Social Justice,Slacktivism, & Citizenship

By Jennifer Casa-Todd

It seems that everywhere I turn on social media or the news lately, there is yet another instance of hate resulting in the loss of life.  By the same token, I belong to a Voxer group made up of  so many races and religions that it truly allows for multiple perspectives and courageous conversations when a current event occurs or a discussion topic is brought up.  Just listening to everyone talk about their own experiences has helped me to grow in my understanding of the complexity of it all.  My buddy, Justin Schleider said it best when he said that we are forever changed as a result of our group, because we notice inequality more frequently as a result of having participated in these discussions and having our ideas pushed and challenged.

Throughout our discussions, I always bring it back to the classroom.  How do we address important issues of inequality and injustice with other teachers and students?  Do we? How do we help students to see alternative perspectives in the media? Can social media be a vehicle for social action and change?

Slacktivism

Some would answer no.  The term “slacktivism,” which is made up of a combination of the words “slacker” and “activism,”  has increasingly been used to describe the disconnect between awareness and action through the use of social media (Glen, 2015).

Slacktivism can be defined as “a willingness to perform a relatively costless, token display of support for a social cause, with an accompanying lack of willingness to devote significant effort to enact meaningful change” (Kristofferson et al., 2014) and thus has a negative connotation.

And yet, isn’t awareness a goal of education?  If a young person learns about deforestation, reads about organizations doing something about it, and “likes” their page, or demonstrates a positive response, isn’t that exactly what we want?  Might that eventually lead to a more active stance as the child grows older?

I think of the Ice Bucket Challenge craze of last year as an example of how awareness can be spread through something going viral on the internet.  If you don’t remember, the movement required that you video-tape yourself throwing ice water over yourself & challenging others to do so as well.  You were also supposed to donate to ALS (Lou Gherig’s disease).  At the time, it was criticized because many people were just interested in the fun of the challenge.  This is in line with typical criticism of slacktivism which it that it is more about “‘feel-good back patting’ through watching or ‘liking’ commentary of social issues without any action.” and the fact that oftentimes there is minimal time and effort, without mobilization and/or demonstrable effect in solving a social issue (Glen, 2015).  And yet, there is no way that people would have had known about the disease without this movement becoming popular on social media.  Just recently, there was a breakthrough in ALS as a result of the money raised during that craze.  So slacktivism, despite its negative connotation can actually be positive.

Much has been written also about the Kony movement of 2012 (Jenkins, et al, 2015) (Glen, 2015) as an example of social activism on the internet. I remember this campaign vividly because at the time, a friend of the family, who is a non-reader, not interested in school, and generally apathetic when it comes to any sort of causes became very interested in learning about Kony and child soldiers. I directed her to sources and she voraciously read them to learn about the cause.  We often talk about students not coming into our classes with prior knowledge, but I wonder whether or not if we meet them where they are and bring in cultural references from social media, that we might have greater success helping them to build an understanding of politics and culture.

I love this tweet by Curran Dee (a mother/son account) which really does emphasize the difference between activism & slacktivism:

Action vs Slacktivism

Citizenship Education

I really appreciate this framework for Citizenship Education in the new revised Canadian World Studies (and other revised Ontario Curriculum) as it reminds us that active participation in society are a necessary end goal.  Today, this means that technology and social media can help students develop a voice and become actively involved in causes about which they are passionate. But it also suggests that teaching citizenship is an important goal to the development of the whole child.

Citizenship education framework

 

Connecting Classrooms

When we provide students the opportunity to learn about other cultures in the world, by connecting our classrooms, we are helping them to see other races and cultures as human beings.  This can only be a good thing.  This can ideally be accomplished via technology and/or social media.  Students, can for example engage in a Google Hangout or a Blab with other classes to discuss an issue.  They can engage in a Twitter exchange.  I have heard so many powerful stories and have personally experienced transformation of student points’ of view as a result of virtually meeting kids from other countries or communities.  In one case, where one of our local schools connected with Julie Balen’s class, our students admitted that they really had no idea that the students of FNMI backgrounds were “16 year olds just like us”, and a student from Wikwemikong school admitted to thinking that everyone outside of her reserve was white and that she was surprised to see the class had so many “colours”.  One of my friends, Shervette Miller-Peyton spoke about how interesting it was for her class to connect with a class from Brazil because they had made so many assumptions about what students outside of the States would be like.  They were shocked to hear that the students knew about their own culture.   Connecting students allows them to really get to

Multiple perspectives

I would suggest a four-pronged approach to any issue so as to minimize bias and radical responses BEFORE they actually go online.  Something like this which would obviously need to be modified based on the grade:

I am ___________and from my perspective…:
Respond as the perpetrator’s son (daugher, sister, brother, mother) 
I am ______________and this my perspective…
Respond as the perpetrator’s victim’s (daugher, sister, brother, mother) 
I am ___________and this my perspective:
Respond as a community leader 
I am ___________and this my perspective:
Respond as a bystander 
Reflect: I used to think, and now I think…

 

 

Student Leadership

We have always included opportunities for learning about social justice issues in the classroom.  Today, we are able to empower our students to use their own voices to advocate for change.  These are just kids leveraging social media and technology to spread good in the world.

Just this morning, I read about Two fourth graders who started a plastic bag petition in Houston.  It was shared on Twitter by fourth grader, Curran Dee.

