Chelsi's Educational Musings

Posts Tagged ‘Facebook

Our Tuesday night EC&I 831 class featured an interesting discussion about the changing role of the educator.  Through his presentation, Stephen Downes had our class engage in thought and interaction regarding how the role of the future educator will be more than an “instructor”.  Instead, students will be instructed by what will be more aptly described as a “course team”.  There will be several roles to be filled – learning, collector, salesperson, designer, coach, mentor, sharer, and about twenty others that Stephen outlined.  (If you would like a list, please comment and I will share my notes with you.)  Stephen concluded that the role that we call “teacher” is being blown up and fragmented into roles.  In the future, there may not be the job of simply “teacher,” as Stephen feels that society at large will become more of a teacher, and what is now known as “teacher” will be too large of a job for one person to fulfill.  Thus, he feels that teachers should find one role in which to specialize, because no one can fulfill every role.  In the future, he feels that teaching will be a collaborative process by people in these roles working together to educate, both in the real world and online.

Now, I had initially planned to blog about my thoughts about this future of education (which, in my opinion, is somewhat unsettling to me.  However, that is only because, as I blogged before, I would find this loss of control and this delegation of duties somewhat uncomfortable.  However, SHARING [the common theme in this class!] the duties of a teacher with several others would definitely lighten the load that teachers today face.)  However, I witnessed something transpiring on my Facebook account that seemed apropos to this week’s discussion.

For those of you living outside of Saskatchewan, on Monday night was our provincial election.  The New Democratic Party (NDP) was the clear choice among teachers, as under our current governing party, The Saskatchewan Party, teachers were locked in a bitter battle over their expired contract and the government’s inability to offer the raise that teachers were hoping for.  Needless to say, when election day rolled around, few teachers were supporting the Sask Party.  When the results were in, the Sask Party ended up winning, and I expressed my disappointment through my Facebook status, having already voiced my opinions several times previously as an NDP supporter.  A number of my friends commented in support of my status, while one clearly expressed her happiness over the Sask Party’s victory.  What ended up ensuing was a pretty bitter exchange of words between her and one of my NDP supporting friends, and neither friend knows each other.  I had no idea that this had transpired throughout the day until I checked my Facebook account last night.  Both friends ended up apologizing to me for creating drama on my Facebook Wall, even before I had seen the altercation, and one deleted her comments.  This caused me to think about how incredibly dramatic a teenager’s Facebook page must be.  I have thought often about this, as I know that simply using the ICQ messaging system when I was in high school created unnecessary drama all the time, and it had nowhere NEAR the capabilities that Facebook possesses.  My two friends, both well-educated professionals, were reduced to bickering with each other throughout the day on my Facebook page.  What must it be like to be a teenager using social media?  I harkened back to Danah Boyd’s presentation Teenagers who are Living and Learning with Social Media and how she explained that social media has not created new drama – it is simply an outlet for it to exist.  Teenagers have ALWAYS gossiped and bullied, so we cannot blame Facebook for teenage bullying problems today.  However, Facebook is a very powerful tool through which cyberbullying can exist due to what Danah referred to as invisibility.  Out of curiosity, I asked a teenager to tell me about the way in which she uses Facebook.  This grade twelve student, Danae, is a former student of mine with whom I have kept in close contact since she graduated from my elementary school, as I worked with her for years when running the extracurricular events of which she was apart.  She uses her Facebook page as any teenager does – connecting with friends, posting photos, and expressing her opinions.  However, I find that she also uses it in a very efficient, mature way.  She is the president of the student council at her school and often uses her statuses to remind students about upcoming spirit days, sporting events, and school news.  I asked her if she sees very much drama or bullying on Facebook, and this is how she replied:  (Keep in mind that she is one of the most level-headed teenagers that you could ever meet!)

