The core social skills and culture competencies discussed in the Digital Media and Learning paper are ever prevalent and there are countless opportunities to help our students acquire them. Negotiation is one that I find particularly important, as our students are presented with diverse online communities as soon as they login to their preferred game or social media account. I also agree that there is no real central education experience for our students, given the pace at which technology changes. However, I believe that we are experiencing a paradigm shift in our mindset about technology and media. As smartphone technological developments have plateaued, along with sales, we have a chance to reflect not just on the products we are using to consume media, but media itself! It was only yesterday that a op-ed in the New York times, by a co-founder of Facebook (Chris Hughes), said that “It’s time that we break up Facebook.” If indeed it will be broken up I hope that we fill the void with something much more responsible and positive…
Policies don’t empower people to make stakeholders make positive contributions, but the people who write them do. After reading the amazing blog by Scott McLeod, where he hits the big, ugly rule enforcer otherwise known as the AUP with Thor’s Stormbreaker, and ends up with a delightfully simple EUP (I prefer the acronym PUP; positive user policy, but only because I like dogs). It is bewildering simple, and I love it because it has changed the way I look at technology and how we can supercharge our students to become empowered.
McLeod’s wisdom is reflected in his TEDx talk as well. I mean we have this fantastic nine year old, who started off by rating her school dinners and ended up starting a lunch time revolution in the UK; despite the best efforts of the school board to thwart her. The other examples Mr McLeod mentions are invigorating, and should serve as an inspiration to us all, and remind us to see the good in people.
Diamonds in the Rough
Feeling like I have just drank from the Holy Grail, I set about reading our school’s AUP and oh dear it did make not make for a pleasant bedtime story. Many of the sentences started like the ten commandments “I will not” or “I will follow”, not the most inspiring and these will most certainly require a reboot that Disney would be proud of. Having said that, I did spot a diamond or two in the rough. Buried in amongst the jumble I spied a sparkle in the shape of the following two sentences “I will cite other people’s work” and “I will use tech tools in a responsible way”; there is hope. I will take these as a starting point to build a powerful and positive user policy.
Typically we share these documents by getting our students to sign for them when they take their school allocated Macbook at the beginning of the academic year – not much of a discussion I am afraid. Nonetheless, starting in the new school year, not only will our school have a shiny new EUP/PUP, but it will be introduced to students and teachers in a class by class basis, with examples of how to empower themselves in the digital world; and will be referred to throughout the year in a positive light. Furthermore, I will follow up with parents to show them how together, we can create the next generation of creators.
Pause and reflect
Media literacy is one area that I keep re-visiting, probably because I am still developing my understanding of it. I came across a informative video from Crash Course, in which they describe, at 100mph, what media literacy is. They give examples of each of the main parts of media literacy whih are; Access – Analyze – Evaluate – Create – Act and they go on to talk about the herculean Stuart Hall, and the research that he did in the 1970s regarding how messages are encoded by the creators and decoded by the consumers. It is mind blowing in its simplicity.
I see a golden opportunity here to move forwards with media literacy at the centre of technology teachings, thinking, policies and vision at our schools. If somehow we manage to weave this into our educational ethos, it may break down the barrage of fake news, disruption and unpleasantness online. For me, a successful integration of media literacy looks like when we pause and reflect after consuming online material, question its authenticity, and discuss with our friends. I will most certainly use to inform my school’s new EUP/PUP.
Points of View
I don’t think we can ever fully learn how to be empathetic, because in order to do so you would need to be able to see each and every situation from someone else’s point of view. Sure I have read books that have covered this mythical topic, such as “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, in which he gives some pretty good scenarios. But for teachers, or anyone working with large groups of people, this is our daily struggle; but also why we keep coming back for more. I think one of the most important things to build empathy is to listen to the person or conversation. And don’t listen so that you can respond, listen to understand what the person is saying to you! I think this may help you understand the person more, and therefore build up a picture of where they are coming from which in turn may help you become more empathetic.
Having said all of the above I don’t think I have the secret answer to build empathy, but I do know the signs of when we are not doing a good enough job. When communications break down, and people argue, this is a sign that the ability to be empathetic has become fragile. I also believe that digital empathy is much harder to build than traditional empathy. It reminds me of when I spoke to a group of students about their use of social media, and they collectively said that they preferred to talk face to face, because the chances of them misreading a conversation were much less likely than when they were texting each other. Onwards and upwards.
DQ World, the digital citizenship learning platform has a unit on this – suitable for Grades 3-6