The ‘perfect life’ of Instagram

As part of my Major Project, I am focusing on two very popular social media apps: TikTok and Instagram. In this blog post I decided to take a look at Instagram, a social media app that has become part of my life just recently. Focusing on Mike Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship helped me look at this app critically and have a better understanding of its behind the scenes.

  1. Digital Access: Instagram is an easy to access app. Anyone can look at someone’s Instagram without having an account of their own. There are certain limitations to Instagram without having an account, such as the ability to like or comment on a post, or like a comment, view stories and story highlights, follow an Instagram account, view a private account and use the mobile app.
  2. Digital commerce: Instagram users will encounter ads and photos promoting commercial brands. They can also make purchases via links embedded in stories. There are also people with several accounts using Instagram for building and promoting their business brands adding the geotag for easy accessibility. Startups can showcase their work to the audience as well. Instagram is an effective marketing strategy.
  3. Digital Communication and Collaboration: Instagram is a social media app giving the users the opportunity to express themselves through taking, editing and sharing photos and videos. The content of Instagram is made up of feeds, stories and IGTV channels, the later used for sharing collection of videos ranging between 15 seconds and 10 minutes. The stories are a series of photos or videos that will last for only 24 hours, then disappear. Instagram also provides the instant share feature across multiple platforms.
  4. Digital Etiquette: Just as TikTok users, Instagram users should also remember to be cautious how they present themselves in front of the world. Since this app has an option to comment on each other’s posts, this is when raising responsible digital citizens is crucial. Teaching people to THINK (Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind?) before they post anything is the key. And the most important question would probably be “Is it true?” with all the special features that can make life look ‘just perfect’.
  5. Digital Fluency: Instagram being the worst social media for mental health, the users need to have the ability to differentiate reliable information from poor content. On the photo-based platform, where users have the ability to add filters and edit pictures in order for them to look ‘perfect’, it is crucial not to believe everything we see in order to avoid psychological distress due to negative body image and anxiety. The article, Instagrammers reveal the difference between a posed body and a relaxed one, shared by Kalyn, brings to our attention not to believe everything we see.
  6. Digital Health and Welfare: Although there is an option to set a time limit, just as TikTok, Instagram can be very addictive. Instagram has been proven to have a lot higher impact on the users’ health and welfare due to the ‘perfect’ body, life or world that is depicted in the photos posted causing a high level of anxiety, depression, bullying, FOMO, or the ‘fear of missing out’. As Kalyn highlighted, the popular trend involving health, fitness and nutritional advice called ‘fitspiration’ also known ‘fitspo’ not only works as inspiration. The unrealistic expectations cause feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, unworthiness leading to lack of self-esteem and mental health problems. Spending more than two hours a day on social networking sites can increase the users’ tendency to fall into the “compare and despair’ attitude. Thankfully, as Nataly mentioned, Instagram is now hiding likes counter, another element that can cause lack of self-esteem being based on the number of likes.
  7. Digital Law: Just as with TikTok, setting a private account is crucial to be able to avoid anybody being able to see the content. Cyberbullying and sexting can still be an issue in within the circle of youth.
  8. Digital Rights and Responsibility: Instagram users need to be aware of the fake accounts of people who are just trying to become famous with a fake life they created. ‘Finsta accounts‘ are also trending where users post their ‘less-edited’ lives. This tends to be the right platform for racy content and bullying. When it comes to raising digital citizens, it is crucial to teach youth to be critical thinkers and be able to identify potential problems as well as be brave to inform adults of problems they come across. This way they can protect themselves and others. 
  9. Digital Security and Privacy: It is important to teach our students to respect their privacy by creating a private account as well as being careful with the information they share through photos, videos and comments, since after posting photos, image theft and screenshots cannot be prevented.

Looking at Instagram through Mike Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship, I am certainly seeing this social media app from a different point of view. The more apps I examine, the stronger I feel about bringing social media into our classrooms and guide our students in becoming critical thinkers.

