Monday, September 23, 2013

Social Media: Education Enrichment or Digital Opium for the Masses?

It is interesting how school boards are dealing with the ever advancing infiltration of social media into the classrooms of our schools. Some schools have taken the stance that use of social media in the classroom will be okay if we teach students how to use the media as a resource to further their studies. The question here is whether or not this is a realistic stance. It never ceases to amaze me that prospective teachers in the education faculties are constantly taught that they need to understand the mindset of 12 yr olds all the way up to 19 yr olds when it comes to the classroom and then they throw all that out the window when dealing with the issue of the use of social media in the classroom.

Here is a quiz: If you asked a 14 yr old which he/she would rather do, access Facebook or IM to connect with friends and hang out digitally or use IM or Facebook to do school work, how do you think a majority would respond? Second Question: If your teacher said that you had their permission to use social media in class providing it was to do school work only, how many of you would ditch the school work at the first opportunity and IM your friends about other things going on in your life?
This is a reality about typical adolescent behaviour that every teacher as a student has been taught. So the noble gesture of teaching students to use social media in a productive educational manner flies in the face of the reality of adolescence.

Then there are schools who have tried to block cell phone access in the school by putting up signal blockers. This was tried by a principal in a Montreal high school and also by one in Vancouver. Of interest is the fact that major wireless providers such as Bell & Rogers have forced legislators to enact laws that makes it illegal to try to block cell phone signals within an education setting. The rationale is that we are interfering in the providers attempt to fulfill their service responsibilities to their customers. These big companies don't really care if it interferes with the teacher's effort to maintain the focus of the students on what he or she is teaching. Parents have sided with these companies, giving the rationale that their children need to have access to a cell phone in case of an emergency. This argument is absurd because before the arrival of cell phones, students could have the school call home in case of an emergency. Schools still have that ability.

Social media allows youth to keep track of their friends activities when they can't be with them but it does not create true personal connections with others. In fact I would suggest that it actually isolates and makes it difficult for young people to form long lasting personal relationships. The greatest danger is easily seen everyday on the streets of any city. Young people are so entranced with the social media around them that they fail to see what is really going on around them which places them in grave situations.
We use to say that we could tell if a person was hooked on a drug by their eyes and their behaviour in public. Take a look around at those who are entranced by their devices at traffic lights, in shopping line ups or in line at a coffee shop. Nothing else is real except what is happening on their facebook page or in their IM strands. Has social media become the new digital social addiction? If so, who will say something. Remember the story of "The Emperors New Clothes"!

No comments: