Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The worry of social media

As a principal I feel the burden of student use of social media and portable devices weighing heavier by the day! As open-minded, future focused educationalists we have embraced social media and portable devices engaging and up skilling in order to keep abreast of the fast pace of technological advances being mindful of how it enhances teaching and learning.

We began our journey from a protectionist viewpoint employing “nannying” software, firewalls, and maintaining a policy of locking and blocking. There is now a movement towards helping students to be well informed and developing a responsible digital citizen mindset.

Schools have developed common sense, professionally informed, effective policy and procedure guidelines for using social media and portable devices safely, with effect.

So, why am I worried? Because every day I see evidence that young students are online in various ways posting photos, comments and video to the world without a real understanding of the possible long lasting ramifications of their actions. No matter how many digital lessons and confronting examples we provide them with they still continue to post with abandon and have a blind sense of trust in their audience.

I believe some parents are unaware of their responsibilities to keep their child/children safe online out of school hours and they lack knowledge of how to go about it. It is a huge job as a parent to effectively monitor and control their children’s online activity as well as up skill, engage and embrace the many forms of social media growing by the day.

Dr Wallace Bain, who helped develop the Harmful Digital Communications Act introduced into New Zealand in 2015 stated recently:

The devotion kids have to social media these days is astounding. Increasingly we are seeing people say, do and write things they would never do to another person’s face.

Importantly research points out that cyber bullying is more common in young people because the frontal cortex of their brains has not fully developed. The frontal cortex assesses risk and when it is not fully developed, people are less likely to consider the consequences of their words or actions.

So, we can continue to employ various programmes, experts and tools to help educate and inform our young students when in reality their understanding and ability to act accordingly is compromised.

We do need to continue to be engaged, up skilled and aware of the latest trends in social media in order to keep abreast at least of this exponential growth in on line communication.

We do need also to continue to provide education opportunities for parents and encourage them to engage and monitor their children’s on line behaviour.

What else can we possibly do, you ask?

A possible solution:

I am keen to use student voice to get the message across. We know the power of student voice and engagement.

So, how?

By facilitating a senior student led unit of inquiry designed to ultimately produce an interactive educational module on social media for their younger peers.

This would lead them to curate their own research, data gathering, expert informed body of information that could then be packaged in a highly engaging interactive manner suitable for younger students.

The process of developing this module would certainly impact on student understanding, as we know students constructing their own knowledge have a far greater effect on their learning than simply assimilating the information from a teacher.

Author unknown

However, I believe the most powerful effect would be through
student empowerment.

The senior students would in effect act on their own information and have a conscious reason to think before interacting on social media.

The module could also become a parent education tool allowing families to learn together and have a shared understanding and awareness of social media issues.

I intend to trial this idea and will gladly share the outcome.

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