The Great EdTech Debate – Round Four! Do educators have the responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice?

Anonymous social justice warriors with placards during manifestation on street
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels

With round four now complete of the Great EdTech Debate, that officially puts us at the halfway mark of our class debate topics! I want to first begin by congratulating both the agree team of Karen, Jenny and Jessica as well as the disagree team of Dalton and Brooke on a fantastic debate that consisted of key information, great dialogue and both creative and engaging opening statement videos.

When it comes to the use of social media and social justice matters, as an educator I question, do you necessarily need to use technology to post on social media or are there other means of connecting and making a change within your community? Ultimately, this question is what led me to side with the disagree team for this debate topic, as I do believe that there are other avenues available for us as educators to help make a change and stand for what you believe in, rather than just on social media. However, this does not at all disregard the very valid points and critical information that the agree team advocated for as well.

Educators have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice. *Agree*

-Student Voice: By teaching and promoting social justice in the classroom, it allows students the opportunity to discover themselves and gives them a voice and a sense of empowerment. As German (2020) highlights a social justice course that she developed, “There is power in student voice, and it isn’t a voice any teacher can give. We don’t give voices. We make space for them in our curricula and classrooms, or we don’t.” Furthermore, teaching social justice allows students to become critical thinkers and gives them the ability to form their own opinions based on the facts and information. As Jenny quoted in the opening statement video, “The curriculum and educators have a responsibility to teach students how to use technology and social media critically and as a tool for change.” By our students using technology and social media for social justice matters, it offers them a space where their opinion can be valued and heard.

“There is power in student voice, and it isn’t a voice any teacher can give.”

German 2020
Unrecognizable activists with black lives matter title on placard
Photo by Redrecords ©️ on Pexels

-Activism and Connection: With the use of social media and the focus of social justice, it has connected us globally in ways that we could have never imagined. Social justice movements rely heavily on the use of social media, such as the recent movements of #standwithukraine and #blacklivesmatter. Not only do social justice movements occur globally, but also locally right here in Regina. The Regina Public School Division uses social media through sources such as Twitter to promote social justice matters. More specifically for this month of June, they are promoting Pride Month and the school communities taking part in the Pride Parade. Essentially, activism builds connection.

Educators have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice. *Disagree*

-Lack of Support: Educators can be silenced with their own personal beliefs when they do not align with their students, student families, school community or school division. Belief systems in regards to social justice matters can also vary based on which communities you teach in, such as rural or urban communities. This can then lead to the concern of job security for many educators and also students or student families not wanting to be in a particular classroom with a specific teacher just because of their beliefs and what they publicly stand for. Within this profession, this then leads me to question whether our union such as the STF or RPSTA would support us with these matters? Additionally, there could be major repercussions for educators that support causes through social media such as The Trump Rally, The Freedom Rally or joining alongside the anti-vaxxers.

-Slacktivism: Are you posting about social justice matters but not actually carrying through with the change or supporting the cause? Reid and Sehl (2020) further describe the term slacktivism, “Without offline action, gestures like using a hashtag or posting a black square come across as performative, opportunistic, and lazy.” Also, as educators we need to keep in mind that once you post online, it is there for good and there is no going back. Therefore, if we do not take action on what we are sharing via social media, our words lose meaning and our students and school community potentially could lose trust in the teacher(s). Essentially, if you do not take action, then it is not social activism.

