesterday, details about your personal life, the lives of others in your life? Does this seem healthy?
I think we ought to make this clear to students, while at the same time we also teach them how to "safely" use these technologies, and leverage them to improve our teaching. There are a lot of applications of technology and social media. I mean, check out this AI that can tell if students are paying attention. Does this or does this not make instruction better?
PAY ATTENTION OR BE SAD
Certainly, there is more false/misleading information out there on social media (where most people get their news) than completely factual and unbiased (is that a thing?) information.
Mary Beth has this recent example (and how she taught her class to combat it and recognize it)
Recently, a study found that pro-vaping posts on Instagram outweighed e-cigarette safety campaign 10,000 to one, as another example.
Social media and the internet is not a magical playground, that is for sure. People make money on social media, and the intentions are not always geared towards education, although social media certainly has lots to offer clever teachers and their lucky students.
I would say that social media is like anything... do it in moderation... but I think social media holds a lot more power than your average "thing you should do in moderation". That's because people crave connections, and social media offers this mirage aplenty. But really, does it?
I'm going to leave off with one last quote from Sherry Turkle, who whose TED talk I've referenced all throughout this post.
So what do you think? Should we be warning students about the pitfalls of social media? Believe me, I'm all FOR the educational opportunities, but I do think that we need to be VERY careful with our students and social media... we should err on the side of caution.
We're lonely but we're afraid of intimacy ... We are designing technologies that give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.
“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.”
And so, before I've even finished my Wakelet project from #eci831, (and yes, thanks for asking, this is actually the week where it all comes together--my class is working so hard--so I hope to have it complete by next weekend!) I'm embarking on another journey, YAY! I hope there is good candy and snacks along the way.
I started with a review of what my more prepared peers have already posted. Brad, for example, is doing a social media awareness campaign, which already puts his project on way higher ground than mine! Or Melinda, who is also doing an app I plan to cover, and others that I have never even heard of! Nancy is actually looking at seniors and their use of social media, and is going to develop a resource around that and digital citizenship. Others, like Daniel, are just looking forward to another great adventure learning from everyone in the class, and from our great professor, Alec Couros. I do feel blessed to be amongst so many great and talented educators.
THE DRAINING POWERS OF SOCIAL MEDIA
I began my personal journey with a quick reflection of my own interactions with social media. Just a few days ago, I opened the TikTok app, and marveled at how I literally drained 35 minutes of my life. Granted, this behavior is one I struggle with--I was procrastinating this post, among other things. I could have gone for a nice run in 35 minutes, I could have cleared my mind, found some peace--but TikTok is addicting. There are Memes about it.
I did a lot of reading. I even bloody Googled about it, and found that there is a movement of Silicon tech people--from Bill Gates to Steve Jobs--who limit their own kids use of social media and technology. Head scratching, but enlightening?
“Those devices in our pockets, are so psychologically powerful, that they don't only change what we do, they change who we are.”
Potter's book on Media Literacy talks about "automatic processing, information problems, media exposure, programming, automatic routines, gluts of information that aggressively pursue us" and other things. What is this social media beast?
And if we discover that the new medium brings along effects that might be detrimental to our society or culture, we have the opportunity to influence the development and evolution of the new innovation before the effects becomes pervasive.
SO WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE ME?
The hardest hitting quote from Mark Federman for me was the above. It is up to us to decide the value of something, and whether or not we are going to interact with it. Students can't help but be affected by their teachers, they spend so much time with us. That is why we have such a sacred job. So if something is detrimental, perhaps we can get ahead of it before much damage is done.
Many social media platforms favor brevity over many other things. TikTok is a short 60 second or less video, with the default video being 15 seconds. Twitter is 280 characters. Do we lose anything when this is the case? Does it matter? I don't know, I just teach math and computer science.
But I can think about it. And that's what I hope to do on my personal journey.
So, in light all all this, my plan is to review a few social media platforms/apps, and see what their utility might be in the classroom, but I also plan to look at their utility for us in general in our lives. If I am going to use them with students, I would hope that they have the potential to be good for their development and growth long term.
I plan to examine the educational uses, life uses, drawbacks, and controversies around....
-Wakelet (well, I'm already doing a bunch of stuff with this already, so probably time for a nice review of it? I also happen to think it's the best thing since sliced bread!)
-TikTok (can it be useful in the classroom? Or is it just something everyone looks at? I've just recently started using this app)
-Twitter (this one seems obvious to review, both for educational purposes and just general life purposes)
-YouTube (and it's potential both in and out of the class)
-Something else (yes, mystery! This is a maybe, as time permits ... it will all become clear!)
Alrighty. I'd like to leave off with one last article... I found it interesting, and I do believe the picture actually got shared in our last class...
I found a good thought piece about it, so I'll leave you with a quote for thought. Thanks for sticking with it...
But the most important difference is what happens after the newspaper was done: people talked to each other about what they’d just read. They could engage in a civic discourse about the news of the day, because they were all reading the same basic material.
Cheers to everyone in this class!
I have been teaching high school pre-calculus math and computer science since 2011 in Brandon, MB!
I first started teaching guitar when I was about 14 years old, and continued all throughout my university degrees. I think this is part of what made me fall in love with teaching, besides the fact that many people in my family are educators and had a big influence on me.
I'm currently guiding my first Robotics Club at my school through the FIRST Robotics Competition. The nonprofit that gave us funding to do this has a mission to spread awareness of STEM, so we plan to do a lot of networking using social media, etc. in order to document our process as we build our robot. I'm excited to get my students out in elementary schools doing STEM activities with kids as part of this initiative. We plan to share this all on social media, so I figured this course would be a nice complement towards being successful in this endeavor.
My interests outside of school include exercise (running especially!), cooking, baking, and hanging out with friends, and sleeping.
I look forward to learning with all of you, and from everyone in this course!
My name is Matteo Di Muro, the original Prairie Boy, and I've been teaching since I was 14. I currently teach mathematics and computer science in Brandon. I try to keep on learning things, and I'm getting onboard with sharing with others, hence this site!