Hannah Alper, a 13-year old activist and social-change maker always posts great ideas for how to help.  Read her post on how to help support Ronald McDonald Houses.

Joshua Williams, founder of Joshua’s Heart an organization dedicated to feeding the hungry, promotes a positive stance on the issue of gun violence.

Joshua

Harry Potter Alliance

I learned about the Harry Potter Alliance from the book, Participatory Cultures in a Networked Era.  It’s a really interesting resource where social activism and different fandoms (primarily Harry Potter) collide.   The website says its goal is to make “activism accessible through the power of story.” The toolkits focus on different issues and provide background as well as concrete ideas of how to build awareness about those issues.  It would be a great resource for teachers and students alike.

Hashtags

A great way to promote activism in the classroom is to check out the hashtags for current events on Twitter or Instagram and contribute positively. I reflect on the power of hashtags here.

These are a few hashtags shared with me by Alec Couros which he uses in his courses to demonstrate some major online campaigns.

I always check what’s trending on Twitter or Instagram to see if any topical hashtags might be relevant to a unit or theme being studied (or could replace what I had in mind).

Keep it Positive

I would also recommend that you Err on the Side of Positive (Couros, 2016) and beyond that respond with empathy, positivity, openness, sensitivity, and love.   Keeping interactions on social media positive will prevent misunderstandings and negativity.

Err on the side of... (1)

 

What do you think of taking action using social media?

References:

Couros, G. (2016, June). Err on the Side of Positive. iPadPalooza. June, 2016. Retrieved July 31, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoMn4063yc4

Glenn, C. L. (2015). Activism or “slacktivism?”: Digital media and organizing for social change. Communication Teacher, 29(2), 81-85. doi:10.1080/17404622.2014.1003310

Groetzinger, K. (2015, December 10). Slacktivism is having a powerful real-world impact, new research shows. Retrieved July 31, 2016, from http://qz.com/570009/slacktivism-is-having-a-powerful-real-world-impact-new-research-shows/

Kristofferson, K., White, K., & Peloza, J. (2014). The nature of slacktivism: How the social observability of an initial act of token support affects subsequent prosocial action.Journal of Consumer Research, 40(6), 1149-1166. doi:10.1086/674137

Robinson, Matthew (2016) Department of Government and Justice Studies. Appalachian State University. Retrieved July 31, 2016, from http://gjs.appstate.edu/social-justice-and-human-rights/what-social-justice

Vanwynsberghe, Hadewijch, and Pieter Verdegem. “Integrating social media in education.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 15.3 (2013). Academic OneFile

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Social Media: What to do when something goes wrong

By Jennifer Casa-Todd (originally posted jcasatodd.com)

I have been and continue to be a strong advocate for using social media in the classroom to empower students.  I have been an active user of social media since 2011 and have never encountered any of the negativity I have heard people associate with it.  I mean, not ever in the 12, 696 Tweets and various Google +, Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn posts!  I always put out positive and it always seems to come back to find me.

Early this morning, I wavered slightly when I was the target of online threats.

It happened on Blab at 2:30 a.m.  I had only recently explored Blab as a tool for possible integration in the classroom a couple of weeks ago.   I was a guest panelist for, Good Brings Good: Harnessing the Power of Connections for Social Change, as part of EdCamp Global, featuringMatone de Chiwit and Calliope’s Fran Siracusa.  Also on air were Sean Robinson and Tracy Bradyalong with Manel Trenchs  and Fabiana Cassella as well as others who joined.  We all stayed up for the time slot to share our enthusiasm for the powerful connections made with our classes and the young inventor Karishma Baghani around the topic of water scarcity.

And then the harassment started.  It began with negative comments put forward by “Dawn” who we later realized was not a real person, but a fake account created by someone on Twitter for the purpose of joining Blab to be negative and anonymous.  There were extremely anti-male sentiments and harassing statements directed at Sean.  I proceeded to say in the chat box how disappointed I was that such an important topic was being sabotaged by negativity.  Fran was able to remove “her” and we continued.

 

Shortly thereafter, another “user” entered the Blab and spewed hateful anti-male sentiments towards both Sean and Manel Trenchis i Mola, who joined us from Barcelona.  I firmly believe it was the same person under the guise of a different username. The abuse was along similar lines. Fran tried to remove the user once again, but this time, it wasn’t working.  I tried to post positive comments but as I continued to do so, the user sent me threatening messages–directed not just at me, but clearly the person had looked at my Twitter profile and realized that I had two daughters and threatened them.

Fran and the panel of guests addressed the issue but also continued on with the presentation remarkably well.  Because Blab does not record the chat, it would be difficult to tell when this all started.

In the subsequent hours, (between 3 & 4 am ET), we each set out to Report and Block both of the users.   I emailed Blab, contacted Twitter.  Fran meticulously deleted all of the negative comments so they couldn’t be seen in the replay. The group of amazing educators who had been in on the planning for the Good-Brings-Good Global Edcamp session got together on our group chat (Direct Message on Twitter) to talk about what happened and to support one another with words, Bitmojiis, and images.  The conversation then extended to Voxer where I got some additional messages of support and where we talked about what we could have done differently next time.

In my case, even before I woke up, my husband had already talked to my 13 year-old about the incident.  When I came down for breakfast, she told me that she had gone into all of her accounts and checked to make sure nothing was unusual.  She had also checked my 16 year-old’s phone (as she is in Ecuador) and made sure nothing untoward was happening there either.  She told me that she had also strengthened her passwords “just to be on the safe side”.  Then she asked if I was ok.  I just about sobbed.  My biggest fear was that somehow the threats made could actually happen, despite knowing that it would be extremely unlikely that someone would harm my kids from afar.

