Category Archives: social media and education

Crucial “Digital Citizenship” Conversations

An educator in one of my workshops asked me, “I know you are big into Twitter, but it doesn’t seem to be the network of choice for students, so why should I use it?”

My response was that it is not about what kids consider “cool”, but more the ability to learn to network through these social spaces.  I referenced a blog post I wrote on the idea of “3 Things Students Should Have Before They Leave High School“, and here were the ideas that were listed in a shortened form:

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Now, each one of those are not “set” and they can look quite different.  Although about.me has changed in the last little while, I still think it is great to have some type of individual “landing page”, similar to what I would consider a “digital cover letter”.  This post was less about absolutes and more about really thinking how we set our students up for success in the world we live in currently and in the future.  If a student had straight A’s in school but we googled them and their social feeds were filled with inappropriate messages, I know I wouldn’t be comfortable hiring them. Would most employers?

Revisiting the initial question, I listed a “professional social network”. This doesn’t mean Twitter or “LinkedIn for kids”,  but more about how to find others in areas that they are interested in.  For example, if a student would want to be a professional photographer, Instagram or Flickr would probably be the first place they look and share, not necessarily Twitter.  For educators though, Twitter has a huge network of educators that are already opening to collaborate, but it is also not only the network. I am seeing more people share to spaces such as Voxer and even Reddit, to further their learning in education, while also creating networks with others.  It is more the skill of networking and the opportunities provided than it is which space you choose.  It is not about what is “cool” for kids. We do not need to “edufy” each social network because are kids are on it. They also need spaces to be kids.

This all being stated, I was blown away by this post from Jenn Scheffer and her students speaking about “Digital Citizenship”. Here are some of their comments:

“While the general attitude on social media in the high school setting is typically a negative one, plagued by claims that sites such as Twitter are breeding grounds for inappropriate use and bullying, Burlington High School exhibits a much different attitude. Simply writing off the legitimate uses of social media based on archaic beliefs that it is harmful to students just will not do anymore as schools, such as Burlington, are utilizing the many benefits of social networking. The interactions between teachers, students, and administrators on various social media sites create a safe and productive online community. These interactions, which occur inside and outside of school, connect members of the school community in an effective and mutually beneficial way.” Caroline Akerley

“Twitter is one of the most powerful social media tools in the world. According to the company’s fact sheet, there are 320 million monthly active users on Twitter. But how many of them are used in a positive way? Check out my twitter handle HERE to see how I use Twitter in a positive way. When checking out my Twitter account please realize how professional my account really is! In the last year I have turned my social media status around completely. I realized how important it is to my digital profile and that it could effect my future! I have participated in multiple “#techteamMA” Twitter chats that are a great example on how to use Twitter in a positve way. Please view the pictures that I have provided that show clear cut examples on how much potential Twitter has to be used in a positive way!” Josh Boulos

“With the ever expanding world of social media, whether we like it or not, global perceptions are formed based on how we communicate as members of our digital society. These perceptions can be positive or negative and to some degree influenced and shaped by how we are using digital tools. I admit while social media has its share of negative views, I also believe the positives outweigh them. This beliefs stems from using social media tools and more specifically, YouTube. I use YouTube as a means of relaxing, entertainment, and education. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade and haven’t heard about it, YouTube is a multipurpose website that offers many different ideas such as browsing popular videos, listening to music, or uploading and sharing a video. One of the things I love about YouTube are “YouTubers” or the people around the world who use professionally and I enjoy YouTubers who play video games as part of their channel.” Shiv Shukla

A few things…

First of all, these are amazing conversations these students are having about both the positives and negatives of social media (seriously read the whole post because it is amazing). Secondly, I am not saying it is a direct result, but I know a lot about the leadership at these schools and these are conversations that the educators are having with the students.  They are having an impact.  Lastly, do your students talk like this in your schools? Are they even having these conversations with the educators in the building?

One of the things that I ask schools is “who teaches digital citizenship in your schools?” Often, I get a response of a teacher that may specialize in it.  Then I follow up by asking, “Who teaches manners?”  Of course they say that is everyone’s responsibility.  The more we see “digital citizenship” as simply “citizenship” and part of what we do our world, the closer we will get to realizing that this is all of our responsibility as educators.  It is pretty amazing to see when schools focus on this, how much they truly the empower the voice and genius of their own students as shared in the example above.