Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

My Thoughts On Our Social Media Presentation

July 18th, 2014 · No Comments

Beginning with the clip that we presented from 30 Rock, which I believe is a fairly accurate representation of the state of much of the communication online today, the central ideas that I struggle with every day are the idea of expertise and public information.

With classrooms moving more and more towards being communities of learners and knowledge being created rather than curated, it is clear (as we discussed in our presentation) that teachers are no longer the safeguards of knowledge. How then, do we justify our positions as authority figures in the classroom? With our many years of higher education, class upon class discussing this same central idea, we have come up with more questions than we have answers, but the consensus seems to be that we are no longer teaching content, but instead teaching skills – and not just academic skills, either.

The advent of social and emotional learning means that teachers have moved beyond trying to teach children about books and numbers and into an attempt to mould them into socially literate, emotionally competent global citizens. But how does this apply to social media? Going back to the idea that “everyone and no one is an expert”, I am of the opinion that it is now part of our job as teachers to educate these digital native children on the difference between opinion and fact; information and misinformation; and most importantly, the difference between public and private.

The mere format of current social media means that one’s online presence becomes a highly curated version of one’s self. Social media is a place where opinion, fact, information, misinformation, public and private become a blur of share-and-share-again narcissism saturated with selfies and pictures of food. Racism and ignorance are rampant, ideas transform into certainties, and the failures of global education are evident in the poor spelling and grammar that permeate the platforms. In addition, the relative anonymity of online communication has created a mob mentality which, unfortunately for all involved, has real world consequences.

We must teach our children that online communication is no longer anonymous, that how you present yourself in the virtual world has become just as important as dressing for a job interview or knowing how to converse with superiors. We must teach them how to find and use reliable sources, how to recognize bias or slant, and how to defer to expertise while still thinking critically. Today’s children (or “screenagers” as they’re being referred to in Maclean’s) need to be taught that the virtual world has become the real world, that if they wouldn’t scream something out loud in a crowded room that they shouldn’t say it online, and that they need to be careful about what they share to safeguard their own privacy. In short, we need to prepare Generation Z to overcome the narcissism and entitlement of the Millenials, and begin a whole new era of social media.

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