EC&I 830

Social Media for Social Justice? 

Over the past couple of weeks, I have spent a significant amount of time reflecting on what each team shared in their arguments for whether or not teachers have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice. Amanda and Jacquie articulated the benefits of using online platforms to support students in becoming more socially aware and to help increase their understanding of social justice issues. Ramsel discussed the idea that teachers should remain neutral in order to help students develop critical thinking skills. After considering both sides of the debate, as well as the readings and research about this topic, I have come to the conclusion that teachers are not necessarily responsible for teaching students about social justice online, but most definitely should support this type of learning in their classrooms. 

What do the experts say about teaching social justice?

In her blog post titled The Power of Teacher Neutrality, Taryn Bond Cleggfor shares helpful strategies that teachers can use with students when trying to promote critical thinking. These strategies also provide opportunities for students to use inquiry skills to investigate information on a topic and figure out answers with guidance, rather than the teacher giving students all the information and shutting down the thinking process. Bond Cleggfor suggests teachers do the following when trying to encourage critical thought: “ask probing questions, turn it back to the students, don’t be afraid of wrong answers, be neutral about the answer but still help to guide the learning, de-value the answer & re-value the learning”

In another article, Kristen Parker shares research findings from a study that looks at whether political neutrality in classrooms is actually neutral. Lead researcher Alyssa Dunn and her co-researchers “argue that by remaining neutral, teachers are enacting the opposite of neutrality by ‘choosing to maintain the status quo and further marginalizing certain groups.’” Furthermore, “Dunn and her colleagues say the election is just one example of a renewed call for all teachers to consider the ethics of neutrality in the classroom.”

The article, Teaching Social Justice in Theory and Practice by Caitrin Blake, makes no mention of using social media to teach about social justice issues. The article’s main focus is on the importance of teaching social justice in the classroom which I totally agree with. Blake explains that “social justice doesn’t manifest in a singular fashion, nor is it achieved through a specific means of instruction.” This statement leads me to believe that this type of learning does not necessarily have to happen through social media, although it should definitely be part of classroom instruction. Furthermore, she shares that “in addition to academic instruction, one of a classroom teacher’s most important roles is to help students develop the critical thinking, collaboration, and self-reflection skills necessary to foster a better society.” 

Teaching social justice is important…but does it have to happen online?

I absolutely think teachers are responsible for helping students understand, discuss, and engage with social justice issues. Teachers should create a classroom environment that fosters the development of critical thinking skills and models anti-oppressive education; however, I’m not sure if this instruction also needs to be done online through social media or other platforms. When considering my own use of online platforms, I mainly use my personal social media accounts to post the occasional pictures of my family, and other than that, I am not particularly active online. I think I may be struggling with this topic because, from my own experience, I have not used social media in the way that’s being discussed in this week’s debate. Because of this, I don’t really see social media as the place where this type of learning has to take place. Based on this realization, here is where I have finally landed in terms of my position on this week’s debate. I believe teachers absolutely have a responsibility to teach the students in their classrooms to be socially justice-minded; however, I don’t think this necessarily has to be done online. In order to support students in this type of learning, I think a teacher’s presence and guidance are vital. According to Blake, “in order to foster classroom social justice, teachers must first build a safe, encouraging place where students can speak about their experiences and beliefs.” Furthermore, Blake expresses that “ideally, students should view each other as academic siblings or co-learners instead of competitors. This perspective allows students to understand that while disagreements may occur, they must work together to increase their knowledge.” Teachers should be there with students to help them through the challenges of learning about social justice-related topics, and I personally don’t think this can be done as effectively online as it can be in the classroom.

My name is Catrina Hunter. I am an Arts Educator at Balfour Collegiate on Treaty 4 Territory. I work as part of Balfour Arts Collective, a high school program for students who are passionate about the arts. I am currently working on my Master's in Education Curriculum and Instruction.

One Comment

  • Graeme Gieni

    Hey Catrina, I couldn’t agree more with you. As a teacher our role should be to guide them through the conversations and give them the tools to navigate those hard conversations on their own. I also am not one to discuss these type of topics on social media either, so my point of view may be skewed as well. Great post!

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