Beyond Slacktivism

I have heard the term “slacktivism” a few times before taking it up in EC&I 831 this week. However, I hadn’t really thought much about it until now.

Techopedia states, “Slacktivism combines the words slacker and activist to refer to simple measures used to support an issue or social cause involving virtually no effort on the part of participants”.

Some say that slacktivism can have an impact on global social issues.

slacktivism1
Photo Source: On Social Media

In The Death of Slacktivism  Gilian Branstetter states that “2015 has proven that the Internet is more than an accessory to the real-world actions that change demands—it’s now a proven way to make it happen.”  Abby Rosmarin states in I Get It: You Don’t Like Slacktivism. Now Shut Up. Only Don’t  that slacktivisim creates awareness and makes social change easier. In Slacktivism is having a powerful real-world impact, new research shows Kate Groetzinger quotes a PLOS study reporting the positive impacts of slacktivism.  The author of How We Can Use Livestreaming Apps to Promote Social Justice who refers to a 2012 Georgetown Study  states that “Combined, the findings of these studies suggest we have entered an age of increased activism, both on the ground and online”.

However, there are critics of slacktivism.

Photo Source: On Social Media

In  #BringBackOurGirls Continues to Demand Return of Chibok Girls Nicolas Pinault draws attention to one example where online activism has been devastatingly unsuccessful.  On April 14, 2014 250 girls were kidnapped from a school in Chibok, Nigeria.  After a world-wide twitter campaign, #BringBackOurGirls, only 57 of the girls have been saved and interest in the story has drastically decreased.

The TedTalk How the Internet has Made Social Change Easy to Organize, Hard to Win by Zeynep Tufekci (see below) explains that online activism can only get social activist causes so far.  Tufekci asks “in embracing these technologies are we overlooking some of the benefits of slow and sustained (movements)?”.  She explains that the powers that be understand that sharing on social media is easier than movements that require more energy and time and therefore social activists may not be taken as seriously.  Tufekci states, “…you don’t necessarily see teeth that can bite over the long term”.  She also says “…the magic is in that capacity to work together, think together, collectively, which can only by built over time, with a lot of work.”  Tufekci is saying we need to create and sustain organizations and networks that work together for common goals over a long period of time.  And they must do more than retweet and like.

 

I would consider myself a slacktivist.  I often repost, retweet and like posts about social causes.  And I feel very passionate about those causes as I am doing so, even though I know this action is not nearly enough.  As my awareness and knowledge about these topics grows, I feel more and more compelled and capable of taking further action.  Without building my awareness through social media (and other sources) I might not know there was something to take action about.  Even when I know there is something to act on, I may not know how…yet. Awareness is the first step.  Finding out what to do is the next step.  And it requires time, energy and support.

As I repost, retweet and like I am also making a statement about my own beliefs.  I have begun conversations (and yes,sometimes arguments) this way with friends and family.  This has helped me become more confident in my own voice and it confirms and deepens my beliefs. And has increased my ability to speak about these issues in a manner that people are more apt to hear. So my slacktivism has changed me as a person.  It has made me stronger.

I am confident that I will take further action on the issues I am passionate about in the future.  I believe it is important to post about the actions that we have taken, and can take to improve these situations.

So what are further steps that can be taken by slacktivist-come-social-activitist hopefuls, like myself?  Remember, I mentioned activism requires support?  Yes it requires a network.  It can’t be done in isolation.  So finding a network of support is vital.  You might also consider letter writing, starting a petition, walking or protesting,  or boycotting.

Until you feel ready to take it a step further, I think it’s okay to continue to be a slacktivisit and simply raise awareness.  I too, am still learning and gaining strength, knowledge and support.  I plan to begin taking actions in the near future to voice my opinions on social issues around me.  Even then, I will continue to post, repost, retweet and like, because it does, at least, increase awareness.

If you are interested in learning more about going beyond slacktivism see the helpful websites below.  And please share your thoughts on the topic.

Wikipedia: Activisim

Mobilizing Ideas

GroupThink Activism: What Works?