I don’t tell this story because I want to frighten you. I don’t tell it because I think we should all swear off social media.  I tell it because as distressed as I was,  I am more convinced than ever that we need to help and guide kids to navigate these spaces together.  This negative experience has probably pushed my thinking more than has been possible when I’ve only known the positive.  Sean Guillard shared this on Instagram and it immediately resonated.  It’s what happens in the classroom when a wrong note is hit that makes all the difference.  Being thoughtful and proactive will ensure that the next note is good.

wrong note

 

 

Anticipate what you will do if something goes wrong.

Stay Calm.

Do you have children?  If you do, you will be familiar with this scenario.  Your child falls and you react extremely negatively, you screech or cry out or gasp.  What does your child do?  Sobs and wails uncontrollably.  But what happens when I purposefully suck in my breath, carry on, offer support in a very even keel voice as if nothing really frightening has happened?  My children miraculously brushed themselves off and continued to play.    The most important thing to do when something unexpected, unfamiliar, or negative happens when using social media (really apply this wisdom to anything) is to stay calm and think things through logically.  If you watch the Replay of the Blab, you will see Fran as the model of composure even though she was panicking to block and eject the offender.  Your calmness will in turn instill calm. You will see Sean continue to talk about student voice even though he is being attacked. Your panic will make everyone anxious and fearful.

Think Aloud

When I presented at the GAFE Summit in Kitchener, I decided it would be a good idea to do a live Google Hangout.  As you can imagine, anything that could go wrong, did.  Nothing was working, then I shared the wrong link and had to eject someone (not because he was being inappropriate, but there was audio interference.  Even though I was shaking in front of a rather large audience, my literacy background must have kicked in because I engaged in a problem-solving-think-aloud.  That is, I explained what I was doing to solve the problem in a methodical and practical way. Many people shared how important that was and how much they appreciated me thinking through and problem-solving out loud as they saw what they would do if the same thing happened to them.  As I was thinking about this incident in the classroom, it would be important to say these kinds of things as you are doing them:

  • “First I will look for a way to block this user because this is extremely inappropriate and uncomfortable.  Blocking them will make sure we don’t see them anymore.
  • “I will take a screenshot of the username and the negative things being said so I can have a record of it”
  • “I will need to report this to the company and talk to the principal about this.  I can send the screenshots I took.”
  • “I think I need to change my password and make it stronger, just in case this person tries to get into my accounts.”
  • “I wonder what we could do differently next time so this doesn’t happen again.”

Making this thinking visible will give them a frame for when this might happen to them as they personally engage in using social media (which we all know they do at younger and younger ages).

 

Plan that Something will go wrong

In an ensuing conversation with Marialice Curran, I spoke about feeling helpless and the necessity of an action plan.  She made the analogy of a Fire Escape plan which makes so much sense.

We have kids engage in Fire Drills & Lock down drills.  We don’t wish for these things to happen, but when we anticipate that something could go wrong, and talk about it as a class, we empower our students to act in the event that action is necessary.  A simple question like, “What might go wrong if we use this tool and what will we do about it?” may suffice.   In the case of Blab, Fran reflected that having more than one moderator/host would have been helpful since only a moderator can remove participants.  This can be true for other live-streaming tools as well.  It may also help to include the following elements in your action plan:

DO NOT ENGAGE

As much as I always give everyone the benefit of the doubt, someone who is being negative on social media is not likely going to turn around and be grateful to me for helping them to be more positive. Trying to reason with someone who is negative is futile.  It definitely didn’t work for me–in fact in retrospect, standing up to the person is what prompted the threatening messages.  It is important to continue as if nothing is happening and not engage in any way.

Blab chat

DROWN OUT THE NEGATIVE

One of my favourite quotes by George Couros is this:

He coined it after he had a potentially negative situation arose in front of a live audience of students. I vividly remember him sharing that story with me and it was all I could think of during the Blab, but unfortunately, I was the only one who was putting in positive comments and because I was also trying to take screen shots, the effort was not enough.  I keep thinking how different it would have been if we had talked about this beforehand, how much more effective and powerful all of us would have been at drowning out that one hateful voice.   This was a strategy kids came up with when we had a negative situation on Yik Yak as well.  To me, this is the most important thing we can do to empower our kids in a negative situation.

Jennifer Williams, who also reached out, said this: “Breaks my heart to think that there are people out there that are hurting so badly that they intentionally try to cause harm to others. Just another reason to spread in our world the best we can.”

MAKE THE COMPANY ACCOUNTABLE

Some apps really have no idea that educators are thinking of innovative ways to incorporate them; thus they are not being created with kids and safety in mind.  If something negative happens, talk to the class about what action they’d like to take.

“Should we email the company with our suggestions about how this tool could be safer?”

Again the intent is to empower.  Kids need to know that if there is something that needs to be fixed that they can be part of the solution.  It could very well be that the company had never even considered the suggestions that the kids might come up with.  They often surprise us and learning should lead to action.

