About me

I am a public high school educator certified in both social studies and library media. I am a member of the #SWE17 Google Certified Innovator cohort as well as a local activator for Future Design School. Follow me on Twitter: @MsJWhiting
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.

Ultimately, 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.

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