Maple Baxter, a student of Educational Technology 300 at the University of Regina (shown right), interviews herself on the issue of digital identity and social media in schools.
Q:What are the implications of our students when it comes to the permanence of digital identity?
A: Our students need to understand that what they post is completely permanent, and that nothing is ever private. This means that students need to be sure about what they are uploading, and sure of why they are uploading it. This is for the safety of themselves, but also for the safety of those around them like their friends and colleagues. I think that by showing students (that are of the right age) resources on the seriousness of uploading content to the Internet, we can help them make good choices in the future about what they post.
Just like Monica Lewinsky said in her Ted Talk, we also need to be supporters of the under-represented on the Internet. We need to teach our students that there are two sides to every story, regardless of the popular opinion. Lewinsky preaches that we need to be “upstanders”, rather than “bystanders”, by reporting online bullying or posting a positive/compassionate post for the victim of an Internet news story. Students need to understand that the Internet can ruin lives very quickly, and that’s the cost of public shaming that we can all so easily contribute to.
Q: How is digital identity dealt with in schools?
A: In my experience as a student in elementary and high school, I believe the slogan was something like, “No posting, no problems!”… But in University I found that more and more groups encouraged positive social media presences. These days almost every business or organization has a social account that they attempt to keep active in order to represent them well. By not representing at all on the Internet, we assume that the business or individual is incapable of doing so. It’s become an issue of trust now, and we trust the businesses that have strong social media and online identities.
Schools that I’ve worked in have adopted the same mentality and almost all have an active Twitter and website. Many encourage students to do the same, while also educating on the permanence of their posts. It’s a great way to get practical experience working online. Students are also occasionally encouraged to find news and articles online, which can good for educating on the legitimacy of the news. As Lewinsky said in her Ted Talk mentioned above, the news can spread like wildfire these days with the help of social media, and it’s important to know how to check for accuracy. From this article on social media in schools we can see that there are many benefits going forward of adding social media into our lessons:
1. Going paperless
2. Giving students connections and experiences around the world from the comfort of your living room
3. Showing the world your student’s assignments and work, they feel pride
4. Connecting with parents more easily
5. Finding resources from the source! Students can use social media to find information from the people they are researching through platforms like Twitter
Q: What role should teachers/schools play in preparing students for a world that never forgets?
A: Teachers need to communicate the importance of being a conscious participant online. After watching Lewinsky’s Ted Talk, I believe we need to be aware of our own digital identity, and allow for students to create positive ones for themselves that outweigh any posts about them that are out of their control. Teachers also need to teach the power of our words to students, even online and through social media. The words we type have lasting and harmful affects, and they shouldn’t be typed if they’d never be spoken.
Lewinsky also believes that we, as a society, are becoming numb to the idea that there are human lives behind the screens. As teachers we need our students to know how to show empathy online. We all make mistakes in life and we should be thankful that most of them aren’t posted online for the world to see. Lastly, teaching online compassion will save lives and create educated and progressive online users.
Q: How do we balance the need to protect students with the need to help them develop positive online footprints?
A: No matter who you are, it’s important to have an idea of how to manage a social demeanour, and how to handle online resources. I believe that keeping student’s lives private is important, but I would teach my classes that if you’ve taken the picture digitally, it’s already posted. In Nathan Jurgenson’s article, The IRL Fetish, he talks about the irreversible changes we’ve made in response to social media.
Jurgenson argues that there is no “turning off” when it comes to social media these days. Even when we are offline, we are living our life thinking about what and how we will post later. I can personally contest to this, and I know that even when I’ve taken a break from social media I’ve done so thinking about the post that I’ll make later, explaining the break. Jurgenson says, “While eating, defecating, or resting in our beds, we are rubbing on our glowing rectangles, seemingly lost within the infostream”.
I think the big problem with this is when we miss out on real life moments because we are looking at other people’s. It’s nice to catch up, but we need to be present for our lives. Today at the farmer’s market I heard and saw a man shout at his son about listening better. I though to myself that maybe the man was trying to teach the child about being more present. However, when I walked by later the boy was sitting by a cooler, empty handed, selling soda. He was watching people go by and thinking. The father was sitting three feet behind in the shade, texting on his phone.
Q: What might it look like to teach about digital identity in your subject area?
A: For middle years education, I think that teaching about social media is very practical because most of my students would be using it in some way. Using platforms like Twitter would be a great resource in my classroom for learning about people and making connections. I think that I’d also try to find digital classrooms that my students could take part in to gain more experience about things they might be interested in on an individual level.
Other ways I can use social media in the classroom are:
– A Facebook Classroom Page (keeps parents up to date)
– Twitter Classroom Account (allows for reminders for parents and students)
– Pinterest Classroom Account (pin student’s work and classroom projects)
– Classroom Blog
I found these ideas and more at this link, writer by Best Masters in Education.
How would you handle digital citizenship in your classroom?