Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Safety Net

Sorry to be coy (or weirdly hyperbolic) in my last post. 'Twas written in the heat of the moment.

Without going into detail, let's just say that I've got a student whose academic career may have been saved precisely because he was using social media.

This is so diametrically opposed to what all the naysayers told us back in the days of fear.

What's that you say? Your school's still afraid of social tech?

Well, I promise you things are changing.

This thing that came up yesterday was the third case I've heard of in the last three weeks from two different schools about the transparent nature of social tech saving a kid's hide.

I'm starting to think of the Net as a 'Safety Net'.

An example from a teacher at nearby school: student writes self-destructive comment on FB that two peers screenshot and send to guidance office. The student winds up getting help.

I remember the days when some folks were talking about disciplinary action for kids caught using social media. The days when we were afraid of what sorts of pictures our kids might post and what kinds of things they might say about us.

The days before we started to teach them digital health and the days before we started to expect them to uphold standards of digital citizenship.

What's that you say? Your school's not there yet?

Well, I promise you: it will be. Because it will have to be. We can't allow students to live in a digital world and fail to teach them how to treat one another in it.

Because social media is what you make it. It can be a place full of meanness and rants. Or it can be a place of community where our goal is to help one another out.

Judging by comparing my Twitter PLN to the posts that come through via some of the trending topics, it's obvious that the good and bad exist side-to-side. It's up to us as teachers to start tipping the scale in the direction of the good.

And we do that by teaching.

Because, fundamentally, the future starts in our classrooms.

Hate seeing offensive trash on the Net? Well, then teach your kids to treat one another with respect. Teach them that only weak souls trash the opinions of others whilst wearing the veil of anonymity.

I'm not completely naive. I'm a high school teacher; I've seen my fair share of what we might consider 'poor decisions' with regard to social tech. But I've also seen the good. And whether it's the case of my student getting the chance to get back on track and not ruin his hopes of going to college or that other student getting the help needed to deal with some serious issues, it was social media that worked as the conduit for the intervention.

After all, social media is just a reflection of us. If we are considerate and compassionate folks, then the social media landscape will be that much more compelling. Whereas if we deny it or walk away from it, the social media landscape will become far worse than YouTube's flame wars already portray it as.

Social media. It's what you make it. It can even be a safety net.


  1. Shelly, I had a similar situation happen in my class. Student of mine was very distraught one day. When asked about it, her response was "I don't feel like talking about it, but here, go read about it on my blog." She handed the guidance counselor a piece of paper with her blog address on it. Administration immediately blamed the technology (how dare a blog be public.) I suggested it was great that she wrote about it and was willing to share it so we could help her.

  2. I definitely see the benefit of being connected to students on our social networks. However, I am worried about keeping a level of professionalism and how to teach / handle how to act on Social Networks. I have read some tweets that are inappropriate for our students (or anyone). -Overwhelmed.


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