Educators have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice.

I believe schools play a significant part in shaping our students’ lives. That is, schools should prepare our students to be digital citizens who will live and work in the 21st century. This involves preparing students with:

a) work skills such as those identified by the WEF, such as problem-solving, innovation, creative thinking, entrepreneurship, and collaboration skills, which I have blogged about before.

2) the nine elements of being a good digital citizen, among which are law and rights and responsibilities, which are directly related to today’s topic. 

The Wikipedia definition of a digital citizen involves using technology to engage in “society, politics, and government.” One can see this realized on the Internet and social media as very widely used platforms for people to communicate and share ideas, including ideas of freedom, democracy, social justice, global warming. Social media make these issues universal, and our students are subject to discuss them be affected by them at any moment. Social media allow individuals with no political power to share their ideas, which allowed novel models of activism to stay here. Our students will be living in this world. 

This affects us as educators. We should consider global issues in our curriculum. I believe our schools should teach our students the fundamental problems of society, politics, and government.” I am afraid if we don’t, we are not serving our students the best. For example, In 2014, A Pew Research survey indicated that Americans rank inequality, “religious and ethnic hatred,” nuclear weapons, and environmental degradation as the “greatest dangers in the world.”  

Education is a critical enabler for a solution to these global and local issues. Education ensures future generations are equipped with the abilities to have an opinion about, and ultimately help solve these issues. For example, in one of the reading entitled, “Education and the Democratic Person: Towards a Political Conception of Democratic Education,” the author, through a discussion of prominent philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, and John Dewey, supports a concept “democratic education,” that providing opportunities to participate in democratic life helps to prepare our students to be democratic citizens.

Teachers are critical in this vision as they create Innovative learning environments that lead to lifelong learning skills, knowledge and disposition. In the assigned reading entitled “Teaching as Political Work: Learning from Courageous and Caring Teachers” the author, Sonia Nieto, provides a list of qualities of teachers who positively affect the lives of their students that includes: “a sense of mission; solidarity with, and empathy for their students; courage to challenge mainstream knowledge; improvisation; and a passion for social justice.” It was summed it up beautifully that the responsibility of “a teacher really lies with fostering discussions, promoting good social media practice, and teaching strong media literacy skills. There’s no better way to create active digital citizens than providing others with the ability to think and speak for themselves.

However, I also really believe that teachers have to be very careful, neutral and fair when discussing “touchy subjects.” I experienced this first-hand last year. The teacher of my daughter discussed a difficult and touchy subject, and she was not neutral. She took her time to explain her own side and point of view to the class. Some parents were not happy because the teacher’s point of view contradicted their own opinions. I think an excellent thing to remember here is “De-value the answer & Re-value the learning,” as mentioned in this blog entry. The idea is that the teacher’s role is to teach the students and create a learning environment. Such environment involves helping the students arriving at an answer themselves and not imposing a view on the students. This can be done best by asking the right questions, pointing students to educational resources to collect data, help the student analyze collected data and leaving it to them to think and reflect and make their own conclusions.

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