More on TikTok

I have been spending endless hours on TikTok during the last few weeks since my curiosity keeps telling me to watch just one more video. I am definitely experiencing the feeling of missing out on something very cool or creative. I have mentioned in my previous post that I have restrictions set on my TikTok account since I share one with my daughter and my son likes to watch the videos as well. Sometimes I come across inappropriate songs or content, but I feel that it is not more than what kids are being exposed to on the various radio-, and tv stations.

I did want to know more about TikTok, so I went on their website to find out about the content that I miss out on for different reasons. In the newsroom, there are a number of articles highlighting some of the memorable TikTok moments, such as Charlie Puth seeking help from TikTok in coming up with the lyrics for one of the melodies he created. What I loved about this was, that many people collaborated and came up with creative content. It was quite successful and Charlie Puth did end up finding the right lyrics for his song. This was a great example for Digital Communication and Collaboration as well as Digital Etiquette, two of Mike Ribble’s 9 elements of digital citizenship.

Under TikTok shows heart on Valentine’s Day, I came across some valuable content, such as a recipe and tutorial for molten lava cake, as well as a TikTok showing great Digital Etiquette by addressing not only couples but single people as well, bringing a smile to everyone’s face on Valentin’s Day.

I also like the TikTok videos with the main focus on managing screen time. Obviously TikTok is aware of its addictive quality. What I appreciated about these recordings was that they are addressing one of Mike Ribble’s elements on digital citizenship by teaching Digital Health and Welfare.

There was still a missing piece I needed information on, the Digital Commerce. My main focus was looking into ways TikTok can be used to make money online. According to the article “How to make money from TikTok”, the #1 way is to become an influencer, that can lead to being approached by brands to showcase their products in your videos. I also came across an Instagram Marketer, Elise Darma who presents six ways to make money on TikTok:

  1. Growing a TikTok profile around a ‘niche topic’ then reaching out to brands and selling the account to them. This also means that the purchasing brand would have access to all those followers. I just wonder how this fits into the Digital Etiquette and the Digital Rights and Responsibility category?
  2. Going live and collecting donations from viewers. TikTok has a built in monetization, with the opportunity to buy coins.100 coins cost $1.39. Viewers can send coins to the creators of the videos, that the creators can turn into diamonds, converting them into cash through PayPal.
  3. Being part of influencer campaigns
  4. ADS platform, by signing up for TikTok ads
  5. Offering management services to creators
  6. Offering consulting services to boost their strategy to become TikTok famous

According to Elise Darma, another way business owners can make money from TikTok is to use it for growing an already existing business. She shares five creative ideas for TikTok videos that might be helpful for the world to get to know you and your business.

It seems that there is a lot more behind TikTok, than being a simple entertaining platform. I am looking forward to learning more about it and maybe experimenting with creating my own video. If I will ever be able to figure out how to make one. Lol

TikTok and Mike Ribble’s Nine Elements

My 8 and 11 year old kids are a big fan of TikTok, so I decided to look at a few apps, including TikTok as part of my Major Project. I downloaded the app and made an account, that my daughter and I share. Interestingly many of her friends are on TikTok posting videos, so I am not the only parent who agreed to this. Looking at this app more carefully, I learnt that it is a social network where people have the opportunity to record lip-syncing, share creations, create remixes, etc. It has cool filters, speed adjustment, duet function and music/sound. Watching several videos on TikTok, I certainly came across some very creative pieces, tutorials, funny videos, as well as recordings that I wasn’t sure of what their purpose was. I noticed that breaking news makes its way into TikTok as well. The death of Kobe Bryant was on TikTok for more than a week. I had a hard time watching those videos, since the content was very powerful and heartbreaking. I felt that youth throughout the world was mourning his death. At this point, I cannot say that I am for or against TikTok. What was shocking for me from the very beginning was the swearing and the sexual content. But is TikTok the only app where kids come across this? Luckily it has privacy and safety settings with the option to create a private account.