-Preserve Objectivity: As educators in the classroom, do we remain neutral on social justice matters to allow our students to make educated and informed opinions independently? It is evident that teachers have the ability to influence their students based on sharing their personal stance on social justice matters. Therefore, many would assume that students will choose to follow what the teacher believes, without knowing the facts and forming their own opinion. An approach shared in the Will (2020) article by Keith Mahoney, a grade six teacher in the U.S., “[Mahoney] refrains from sharing his political views online, because he doesn’t want his students to learn from them. He wants them to form their own opinions instead.” Therefore, perhaps a better approach in the classroom would be to provide students with the information they need to think more critically, and eventually developing their own opinion and stance on the matter rather than following their teachers.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion to this incredibly important, yet also somewhat controversial debate topic, admittedly I did vote disagree for both the pre and post vote. I still attribute social justice matters to be extremely important, but perhaps not so closely connected to our profession as educators. The moment you post on your personal social media for professional reasons such as teaching, it immediately becomes public and permanent. I also believe that the approach to social justice in the classroom can look very different depending on what age group you teach. And, because I teach Kindergarten which consists of four and five year olds, I take a very cautious approach when teaching social justice matters at their age. I also recognize that unfortunately, I could even receive backlash from my student families and the school community, as some might assume that these topics are sensitive and not age appropriate. I do however still incorporate topics such as family diversity, learning how to accept and value the differences amongst each other and that we are all special in our own way. Watson (2019) explains the importance of this teaching, “If we want kids to grow up to be kind, thoughtful, inclusive, and courageous, how can we possibly opt-out of our biggest opportunity to model that?” If I were teaching grade four and five as I did previously, I am certain that my approach to teaching social justice matters and my involvement on the topics via social media would look substantially different.

With much thought and reflection from this debate topic, I still find myself searching for the right answer to the following question that was shared during the debate discussion, “What is our professional responsibility as educators when it comes to social justice matters, social media, and our students?” Then again, perhaps there is no one right answer to this question, as there is also no one right way to teach.

Thanks for reading and stopping by!

6 Replies to “The Great EdTech Debate – Round Four! Do educators have the responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice?”

  1. Leona T Stephen says: Reply

    Well said Alyssa – I couldn’t agree more. It is important that we know what is most suitable for the age that we teach. I struggle to say that I as a teacher should required to use social Media as an avenue to teach. In my opinion there needs to be a line between personal and professional.

    1. Alyssa Johnson says: Reply

      Hi Leona!
      Thank you for your support and for taking the time to read my blog post! It is much appreciated. 🙂 I completely agree with you, drawing that line and finding balance can be difficult as educators, but in the end serves us better in both our professional and personal lives!

  2. Kelly Ziegler says: Reply

    Great job summarizing both sides of the debate. Even though I think educators have a responsibility to teach social justice issues in their classrooms, I don’t think that they have a responsibility to be an activist using social media. There are so many different levels and ways that one can be an activist that forcing a certain medium upon one would make it inauthentic and unsustainable. I too think there needs to be a balance between personal and professional lives, and sometimes we need to be able to set boundaries for ourselves, comfort zones, and our own perspectives and worldviews.

    1. Alyssa Johnson says: Reply

      Hi Kelly!
      I always look forward to reading your wonderful comments on my blog posts, your support and kindness is always much appreciated! 🙂 Setting boundaries for ourselves as educators can be extremely difficult, but drawing that line and finding that balance will serve us much better for the future. A teacher’s job is never “finished” and if we are taking time out of our personal lives to make professional posts on our social media about social justice issues, well then we are pushing ourselves even further and expecting even more out of ourselves. I often become concerned with teacher burnout, how much is enough when we then eventually have to start saying that hard word of “no?”

  3. Matthew Fehr says: Reply

    I really struggled over the requirement to promote social justice over internet enabled platforms (as a mandatory act). I don’t normally feel comfortable putting my views out on social media, and I rarely post at all. I wholeheartedly support creating a more just and equitable environment for my students to learn in, but I don’t believe it is my employers job to regulate how I disseminate this message. If I choose to participate in a march or picket that is my personal choice and I don’t think that it has less value than a post on a blog, or a tweet.

    1. Alyssa Johnson says: Reply

      Hi Matthew!
      Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, I appreciate your kind words and insightful comments. I completely agree with you in the fact that there are so many other avenues for educators to take part in when it comes to important social justice matters, rather than solely posting on social media. I almost feel like social media is maybe the easier way anyways, the “quick fix.” A quick share, like or comment does not take much time at all. Becoming educated on the matter, writing a letter of concern/support or taking part in a march takes much more time and effort. To me, actions such as these is what results in real change!

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