Social Media Today

LifelongActivist

SparkAction: Beyond Slacktivism

How to Empower Change On Social Media

 

Online Harassment and Societal Attitudes about Women

This week in EC&I 831 we are learning about the heavy but important topics of Trolls, Bullies, Racists and Masogynists on the internet. The readings for the week all relate to online harassment and threats, especially of women. I want to talk about how these online issues relate to societal attitudes in general. Additionally, I will talk about the term rape culture. I know this is a difficult subject. But it is one that infuriates me and that I believe we all need to talk more about.  I would also like to refer to the recent trial of Jian Ghomeshi.

John Oliver spoke about Online Harassment in a segment of Last Week Tonight.  By the way, I’m so glad John has a talent for making poignant, important statements in a hilarious format that gets people’s attention.  In this show John states, “ If (online threats don’t) seem like a big deal to you, well then congratulations on your white penis.” As you are busting a gut you realize John makes an important point.  This is a problem that generally affects women.  Men may not even notice.  They can look the other way.  John goes on later to say, “It can potentially affect any woman who makes the mistake of having a thought in her mind and then vocalizing it online.”  John also refers to the common practice of victim blaming in society and describes how poorly equipped police forces are to deal with these crimes.  Near the end of the show, John states, “It comes down to us and fundamentally changing the way we think about the internet because you hear people play down the dangers of the internet as they say ‘relax, it’s not real life’. But it is. And it always has been.”

In Matt Rozsa’s article With Gamergate, it’s Not Enough to Ignore the Trolls he explains that online harrassment is a gendered phenomenon and that 73%of cyber-stalking victims were female. He also quotes the Roman philosopher Seneca, “that shame may restrain what law does not prohibit”  Rozsa is referring to the unfortunate fact that our legal system does a poor job of protecting women from these crimes.  He is encouraging us to shame those who harass and threaten online.  We need to stand up to these harassers, not ignore them.  He quotes Amanda Hess who says, “No matter how hard we attempt to ignore it, this type of gendered harassment – and the sheer volume of it – has severe implications for women’s status on the internet.”He also writes about Caroline Criado-Perez who states, “If there’s one thing I want to come out of what happened to me it is for the term “don’t feed the trolls to be scrubbed from the annals of received wisdom”. Criado-Perez’s comments means that we need to stop telling women to just “shrug it off” when they are harassed and threatened online.

I agree with John and Matt.  Whether it is online or in real life, we need to stop blaming victims and change our attitudes.  I believe we live in a society that allows, even encourages, men to see women as objects.  We see images of nearly naked women acting sexual to sell everything from cars and beer to clothes.   Movies and music still portray women as objects to be controlled and used.  Remember that it wasn’t really that long ago that women were literally considered property.  We have not even reached the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in Canada or the U.S.

Now I would like to go a bit further and talk about rape culture.  Please stay with me here.

Wikipedia describes the term rape culture  as”a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal views about gender and sexuality”.

Last week Jian Ghomeshi, a Canadian journalist, was acquitted on all charges of rape and choking of three women.  The reaction to this verdict was split.  Some said that justice had been done as the judge could not find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  Many were outraged.  Outraged because this keeps happening.  Most women who are raped do not report.  Those that do, generally do not have justice on their side.

 

 

Photosource: Huffpost Canada

Let’s think about it for a moment.  How can rape be “proven”?  If the woman immediately goes to a doctor and has any marks on her body she will have a better chance of proving she was raped.  However, if she does not go to a doctor, or if there are no marks on her body, her chances of “proving” the rape happened are not good.  It is her word against his.  And even if there are marks on the woman’s body, and the man says, “but you wanted rough sex” it is still her word against his.  And whose word unfortunately holds more power in our society?  Well, let’s be honest, his.

These cases are also further complicated because women who have become victims of rape, especially date or acquaintance rape, often continue to communicate with their perpetrator.  Sometimes women are unsure themselves whether to call it rape, especially if they were attracted to the man.  They feel ashamed and blame themsleves.

The outcome of Jian Ghomeshi’s trial outrages me.  As a society I feel like we have not come very far. We need to continue to work to raise awareness.  So what can we do?

If you have not seen this video comparing consent to tea please watch it.  Again, the humour adds to the power of the message.

Please also read about Rape Trauma Syndrome and self-blame.

As women, we need to be strong and confident.  We need to raise girls who are strong and confident.  We need to raise boys who are respectful and stand up for women also.  We need to stop using or encouraging language that promotes negative attitudes about women.  We need to speak up.  We must not ignore the trolls.  And we must not ignore rape culture.  Also see some useful resources below that I found in my research.

