my perspective on digital media and how it informs my work
I was fortunate to be accepted into the Stockholm cohort (#SWE17) of the Google Innovator Academy (#GoogleEI). The focus of my work for my Innovator project is students' digital media literacy (or lack thereof). Based on the SHEG report, Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning, and other reading I have been doing about this topic, I focused my work on designing strategies for developing students' capacities for unpacking, critically examining, and making meaning of the myriad of digital texts that flood their social media feeds. When teachers embrace social media as a teaching, learning, and communication tool, students have an opportunity to be guided in the development of their digital literacy. Similarly, parents development of online savvy serves as another important model for teens. Parents can then apply to digital access the same practice, supervision, and precautions the are prerequisite to other rites of passage like earning a driver's license.
My approach to the digital ecosphere -- both as an educator and as a parent -- is also informed by the work of Michael Wesch at Kansas State University. In particular, his notion: "There’s no opting out of new media. A new media comes into a society and it changes the society as a whole, and we all are a part of those changes…" I have called the banning of cell phones and restricting of devices a Quixotic endeavor because they are our primary means of communication and connection. Because my students today, who have never known life without devices, rely on them for navigating the world in ways that non-digital adults don't always appreciate. I have read research that portrays a correlation between increased pervasiveness of smart technology and increased diagnosis (or reporting) of teen anxiety as a causal relationship and wondered why the research doesn't consider that increased connectivity might be self-medicating behavior for depression and anxiety. Teens are addicted to their friends, to a need to belong, and continue to navigate the age-old stresses of social pressures. None of that is new. In many ways the device is their mode of connection more so than the object of their addiction. I think this exploration by Leah Shafer of the Harvard Graduate School for Education is a thoughtful consideration of the issues adolescents (and their families) in a mediated culture are facing.
For many years I have sat through faculty meetings where district lawyers have warned us about our social media presence and connections with students. I understand the concerns that inspire those cautionary meetings and the policy that as educators we may not be social media friends with our students. Yet, I think it is possible to share these digital spaces safely in order to model not just good habits of civic discourse but also appropriate and effective boundary-setting. In fact, if we really mean we want to teach students positive habits of digital citizenship, then it is essential that we interact with them in digital communities.
My daughter's field hockey team, like most other teams of which I am aware, self-organizes in a closed Facebook group. All current team members are invited as are the coaches and parents of current players. Announcements are made in this forum, pictures of games and spirit days are shared here, encouraging messages about upcoming games are offered. I am a contributor to this group even though I am not Facebook friends with most of the group members.
I am also a member of professional Facebook groups like Future Ready Librarians. Again, I contribute to the discussions that happen in these groups. I learn from the postings made by group members, and I am not "friends" with most of the people in that group and may never meet them in person. The posts I make to my page, that are shared with my friends, are not part of that forum. As educators, we can keep personal and professional postings and communities separate.
Twitter is another social media platform on which I am rather active. I follow many people and many of them follow me as well. There are many people with whom I engage in discourse via hashtags but we do not follow each other. My habit when it comes to Twitter is only to follow people's professional feeds. I do not use Twitter for personal posting. And, by following a hashtag, I can learn from people who contribute to that hashtag discussion without following their entire feed.
The use of closed Facebook groups and hashtags allows teachers and students to interact on social media and still maintain a separation of their personal lives. Further separation can be achieved by the creation of classroom accounts. In whatever way teachers and administrators choose to structure conversations -- many athletic coaches have already figured it out -- we aren't really teaching digital citizenship or information literacy if we aren't digital neighbors.
Media Literacy is the key to productive civic (and civil) discourse. Students, parents, and educators must co-exist in digital spaces in order for authentic instruction in critical thinking and modeling of good habits of communication to occur.
Jacquelyn Whiting: after 23 years as a high school social studies teacher, I am now a high school library media specialist & a member of the #SWE17 Google Certified Innovator cohort as well as a local activator for Future Design School.
co-author of News Literacy: The Keys to Combating Fake News (May 2018)
Co-authored School Library Journal editorial, “Fake News Fad: Let it Fade”
Profiled in EdWeek Magazine: “As Information Landscape Changes, Librarians Take on New Roles”
"Social Media in the Library: 4 ways to Promote Digital Literacy" on EdTechTeam.com
SLJ Summit 2018: Don't Take the Bait! News Literacy in the Digital Media Age
ISTE 2018: Social Media - the key to the college search and application processes
AASL 2017: Research in the Digital Age
ISTE 2017: Transforming your Library and Transitional Times
"Digital Citizenship Across Grade Levels" via edWeb.net, December 13, 2017
"News Literacy as a Vehicle for Reading Skills Instruction" via edWeb.net, October 18, 2017