Raise your hand if you were ever a victim of a high school teacher telling you to write a blog post or a Facebook page that was in all actuality completely pointless and you didn’t know what you were doing anyway.
Honestly, these were the worst assignments when I was at school for several reasons.
- No one who’s not currently a parent REALLY uses Facebook. Why does no one seem to notice this? Why do teachers still find Facebook relevant for highschool kids? It’s not. There’s seriously so many other, better options if you want to use social media. Move on.
- I was 16, what exactly did you want me to get out of making a blog? I had no idea what I was doing, nor did anybody else. If I ever had to make a website, I would just vomit up my textbook onto that platform instead of a Word doc.* Then I would even get praised because “you all just use the Internet so well!” Awesome, I knew that already. I was raised on it, but why the hell are we making a blog? Who’s going to see it? The answer, my teacher and no one else, so why did I have to do it?
*The exception being my creative writing websites from those high school classes. Yes they’re still out there. No, you should not look for them.
Now, why is this relevant again? Well, because I finally read an article about the way we SHOULD be teaching students to use technology and digital media as opposed to the way we have been.
In her article “Digital Skills and Digital Literacy: Knowing the Difference and Teaching Both,” Maha Bali explains, well, exactly what the title says. Bali describes digital skills to be focusing on “which tool to use and how to use it.” Which has exemplified my experience of, “Here’s where you make a blog. Now make a blog.” Digital literacy focuses on answering basically every other question: why are we using this platform, when would you be using this platform, who is our audience, and who is involved?
This literacy could be so beneficial especially in this day and age of having technology and media all around us. Part of teaching digital literacy includes teaching students about how the internet collects everything that they post.** Our digital footprint is huge nowadays and I wish I’d have had someone remind me that every platform had privacy settings so that the rest of the world didn’t have access to my entire life.
**Granted, Bali used Facebook privacy settings as the default. This is a few years old, but really, pay attention to what forms of digital media your students are using and stay relevant to them. I’m in college and I only touch Facebook on my birthday so that I don’t offend my older relatives who posted on my wall by not answering.
Also, I mean, no one EVER told me that I could use Tweets and such as a viable source in a paper if it’s relevant. We need to teach students about how we can use these other platforms for research if they apply because, frankly, so many students nowadays consider social media to be a priority. If we want them to write we need to let them explore the things that are relevant or that interest them.
Also, the Internet has given us this amazing opportunity to connect with people all around the world. We could so easily be using this in our classroom to not only keep our own classrooms well connected, but to provide students other resources to talk to and learn from. Much like Bali mentions, our students could be Tweeting other students or teachers from anywhere around the world and learning new perspectives from them. It’s wild, but if it’s done safely and correctly, then think about the doors you could potentially be opening for your students by introducing them to this kind of social media in the classroom.
Lastly, I’m going to leave you on a point that Bali made that I stand by whole-heartedly and every high school teacher needs to hear. WIKIPEDIA IS A VIABLE SOURCE TO BEGIN TO EXPLORE RESEARCH TOPICS AND LEARN THE BASICS. STOP TEACHING STUDENTS TO AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE. IT’S THERE FOR A REASON. Thank you.