Monday, October 16, 2017

To teach digital citizenship & literacy, we must be digital neighbors

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 initially thought the focus of my work would be on developing students' capacities for unpacking, critically examining, and making meaning of the myriad of digital texts that flood their social media feeds. Following the protocols the Innovator team outlined for us in advance of attending the Academy, I quickly realized that I had a different -- but related -- issue to tackle before addressing student digital literacy. That is, the lack of social media, and thus digital media not curated by a teacher, that is used or experienced in the classroom. Until teachers embrace social media as a teaching, learning, and communication tool, students will not have an opportunity to be guided in the development of their digital literacy. Thus my project: social media think tanks for any classroom. You can learn more about it at my site: Mediated Messages.

Here is my 90 second elevator pitch:

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 suspect that the concerns that inspire those cautionary meetings and the policy that as educators we may not be social media friends with our students will result in push back against my project. Yet, I think it is possible for it to work. 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 is a field hockey player. Her 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 an active 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 ALA Think Tank and 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. The posts I make to my page, that are shared with my friends, are not part of that forum. In that way, I can keep my 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.

As I see it, 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. How ever 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.

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