I looked at the 9 elements of digital citizenship developed by Mike Ribble regarding TikTok

  1. Digital Access: TikTok is an easy to access app, there is no account sign up required to view its content. My 8-year-old son has access to TikTok. Even though he cannot comment or post, he can still view the videos as long he has the app downloaded. My 11 years-old daughter and I share an account, or I could say I supervise her using my account. Since there are mixed reviews, this was the only way I felt comfortable of her being on Tiktok. 
  2. Digital commerce: I did not come across any information regarding this element. I am wondering if it is applicable to TikTok.
  3. Digital Communication and Collaboration: TikTok is being used for electronic exchange of information. People use short descriptions attached to their videos so the audience would understand the message. It is used to share creations, tutorials, bits of news, entertainment as well as for finding own voice and express self. 
  4. Digital Etiquette: When it comes to TikTok, it is important for people to remember to be cautious how they present themselves in front of the world. Since this app has an option to comment on each other’s posts, this is when raising responsible digital citizens is crucial. Teaching people to THINK (Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind?) before they post anything is the key.
  5. Digital Fluency: has a strong connection to digital etiquette. As Ribble described, the better educated or “digitally fluent” students are, the more likely the ones to make good decisions online, supporting others instead of making negative comments. Digital fluency also ties in with media literacy and the ability to differentiate reliable information from poor content. As Matteo mentioned, some of his students use TikTok as a source to learn about news. It certainly provides bits and pieces of breaking news, but do our students have the ability, skills, and knowledge to think critically when it comes to the news or they fall for the ‘fake news’ as well?
  6. Digital Health and Welfare: I just downloaded the TikTok app not long ago, and just as Matteo said, if I don’t set a time limit, I end up spending hours a day watching TikTok videos. It is almost addicting. Most of the videos are short, vibrant, sometimes funny, or creative, sometimes super sad. If I am having such a hard time keeping a balanced approach when it comes to this app, how do we expect our kids and students to do so?
  7. Digital Law: Setting a private account is crucial to be able to avoid anybody being able to text. Cyberbullying and sexting can still be an issue in within the circle of youth.
  8. Digital Rights and Responsibility: this is a crucial element of being a responsible digital citizen. We need to teach our students to be diligent when using Social Media, raising critical thinkers to be able to identify potential problems as well as be brave to inform adults of problems they come across. This way they can protect themselves and others. 
  9. Digital Security and Privacy: It is important to teach our students to respect their privacy by being careful with the information they share through their TikTok videos and comments. 

Looking at the 9 elements of this widely used app made me look at it more critically. I think a similar activity would be useful for students to do as a class, to raise critical thinkers when it comes to Social Media.

How to educate our current and future students?

Do schools really need to change? If so, in what ways? 

As a parent and educator, I feel that with the generational, cultural and societal changes, we have to recognize the fact that making changes to our education system is crucial. We not only need to prepare our students to safely navigate in our digital world, but also finding ways to engage them while teaching these skills. Prof. Mary Beth Hertz draws our attention to the importance of taking the time to educate our students about technology and appropriate ways to use social media instead of assuming that our ‘digital native’ youth is on the right path of becoming responsible digital citizens without guidance and mentoring. Just as no one is born being a native speaker of any language, our children need to be taught how to be responsible citizens of our digital world. Bringing technology into our classrooms will also make learning fun and more engaging for our students. 

Is it possible to change our educational system, or is it more likely that the system will be replaced by other forms of education?

I am seeing that our education system is changing. The question is if it is changing at the right pace and if we are heading in the right direction? We definitely need to do more work shifting from the 1990’s teaching style where the role of the educator was to be the ‘monopoly of knowledge’, towards the role of a facilitator guiding students in their journey of creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, as well as developing their ability to synthesize information through project-based learning. The transformation of the education system will certainly look different at the elementary-, middle- and high-school levels as well as at the university. Growing up in Romania, we used to have specialized teachers for every subject matter starting grade 5. I often wonder if a teacher specialized in technology, teaching digital literacy and media literacy would make this shift faster, since it might take a long time for teachers to familiarize themselves and find the right fit to teach through the lens of our digital world. I think that in order to avoid generations missing out on learning how to be digital literate and media literate (Prof. Mary Beth Hertz), offering ‘technology classes’ for all grade levels could be quite beneficial. 

