Stop building fences.

Jerry Kane is spot on in his TED talk.  What we think we know about social media is already old news.  The world of social media is evolving.  You’ve heard that already.  So why are we having the same old conversations?  Why haven’t we evolved beyond the fence?

What’s the fence?

* Discouraging social media inside of ‘school time.’

* Thinking of our online selves as somehow different from our actual selves

* Focusing on the dangers of social media and ignoring the potential success to be had

*Dictating how social media ‘should be’ used and avoiding an open conversation about possibilities

*Teachers only talking to teachers and administrators about social media

How do we move forward?

“There is no such thing as social media,”- Jerry Kane

Kane’s point wants us to think of the entire world wide web as a social space.  He’s right.

The way we build, navigate, and understand information is a social process.  That has been my experience far prior to my first profile picture.

The myth that certain teachers cannot teach social media skills is bogus.  All teachers are believers of collaborative learning, otherwise they wouldn’t be a part of a social institution.

“Change almost never fails because it’s too early. It almost always fails because it’s too late.”
Seth Godin

We need to change the way we think about ‘digital citizenship.’  Do you think you can offer your students something in terms of being more thoughtful towards other people?  Good, then offer it.

The technology, the gadgetry is always secondary.  The humanity is the priority.

If you teach your students to think of online behavior as secondary to behavior, they will buy that myth.

If you teach your students to be mindful regardless of the space, you will have a different mindset entirely.

Here’s more insight from Seth Godin:

“People don’t believe what you tell them.
They rarely believe what you show them.
They often believe what their friends tell them.
They always believe what they tell themselves.”
Seth Godin

Give students the space to reflect on what they are telling themselves about themselves online.  Who is reflected back to them through their online persona?  Chances are that is the exact same message they tell themselves first thing in the morning.

Have a conversation with your class about their ‘self-talk.’  How do we tell ourselves about who we think we are?

“If you are deliberately trying to create a future that feels safe, you will willfully ignore the future that is likely.”
Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

We build fences in our schools because we are fearful we will make mistakes.  Will we have missteps on and offline?  Of course we will.  Mistakes are not avoided because we construct blockades.  There is a limit to what Brene Brown describes above as armor. Brown mentions a huge empathy deficit in the world of 2015.  What if we asked our staff, students, and leadership to start to see social media as the means to do something about that deficit? What if we started to think about social media as part of the solution, and not only the source of the problem?

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Photo Credit: ianqui via Compfight cc

Let’s be vulnerable enough to tell our students that we worry they will hurt themselves, that they might hurt someone else.  That is a much more sincere conversation starter than a policy. Rules are never as effective as authentic conversations are.  Talk first, policy drafts come second.  Assume students want to do the right thing.  Assume your staff can handle the occasional misstep.  Create more conversations.

One year ago, I asked the group of student council leaders at my former school to use social media to better communicate their mission.  I assumed they would rise to the challenge of open inquiry.  What do you think, did they meet that challenge?

Published by TriciaGpers

I blog about all things Global Perspectives!

One reply on “Stop building fences.”

  1. Hi Tricia, I really enjoyed reading through your post and totally agree with your points. We’re not helping our students by ignoring or even blocking social media in schools. Regardless of whether or not we allow it in school, students are going to use social media so why aren’t we having these conversations in school and modelling responsible use of social media? Social media has a bad reputation amongst many teachers and administrators so it’s up to us to change that perception.
    I teach yearbook and Facebook is probably one of my best sources of information. We can figure out who was at certain events, we can see who took photos and we can ask questions and get quotes from people. Up until a few years ago we used mainly email to get information from people and our success rate was probably about 25%, when we ask the same people the same questions on Facebook that success rate goes up to at least 90% and the replies are almost instant.
    Hopefully we can get enough teachers and administrators on board to start tapping into all this potential.

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