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Teachers, enough with the hand-written signs

3 years ago

expert answer
James Diamond expert
James Diamond E-Safety & Safeguarding Trainer Leicester, GB
E-safety expert
I know I’m going to come across as a bit of a grumpy old curmudgeon, but I’ve really got to get something off my chest. I’ve finally had enough of seeing pictures of teachers and pupils holding hand-written signs in my Twitter feed and Facebook timeline. They’re usually described as a social experiment or learning tool, but what exactly are they teaching children?
I’ve no problem with teachers positively engaging with technology in the classroom, but I’d argue that it’s actually a little patronising to some children to suggest they need to learn how quickly something can spread online. The idea that a picture can receive comments from around the world in matter of hours may still impress those of us who grew up relying on the morning papers and the evening news for our information, but most of our children have never known any different than the 24-hour news cycle and ‘always-on’ connected society we live in now. A few ‘likes’ of a photo over a week can hardly be described as viral.
Even if you wanted to demonstrate global reach rather than speed, children are already pretty clued up in this area. They spend their free time sharing memes on Facebook and Instagram, watching YouTube videos with millions of hits, and retweeting the likes of One Direction’s Harry Styles (19m+ followers) and Katy Perry (nearly 50m followers).
What they may not realise however, are some of the consequences of sharing something online. How does the picture of a school’s poster begging people to share actually show children how the world can turn on you online? There are no difficult consequences arising from these actions (except, perhaps, a critical post from the likes of me) because this is a fake experiment. These pictures are being shared and liked by people because someone asked them to, and that’s simply not how the internet usually works. It’s the things we don’t want the whole world to see that can cause us the most problems online. I’m not suggesting it for a second, but a teacher accidentally tweeting a picture of themselves in their underwear would serve as a far more accurate lesson on speed, global reach, and the unintended consequences of social media.
Besides, I think there’s a more interesting question to pose to the students here. Why are people retweeting these pictures without checking their authenticity? In a world where people blindly share spam and scams on Facebook (resulting in fake pages that can then be sold to companies that want a readymade social media reach), shouldn’t we be teaching our children to be a little more cynical about what they see online?
Schools should embrace technology, and many of them are doing great things. We owe it to our children to make social media experiments more than just producing clickbait. 
Please RT.
(pic: Julie Ann Culp/Facebook)

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