Photo Source: IndyRef2

In a simple answer to this week’s blog prompt: yes.

YES social activism can be meaningful and worthwhile.

YES we can have meaningful discussions about social justice online.

It is our duty as educators to make our students see the world beyond the classroom. In order to teach this effectively, we must first participate. As educators, we need to experience the online world so that we can show our students how it works. It’s just like any other discipline: to become an English teacher I had to take classes on literature, on reading and writing, and I had to write essays (so. many. essays.)

Since I was educated on this subject, I feel confident in teaching it to my students.

It is the same thing with social justice. We must apply ourselves to it, as if it were any other discipline: experience it. Live it. Teach it.

Photo Source: Pinterest

Katia’s comment in her blog post In Online Spaces, Silence Speaks Louder than Words, her final comment:

We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to social inequities and injustices. We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to those who have no privilege to risk.

made me think about “risking” my privilege, in regards to social activism. Christina’s post about slacktivism and band wagon jumping made me think about privilege and social cache in being “seen” to support causes.

The Atlantic piece on social activism as a meme reveals a more selfish part of the concept of supporting something. The piece discusses the Paris attacks in November 2015. Facebook created a way to have a temporary filter over a Facebook profile picture so that people could express solidarity at their convenience. If your Facebook photo wasn’t changed to reflect support for Paris, there was a question of whether or not you really supported Paris in their time of need or not.

The pray for campaigns that come up on social media relentlessly is experiencing blow back as people start to think about how clicks or likes don’t equal actual help as the below video from UNICEF points out.

This graphic from Popular Science shows just how (in)effective liking something on social media is when translating back to real action.


So how does this translate to the classroom?

As teachers we must be aware of the disconnect between liking something on social media and taking action. Social media can spur people into taking ownership of something, but there has to be a connection, somehow, to their immediate life. Some tangible way to take part. As the bar graph above shows, if someone is connected to personally, privately, they’re more likely to volunteer their time to assisting a charity etc than if they just like something on social media.


So Long, Mr Cronkite.

Gone are the days of the “Most Trusted Man in America“, Walter Cronkite.

cnn fake news_3.JPG
Photo Source: Socio-Economics History Blog

No longer do media consumers have someone who they trust as the voice of the news. Media outlets increasingly are subject to their own bias, due to parent companies’ agendas, of which, there are fewer and fewer (ahem, PostMedia).

The world of media is also becoming increasingly complex. Students are having to create new skill sets in order to combat the deluge of untrustworthy news. There is a greater push for students to recognize fake news when they see it: CNN, Globe and Mail, The Wall Street Journal, and NPR (and many more) report initiatives undertaken by schools and governments to educate children on what they consume via media.

Photo Source: IFLA

There are numerous ways to to analyse a “news” article from various media and educational sources: BBC, IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions), How Stuff WorksCommon Sense Media, and interestingly, AARP (an American  business for those 50 and older).

In her blog, Shelby Mackey wrote about the importance of research in the B30 classroom. This is a key idea, because the entire B30 curriculum is based around analysing global issues in an in-depth manner. Students need to be familiar with how to research and how to evaluate.

Photo Source:

In one of my classes, Theory of Knowledge, we’re looking at how to tell if something is scientifically verifiable and the concept of peer-reviewed research.

For all of their experience researching (and by this point in their high school careers as IB diploma kids, they’ve done a lot), the term “peer reviewed” was foreign.

This was slightly frightening to me, as these students are expected to produce university-quality research papers quite regularly.

The easiest way I’ve found to examine fake news is to look at wildly imaginative examples of scientific claims:

Photo Source: Goop Psychic Vampire Repellent

We look at the website source (it seems legitimate: high-powered Hollywood actress, recognizable name brands, shiny website). It passes the test of credibility on first glance.

Next we look at the product more closely (ingredient include: Sonically tuned water, rosewater, grain alcohol, sea salt, therapeutic grade oils of: rosemary, juniper and lavender; a unique and complex blend of gem elixirs, including but not limited to: black tourmaline, lapis lazuli, ruby, labradorite, bloodstone, aqua aura, black onyx, garnet, pyrite and nuummite; reiki, sound waves, moonlight, love, reiki charged crystals)

Wait. What?! Sound waves? Moonlight?

And so we begin a discussion of looking underneath all of the shine to find the scary. Granted not everything is fake. But enough of it is.

Photo Source: BBC (Viewing habits of children influenced by parents)

Ryan Wood brought up a really good point about how scary the world has become in raising our own children. It has now become a matter of teaching our own children about “fake news”. My family used to have cable and watch news every night, like Ryan’s family, but we cut the cord. CTV, CBC. Global were all trusted beyond any doubt and now, I need to carefully screen what we view as news. My son is becoming more and more aware of what is happening in the world (case in point, we were driving home, and the CBC news came on. They were explaining the bombing in Somalia and my son worriedly asked about the 2783 people who were injured or killed). My job as a parent has changed from what I anticipated it would be, even four years ago.

But, for better or worse, that’s the way it is.


Moving Backwards

This past week has been interesting. Wednesday afternoon I had tendon surgery on my (non-dominant) left hand. This has left me a bit immobilized but made an opportunity to see how good Read&Write is (spoiler: SO much better than Siri).

So, this week our question is about our concerns about teaching in a digital world. This was particularly of interest to me as there are going to be vast changes to how we are able to use Google Apps for Education in the very near future. Essentially, our use of GAFE is going to be severely curtailed to the point of non-use.

The concern is student privacy. Google gathers information to disseminate to others for money: data mining. I’ve talked about this in a previous blog for this class and more in detail for a previous class. To me, this is not a new issue.

Photo via: Kelsie Lenihan

But this connects to the question of our “moral imperative” to teach children, but to also protect their privacy. How do we ethically curate an online presence within a classroom, when we are bounded by so many obligations from our board, which ultimately dictates our parameters?

Photo via: McGraw Hill Education (also a really interesting article)

I think my questions are stemming from a growing frustration: I see the direction the world is moving and I am trying to teach students to move within it. The video by Michael Wesch about how connected everything is and how “ridiculously easy” it is to connect and share speaks very closely to my classroom experience. It is so easy to connect, but we seem to be moving backwards in our rush to protect the vulnerability of our students.

Sharing will become locked down and inaccessible as our students’ privacy versus our students’ growth in a modern world becomes paramount. We are required to teach critical thinking skills, which Wesch referred to as a filter, but critical thinking skills are not enough anymore.

There is an atmosphere of control emerging as administrators and those in power grapple with the impact an online presence can have on a student’s future. This is compounded by the issues of privacy and the fact that no one truly knows where information is going.


Photo via: Education Next

To me this means that education is going to take a massive step backwards: I’m going to have to go back to pen and paper in order to make my students untraceable. Nothing will be shared, no footprints online.

I believe this is doing our students a huge disservice and is reactionary rather than being proactive. I think that before this edict is handed down, education about our role as educators online needs to happen for teachers and information about students’ online presence needs to be given to both students and parents. The only term I can put with this is frustrating.

As Google may be on its way out, thank goodness for other options. I’ll be exploring how to move my Google Classroom onto Canvas.