In regards to the use (and over-use) of “screens” by adolescents, I believe it is the responsibility of teachers (and schools) to discuss and model healthy relationships with technology. For instance, incorporating “unplugged” or “mindful moments” in class responds to Sherry Turkle’s call for action in her TED Talk back in 2012: “Start thinking of solitude as a good thing. Make room for it.” Further, Jurgenson’s article “The IRL Fetish,” (even when arguing against Turkle), adds to this idea by stating that students will appreciate and even, yearn for this break from technology and constant “connection;” “Nothing has contributed more to our collective appreciation for being logged off and technologically disconnected than the very technologies of connection.” Moreover, it is of even greater importance that schools create time and space to teach students about their digital identity, online safety, and the harmful effects of social media comparison.
As far as the education system as a whole goes, the best would be to allow the time and space for even more digital literacy skills in the curriculum. Further, teachers should be constantly offered the opportunity to increase their knowledge and familiarity with technology and social networking sites.
Through recent social media posts and news articles, I have been exposed to a variety of ways that teachers can embrace the amazing possibilities of this new reality. For the majority of young students, social media is their primary and only source for information about current events. Thus, as social media networks (like Twitter, Instagram, and Tik-Tok) are buzzing about Kobe Bryant’s passing and the spread of the coronavirus, so are the students in their classrooms.
Many teachers have embraced this by incorporating these current events into lessons and even in ways of assessment. Here is a heartwarming example of a student’s “Kobe” project that I came across on my Twitter feed. Some of the challenges of this may be that social media tends to favour only one perspective or narrative (especially if an individual only follows accounts of those who share their opinions). However, I feel that this challenge can only provide more opportunities for learning to occur (and arguably a more important kind of learning). Students are often unaware of the stories that are being withheld from them on social media and thus, this allows teachers to create awareness of bias on social networking sites (and all sites). In regards to the current events I discussed previously, students may have had the opportunity to grieve and learn from Kobe Bryant’s tragic death but they may be missing out on the opportunity to have an important discussion concerning the implications this has on his rape case. Further, the coronavirus could serve as an opportunity to address bias and racism in social media and the news. As Postman states in his article, “Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change,” “We need to proceed with our eyes wide open so that we [may] use technology rather than be used by it.” If social media is consuming a student’s life, teachers and schools must use that to its full advantage by helping students to see the good, the bad, and the ugly.