“Personally, I think Facebook contributes to drama tons. Of course the way I use it, it doesn’t. But I have seen sooo many nasty friendship-fallouts, and nasty break ups so public on Facebook. Because it is so easy to access now, (on phones) stuff gets around so quickly. I have seen videos of fights, ‘blackmail’ pictures of embarrassing drunken moments, and so many other sickening things posted. Of course as soon as they are, people start commenting and drama is instantly created. If Facebook didn’t exist I definitely think drama wouldn’t get so intensified. I think the ‘like’ feature on comments instigates a lot of trouble because whenever I see silly (or sometimes very serious) arguments, people will ‘keep tabs’ on that status and watch all of the commments popping up, ‘”liking’ them to show who’s side they are on and stuff. As soon as someone seems to have an argument with someone, they often go straight to Facebook to make a status aimed at that person. During class, it’s ridiculous listening to people talk about their ex-boyfriend’s/ ex-bestfriend’s/ someone they ‘hate’s’ status. I often hear ‘Omg, did you see so and so’s status last night?’  The fact that it is so accessible, frequently updated and easy to see what people are up to make it an easy outlet for people who love drama. Photos, videos, wallposts, etc. can be posted within seconds of stuff happening, for everyone to see. It’s pretty ridiculous, I think many teenagers mistreat the purpose of Facebook. I have deleted people because I am so annoyed with their constant bickering showing up in my newsfeed. Even though I don’t partake in it, it still shows up all around me. I don’t think I know one person in my grade who doesn’t have it! It’s awful the things people will do/say over Facebook, the computer screen gives them a sense of protection or power I guess.  So yeah, basically I think that if Facebook didn’t exist, yes drama would happen but I don’t think things would get as intensified as they do now, thanks to Facebook! 

I asked Danae if I had permission to use her words for this blog, and she was excited to be featured!  🙂  I decided not to paraphrase, but to use her words, as it felt more authentic.  I bolded the statements that really hit home.  Much of what Danae is witnessing is exactly what Danah Boyd discussed in her presentation.  The drama created really IS intensified by Facebook and the ability to make harsh statements behind the protective computer screen enables this, but this drama would still exist because these people would find other ways to create the drama.  We were probably all witness to note passing and gossiping as teenagers – it is now intensified through other means.

Two of the most powerful statements that I bolded were that although Danae does not partake in this drama, it is all around her, and it is happening IN CLASS.  I have strayed quite far from my original topic of the role of the teacher, but I’m hoping to bring it all back home now, so bear with me!  I feel that a role of the teacher that we did not discuss in class is that of a peacekeeper.  At first, I thought of it as a policeman, keeping order, reinforcing the law, and disciplining when necessary.  However, that seems much too harsh.  I feel that peacekeepers educate while maintaining law and order.  Teachers have always needed to keep peace and settle disagreements, whether they are between primary students having difficulty sharing, dealing with prepubescent drama in middle years, or settling arguments due to gossip and slander in high school.  Teachers today, however, must be peacekeepers on the online front, dealing with the ever-increasing instances of cyberbullying.  I have dealt with cyberbullying a few times during my career, the most serious case being during my internship where I was able to witness how much cooperating teacher had the resource officer discuss the serious implications of cyberbullying with our class.  There are many good resources online to help teach about cyberbullying, but I prefer reading personal testimonials.  David Truss commented on one of my recent blog posts and shared a project that he had completed with his class where they created Wikis.  Interested in his teaching methodology, I read through his blog and came across his account of a cyberbullying incident that transpired in his class while his students were completing their project.  His honesty and learning how he dealt with the incident were very enlightening, and I would highly recommend reading about it.

The role of the teacher is changing – this we know.  I feel that before it fragments into separate roles, as Stephen predicts, we as teachers will continue to take on more and more of these roles.  Being a peacekeeper in my classroom and modelling my need for all students to feel safe and accepted will remain one of my most important roles as an educator.  Are there any roles that you feel we did not mention in class but that you feel are a part of your teaching?

A Friday night gab session with a friend turned into fodder for a new blog post.  Most productive phone call ever!  It seems that no matter what the topic is and who I am talking to, somehow conversation always ends up being about Facebook.  Tonight, we were discussing the act of “creeping” – our friends who lay low, never post anything, but are very vigilant as to what everyone around them is doing on Facebook.  We were discussing how some of our mutual friends are always on Facebook, yet never make their presence known until every once in a while, they will say something like, “Yeah, I saw that you posted about that on Facebook.”  When that happens, we both said we’re caught off guard because we forget these people are even viewing what we are posting, and we wondered why they choose to view, but not share or participate.  Personally, I said that I simply have more fun on Facebook when I comment, engage in discussion, and post pictures.  My friend, on the other hand, said that she viewed the “creepers” as judgemental, silently forming opinions about what she posted.  Having been thinking about online identity since our Tuesday night class, I asked her if she thinks that her digital identity is similar to her real life identity.  She said that she was definitely more herself in real life and that she felt that online, she had to be guarded and felt that she could only share part of who she is.   I feel, however, that she is a very guarded person in real life as well, and that this spills over into her online persona even more.

