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Social Media and the Election

In the wake of the US election results, many of us are left shaking our heads and picking up our jaws off the ground. What just happened? I’m not going to go on a political tirade here. That’s not what this post and site are for. It is a sounding board to promote and share the use of technology and pedagogical approaches to enhance, improve, and transform education. That’s what I will ponder here in context of the US election results.

I was just reading this National Public Radio (NPR) article called, “Did Social Media Ruin Election 2016?” I highly recommend reading it. When you’re done reading it, please don’t take up arms against social media and suggest avoiding it or banning it. Yes, social media has had an influence in dividing nations, creating more partisanship, and breeding hate, but social media in-and-of itself is not ultimately the problem. The problem is in education.

21st Century Learner by Giulia Forsythe on Flickr

21st Century Learner by Giulia Forsythe on Flickr

In our processes of teaching critical thinking and recognizing bias and fallacy through traditional resources and discussion methods, we need to help students apply these same skills in their use and consumption of social media content. It may seem that student social media use and consumption is out of our domain, but it’s not. This election has shown us how our own and others’ use of social media can affect us.

In our curricula and daily lessons we need to have students consider social media as a source of information. For them, it’s probably their biggest source of information. Have students consider who/what they follow/like, and why. Have them reflect upon and evaluate others’ and their own social media posts. Teach them to become fact checkers and meme busters. In general, facilitate discussions about what they see in their social media feeds and connect it to your curriculum.

With social media, we actually have an opportunity to make the world a better place. As this student wrote in this 2014 post about “The Power of Social Media”:

“…the Internet gives youth so much freedom. We now have a relevant voice because of social media. Granted, there are a lot of youth who don’t really know how to use that voice for the right reasons yet. In fact, I’m still figuring it out myself. Instead of discouraging youth in our use of the Internet, I think people should start encouraging us to use it for the right reasons instead of the wrong ones.”

As educators, we need to be at the front line to start teaching and encouraging our students to use social media for the right reasons instead of the wrong ones. Even if you don’t feel adept with the technical ins and outs of social media, that’s ok. You don’t need to be an expert with the technology. You just need to be the thinking expert. Start to use social media in your class. Jump into the fray and teach the students in situ. Let’s students teach you the technology while you teach them how to use it responsibly and effectively.

In my years as an educator, the biggest issue I’ve seen is students’ lack of ability to transfer knowledge and skills from one course or context to another. We can’t assume that they will transfer the critical thinking skills they learned in a recent unit the next time they open their Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or other online newsfeeds. They need explicit opportunities to apply these in class. Please take opportunities to do this. Our future may depend on it.

I’ll Have a Big Hack with Cheese, Please

L2-world-logos-7xThe theme of this year’s Learning 2.0 conference in Manila, Philippines was “Disrupt – Rethink – Change.” There were many workshops and extended sessions that directly pertained to the processes of disrupting, rethinking, and changing. The organizers even tried something different this year by having a “Disrupt Strand” where people worked in teams to create a disruption project they could take back to implement (hopefully) at their school. I attended a couple of extended sessions that were directly about disruption. The first was called “Create a Personalized Disruption Plan” and the second was called “Hack Your School.”

Of the two extended sessions that I attended, the one that gave the most viable process was the “Hack Your School” session with John Burns. Along with giving participants time to think about hacks they could do at their schools and how they could pitch the Hackathon idea to admin, he shared the Hackathon process that he facilitated at Shekou International School in Shenzhen, China. He has delineated the process they did from start to finish on this post.

Some key takeaways and essential details from the session were:

  • All members of the community need to be engaged in the process.
  • A design framework must be used to guide the process (Agile or the Waterfall model are recommended)
  • Core hacks should be identified before a hackathon event. You can see the hacks they did at SIS here.
  • Don’t provide judgment during the process as that may slow down an idea or approach.
  • Have resources the community can access during the process. Here are the resources provided for the SIS hack.

disruptstrand1Disruption, rethinking, and changing are definitely not an easy process at any school. There are often long standing institutional processes, community expectations, other priorities or initiatives, external examination programs, and established school cultural norms that create thick barriers to disruption and change. Coupled with the transient nature of international school communities, we start to understand why disruption, and change hard, like pushing a boulder up a hill. This “Hack Your School” process, however, is one that can definitely get the disruption and change ball rolling, as it is a fair and transparent way to build community around change. Furthermore, it creates vertical and horizontal collaboration and gives greater voice to those who might not be heard otherwise. If we want to make our schools more relevant for the needs of our 21st century learner, it’s time to hack.

This posts is cross-posted here.

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