FORGE A POSITIVE CONNECTION WITH PARENTS

If an incident happens in class, it is important to communicate this with parents and families about how to help. It is also important to think about what and how you communicate.  Parents need to know that something happened that made everyone uncomfortable, and what steps that could be taken at home, but it is also extremely helpful that the tone  (or the words) reflect the fact that there are important lessons to be learned by engaging in the guided use of social media together as a class which their child will take with them when they navigate the tools on their own.  If your tone wavers to suggest that you should not have been using this tool in the first place, you are just opening up yourself for trouble. Parents need to be assured that the choices you make in class are for the goal of learning.  A summary of the learning goals and what the children have decided as a plan of action moving forward would also help parents feel that the teacher and the school are being thoughtful and diligent about the choices being made.

MAKE WISE CHOICES

Having said, that, using technology as well as social media always requires critical thinking on the part of the teacher.  Once you establish your purpose, you (or the kids) select a tool which would most easily and effectively help you arrive at your learning goal. Blab is a great tool for discussion and debate.  Periscope is a great live streaming tool. But both are public and anyone can jump in.  The time of day probably matters too, during the school day, you may be less likely to have someone come in than if it’s in the evening (or at 2 am!)  Though it’s never the tool, but the user(s) of the tool which make it negative, you may not necessarily want to engage in a public Blab with kids under the age of 13 or at least practice using it as unlisted first.  If you choose to use a tool, awareness and collaborative conversations are necessary.

Here is an article with some tips for online abuse on Blab which may apply to other tools as well.

The topic and Blab itself was a demonstration of the positive! Despite what happened there was powerful sharing about how students were positively impacted by a project which allowed them to become passionate about a project that could helps make the lives of others better.  Whatever else, getting involved in this project will provide.  Sean’s blog is a great place to learn about this and other Connections-based learning projects.  And check out the Our Blue Earth project in collaboration with Karishma which is still ongoing for the next school year.

I leave you with the sentiment expressed by Manel at the end of the Blab as he is being harassed in the chat:

“There is a lot of work to be done to help use social media in a good way”

Indeed there is.  We can’t let negative experiences prevent us from engaging in these online spaces with kids.  I shudder at the thought of a child or teen going through what I went through all alone because we just don’t feel comfortable going there.  I am grateful to the community of friends that reached out to me and to Sean after this incident.

And I am ever mindful that it is a community of friends whom I know mostly only virtually: by way of social media.

School should also be that safe community for kids and so should their online spaces.

 

Digital Citizenship, Learning, and Student Voice

By: Jennifer Casa-Todd

“Just as schools have played a role in preparing students to be citizens in the traditional sense, educators must now ensure that our children are ready to be active and responsible participants in our increasingly digital society”

(Couros & Katia, 2015, pg 6).

There isn’t a single educator who would argue with the fact that we need to teach kids how to navigate online spaces safely and critically.  What I have noticed however is that there is an extremely huge variance in what educators think this should look like.  In my research this week I am overwhelmed by the number of different definitions of digital citizenship as well as the different components.  If you google, “digital citizenship defined,” there are 506,000 results.  It seems like every District and every organization is trying to come up with their own unique framework.  This makes sense to me on some level as every school District, every school even has its own culture.

But are we creating these frameworks on a grand scale which then become stagnant?  Are they simply units that need to be “covered” and checked off?  Even in my own practice, I curated this resource in 2011 which I now look at and would (and will when I have time) completely revamp because my own stance and the kind of choices I would make today are radically different.  Is it a decent resource that teachers, especially those who are not comfortable utilizing online spaces would find supportive? Absolutely.  But, I know that personally I would need the resources I use to match the group of students I had in front of me, the learning context in my class, and the purpose for which I would be using a social media platform.

To me, it is an absolute necessity, to teach kids how to navigate online spaces in creative, critical healthy and ethical ways (my own definition of digital citizenship) positively, in context rather than isolation.

This is supported by research about situated learning around reading, writing, and mathematics, which has stood the test of time and which I believe is completely relevant to this conversation.  Consider these quotations about student learning:

  • learning methods that are embedded in authentic situations are not merely useful; they are essential and knowledge must be applied in context in order to be used and made explicit (Brown et al, 1989).
  • Research around using vocabulary words from a dictionary to teach reading show learning to be ineffective because “learning from dictionaries, like any method that tries to teach abstract concepts independently of authentic situations, overlooks the way understanding is developed through continued, situated use. (Brown et al., page 33).  
  • People who use tools actively rather than just acquire them, appear to build an increasingly rich implicit understanding of the world in which they use the tools and of the tools themselves. (Brown et all, 1989, pg 33).
  • given the chance to observe and practice in situ the behavior of members of a culture, people pick up relevant jargon, imitate behavior, and gradually start to act in accordance with its norms  and that despite the fact that cultural practices are often extremely complex, students, when given the opportunity to observe and practice them, students adopt them with great success.  (Brown et al., 1989, page 34)

And now apply this analogy to using technology tools and social media in context.  It makes complete sense!

Any yet…

We continue to treat Digital Citizenship as discrete units in school.  

We rarely explore social media within the context of the classroom in order to support the nuanced understanding of etiquette, usage, etc…that can only come with using tools in authentic and meaningful ways.

