Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Education and Social Media

A very common excuse given by the education ministries and schools about social media training is "We have social media trainings implemented already." I've talked to many schools and administrators of schools of teenagers aged 14 - 18, and they have replied with the same answer, perfectly in tune. I have however yet to see any results or any physical evidence that the schools are successful, yet they are unwilling to ask for help.

Teaching teenagers how to manage their Digital Footprint

I read a blog by the Innovative educator on "Teaching Kids to Manage their Digital Footprint - 140 Character Conference Panel Discussion"

And I agree with the author about the following:

Teaching kids to manage their Digital Footprint really starts with the adults. Teachers can't teach this effectively if they, themselves have not managed their own digital footprint. It is also important not to confuse managing a digital footprint with being hidden or private. Branding our identities has become more and more important in the digital age and if students and teachers aren't actively managing their digital footprint, then who is? Managing your digital footprint starts with asking questions like: Who are you? What do you stand for? What are your passions and beliefs? The important lesson with managing your digital footprint is that everything we do online should represent who we are and what we stand for and we must have the knowledge that this representation will stick with us potentially forever.

How can we teach students and teachers to celebrate themselves and their beliefs so that their digital footprint represents a picture of someone they are proud to be? I've written about some fun ways to get these conversations going by helping students reflect upon what their digital message says about them. An interesting way to start such a conversation might be with this video which really can get students and their teachers thinking about who they are and what they stand for.


I believe across many countries, this is the same problem. Many teachers who are Gen x (Aged 35 - 45) are themselves not familiar with social media, and they are confused with the terms of digital footprint, social media and web 2.0. Many of these teachers have little concept of blogs and personal branding, and some are even adverse to getting into social media themselves.

How are you going to teach social media safety tips if you do not participate in social media?

I believe pitching social media to the teenagers is one thing, another part of it is to educate the parents. By simply taking responsibility and following your children on Facebook and Twitter, your children would take the little extra steps in monitoring their own language and posts on social media. There are few tools and privacy setting that they previously ignore, and due to parents or teachers following them, they have to start learning how to use them.

This concept of self censorship and monitoring personal online footprints would be ignored by some, as teenagers have yet grasped the benefits of forming networks and learning from people with similar interests. Many of the teenagers will still think they know everything will not care about the things they talk about online.

Role model. I believe studies should be carried out on some of the "Superstars" on social media, and some of the teenager bloggers who have successful leveraged on social media and branded themselves and created a following. Having someone to look up to, teenagers can learn the value and benefits of benefits and how it can elevate one's status.

I personally do not think negative reinforcements work well either. The examples of teenagers getting into trouble with the law after some Facebook comments do not seem to resonate at all, as many of them think "This will not happen to me." There are always laws governing jay-walking, teenage smoking and drinking, however with these laws, it would give these law breaking teenagers a form of excitement and an adrenalin rush, just to "get away with it."

Monitoring social media and Googling your children's name and avatar should be a priority for parents and not just for the schools, and as for the schools, well, everyone should start getting on social media just to be part of this emerging communication channel which would definitely be part of our lives in years to come.

-- Robin Low

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