And please share your thoughts.

No! The Rape Documentary

Rape Culture 1975 Documentary

The Unslut project

The Hunting Ground

Wikipedia list of documentaries about violence against women

 

Equality and the Internet

This week I am posting about equality in the context of two related topics that were new to me. The first topic is Net Neutrality. I had never heard of Net neutrality so I really needed to get some background. In my post I will explain what it is, why it is important and what some of the experts have to say about it.

The second topic is that of free internet services and the potential for these services to bring knowledge to the disadvantaged and developing countries.

Both of these topics are related to equality among people; people of all races, whether they are wealthy or not, or whether they live in the first or third world.

Photo Source: Glowbugsandglassbulbs

So, what is Net Neutrality? Wikipedia describes it as “the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.”

 

In a speech he gave for the Association of College and Research Libraries in 2015 Lawrence Lessig, a proponent of net neutrality, describes it with an easy to understand analogy (17:58, see below). He compares the internet to an electrical outlet and competing internet providers to appliance companies. So, in a two-tiered system, if you were to buy a Sony appliance it might not get the same power supply as a Panasonic, depending on the contract between the appliance companies and the power company.

So how does net neutrality affect equality?  Lessig says neutrality fosters free speech and leads to further democratic participation. Lessig also states that monopolization of the internet would stifle diversity of independent news sources as well as innovation. Basically, we need the net to stay neutral so all perspectives can be considered on the internet, and so that the wealthy are not at an advantage of getting information that is unavailable to the middle class or those in poverty. It is also important that all innovators, regardless of their social standing, have equal access to learn and to innovate.

Cade Metz’s article Backlash Against Facebook’s Free Internet Service Grows describes Mark Zuckerberg’s effort to bring free internet service to the developing world. Zuckerberg claims that his service Internet.org and his app Free Basics will bring the benefit of internet knowledge to the two thirds of the world who currently do not have it. Zuckerberg claims that this is a humanitarian effort and that his service can co-exist with net neutrality. However, some countries will not partner with Zuckerberg as they believe that Internet.org does violate the principals of net neutrality. Internet.org was made available to some countries in 2015. Similar sites such as Wikipedia Zero and Google Free Zone are also available. I feel I need to learn more about these services before I form an opinion of their value. I would like to believe that they hold amazing potential to spread the knowledge and to empower people in parts of the world currently in need.

I believe that the internet is part of the knowledge economy and that it can be a powerful equalizing force in our world. Now that I have a basic understanding of net neutrality and services such as internet.org, Wikipedia Zero and Google Free Zone, I want to know more. I am intrigued and I see the possibilities. I will continue to read more about this.

I can also see how this relates to education, especially justice education. I teach in a school where the majority of students are from a low socioeconomic background. I can see how net neutrality is important for equality and the future success of my students.

 

What are your thoughts on net neutrality and Internet.org? How can educators work to support net neutrality and equality for all our students?

Week 9 Response: Identity, Reputation and Social Capital

This week in ECI831 we are reading about Identity, Reputation and Social Capital.  Some of the readings posed questions such as are resumes dead, how one can land a dream job by using the web in creative ways and is Facebook only a place where we display our best, fake selves?  While another reading helped us understand how to manage our digital identity in constructive, careful way.

After reading these articles I still had more questions.  There are many Youtube vidoes and online sources to learn from.  One video that I found particularly helpful was Managing Your Digital Identity by Kate Myers Emery of MSU.

Of course, it is important to manage your digital identity and ensure that when a potential employer or anyone at all Googles you, they find positive, informative information about you.  And certainly, we want to do everything we can to ensure that no one can use our identity in any harmful way.  After considering these ideas I decided to look a bit deeper.

I think an even more interesting topic is identity in the larger sense.  Who is it that I want to be?  How do I want people to percieve me?  The answers to this question may be somewhat different when you insert the word online.  However, I believe to a great degree the answers will be the same.  In my online search about identity I found a number of interesting videos on the topic of mashing online identity with “real-world” identity.

In the video below futuristic novelist William Gibson predicts that future generations will make no distinction between online identity and real world identity.

Another interesting (and shorter) video of William Gibson’s ideas can be found below.

