To describe my relationship with social media is to outline a story of ups and downs. For me, my earliest memories are with email and MSN Messenger. These are really quite minimal as I truly only used them for faster communication with those who I was no longer close to in proximity. Slowly this expanded to include texting – the good ol’ T9 kind. Wow did this make life easier! How quickly actual phone conversations disappeared though. Facebook came next and from there, the social media world seemed to explode.
I remember when I first saw Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat and I thought, why? Why do we need so many different platforms? Well, as much as I personally felt I didn’t need to have all these things on the go, along came my 13 year old daughter. Suddenly I was completely thrown into a NEED to be more aware of what existed and how to use it. At the same time, I was teaching Grade 5 and in my first year at a school where half the children of that age already had phones (today I would say that is more like 75%). Two-thirds of the way through that first year, I became aware of social media concerns with my students. I had students sending messages from other students devices, saying hurtful things about their peers in group chats, and posting unkind things about their peers in public domains like Musicl.ly (which would later become TikTok). By the end of that year it became very clear to me that:
- I needed to increase my own awareness of social media platforms.
- Parents and educators in general needed to increase their awareness of the social media platforms that exist, safety concerns and ways to monitor and keep their own children safe.
- Digital Citizenship instruction should be a part of school from an early age.
After many discussions with my administrators, my husband and a few other teachers who were seeing similar things, I started on a journey to find resources to support students, teachers and parents. This became part of my work in Learning Improvement Teams (LITs) for the next two years.
While there were many wonderful websites out there including Media Smarts and Common Sense Media, we found that teachers needed help to see where Digital Citizenship fit in their curriculum. Not everyone felt as strongly as I did that this was something that should be addressed in schools. For this reason we turned to the guide Digital Citizenship in Education.
The layout of this Saskatchewan guide, written by Dr. Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt, breaks down Digital Citizenship into nine elements found within three different categories. What we most appreciated about this as a team, was that it was not just focussed on all the bad things about social media. It helped to provide a framework for instruction meant to increase student’s digital literacy. We used this guide to pull together a sequence of lessons addressing each of the nine elements at each grade level, using numerous resources, including those mentioned previously. We then connected the specific lessons to their curriculum correlations for students in K-8, in order to provide teachers with concrete evidence of how digital citizenship education fit within their instruction.
This has been a big part of my social media journey and helped me to develop as a more digitally literate adult. It improved my own instruction in how to conduct research, the use of online educational tools and my attitude towards technology. However, it also made me increasingly more aware of the need to maintain a healthy balance. While I do not boycott social media all together, I find it to be a huge time sucker. I also see the effects of it on my mood very quickly and find it generally makes me unhappy. For this reason, I personally limit myself, try very hard to be present in the moment and avoid this ever present distraction in our world.
This leads to my current stop on the technology journey which is a feeling of it taking over my life no matter how much I don’t want it to (this is something I will discuss more later)! In fact, I kind of feeling like I am drowning it at the moment! Is anyone else feeling this way?