Emerging from the wide spread assumption that outside of parents, teachers hold the most important sway on a childhood — that the ‘digital’ teacher is the most important ‘digital influence’. To this end, schools place an emphasis on ‘cyber-safety’ and the softer edition – ‘citizenship’ such that childhood isn’t corrupted by ‘bad things’.
Police routinely visit schools and tell children of the dangers of online strangers and use terms like ‘sexting’ to put the frighteners of kids, despite thin evidence to suggest this creates a kinder, safer and more empathetic society so far. In fact, no one’s looked at what effect the figure of a policeman/woman has on kids whom, up to that point, might have no idea of ‘sexting’ or ‘trolling’. Perhaps their parents had done a previously great-job and regulating and explaining the role of media in their lives, or that they simply don’t have access to the Internet in the first place. Nope, It’s Tuesday afternoon and the police are giving a PowerPoint.
Teachers are told, by the ‘gatekeepers’ resident on Twitter about what constitutes ‘proper’ digital citizenship and whom among the online milieu of voices is influential and important. I argue that this is a problem that cannot be explained away with romantic depictions of ‘online staff rooms’ and ‘networks’. To access ‘the best resources’ and cultural practices, new arrivals must honour the gate-keepers and petit Napoleons whom follow and unfollow with the maturity of a toddler. This market –
To access ‘the best resources’ and cultural practices, new arrivals must honour the gate-keepers and the petit Napoleon whom follow and unfollow with the maturity of a toddler. This market – let’s call it what it is – lacks empirical merit and is almost entirely based on popularity and rhetoric with a thin veneer of educational theory and the odd French philosopher. But lets call it ‘grass roots’.
The ‘digital immigration’ desk of Twitter is fiercely guarded by a collective of people for whom a carefully crafted telepresence fulfils some inner conflict or desire. Perhaps they are part of the down-the-line establishment equipment that reinforces Naplan tests and text-book learning and somehow want to feel exonerated.
The issue remains, that new teachers have no real way of telling who is offering some useful evidence and who is just shooting the popular breeze, flying high on their follower-love. Being critical or even skeptical is dismissed as ‘negative’, but the reality is that few new arrivals ask for evidence as they pass through the digital arrival lounge.
There are lots of people online who do engage in research and have – for a long time – been working all forms of technology in both the theoretical and practical sense – people such as Gary Stager who don’t put up with nonsense.
School returns in a few days. For some kids this means getting thier own device. For parents, my advice is simple … do not assume all their teachers have a media literacy above that of their child, or that the Twitteristi with Minecraft, 3D Printers and other gadgets are providing a ‘better’ education or that they have any idea about what your child needs in terms of media literacy. Don’t assume anything – ask.
Make sure you talk about ‘media health’ with your kids – that they are not spending entire evenings online or worried about being able to do ‘homework’. Many teachers will be trying to use technology for the first time ever … and they may feel under some tele-pressure to follow the crowd and for them, I’d suggest that they log off from social media for the first half of the term — and get to know students instead. The resident ‘experts’ online never quit and the ‘fear of not being online’ is as real as ‘fear of missing out’. Go on, cut the rope with the online hashtags and digital gurus. If you can’t do that, create a new account and follow new people. Take a breath, experience a new media realm — because that’s exactly what thousands of kids will be doing. To be important to students, to be that influence — getting to know them at the start of term has not been replaced by any digital alternative.
The resident ‘experts’ online never quit and the ‘fear of not being online’ is as real as ‘fear of missing out’. Go on, cut the rope with the online hashtags and digital gurus. If you can’t do that, create a new account and follow new people. Take a breath, experience a new media realm — because that’s exactly what thousands of kids will be doing. To be important to students, to be that influence — getting to know them at the start of term has not been replaced by any digital-agenda or urgency.
Teachers can be influential outside of parents, but if parents will thank you and be your best supporter in ways the Twitteristi won’t. What do you have to lose?