And when I think of the education system being replaced by other forms of education, I agree with Christina Petterson, that no matter how much the education system changes, human interaction is crucial for our students’ emotional development. Me working with EAL (English as an Additional Language) students who face so many challenges when moving to a new country, I cannot imagine them being able to cope with life with having no human interaction. Besides helping them learn English and all the subject matters, our job is also to help them through the nightmare of culture shock, as well as modelling social norms and interactions in Canadian society. In today’s multicultural society our job is getting more and more complex.

What sort of education or education system will be needed to adequately prepare students for the world ahead?

Both Prof. Henry Jenkins and ISTE underline the importance of open education where teachers scan the globe for best practices and collaborate with each other. Teachers of the ‘Future Schools’ in Singapore have the opportunity to watch model lessons in order to learn new ideas and provide suggestions to each other. Through skype sessions educators share best practices and critique lessons with colleagues in their school and with others from around the world. It is important for us to realize the power of sharing, communication and collaboration in order for learning to grow. I feel that providing more time for teachers to share, collaborate and plan together would be beneficial to make our education system more effective. 

What sort of world are we preparing students for?

The world is shaped by us, our values, actions and beliefs. Since technology is a key component in our everyday lives, we need to prepare our students to think and act as responsible citizens in our digital world. By raising adaptable, responsible, empathetic critical thinkers we can guide students towards digital leadership, as described by George Couros, where the Internet and Social Media are being used to improve the lives, well-being and circumstances of others.

Digital and Media Literacy in the Age of the Internet

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to Mary Beth Hertz, Philadelphia high school teacher as well as author of the book called Digital and Media Literacy in the Age of the Internet explaining what digital literacy and media literacy are while providing teachers with practical classroom applications.

The first question that came to my mind during the Skype discussion was: Are we educators prepared for teaching our students digital literacy and media literacy? I can relate to Leigh Tremblay, when it comes to “blindly” engaging with apps without knowing what is behind them. Looking at myself, there’s still a lot that needs to be done in the area of knowing how technology works and knowing how to use and analyze resources. I think the first step is that we educators recognize the importance of digital and media literacy and take the time to better ourselves. Since how could we guide our students, if we don’t understand technology and don’t know what is happening around us? Or we just lock the world of Internet and Social Media out of our classrooms limiting our students’ learning?

I agree with Adam Scott Williams, who believes that “Schools are the perfect place for students to learn about social media tools and how to use them responsibly and efficiently.” Prof. Henry Jenkins draws our attention to the dangers of the mentality of “let them be, they’ll learn on their own” since our student population is made up of three distinct groups of young people: digital orphans, digital exiles and digital heirs. Being aware of these differences can help us, educators when it comes to meeting our students’ needs. According to Mary Beth Hertz, it is crucial for us, teachers to educate ourselves and our students. Making assumptions that our students have digital literacy, just because they have access to technology or are able to use certain apps can be quite dangerous. It is like a ‘digital playground’ where students are being thrown into without guidance. It is our job to address and fill in the gaps.

Another important takeaway was the importance of validating our students’ experiences and being open to learn with them and from them. Listening to our students and talking about their experiences in a non-judgemental way will help us see the value Social Media offers to youth as well as helping them deal with its negative effects, such as the FOMO phenomena. I wonder if teaching youth to be real as Alexandra Samuel: Ten Reasons to Stop Apologizing for your Online Life explains, would make a change and encourage youth to behave like IRL (in real life) since the online life is RLT (real life too)?

Major Project

At the very beginning of my EC&I 832 class, I feel nervous and fortunate at the same time. I am excited to have the opportunity to learn about social- and educational apps that I am surrounded with but not know a whole lot about. I have never used Snapchat, Instagram, nor TikTok, so I decided to go on my personal journey and learn what these apps are and how to use them safely and effectively. Having both my students and my children (eight and eleven) use them, as a teacher and parent, I feel it is my responsibility to learn about these viral tools.

So I opted for the Personal journey into media:

The goal of my major project is to have a better understanding of the digital world and of the apps and programs that my children and students are using regularly. As part of my in-depth investigation, I will be focusing on reviewing two social apps Instagram and TikTok, and two educational apps, such as Aurasma and Touchcast.

