Educators have a Responsibility to use Tech and Social Media to Promote Social Justice?
For last night’s debate, I had the pleasure of working with Mike Wolf supporting the notion that Educators have a responsibility to use Tech and Social Media to promote Social Justice. We also had the privilege to unpack this through Brad and Michala’s thorough and thought provoking counters to our stance. When we first selected the prompt back in May, Mike and I both knew this was an important topic to discuss because Technology and Social Media plays such a prominent part in how we gather and share information. What we did not anticipate was that this topic would come at a pivotal point in our global history, a time where there is civil unrest, protests and the world waking up to the complexities of our shared histories and how those histories are reflected uniquely back to individuals in diverse communities. To say I was nervous to do this topic justice in the current landscape is an understatement. However, I also know that growth happens in places of discomfort, as discomfort creates humility, and that grace opens our ears and hearts to receive what is being shared. Last night there was certainly discomfort, as this is not an easy topic, but there was a beautiful and profound connection through discussion, shared stories and enlightening perspectives. Our conversation that left me with deep gratitude for my peers and for courageous conversations.
Mike and I spent time preparing ourselves by defining what Social Justice is, and how that definition in action and through learning in the classroom teaches students Critical thinking, Leadership, Political participation, Civic engagement, Commitment to communities. We also discussed the role of democracy in the classroom. Our research also highlighted the many transferable skills that occur when a critical social justice lens is taught:
Problem solving– It requires research, planning, foreseeing potential issues and how to mitigate them
Critical thinking– How can I/we be most affective? How can I amplify my voice and/or the voices of those that need to be heard in a specific situation?
Collaboration– Social Justice work is hard work. It’s emotional, it’s taxing, it’s met with resistance. Having the power to collaborate and create community is not only essential for the final product, it’s also essential for mental well-being and support throughout the process. Also, diversity of voice ensures that unique and different perspectives and experiences are heard in the planning process and in the implementation of action.
Perseverance– Social justice problems are not fixed after one presentation, one protest, rather it’s about the daily work to learn and unlearn. It truly is a journey of self-discovery and challenging the systems that have been entrenched in our communities and countries for years
Historical context– As Chafee said: “Explore to teach that history is ongoing and its connected to current movements to justice and we help them to see themselves as potential players within a living history
School can and should be bigger than its walls: When we broke for COVID I told my students that learning doesn’t happen only in the 4 walls of a school. So challenge yourself to follow your curiosity, to read books, to listen to Podcasts, to keep learning! I believe that messages are presented to people exactly when they need that nudge that is directing them to their next right step, a step that will create a future where we use our platforms to further the dialogue, education and connection to help create a more equitable world.
Our opponents absolutely crushed their video and put a satirical spin on their response. The humor, the accents, the beard game was incredibly strong and along with the levity, they countered with incredibly strong arguments if it is the “teachers responsibility” to use “social media”, focusing on the use of social media. Their point of argument was not teaching social justice, their main issue was putting those points of view on social media and/or expecting our students to do the same. They proposed that we need to consider what issues we are willing to take up and receive push back on. Brad went onto share a personal account of how creating a Recycling program fostered negative consequences that were not only unexpected, but also made him more cautious about using social media as a platform to share his views. They also went onto say it is important that we remain neutral and do not share personal points of view. Melinda added to that sentiment with an incredible personal story from when she was a girl growing up in Romania that reiterated the need to be aware of the danger of posting. Something, I as a Canadian citizen and privileged person have not had to consider in my lifetime.
After sharing our videos and counter arguments, I felt the classes discussion really got me thinking. I thought I was set on using our platform to affect change, but hearing my opponents and classmates describe their points of view I began to waiver on my initial feelings. Dean made a great point that perhaps it shouldn’t be about the home-run assignment, but rather communal, positive stories that highlight human dignity and our role in making our world a better place. Nancy added that maybe it’s not using the platform, but dissecting others use of the platform and the positives, challenges and repercussions of using that platform to voice opinions and thoughts. I felt those points were a great way to integrate the idea in the classroom, while maintaining the balancing act of ensuring staff and student’s safety.
Despite arguing for the pro side for this particular debate, at the end of the day I once again fall in the middle. As I said in my closing statement- I feel this class has done that consistently. It has asked each of us to present a point of view from a binary perspective. Through our research and commitment to one side we come to understand the complexity and reason why someone would take that stance. The cool thing is the “other side” was doing the exact same thing. Suddenly, what we thought seemed clear through research and dialogue with a partner becomes a bit murkier. Add in a discussion from our peers with personal stories, examples and further discussion and suddenly the binary begins to disappear and the ambiguous and beautiful middle is presented to us. The middle that allows us to sit in compassion, humility and awareness to make positive and informed decisions of how to integrate tech into our classrooms. This was certainly the case last night as I left that debate knowing I am better for having it. Knowing that the courageous conversation we had, particularly at this time in history, personally moved me. The debate and discussion showed me the absolute need for these types of challenging conversations as they create space of understanding and from that understanding comes intentional actions. At the end of the day, I know I will operate more fully in my decision making honoring all sides and walk the gray area with hope, but also a realistic perspective.