This is a guest post by Ginny Jaques.
Social Media: Any technological source of information and communication that allows people to interact.
Gatekeeper: The one who controls everything that goes in or out of a fortified city.
A friend of mine Facebooked the other day saying she had just gotten a ticket for $165 because she was holding her i-Phone in her hand when the policeman stopped her. “I wasn’t even using it,” she said. “It was just in my hand.”
I believe her. I’m sure she wasn’t using it. But if she wasn’t using it, why was it in her hand? I laughed at her, but a serious thought lingered long after the laugh was gone.
Electronic devices have become an appendage, another limb, an extended part of our bodies. If we’re not using them, we’re thinking about using them, getting ready to use them, or making ourselves instantly available to anyone on the other end of the device who is preparing to use theirs.
Almost nothing goes in or out of our minds anymore except what we get through social media. Most everything we think about comes from tweets and status boxes, and the source of much of that information is the world-wide-web.
Think about it. Where are you reading this post?
No one struggles with this reality more than teachers. My friend with the i-Phone and I are both teachers, and social media is our constant competition in the classroom.
Many teachers ban the use of social media in class, because there’s no way to get outside information into the minds of students while they’re texting their friends.
And getting outside information into the minds of young people is part of our job as teachers.
It’s getting harder to enforce the ban, however, because much of the information society believes we need to put in the minds of children, even in the classroom, comes in an electronic form. Curriculum materials and resources for research are all now available online, and can be streamed directly to the handheld devices of our students. We’re encouraged to use those resources and to teach students how to use them.
The problem is that we have no way of monitoring what’s being streamed through that device. We try. We ban texting, and we put up posters in the room that say:
“I know you’re texting because no one just stares at their crotch and smiles.”
But it’s impossible for teachers to know what each student is reading electronically, so it’s virtually impossible for teachers to regulate what their students are “studying” in class.
Is that a bad thing or a good thing? Who can say? Maybe it’s both. In any case, we need to recognize that education in our culture is currently being revolutionized by technology. Teachers are no longer information gatekeepers. Social media is, and it’s not doing a very good job.
The gates, in fact, are wide open. For better or for worse, everything is now available to the minds of our students. If we don’t recognize that reality, we, and our children, are in danger of being swept away by the flotsam and jetsam that courses through those info-tech gates.
Ginny Jaques is a teacher-on-call in British Columbia, Canada, and author of the novel, Zinovy’s Journey. Visit her website at http://www.zinovysjourney.com.