Hello EC&I 830 colleagues! Today I will unpack debate number four on the topic: educators having a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice. Another topic that had me reflecting on my beliefs and how I encourage social justice in my grade 7/8 classroom. Based on how the debate topic was presented, I felt conflicted about which side I supported more. On the one hand, I believe the educators hold a responsibility to educate students on social justice issues and avenues to act on change. On the other hand, I believe that technology is only one avenue for educators to access when delivering on their social justice responsibility to students. Technology is evolving, and educating students on their digital footprint is essential to appropriate and proper digital citizenship. I was also conflicted about the topic of censorship that was brought up through the discussion by both groups. Questions like, who has our ‘back’ when we speak freely? How do we encourage students to speak up and speak out when we, as educators, feel we can’t truly speak freely? How is this modeled? brought up valid points for further reflection.
Student access to technology is increasing, and the need for 21st Century Learning opportunities is that much more important to be included in our practice as educators. Torrey Trust’s (2015) blog explains, “social media is an incredibly powerful tool that can transform learning in many ways. Students use it on a daily basis to share resources and engage in conversations with their peers.” We cannot deny that technology is evolving and the need to be educated is becoming a fundamental necessity in today’s classrooms. For many social justice activists, social media is a platform to reach a larger community for support and change. Educating our students about the positive and negative consequences is crucial. I demonstrate positive digital citizenship and social media usage through our classroom Twitter account. I feel this is a powerful tool for students to network and to learn from others outside the walls of our school. Although I use social media with and for my students, I ensure my personal social media is private and separate. I always keep in mind that, whether I agree or not, I reflect that I must be aware of the teacher hat that I wear first and foremost. Belle Liang, Meghan Commins, and Nicole Duffy, share the following finds when engaging students in social media: involve youth directly in the design, implementation, and evaluation of the prevention message, seek ongoing feedback from the digital natives to maintain relevance, and plan ahead for future accessibility and sustainability. Furthermore, Torrey Trust shares, “Educators should act as role models, guides, and leaders. If we don’t teach our students about the benefits and consequences of using social media, who will?”
Our team who represented the disagree side of things had some great points to counter. Lawrence E. Metcalf (1952), explains the role and responsibility of educators when thinking about expressing themselves and sharing their personal thoughts. Metcalf shares, “teacher neutrality has been defined in such a way as to place upon the teacher the responsibility of being restrained in his expression of personal opinion. Political activity, on the other hand, calls for some degree of public expression. Consequently, it is argued that teachers ought not to engage in political activity, since their students would soon learn where they stand.” This is such a slippery slope! How do we model and promote speaking up and out, when we are censored or feel censored ourselves. I guess it comes down to common sense and how we want to present ourselves. The point of not molding or shaping students’ opinions is an important point to consider. Leading and teaching with an open mind and inviting students to form their own opinions and thoughts is key! Judgment free!! Technology is definitely one avenue to promote change, but it is certainly not the only one. Providing students with multiple avenues is another way we can serve our students.
Both topics were presented with passion and provided great opportunities to reflect! Well done!! Whichever side you may align with, we need to lead with grace and with our student’s best interests in mind.