I have been thinking quite a lot about how I portray my identity online, and I came to the realization that I am very open and very much myself through my digital identity.  Unlike my friend, I do not feel the need to be guarded, nor do I feel like others are judging what I say and do.  I post my opinions and feelings on Facebook, Twitter, and in my blogs, I share a plethora of pictures and articles, and I comment often on other peoples’ postings.  Do I feel the need to filter myself online?  No, for I have come to the realization that I do not filter what I share, but I filter who I share it with.  Moreover, I realized that in many aspects, I feel that I can be MORE of myself online than in real life BECAUSE of my control over who gets to know the real me.

Since kindergarten, I have witnessed what it was like to be somewhat guarded.  I attended the same elementary school where my mom taught, so we lived in the same community where she worked.  It was an unwritten rule that my brother and I should behave our best, even outside of school, because everyone in the community would know if we were in trouble, and it would reflect poorly on my mom as a teacher at the school.  Not to worry – we did not grow up in some rigid, uber-strict household, and my elementary school days were extremely positive.  I was even fortunate enough to have been in my mom’s class, and it was one of my favourite years ever.  Throughout school, however, I was aware that if I misbehaved, my teachers would tell my mom, and as I grew older, I realized that it would be embarrassing for her.  It was interesting for me to find out this weekend that a colleague of mine attended the school where her dad was principal and her mom was a teacher, and she said she felt the exact same way while growing up.

Coincidentally, I am now teaching at the same elementary school that I attended and that my mom taught at for 23 years.  I feel the exact same need to be guarded as I’m sure my mom once felt, and I do not even have the addition of my own children attending the school.  I feel that as a teacher, I must constantly be a “good role model,” even when outside of the school.  Many of the parents at my school are highly involved in the lives of their children to the point of being dubbed “helicopter parents”, as they are constantly “hovering” around the teachers and their children.  Some are excellent parents, while others literally will watch in your windows while you teach.  Our school is actually developing a reputation of being one where the parents are overly difficult to deal with, and I have found this to be true on numerous occasions.  *Warning – this post is about to enter ‘teacher-rant’ territory.*  Quite honestly, some of the parents at my school are far too involved in the business of the teachers’ personal lives.  Here are a few examples in which I wish I had a “block this user” option in real life for dealing with parents:

Exhibit A:  In past years, many of the parents on the school council spent much of the meeting talking about the teachers.  We have new parents on the council this year, and I am hoping that they are more concerned about the school than they are about gossiping.  At one meeting that a colleague of mine attended, she informed me that the parents were discussing which teachers were taking their Masters or second degrees.  They were speaking negatively about this and how this would mean that we would have less time to spend working on our jobs.  Little do they know how much we are using FROM our classes to benefit our teaching.  One parent once complained to the principal that our VICE PRINCIPAL, who was taking her Masters and doing training to be a teacher leader, was jeopardizing the students’ learning because she was spending six half days receiving leadership training.  Ridiculous.

Exhibit B:  After I had gotten engaged, a parent of a child whom I had never even taught said to me, “Congratulations!  We heard you just got engaged!”  I thanked her, to which she said, “So your fiancé is from Seattle?  Is he moving here?”  I replied that no, he was not from Seattle, nor had he ever lived there.  She said, “Oh, really?  That’s what everyone is saying.  Has he been there recently?”  Everyone is saying that?  Why?  How did they even come up with that information?  Why do they even care?

Exhibit C:  After my wedding, I took my pictures to Walmart to get them developed, not knowing that a parent (again, of a student whom I had never taught) was working in the photo developing centre.  When I came to pick up my photos, she had actually looked through all of my photos and commented to me about which teachers were at the wedding, how they were partying, and other comments that angered me simply due to the fact that she had looked through my photos without my permission.  Had this been Facebook, I could have had control over who had seen these photos, and it would not have been a parent.  I do not even know why I was so mad.  There was nothing that I needed to hide, as I was very proud of these pictures and was showing them to everyone.  However, I could show them to WHOM I wanted, and I would not have chosen a parent who has no business going through my photos.

Exhibit D:  My coworker was driving in the same area where we teach, and she had flowery decals on her car, making her car easy to identify as hers.  That day, she turned left on a yellow light to avoid being stuck in the intersection.  The next day, her middle years student said to the class, “My mom said that she saw you driving yesterday.  You turned left on a yellow light and that’s really dangerous.  My mom said that you could have hit someone or caused an accident.”  She promptly took the decals off of her car so that it would look less conspicuous.