Classmate Carla Cooper also referred to transparency.  I agree with Carla that transparency is a key aspect in thinking about who we are in real life and online.  What is really the point in “faking” our identity in any space?  Why not define our “brand”?

As teachers (and parents) we have the ability to affect the thinking of our young people on this topic.  I believe we have a responsibility to have these discussions.  It is important that we talk to them about who they want to be and how they want to be perceived by others.  We can all “design our identity” online and in real life.  In my opinion, this is not a negative.  In fact, you might think of it as one of the important purposes in life.  We are constantly defining and redefining ourselves, trying to figure out “who am I?”.  The reality is that defining our identity now involves the internet as well  as the real world and real people.  The more conscious we are about our identity, the better, I think.

What do you think?  Should we (or to what extent should we) make a distinction between our “real-world” identity and our online identity?

 

Open Education: Reading Response March 6, 2016

This week’s readings and videos on The Open Education Movement were fascinating and

SpeakingwithSpirit.com

intriguing for me. I value creativity personally and professionally. I believe strongly in collaboration for teachers and students; that two heads are better than one; that true synergy is powerful and transformative.

We have the ability to connect, collaborate and create more than ever before in history. However, the resistance of government and big business are drastically slowing and preventing the possibilities that exist.

The video that stood out the most for me was The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. Surprisingly, I had never heard of Aaron Swartz  and I found his story to be both inspiring and heartbreaking. Aaron was an amazing individual. His own obsession with knowledge, his belief that the world’s collective knowledge should be free and available to the world and his desire to fight for social justice resulted in tragedy. This was a tragedy not just for Aaron’s family but for the world, as we lost this bright star who may have made unimaginable breakthroughs in our world, had he been able to see his visions become reality.

The resistance to open access from the government and big business is terrifying. Aaron apparently was trying to make electronic documents about American law free and available to the public. As a result he became a threat. This should cause average citizens to wonder “what are they hiding?”. Shouldn’t the law be transparent? What would be the reason for a government to make it difficult for the public to gain knowledge that could help them gain justice for themselves? I’m sure you will come to your own conclusions.

I wondered if Canadian laws about open access were similar to American laws.  I found some information on Wikipedia and The Government of Canada website where you can find the Access to Information Act.  From the quick research I did, I found that it does not seem easy to gain access to government documents, as one must request these documents in writing, and permission to access them may or may not be given.  I did find some optimistic information at The Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences and The University of Ottawa. If you have any knowledge about the Canadian perspective, I would be interested to hear it.

This topic infuriates and scares me. I don’t believe in settling for the status quo. I believe we should participate in democracy and continually be ensuring that our world is fair and just for all. However, standing up for any cause has potential, sometimes catastrophic consequences, as exemplified by the story of Aaron Swartz. And it doesn’t matter if you’re on the side of what is right. It causes me to question how far I should go in standing up for what is right?

Picture courtesy of Reddit

Even something as simple as speaking out for progressive education or advocating for students can have social and professional repercussions.

I am glad that there are individuals fighting for open access and that the Creative Commons exists. However, we still have a long way to go.

This week’s readings and videos reminded me of some readings from previous weeks. I was reminded of The Theory of Multiples as explained in Clive Thomson’s Article Why Even the Worst Bloggers are Making us Smarter. Clive states, “When you can resolve multiples and connect people with similar obsessions, ideas flourish and multiply”.  Why would we want to prevent this?

I was also reminded of Attention and the 21st Century, especially, the idea of “crap detection”. Aaron Swartz was very good at crap detection. Unfortunately, it got him into a lot of trouble and cost him his life. I hope we can all detect crap when we see it (and it is everywhere, isn’t it?). What do we about it when we see it? That is the critical question. I struggle with it daily. What I do about the crap I detect varies, depending on my energy and courage at the time. It ranges from simple reflection to speaking up or informing students and my children. I have not taken any further action, although I am passionate about many social causes. As educators, I think we feel obligated to represent the values of the school system, even though they may not always be congruent with our personal beliefs. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences about “crap detection” and action for a open education and other causes.

Cartoon of the discovery of the inverse impact law exhibit in the pre-modern hall of the science history museum
Picture courtesy of Absolutely Maybe: PLOS Blogs

Danah Boyd’s article Open Access is the Future: Boycott Locked-Down Academic Journals also really made me think. It made me wonder about my own thesis research. I will certainly be cognizant about my choices of journal articles and resources as a result.

