Students live on social media. Their smartphones have become a natural extension of their arm at increasingly younger ages. There is a world of information at their fingertips. Want to learn how to code? Hear about the latest video game? World events? Pretty much anything you can think of, there is a YouTube video for that. But, who is teaching children to spot the real sites from the fake ones? How will they critically assess what is fact and what is opinion? How do students defend themselves against online bullying or prevent themselves from becoming the bully? In short, where do children learn digital citizenship?
Recently, I spent far too much time arguing with my nephew about a fictional character. The 13-year-old avid YouTube watcher regaled me with an “origin story” for a character. I had read the book the character was plucked from, but nothing he told me was actually in the story. When I inquired as to his source he said ‘YouTube.’ I tried to explain that seeing someone online share an idea, opinion or fanfiction did not actually make it true. If he wanted the true story about the character, he would have to read the book or tweet to the author and see if he gets a reply. He gave me that “you’re so old” look and carried on unfazed. The interaction got me thinking: How do teachers counteract the massive amount of questionable information online?
50% of teachers use social media to understand student pop culture
Students have changed. When, where and how they interact with one another and the rest of the world has shifted to a mostly online environment. Social media is more than just a way students stay connected with one another, it has also become a trusted source for many students. Outside of Google and Wikipedia, YouTube and other social media sites are the most used when researching a topic.
Without the proper tools to weed out information, students can easily take what they read online as truth without ever questioning the source behind it. That’s where introducing social media in classrooms could have a great impact on the way students process the information they encounter everyday online.
The American Association of School Librarians used Banned Books Week to help raise awareness about restrictive blocking of social media sites in schools — and they are not alone. Educators across the country are starting to question the value of keeping social media sites blocked, preventing their use in the classroom. Many posit that can social media be an effective educational tool, and it can also give schools a chance to introduce students to digital citizenship.
37% of teachers incorporate memes, emojis and GIFs to highlight key points in their lessons
Social media can be a distraction, but it can also help teachers reach their students in a more meaningful way. In an op-ed on Education Week, a high school freshman describes her different experiences with teachers who have effectively integrated technology into their classrooms and how social media has become a big part of students’ identities.
Being a good digital citizen can help students connect, share ideas and be more cognizant of the effect their words may have on other students.