We also tend to block sites that may be problematic which makes a guided and contextual approach to digital citizenship problematic at best or worse yet, becomes about teaching kids how to circumvent firewalls.  This passage from Participatory Cultures in a Networked World reinforces my own feelings about this:

“[B]locking sites perpetuates risk as it ensures that many kids will be forced to confront online risks on their own. Many young people lack opportunities to learn how to use new media tools effectively and appropriately. Not just that, but a reliance on blocking sends the message that sites and tools important to students have little to nothing to contribute to intellectual pursuits. (Jenkins, Ito, boyd, 2016, pg 16)

As much as the thought of encountering an inappropriate image in front of an entire class instils dread in me, I know that at least a safe classroom environment is less problematic that that child encountering that image on their own device…a fact we definitely need to address with parents!

Can kids learn about self-regulation and what a healthy balance of online and offline looks like if we ask students to leave electronic devices in their lockers?

Do kids really understand what appropriate commenting looks like without extending and practicing this skill with explicit instruction and practice with an authentic audience?

Can kids really understand intellectual property if we don’t have them explore Creative Commons licencing for their own creations which they post for a widespread audience?

If we only focus on the fear narrative, will students recognize the positive potential of connecting online?

It is true that many teachers don’t feel comfortable enough to be the “expert” when it comes to modelling the use of social media, but teachers know their curriculum well and most importantly know how to pose the right questions, which is arguably a more important skill than answering questions anyway.

Teaching kids about the online world needs to be an organic and contextual process guided by an adult who can ask the right questions.

Student Voice and Digital Citizenship

Students need to part of the Digital Citizenship conversation.  In as much as we talk about student voice, I often find it missing when it comes to practice.  Whatever table I am sitting at, I always invite students to it to give their thoughts and opinions.  Check out how students contributed to the solution during our Yik Yak episode here.

That’s why I am so excited about  @Digcitkids,  Digital Citizenship for kids by kids. It is created by  a 4th grader  with the help of his mom Marialice  who is as passionate about bringing student voice and student digital leadership into our schools as I am.

Be sure to watch the Digcitkids website (which literally just went live in time for this post!!) as it develops and grows. The idea around Digcitkids is to provide an opportunity to amplify student voice and to promote students as digital leaders  k-12. The student and/or classroom ambassador program provides an opportunity for students from around the world to get involved in creating and sharing content and will allow students to participate in monthly challenges.

Curran wanted to start digcitkids as a way to address the conversation about digital access & connected learning opportunities for all students.  Plus, after his Ted talk he didn’t understand why he was the only elementary aged student talking about the topic and still doesn’t understand why educators wait until students are in high school to highlight student voice.   More about Curran and his quest here.

He will be presenting the idea during Edcamp Global on July 30 at 7 am.

Other resources for teachers and leaders

Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools

Created by Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt in collaboration with a larger working group, this is perhaps my favourite resource.  It aligns with my thinking about situating learning of using social media in context and is a comprehensive, thoughtful and thorough approach. It is framed around Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship  I also really appreciate the guides found within the document.

OSAPAC

The OSAPAC Digital Citizenship resource is an excellent and comprehensive resource created for Ontario teachers and leaders but which is useful to any educator.  Our District used it as one of the key resources for its Digital Discipleship framework.  The resource is grounded in research and has practical and positive lesson plans.  It is divided up into both elementary and secondary around the following themes:

osapac

Common Sense Media

Common Sense media offers a continuum of skills offered by topic beginning from kindergarten to grade 12. Lessons are available as PDF downloads, as well as Nearpod lessons, and iBooks (for purchase) for an agnostic experience for students. They are organized in the following way:

Common Sense Media

MediaSmarts

Media Smarts is a Canadian resource for digital and media literacy and is grounded on ongoing national research on Canadian children and teens and their experiences with networked technologies.  The resources are relevant to any educator.  They use the following framework:

Media Smarts 1

iKeepSafe

IKeepSafe is a non-profit organization which adopts a global citizen approach. ” It contends that modern technologies like telephones, television, and most of all, the Internet, allow for a global society where individuals can access information from around the world—in real time—despite being thousands of miles from the source of the content (Searson et al, 2015).  This is how they organize their topics.

iKeepSafe Digital Citizenship

ISTE Standards for Students

In the newly revised standards put out by the International Society. It is useful as a point of reference for educators.

Digital Citizenship ISTE

References

Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, S. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42.

Couros, A., & Hildebrandt, K. (2015). Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools. Retrieved from http://publications.gov.sk.ca/documents/11/83322-DC%20Guide%20-%20ENGLISH%202.pdf

Jenkins, H., Itō, M., & boyd, d. (2015). Participatory culture in a networked era: A conversation on youth, learning, commerce, and politics. Wiley.

Searson, M., Hancock, M., Soheil, N., & Shepherd, G. (2015). Digital citizenship within global contexts. Education and Information Technologies, 20(4), 729-741. doi:10.1007/s10639-015-9426-0

New to Twitter? #FollowFriday

By: Jennifer Casa-Todd

One of the most relevant things to remember about using Twitter for professional development is that it is more important to follow really interesting and thought-provoking people, than to be concerned about how many people follow you.  I often create Twitter lists to which I direct learners when I am showing them how to use Twitter.  The title of the list indicates the kind of learning you may be apt to do if you follow the people on that list.

But another great way to find really interesting people to follow on Twitter is through the hashtag #FollowFriday or #ff . Though it is updated on Fridays, you may put that term in the search bar to access this information. I don’t do this enough (I am always worried about leaving someone out), but whenever I get mentioned in a Follow Friday list or see someone sharing one, I am always pleasantly surprised to find a new person from whom I think I can learn on Twitter and beyond.

