Does social media need to be properly integrated into education?
When Jun Lozada, a consultant of electronic classroom at La Salle Green Hills School in Philippines said that digital word is a new vernacular of this young generation, it got me thinking.
In today’s era of social media overdrive, kids hang out with peers on Facebook more than in malls or school playgrounds and even the shiest students are able to voice out their concerns. Students even in primary schools learn how to communicate without any appropriate guidelines from either schools or parents. There is no moderation.
Last month, a grade-seven boy in Thailand was upset by classmates who shut him out of a Facebook group and vented his frustration in a video clip and broadcast it over YouTube. “If you don’t allow me back into the 1/9 forum (his online class group), teacher Angkana will definitely find out about this,” he threatened his peers. Angkana, the class head teacher, was quite unaware of these proceedings.
A tongue-in-cheek “bring-it-to-teacher-Angkana” trend went viral overnight, reaching even the Thai Parliament during a debate: when someone was not happy with something, he or she would mockingly threaten to spill the beans to teacher Angkana. Newspapers and TV stations sent their correspondents to interview that poor teacher Angkana, who was understandably dazed by what had happened.
Children’s cyber-bullying has become a national phenomenon. It is now a part of pop culture due to social media and how fast its networks reach out to a massive audience in a very short time frame. The naive use of simple phrase, an unimportant conversation, or the personal conflicts between kids can lead to unexpected, large-scale consequences.
Looking back to the start of this incident, the child’s mistake that angered the 1/9 forum members was just that he had commented using “…” (ellipses) on various topics on the virtual community’s forum.
What is the interpretation of the three little dots in the virtual world? Why does the repeated use of them upset so many people?
If those students had met at school for a group discussion, this child might have been the reserved type during a brainstorming session, or he might have just nodded to acknowledge the group’s decision, to prove his presence or to show his attention. Teacher Angkana could still be living a peaceful life.
From the repeated use of three dots to the popular context of teacher Angkana, the emergence of a new literacy, speed and interactivity in mass communication have permanently changed students’ learning environments, while the obvious changes taking places in schools are the increasing number of computers and tablet PCs, and better internet access. Curriculum and teachers remain almost untouched in most countries.
Are schools too late to catch up with this new trend and teach how a person should communicate virtually? Are the schools too focused on amassing hardware to make the school look ICT driven?
First of all, school administrators need to take a step back and ask themselves what all the technology in schools is supposed to achieve—do at least the head-teachers know what they hope to achieve with it? Is ICT making a difference in terms of students’ learning and competence across the board?
Social media platform developed specifically for education like Edmodo has been a viable option for many teachers and students. In this virtual environment, students communicate in groups under the supervision of teachers and parents.
Taking Edmodo as an example: the initiative of involving teachers in a new learning environment in the new digital society requires a cultural paradigm shift especially in Asian classrooms, where students asking too many questions can often be considered disrespectful. But the trends are heading that way, and the fact remains that we cannot stop students from interacting with their cyber-peers.
Who best to teach them, if not a teacher like Angkana?
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