I am planning to create a detailed review of the selected apps through a media lens including a description, analysis of the app platform, Terms of Service and privacy implications, as well as educational value and usage. I would like to experiment with the above highlighted four apps by actively engaging and using the apps for an extended period of time.

I already learnt it from my Learning Project of my EC&I 831 class that creating a plan on a fairly new topic can be quite challenging. When I started learning how to play the piano, I set the most amazing goals, such as playing an Ellie Goulding song by the end of my course. It was hard to face reality and change my final goal several times. But the Learning Project taught me about the importance of connecting with professionals and learning from each other. I had the opportunity to chat with one of my colleagues, Kristina Boutilier, regarding my Major Project in Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy, and she shared a wonderful site with me that I think will be very useful when it comes to examining apps through media lens. commonsensemedia.org is a collection of best apps that offers detailed description and evaluation of the various apps. I am also planning to examine other resources in the Educational App Store. The latter offers a wide collection of apps as well as overviews that will be helpful in finding valuable apps and learning what to look for in a good app. I also came across an open educational resource (OER), the Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) offering valuable information regarding the quality and relevance of apps by providing a checklist for an app evaluation. I will also continue reading articles and listen to TED talks on this topic. I came across Jeff Kirschner’s Litterati app, an app that makes it fun to pick up litter is definitely something I would like to know more about.

I hope, when I start examining apps, I will not get lost in the abundance of resources. Being fairly new in the world of technology, I am ALWAYS happy to hear your suggestions and advice.

Thank you!

Intro

Welcome to my introductory blog post! My name is Melinda Demeter and I have been living in Canada for 18 years. I am Hungarian who grew up in Romania, Transylvania, half an hour drive from the famous Bran Castle known as Dracula Castle.

Due to living as part of a minority group, Romania never really felt like home. At a very young age, I knew I was going to leave the country. I started learning English when I was in grade five, later I added German to have a higher chance when the time was going to come to settle in a new country. After I had finished university in the capital city of Romania, my dream came true and I was able to move to Canada. Soon, I had to face the harsh reality by being told that my Education Degree was equal to a Bachelor of Arts Degree and I had to go back as a full-time student for three and a half years to get my teaching degree. I often wonder what my life would look like had I stayed in my home town. I feel this was God’s plan for me. I have two beautiful children Dani and Mariska who give meaning to my life.

I love to travel, I am passionate about different cultures and of course teaching. Being an English as an Additional Language teacher is the perfect fit for me, since I am an immigrant who has experienced culture shock and all the ups and downs of settling in a new country. I truly feel that I can connect to my students and really understand what they are going through.

I see myself as a lifelong learner always finding an exciting goal to work towards. After I finished my Master’s Certificate Program in TESOL, I applied for the Master’s Certificate Program in Educational Technology, pushing myself to face my fear of technology.

I am so thankful to my Professor, Dr. Alec Couros for his continuous guidance and support as well as for my classmates’ help and encouragement. During the past two courses, EC&I 834 and EC&I 831, I have not only learnt a tremendous amount, but also built great relationships. I always loved technology since it made it possible for me to stay connected to my friends and family. Without Internet and Skype I wouldn’t have been able to survive the past 18 years. Now, that I am learning about the treasures the world of technology is offering, I am loving it more than ever. Of course it has positive and negative sides, like everything else in life. Being able to see and hear my parents living 8,288 km away from me is something words cannot describe.

Since I have been taking Ed.Tech classes, according to one of my students I became a “YouTuber”. I also had the opportunity to develop online and blended learning resources, as well as learn how to play the piano, the most amazing journey, that I recorded in the form of a podcast. This was a childhood dream of mine, that I was able to accomplish thanks to the Learning Project of my EC&I 834 class. Although the class ended, the piano stayed in my life, helping me find my inner piece when life gets hectic.

I am very excited to learn about Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy since it is a relevant topic both in schools and in my own home. Looking forward to another great journey!

Thanks for stopping by!

Melinda