An article that has really influenced me over the last year was Will Richardson’s “No, Actually You’re Out of Balance“. Will discusses how many complain of the imbalance technology creates when they do not use technology at all. I have heard the “balance” argument a lot and to be honest, totally agree with it. Our school is actually trying to create more of a balance through the use of technology tools in our classroom. Our students do not have access to computers 24/7, but we are trying to ensure that they have more opportunities for meaningful interaction using this technology.
We often look at kids who tend to read books often and say things like, “Wow…Janie never wants to put that book down! She loves reading.” When it comes to technology though, we could say the exact same sentence (substituting “book” for “computer”) and it sounds horrible. The truth of the matter is that everything needs to be in moderation. I distinctly remember my mom telling me to get outside and get some exercise when I was a kid and rather lazy. I also remember my mom upset about all my training for marathon running when I was an adult and telling me I need to just be able to sit down and relax. In both cases, she was right. Moderation.
Tonight, I read a few fascinating articles regarding social media. One discussed the “traditional” belief that teachers do not need to connect with students using Facebook. The author states:
Ultimately, the teacher-student relationship is all about guiding the student through a set curriculum involving reading, writing, arithmetic, and so on. This is and has always been a professional relationship, not a social one. Social media facilitates a social relationship. Call me “old school,” but it doesn’t seem right for students and teachers to connect in this way. Managing a Digital Life, Robert Siciliano
For the record, I do not believe teachers should “friend” kids; there are better ways to connect with our students using this medium. Although I have a certain ethical standard for my profile, my friends from high school, who are not teachers, may not.
On the other side of the spectrum, the article “How Social Media Is Having a Positive Impact On Our Culture“, talks about how the connectedness social media creates as something very positive. In my experience, I have made some very close friends who I “met” on Twitter and know that these relationships will last a lifetime.
The author has a quote that really sticks out to me:
The Internet doesn’t steal our humanity, it reflects it. The Internet doesn’t get inside us, it shows what’s inside us. And social media isn’t cold, it’s just complex and hard to define.
This question also from the same article also really stuck out to me:
“Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare … is all this making you feel closer to people or farther away?”
On the above question, I believe that we need to just see this as an opinion question and based upon each person. For me personally, I have felt more connected because I have learned and connected that have shared my passions. That is just my experience. Why can’t we accept that the above question can have different answers for different people?
If we are working with our students on building character first, it is beneficial that we teach them also have to emulate these citizenship skills in social spaces as well. We often have contrasting messages with social media when we tell our students that their online presence represents who they are, yet ask them to sign up for sites using names that create total anonymity. The balance that we have found in our school is by having our students use first names only. This creates a safe environment for students to begin building a digital identity, while also teaching them that they are accountable to what they do on the Internet. This seems to be an essential skill, especially when we are reading articles like this: Five Reasons Why Your Online Presence Will Replace Your Resume in 10 Years.
Yes students are using technology more in schools to connect, but we are focusing on ensuring that we create this in moderation. I have no idea how connected students are at home, but that balance needs to be created by parents. Some students are in situations where they may have not access to technology at home, creating more of a reason to ensure that they learn to effectively use these technologies for learning at school.
I think that we are doing a great job at creating this balance at school. Where are you at?