 

 

This week’s readings have left me somewhat unsettled.  Amazing potential exists for progress and innovation. I would love to be part of it. But how?  And at what cost?

Picture courtesy of We Beat The System

 

 

My Kids’ Thoughts on Generation Like (And Mine)

This week one recommended viewing assignment stood out to me more than the others: The PBS 2014 Frontline Documentary: Generation Like.  I would like to tell you about my experience, thoughts, and the questions that arose while watching the video alone and then with my children.

I was immediately interested in this documentary because it attempted to answer two questions that I have been wondering about for a while. The first question it posed was What are technologies doing to our kids that we need to make them aware of?
The second question that I had been wondering about was how exactly is our participation on social media connected to making money. I was interested in this documentary both as a teacher and a parent.

PBS Correspondent Douglas Rushkoff expertly describes how social media is affecting teens and culture today according to his research. He compares his current findings to those of his 2001 documentary The Merchants of Cool: The Persuaders. There is a sharp contrast to the world of 2001 and the world only thirteen years later.

The recurring theme in this video is that of master manipulation.  Throughout the presentation a comparison is made between the big business of getting kids to like products and the book and movie series The Hunger Games. It is as if teens must get others to like them in order to survive. There is also a powerful reference to the destructive social condition described by George Orwell. “Serendipity by design, it’s almost Orwellian. But maybe it was inevitable. Afterall this generation has grown up in the arena of likes.” Again, there is the comparison to The Hunger Games as well.

Image result for the hunger games
The Hunger Games: Picture courtesy of Dreamwidth

Douglas Rushkoff also demonstrates how likes turn into cash. He provides two examples of digital marketing agencies whose purpose is to orchestrate exactly that: The Audience and TVG LA. The purpose of these companies is to assist celebrities and hopefuls to develop a greater audience on every possible platform. Their fame is orchestrated by using data from their social media as well as advertising principles to increase their likeability. They are also connected to their followers favourite products. This is, of course, where the money comes in. More about this here.  This did, in fact, help me to better understand how this all works.

“The more views I get, the more comments I get, the more money I get.”

Steven Fernandez “Baby Scumbag”, Generation Like (25:15)

After watching the documentary initially, I decided it would be beneficial to watch it with my children and talk to them about their reaction to it. Both my children are on social media in different ways and for different reasons. My twelve year old daughter uses Instagram and Snapchat to connect with friends. My nine year old son uses both these apps for the same reason. In addition, he Youtubes about Minecraft and is very focused on developing a followership. They both play Minecraft and connect with others through Minecraft servers and chat. So how did my children react to the documentary? See the highlights of our informal interview below. I interviewed them both together after watching the video. It was nearing bedtime so I was admittedly rushing them somewhat.

Nine year old boy: C
Twelve year old girl: K

What did you learn from this video?
Both: None of it was really new to me.
What are the good things about social media for you and what skills have you gained from it?
K: I’m being exposed to a lot of different things through social media, both good and bad, it has made me more knowledgeable, I can google anything I want to know. I would not have read as many books as i have if not for technology (eBooks). I think with Selfies you can show your identity.
What do you like about social media?
C: I really want to show my face on YouTube to get more likes. (His father and I have not allowed him to do so yet). It’s a good feeling (when someone watches a video you have created). My goal is to get over 20 subscribers (by his tenth bday). Most of (my followers) are my classmates. You feel more confident. The best youtubers seem to forget that they’re recording and just have fun. So their followers have fun too.
Do you think you will keep YouTubing? Yes, I think I will be still YouTubing in a year or more. I don’t think I will do it as an adult but it will give me a boost.
How will these skills help you in your future?
As an adult I want to be an engineer/architect/scientist/entrepreneur.
What are the good things about social media for you? What skills have you gained from it?
You get acting skills (vlogs, skits,), editing skills, confidence.
It takes a lot of time to get followers. You have to be really likable or already have a lot of friends.
Do you think Youtubers who make money from promoting brands are “selling out”? (I had to explain what selling out meant).
Both: I think you should make money doing what you love, it’s ok to promote brands if you like them but don’t lie.
What are the dangers and risks of social media?
K: I’m careful not to let creepy people follow me. I keep all my social media private.