Building Community using Follow Friday

Any leader who is trying to build community using a District or organization hashtag might want to create a #FollowFriday post.  This not only honours the contributions of people using the hashtag, but also helps new people to know the others within that community.

Dr. Robin Kay, Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Ontario’s Institute for Technology makes a point of posting about people in Ed Tech who would be good to follow.

Doug Peterson has long been supporting and building a community of Ontario Educators by creating several #FollowFriday posts.

Both Julie Balen and Lisa Noble shared a #FollowFriday post with me this morning that reinforced the amazing people I already follow, but introduced me to a couple of people whom I have never met.  Often, there is an ongoing sharing as in this example when Donna Fry added some other great folks to follow:

FF

So what are you waiting for?  Take some time by the pool or on a patio to check out the hashtag and follow some amazing educators today who will help you to learn throughout the school year!

If you are really new to Twitter, you may find this resource I created helpful.

Here are two other resources which may help recommended by Donna Fry:

1) from @tomwhitby “Whom Should I Follow on Twitter?”https://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/whom-should-i-follow-on-twitter/

2) and from @ossemooc, “Twitter for Absolute Beginners” – getting started on Twitter, even without an account https://twitterforabsolutebeginners.wordpress.com/

Twitter-2

Social Media and Literacy

By Jennifer Casa-Todd

I remember George Couros when he came to our District, asking the question, “If you don’t know what a hashtag is are you considered illiterate today?”

I thought about that as I read a recent article by CEO of Hootsuite, Social media skills millenials lack.  Ryan Holmes states that using social media effectively is “the most important digital skill for tomorrow’s CEOs”  He refers to a “social media gap” which is further supported by ProfessorWilliam Ward, professor of social media at Syracuse University, who states “Students using digital and social media professionally in an integrated and strategic way have an advantage. [They’re] getting better jobs and better internships …”

The fact is, students are good at connecting with people they already know, but don’t understand how to network professionally.  I would add they don’t often know how it works for learning either.

That is a compelling reason to incorporate social media in the context of the classroom and yet there is a real reluctance to do this by many Districts.

What are the barriers to this?

Firstly, there is a gap in curricular guidance and support but also especially since the practices are rapidly evolving. Some teachers feel they can’t keep up. Secondly, and probably most prevalently is the fact that “these dynamic multi-modal and mobile practices are at odds with the tightly framed definitions of literacy that dominate many educational contexts” (Burnett, & Merchant, 2015, 272).   I have been expanding my thinking around how we define literacy for some time now.

Rather than engaging in the opportunity to engage with a variety of media to help students understand the forms and techniques, we often focus on traditional reading and writing tasks which in no means is bad, but does not offer students some of the skills they will need in the workplace.

Doug Belshaw, in The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies says, “When it comes to developing digital literacies, therefore, negotiating online social networks becomes important on many levels. At the most basic procedural level there is the understanding that, for example, Twitter allows only 140 characters whereas other social networks do not tend to limit text input. More conceptual is an understanding of hashtags as ‘channels’ of communication and how these can be appropriated and re-appropriated by groups and loose networks of individuals.”

One research study suggests that we not only expand the kinds of texts that students produce, but that we provide “contexts in which students can draw in open-ended ways across this developing repertoire [of literacy strategies] to combine and remix varied textual and linguistic practices within contexts that matter to them. (Burnett, Merchant, 2015, pg 271).  

Rheingold, a social media scholar and instructor at the University of California Berkley and Stanford, discusses five “social media literacies”.

(1) attention: the ability to identify when focused attention is required and to recognize when multitasking is beneficial;

(2) participation: more than consumers, participants actively participate-knowing when and how to participate is important;

(3) collaboration: participants can achieve more by working together than they can working alone;

(4) network awareness: an understanding of social and technical networks;

(5) critical consumption: identifying trustworthiness of the author or text (Rheingold, 2010).

Rheingold believes that all of these are interconnected and that they all contribute to a “way of being” and when I consider these, I see so much overlap with traditional information and media literacy.  And yet, with all of the curriculum expectations required I can see why teachers might feel like this is an add-on.

Which other factors might be holding us back from doing using social media in the classroom?  Doug Belshaw (2014) suggests that we are continuing to evaluate and consider literacy from an analogue perspective, without the recognition that digital technology has created completely different environments for learners.

A few wonderings:

  • What are some of the ways Districts can support teachers to explore the use of social media in the classroom with students in meaningful, authentic, and guided ways?
  • What support(s) do we need to model and explore social media literacies together in the context of an English, History, or Geography class? Are those at a school level?  a District level?  a Ministry level?
  • How can we show kids that social media can be used beyond  just connecting with friends, but for learning and sharing their learning?
  • To what extent are we limiting our definitions of literacy based on our own past experiences?  How might we expand these?
  •  What are your own experiences with social media in the classroom?
 
References:

Belshaw, Doug  (2015) The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies.http://dougbelshaw.com/ebooks/digilit/

boyd, d. m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship.Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 13(1), 210-230. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00393

Burnett, C., & Merchant, G. (2015). The challenge of 21st‐Century literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy,59(3), 271-274. doi:10.1002/jaal.482

Holmes, Ryan. “5 Social Media Skills Millennials Lack.” Fortune. N.p., 27 Mar. 2014. Web. 15 July 2016.

Rheingold, H. (2010). Attention, and other 21st-century social media literacies. Educause Review,45(5), 14-24. Retrieved June 12, 2016, from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2010/10/attention-and-other-21stcentury-social-media-literacies

 

 

Real, Fake, Edited, and Social Media

As a former English teacher, I am acutely aware of media messages  and the fact that they are a construct of reality.   When I first started teaching (just a few years ago), I taught my students the Media Triangle which we then used as a frame of reference whenever we viewed media:

Media triangle

http://themedialiterateteacher.weebly.com/media-triangle.html

So even before the internet was a thing and social media came to be, those of us teaching English and Media studies have been teaching kids that media is not real: that the audience, the text, and the production (techniques & conventions) are purposefully chosen and represent a construct of reality. This applies to everything: “reality” tv, magazine covers, film, news articles, posters, and now that list includes social media. Most especially, I taught students that we need to ask critical questions when they are confronted with a media text and and we should always be a little skeptical of what is being portrayed.  And so traditionally, media has been the culprit of many negative outcomes including:  

“exposure to unrealistic body images; modelling; pressure to conform; gender-typed socialization; objectification of the body; internalization of appearance ideals; increased negative affect that results from viewing unrealistic images of the body; social comparisons; interactions with peers and other normative influences; the adoption of appearance management behaviors and body change strategies to improve oneself; and compensatory motivations such as disordered eating as a way to validate one’s self-concepts” (Williams, 2014, pg 390)

Blame Social Media

Now, many posts, articles, studies, and musings are about the extent to which social media is to blame for these same issues which I tackled 20 years ago in my Media Studies class concerning traditional media forms. And yet…

Perhaps the reason why there is a more pressing concern is likely because social media amplifies the access to some of these messages. Richard Perloff, in a study examining how social media effects young women’s body image, states that “social media, in Western countries such as the U.S., U.K., and Australia, have infiltrated individuals’ lives in ways that was not possible with previous mass media” (Williams, 2014, pg 389).  This is actually scary when I consider the Dove campaign video which was created in 2008.

In a recent post by George Couros, he references an article about a young woman whose Instagram feed painted a picture of happiness while in actual fact she was struggling with depression and ultimately committed suicide.  The commentary about Instagram is an interesting one:

“With Instagram, one thing has changed: the amount we consume of one another’s edited lives. Young women growing up on Instagram are spending a significant chunk of each day absorbing others’ filtered images while they walk through their own realities, unfiltered. In a recent survey conducted by the Girl Scouts, nearly 74 percent of girls agreed that other girls tried to make themselves look “cooler than they are” on social networking sites.”

I remember reading a post on my Twitter feed a few months ago about an Australian Instagram celebrity, Essena O’Neill, who apparently “blew up the internet” when she swore off social media admitting that every picture, every post was completely contrived and that she was never truly happy.  This line really resonated:

The concept of faking a “perfect” life on social media has been around almost as long as social media itself”

Julie Smith, author of Master the Media, shared this image on Twitter which I found tragically funny:

Instagram vs real life

A proactive approach: Use social media in media literacy lessons

We can limit the exposure kids have on social media (and I’m not saying we shouldn’t), but we may have to take a look at other proactive ways to address the multi-layered issue which arises here.  Research suggests that media literacy is effective in combating body-image perceptions in women and that a multi-system approach is necessary to empower youth and adults” to start to challenge media-propagated images of narrow and harmful idealized bodies.  This approach should include social media which “are capable of dramatically expanding the reach of media literacy programs on body image” (Andsager, 2014). (emphasis added)

Looking back at the media triangle, whether we are talking about an advertisement, a Facebook post, or an Instagram post, we can isolate all of the elements within it very effectively in our classrooms with students.  And so when we include social media examples, we are helping students who may not readily recognize the contrived nature of posts (be it those of celebrities or friends), have a clearer sense of real vs fake.

But as Andsager suggests, social media shouldn’t just be a part of the conversation, it can be a part of the solution  not just because of the potential of widespread messaging, but because when students actually create using technology and social media, they are learning about the interplay of text, production, and audience which may serve to help them to become critical of the media they consume.

I love how Mimi Ito says it in the book, Participatory Culture in a networked age:

Our mindset has to start moving beyond “How can I protect myself from media corporations?” and towards how can I contribute in an effective and responsible way?”

(Jenkins et all, 2016, pp 108).

References:

  • Andsager, J. L. (2014). Research directions in social media and body image. Sex Roles, 71(11), 407-413. doi:10.1007/s11199-014-0430-4
  • Fagan, Kate. “Split Image.” Weblog post. ESPN. N.p., 17 May 2015. Web. 6 July 2016.
  • Jenkins, H., Itō, M., & boyd, d. (2015). Participatory culture in a networked era: A conversation on youth, learning, commerce, and politics. Wiley.
  • Perloff, R. M. (2014). Social media effects on young women’s body image concerns: Theoretical perspectives and an agenda for research. Sex Roles, this issue. doi: 10.1007/s11199-014-0384-6.
  • Williams, R., & Ricciardelli, L. (2014). Social media and body image concerns: Further considerations and broader perspectives. Sex Roles, 71(11-12), 389-392. doi:10.1007/s11199-014-0429-x

Originally posted on jcasatodd.com

 

Curation tools and social media

“The sheer volume of digital information that is available makes it increasingly challenging to find the information you are interested in.  Curation in a digital world isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

–Stephen Dale

What is curation?

I really like Sylvia Tolisano’s definition of curation:

“…the ability to find, to filter, to evaluate, to annotate, to choose which sources are valuable.” (Valenza, et al. 2014)

Stephen Daly, in his article, Content Curation: The Future of Relevance, reminds us that when we think of curation we think of a museum curator who keeps abreast of trends, listens to what guests are discussing and finds resources that resonate well with those areas.  He states that you no longer need to have studied curation : “social media sharing has enabled anyone to share anything with the world.”  (Daly. 2014, pg 1)

Content Curation Tools

The following are a few content curation tools which I either like or want to explore and what I know about them so far:

Storify (13+) allows me to draw content from a Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Google Plus feed or from Google in order to create a digital story with annotations.  It’s also very intuitive; I use it regularly to consolidate learning like here and to summarize events.

Diigo allows me to individually or collaboratively bookmark and annotate links, pages, notes, and media.  I have been able to add tags to make my bookmarks searchable as well as add highlight, sticky notes, or screenshots to my libraries (Valenza, pg 63).   The Chrome extension is extremely useful.  I don’t believe there is an age restriction, but you need to sign up with an email.

Flipboard (13+) also has a handy Google Chrome extension and is a place to not just read content, but curate it as well.  I tried this tool out for one of my previous courses and like that I can add a comment or idea to the articles, videos, or photos that I “flip” and that I can also categorize magazines and share them.

Pinterest  My 16 year old uses Pintrest all the time for decorating and recipe ideas and I follow the Edumatch board, but that’s about it.  I’d like to explore how Pintrest might be used in a school or classroom setting especially because of its incredible visual quality; I know some teachers are already having their students create boards for a variety of subjects.

I have been using Google Plus Communities (13 +) more and more lately to share information, links, videos, or project ideas with various groups of people.  I think this platform has great potential as a curation platform.  I am interested in exploring this tool more in this context.

Bundlr is a tool that I learned about through Joyce Valenza, in Curation Platforms.  The tool allows you to create relevant “bundles” using articles, images, videos, tweets, and links and share them.  Out of all these tools it is the one tool I know absolutely nothing about but would like to challenge myself to explore.

I have also personally used Evernote and Symbaloo, to curate and organize articles, websites, images, and blogposts based on themes and ideas.  This blog  (any blog by virtue of tags) serves as a curation tool for my own learning as well.  Many of my friends (especially my Edumatch Voxer PLN),  also use Blendspace, Livebinders, Educlippers, and Scoop-it,.  Like anything when it comes to technology, there are literally a hundred apps and tools that might serve a similar purpose.  Check out this list.

So how many of these tools are currently being used by or taught to students?

The current practice in many schools when it comes to curating information involves citing or annotating resources for one specific unit or project at a time, usually in the form of research notes, a bibliography or annotated bibliography which is submitted it to the teacher and sometimes even graded.  This is good.

And so I asked the Twitterverse via a poll:

Curation Poll

Only about 35 out of 97 people who responded teach students to use online curation tools. This is by no means reliable data–people may have said no because they teach kindergarten or don’t meet the age restrictions or don’t have access to technology.  The results are interesting nonetheless.  As educators we are constantly seeking ways to be more efficient and productive with finding and organizing information, but this hasn’t quite translated to classroom practice. Don’t our students need these same skills?  I think we need to do better than this in 2016, especially when content curation utilizes so many different forms of literacy. Here is a graphic outlining Content Curation Competencies which I modified from Stephen Dale, and to which I applied three sample tools (Pintrest, Flipboard, and Storify).

Content Curation Competencies (1)

Curation and Student Digital Leadership

In the meantime, I randomly Googled myself (a practice I regularly encourage students and teachers to do) and saw that my Symbaloo account came up. This made me think about Student Digital Leadership.

Why? I wonder about the current practice of showing students how to curate information specifically for a class or a teacher, which then never goes anywhere, when we could be teaching students curation tools that can actually contribute to their online presence and allow them to both learn and share their learning in a guided and scaffolded way.  Better?

What if we modelled what content curation looked like in the early years by having a collaborative online curation space, and then helping our kids select and create content for that online space?  This would work especially well in inquiry-rich classrooms where research is happening based on student interests.  Here is a link to a class-created Flipboards by Lisa Noble’s class.

What if students in older grades were able to make decisions about where to curate their work and that part of that decision included a social networking opportunity which allowed them to share their learning as well as actively learning from the curated resources of other students?

And what if we asked students in grade 12 to reflect on their curated resources from grade 9 and the extent to which they feel they have grown as learners and as information gatherers and seekers?

Ideally, you would compare and contrast the tool’s features, check the terms of service to ensure it doesn’t sell your private information and that you are using the tool with the age suggested.  Even better, why not decide as a class what features you deem important and have your students investigate a few of them and decide on which tool(s) they’d like to use for the year?

An emphasis on curation will not only help students to track the plethora of information on the web, and provide them with essential literacy skills but an organizational tool they can readily use if they choose to go to post-secondary.  It also serves to provide students with an opportunity to learn and share their learning and thus foster Digital Leadership skills.

References

Dale, S. (2014). Content curation: The future of relevance.Business Information Review, 31(4), 199-205. doi:10.1177/0266382114564267

Valenza, J. K., Boyer, B. L., & Curtis, D. (2014). Curation outside the library world. Library Technology Reports, 50(7), 51.

Valenza, J. K., Boyer, B. L., & Curtis, D. (2014). Curation platforms. Library Technology Reports, 50(7), 60.