I feel that as a teacher, I must always be aware as to who is “watching” me.  I love that online, I can filter to whom I present myself.  I CAN post my wedding pictures and state my opinions without worrying that they will be taken the wrong way.  I am fully comfortable on Facebook, my blog, and Twitter because I do not have to filter myself because I have chosen not to have parents, students, or anyone under the age of eighteen as my friends.  Yes, I know that there are ways for others who are not my friends to view my content, but I do not post anything that I feel that I will regret.  I find it interesting that when I first started using the internet and engaging in message boards and chat rooms, the big precaution was how easy it was for one to assume a false identity.  Who would know if you were faking to be someone else?  Nowadays, I rarely even think about that at all.  I recall Danah Boyd discussing in her presentation that people use Facebook to connect with friends, not to meet new people.  There is no need to pretend to be someone we are not when on Facebook – everyone knows everyone’s business already so it would be pretty difficult to pretend to be someone else!

My friend and I had such differing opinions about how we present our identity online.  I am interested to know if your online identity and real life identity differ, or if you are relatively the same person in both aspects of your life.

I recently viewed Danah Boyd’s talk on teenagers living with social media and was all set to blog about it.  However, when reading through the blogs my peers in my ECI831 class, I came across Laura’s insightful post about being a parent in a Facebook world.  I now have even more ideas that I want to blog about, so I will put my original thoughts regarding Danah’s presentation on the back burner until tomorrow!

Laura posted in her blog about parenting teenagers who are Facebook users.  Two of her children have allowed her to be their friends, while the other two have not.  Previous to her post, I had given much thought to what it would be like being a teenager and being on Facebook.  In fact, that is what my “planned” blog post was about.  However, I had not thought much about being a PARENT of a teenage Facebooker.  Having no children of my own, but putting myself in Laura’s position, I wavered between which option I would rather – being friends with my children, or not being their friends.  On one hand, knowing what my child was doing, thinking, and how he/she was behaving could provide piece of mind, but it may also be too much information at times.  On the other hand, not being friends with my child would not allow me to monitor his/her behaviour, and this would be unsettling.  I think that in my opinion, too much information is better than none at all.  Both my brother and I are friends with our parents on Facebook.  Most of my friends are friends with their parents as well.  However, at our age, we really do not have anything to hide!  As a teenager, I do not know how I would have felt if my parents were on my friends list.  I can imagine that many teenagers would not accept their parents’ friend requests, simply out of fact that it would be another way for their parents to monitor them.  I also think that most teens are tech-savy enough to know that if they accept their parents as friends, they can use filters to block certain pictures and status from being seen by their parents’ concerned eyes.  (Incidentally, Saturday Night Live had the funniest skit about downloading a “My Mom’s On Facebook” App filter posts so that they appear decent to your mother.  Unfortunately, unless you’re American, you can’t view it on NBC or YouTube.  However, our friends to the south can enjoy it here.)

The topic of parents of teenage Facebookers caused me to think about my cousin, her daughter, and their Facebook issues.  My cousin’s daughter is not a teenager – she is only nine years old.  My cousin did not want her using Facebook yet, simply because she is under the restricted age limit, and she felt that at that age, she should be playing with her friends rather than talking to them online.  Her daughter’s father, who her daughter lives with part time, allowed her to set up a Facebook account.  At first, my cousin was annoyed and concerned, but she has since set boundaries with her daughter.  Now, while being her Facebook friend, she is able to monitor her daughter’s behaviour online.  With parents friending their children on Facebook, I feel that there are less privacy and safety issues as were the case in chatrooms.

Before I sign off, I’m leaving you with a few questions.  First of all, to those of you with children, I am wondering, simply out of curiosity, how many of you are friends with your child?  Have you ever had issues with what he/she has posted on Facebook?  Second, do you feel that there should age restrictions on how old a child must be before he/she can set up an account, or should social networks be accessible to all ages?  I personally feel that the Facebook should be available to all ages and that the minimum age limit should be removed, granted that a parent or guardian is monitoring the online behaviour.  The age requirement is rarely followed anyway, from what I can see, as the majority of my 10-11 year old students are on Facebook.  I feel that Facebook could be used in education (something that I will discuss later) and that the earlier we an educate children about safety and critical thinking when using the internet, the better.  Mark Zuckerberg agrees!

Finally, I am teaching a bullying unit to my students and will be beginning the section on cyber bullying next week.  I planned to work on my lessons this weekend.  I am excited to use Twitter and Delicious to find new lesson ideas, but before planning, I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions for videos, websites, or anything that you found worked particularly well when teaching about cyber bullying.  Thanks, and enjoy the rest of your week!