I was somewhat surprised that they felt they hadn’t learned anything new from this video. I wish that I had had more time to ask further questions. I will likely pursue it again in a day or two to see if they can tell me some more of their thoughts.

Some of their views on developing a following of strangers on social media worry me a little. Of course, I realize I have a desire to do the same on this very blog. And I remember wanting to be as famous as Madonna when I was a child. Is it different in this day and age? Are the risks and dangers greater? I wonder.

“Young people want validation and attention.  That’s not new. it’s just that the platform is larger now. And there are more people competing for attention so it’s also harder now”

Generation Like (26:00)

My daughter is also a huge fan of The Hunger Games so I would like to ask her more about her thoughts about the theme of manipulation for entertainment, consumerism and control.

I know my children are young and they are still developing deeper understandings about these complex issues.  So we need to keep talking.

Also, I realize that Douglas Rushkoff has his own biases that inevitably come out in this documentary. Any reflective researcher or journalist is aware of their own biases. And I have learned to look at the biases of what is being said in any situation; to look for the questions that are not being asked, the perspectives that are not being considered. So, I wonder, is this documentary slanted to Mr. Rushkoff’s perspective? Is is overdramatized? Are teens being used in a similar manner as depicted in the Hunger Games? Is it really so terrible to have the ability to announce to the world that you like this brand or that one? Are teenagers really selling out or being used by big business? Or are they smart enough to see beyond the manipulation tactics? Are these companies involved in making money from Likes actually as open and transparent as they claim, or is Mr. Rushkoff correct in comparing them to the Wizard of Oz, hiding behind the curtain, trying to fool us with their magic and slight of hand?

Of course, I will continue to talk to my children about all these questions. I believe, as a parent, I have the greatest potential to shape the minds of my children, if I choose to, even in their future teenage years. This is the world we live in. So I don’t feel as though I have a choice but to educate them, help them question the world around them, and trust them to follow the positive values I hope I have instilled in them.

What do you think?

Should We Be Worried about Young People of Today?

In Felicity Duncan’s article Why Many Kids are Leaving Social Networks she claims that young people today are switching from broadcast social media like Facebook to narrow-cast social media such as Snapchat. Amanda Lenhart’s article Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015  conflicts with Duncan’s data, showing that in fact, Facebook is the most popular social media network among teens (71% use Facebook while 41% use Snapchat). Lenhart’s article was written only a few weeks ago on February 4, 2016, while Duncan’s article was written nearly a year ago. It could very well be that social media use has changed that much in a very short time.

In any case, let’s consider what they are saying about young people, their use of social media and how it affects our ever-changing connected world.

Duncan expressed that there have been “alarms sounding” because teens are leaving Facebook. My question is “So what?!” Who am I concerned for here? Marc Zuckerberg? Advertising agencies? CEOs of major brands? I don’t think so. I think they will be just fine. Am I concerned for young people today because they are leaving Facebook? No.  Let me explain.

 

Photo source:Instapop

It seems to me that social media will continue to be an ever-changing landscape, at least in our lifetime. Advertisers will evolve and find new ways to advertise each time there is a new popular platform. Mark Zuckerberg and other CEOs will continue to retire with pockets full of money. I’m pretty sure they will be okay.

So what about young people today? Are they becoming more narcissistic? And if so, could it be due to social media use and too many selfies? I did some research online to learn more.  Dr. Peter Gray concluded that there is in fact, a rise in narcissism. However, he attributes this increase to a decline of children’s free social play. Read more about this interesting topic at Dr. Gray’s blog.  Dr. Lisa Firestone found that narcissism is on the rise but is due to changes in parenting styles and not to social networks.
Lynne Malcolm also found that the rise in narcissism is due to a change in parenting style.

Finally, Brooke Lea Foster takes issue with much of the research out there and states that every generation of young people is more narcissistic than its elders.

 

I strongly agree with Brooke Lea Foster. I believe that human beings are, generally, more self involved when we are young and become more empathetic and service-focused with age. There have always been self-involved people. There has always been cruelty. These are not new concepts. At the same time there has always been kindness, love and generosity. These are not new ideas either. Parents can pass down cruel ways or kind ways. And young people can choose to be kind even when they have been mistreated or oppressed. People make choices. It has always been and will always be. I choose to have hope and be optimistic. I choose to believe in the goodness of young people and that through our interactions as educators we can encourage all young people to make healthy choices that have a positive impact on the world around them.

