Debate #4: Educators Have a Responsibility to Use Technology & Social Media to Promote Social Justice
Week #4: Post #2
Woof, What a Week!
Wow, what a week. With Regina Public Schools’ internet and systems still being down and my spouse on a 5-day fishing trip on a remote island up north, there has been a lot of juggling going on. To be completely honest here, I felt like I was reliving the points of both debates all week, at times thinking “gosh, I wish I would have asked this question” or “maybe I should have thought about this” and so on. Both debates were heated. Maybe it was the prompt or the group members each doing a good job of debating their stances, however, there was a lot to digest, evaluate and summarize long after the debates.
Because my last post was super-duper lengthy (yes, I apologize—even though after reading a few more blogs this evening I think that I could have added even more points that I failed to address), I plan to keep this one to a more manageable length (or so I hope at least). Hopefully, I’ll be able to do it, as this is a subject that I also feel strongly about in ‘real life’ and has been something that we’ve discussed in past EC&I courses. Before blabbing along here and getting too far into the debate, I’ll summarize both groups (or my interpretation of it) before I give some of my own thoughts and interpretations.
On the agree side, we heard from Kari, Jessica, and Jenny, who presented us with the following resources to review: How Technology Redefined can be a Social Justice Super Power, Some Things a Teacher Shouldn’t Be Neutral About (Podcast), Using Social Media to Engage Youth and Using Social Justice to Promote Student Voices. Check out the opening statement for the agreement side, here.
Some of the main points that the group addresses are the following:
- Social media promotes community building: the group discussed Regina Public Schools as an example of what they are doing to promote social justice on social media—specifically Twitter (good thing, because all other websites and such on their network are currently down). From Pride Day events, Orange Shirt Day, and more, there are many educators within Regina Public Schools that have done a good job of speaking out and creating awareness. This helps other educators, community members, families and students know that social justice issues matter and that they are doing something about it.
- Technology is commonplace and people gravitate towards social media: in today’s world, social media is everywhere. Many of our students are using social media platforms on a regular basis, and because of this, they are more open to learning more about social justice issues in a non-threatening environment and at their own pace.
- Expansion of worldviews: students now have the ability to learn different perspectives from around the world, at the convenience of using their own devices, without knowing any of the people they are reading about. If families or schools aren’t talking about a specific issue of interest to the student, they can learn more about it at any given time from people all around the world.
No Way! Debate
On the disagree side, we heard from Dalton, and Brooke, who presented us with the following resources to review: Genuine Social Media Activism, Teacher Politics and Social Media: A Volatile Mix, and Should Educators Express Their Political Opinions in the Classroom? Check out the no-way opening statement here.
Some of the main points that the group addresses are the following:
- There’s no such thing as neutrality in education: even though there is no such thing as neutrality in education, as educators, we must be able to listen to all sides of a story and to not sway our students to think one way or another. Can we share our opinions, feelings, experiences, etc.? For sure. But educators need to play a role of objectivity. Even though some people think that students will make up their own minds, regardless of what an educator says, we know that this isn’t always the case. We see it year after year in our classrooms, for simple things such as what playoff team they’re following in hockey, their favourite music, and more. Even though we think that students are making decisions for themselves, they are easily swayed, especially those who tend to be more people-pleasers as well.
- Activism can take many different forms other than social media: social media is a well-known place for people to be activists, however, there are many different ways to be an activist, and many different mediums are used. Therefore, prescribing one, and the only way for educators to be activists would be an inauthentic and unsustainable way for people to be activists.
- Personal and professional comfort zones: we need to be aware that there are personal and professional obligations or comfort zones that people are unwilling to cross. Does that mean that they do not believe in a particular stance? Does that make their beliefs, values, perspective, and worldviews less valuable or believable? Absolutely not. There are many ways that people can be activists, and there are also other things that hinder one’s ability to take part in outward activism, especially on social media. For example, Mike spoke up during the debate about a topic he is passionate about, but unable to talk about in his workplace (check out his blog to read all about it—I do not feel as if it is my place to share such a personal story). Does it mean that he is not invested in the subject matter because he is unable to discuss it outwardly? In my opinion, not at all. Keeping his job security as well as student safety is a priority. Unfortunately, many of us are not in financial situations where it would be possible to lose our employment income. There are also contractual obligations about what you can and cannot discuss, and through what mediums. That is something that needs to be considered as well.
- Lack of support: when push comes to shove, who is in our corner supporting us when we say something that receives push back, or when we go directly against our contracts, etc.? When we use social media outwardly to promote activism, there needs to be a level of care and attention. But if we make a wrong move, but were forced to use social media as an educator’s responsibility to promote social justice, then who is supporting us? Is it our STF? School board? Specific union? If educators are responsible to use social media, then who is backing us up?
A Few Thoughts & Interpretations
I think that teachers have a responsibility to teach social justice in their classroom with their students, introducing them to issues, presenting facts, and so on, to allow a student to make their own judgments based on feelings, facts, preconceived notions, ideas, and beliefs and well as perspective. However, the problem I have with the prompt is that it says that teachers have a responsibility to use technology or social media to promote social justice. There are many different ways to be an activist, and if we are prescribing one way for people to carry out their activism, we are taking away the authentic and sustainability piece. Many people are activists in their own way, based on their personal and professional lives. Some people are more equipped to be on the frontlines of activism using avenues such as social media, which Jennifer discussed in her blog post for this week. However, not everyone is there yet, and may never get to that point. Does that mean that they are not teaching social justice issues? Absolutely not. If we assume that everyone should be activists in the same way, then we are doing a disservice to activism itself.
I like to think back to my first master’s degree, where my advisor lived and breathed activism, and did it on a global scale. It was humbling for me to see someone so passionate about making change for social justice, but it was also intimidating as I wasn’t even near the same level as she was at the time. I remember her telling me that it was okay to be at whatever level you were at, and that activism can and will look different for everyone. If I look at this debate prompt again and link it back to this example, it would be an inauthentic way for her to showcase her activism as she has a love-hate relationship with technology, and doesn’t use many social media platforms. Therefore, forcing someone to use one medium to promote social justice learning and activism would be a major downfall to the action of activism itself. Check out Jennifer’s post this week, as she does a great job of talking about social media and activism.
Extra! Extra! Let’s Hear All About It!
To say that both debates this week were heated is probably an understatement. I appreciated the new format and it seemed to make the conversation flow more naturally. Again, I would love some feedback. If you want to drop a general comment about something that you’ve been thinking about or something my blog has sparked, answer one or more of the prompting questions below, or simply like this post, I see all contributions and appreciate them dearly. Feedback promotes learning, and critical thinking… can you tell, I’m all about it?
- Was this debate topic something that you felt very strongly about? Or were you able to see both sides of things in a balanced way?
- Did you find the whole prompt to be problematic, or was it only one part/word(s)?
- What was one thing that you wish either the agree or disagree side brought up but wasn’t?
- Do you feel like educators have a responsibility to use technology or social media to promote social justice?
- Do you think it’s authentic if people are told how to be activists? Or, do you think everyone is ready to be an activist in the public eye?