 

Photo source: Positive Parents

 

I remember when I was in grade seven my teacher read our class a letter written to a newspaper editor. The writer of the letter complained about young people these days and how they have no respect and are completely self-involved. The letter was written in the 1800s. I appreciated my teacher sharing this with us and, obviously it has stuck with me. I tried to find this letter to the editor. I don’t think I found the same source. However there are many like it out there, such as this collection at Mentalfloss  and this one at Proto-knowledge.  I find these quite humorous as well as poignant.

As for Facebook, perhaps it will fade out in time. Or perhaps young people will grow into it and increase their use of it as they get married, stop partying, have children and want to connect in a different way. I will miss Facebook if it disappears one day. However, I will adapt and connect on whatever new platform is available at that time

Already I have begun to use Snapchat. Previously, my husband and I had not allowed our twelve year old daughter to be on Snapchat. After this week’s reading I allowed her to get a Snapchat account. I got one along with her to see if I could keep up with the times. (I don’t think I can by the way! I can barely keep up with my current accounts! But I will give it a try!) I have also started following The Insatiable Traveler who is also a grown woman attempting to use Snapchat. I will also be closely following Sarah Wandy’s journey on Snapchat.

Felicity Duncan also raised a possible concern that with young people moving to narrower platform their views may become more partisan. I take issue with this concern as I wonder what could possibly be more partisan than television over the past seventy years? Really?
Most of what we see on television are forty year old white, rich men and the sexy women and products that are meant to satisfy them! Partisan views are certainly not a new problem. (Sorry forty-something, white men. I do not mean to offend or generalize. I realize there are an abundance of wonderful, kind forty-something white men out there. In fact I am married to one. However,you just have to Google white privilege to get the research to support the claim that forty year old white men are far over-represented and generally, the most privileged group around. It just is what it is.) Regardless, young people who are connected to positive role models can still manage to learn about other ways of thinking and being.

I do believe that technology is changing the way we interact and think. You can read more about this at Mashable, The Age or Psychology Today.  As educators, I believe this is what we need to focus on. I am fascinated by brain research. Truly, that is our business; understanding how the brain works and helping young people use it to the best of their ability to do good things in the world; a world that is connected through technology. Thanks to Vanessa Braun for sharing this diagram. This is basically what teaching using technology is all about.

 

Photo Source: Vansclassroom.files  Created by Alec Couros

We can have an impact on young people. We can use their interests, including Snapchat, Minecraft and other forms of social media, to pique their curiosity, get them creating and solving problems and help them become positive citizens who can make a difference in the world.  We do not need to worry about the future of our world being in their hands (yes they can hold their devices and hold the world up too!).  We just need to give them tools to learn and some loving guidance as they go!

Reading Response – Why Even the Worst Bloggers are Making us Smarter

One of the articles that fascinated me this week was Why Even the Worst Bloggers are Making us Smarter by Clive Thomson.

Clive describes one particular example of a blogger affecting the world, and politics in her home land.  He tells the story of Ory Okolloh, a Kenyan born law student who began blogging about the political scene in Kenya while attending Law School in the United States.  For seven years Ory blogged about the injustices in her home country and developed devoted followers.  In 2007, after a controversial Kenyan election violence broke out.  Ory wished there was a tool for the people of Kenya to share the violent events immediately, rather than waiting for her to post them.  She mentioned her ideas to some of her online friends and began collaborating to create a tool for this purpose.  Within a few days, a map-based tool was created.  This tool, called Ushahidi, has since been used by governments and non-profit organizations to provide assistance to areas of the world in crisis.  This is one example of how technology and public thinking can have a powerful effect on the world at large.

For those who are passionate about social justice in education this is important.  The implications for using blogging as a way for students to become better writers and to become more socially aware are tremendous.  Young adults and even young children are often motivated when learning about injustices around the world.  They can also be quite creative in thinking of ways that they can do something about a cause that is important to them.   I strongly believe in social justice education.  As I continue to think of ways to assist with social justice teaching around my school, I will add blogging as another strategy, thanks to Clive Thomson.