[Still] struggling to get our head around social media in schools…

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In February this year, I had the opportunity to ask over 1000 senior students from about forty schools across Australia, which statement best summed up how their school taught social media. I’m assuming schools would do this, as I can definitely recall a subject called Media Studies when I was at school back in the nineties…

I asked…

Which of the following BEST describes the manner in which social media is taught in your school?

a: It isn’t really

b: We only really get told what NOT to do

c: We are educated as to the power of social media to help us learn in school

d: We are educated as to the power of social media to help us learn, connect with others and develop a positive digital footprint.

This was the response [CLICK ON THE GRAPH TO ENLARGE]:

I then asked them whether or not they thought a Google (or your preferred search engine) search would make or break them, if a prospective employer chose to search for them online…

This was their response:

I think these two graphs present an interesting stimulus for a chat about how we approach social media in schools…

  1. Only around 70 senior students out of >1000 thought that an online search would stand them in good stead. This is a worry, as employers have been using online searches since the days of MySpace (remember that??)
  2. Over a quarter didn’t know what an online search would throw up.
  3. The vast majority of students thought an online search wouldn’t be an issue as there would be very little – if anything – about them online.

I wonder if we’ve taught kids that the opposite of a negative digital footprint is to have no digital footprint?

I also wonder if that’s because we haven’t really taught kids about social media. One of my most popular posts of all time was one I wrote back in 2012 called Driving Down Social Media Way in which I asked readers to imagine that we taught kids to drive the way we teach them about social media. In short:

1. Driving lessons would be taught by adults (teachers or parents) with little or no experience of driving.

Sure they may know of certain brands of cars or be aware of some of their capabilities. They may know it is illegal to speed or drive without a seatbelt, but in reality they have spent little time behind the wheel.

2. Driving lessons would only focus on what not to do.

An average driving lesson would entail students being preached to about the dangers of speeding, drinking driving or not wearing a seatbelt. There may be a little advice on how to keep you and your car safe, eg. regular service checks, installing an alarm and NEVER allowing a stranger to get into your car would all constitute sound advice.

3. Driving lessons would NEVER take place in an actual car.

In fact cars would be banned in the majority of driving schools. Students would be able to take notes, draw pictures or even present a PowerPoint on how to drive, but they would only be able to put these lessons into practice once they were out of sight of an adult.

It seems little has changed – which is unbelievable silly ridiculous bordering on negligent.

If you have the time or the inclination, here is a little spiel I gave in 2016 to some teachers on the subject… (it’s one of my favourite talks actually and please note the kids’ survey questions in this talk were from 2016, not the ones I cite in this blog post).


4 Comments on “[Still] struggling to get our head around social media in schools…

  1. Hey Dan. Doing this work in my school in Ontario and can assure you it is the same here. Just cited your Driving analogy during a Canadian conference on Thursday and have included it in my upcoming book. I agree it’s a mora imperative to get over whatever fear is holding us back and do what’s right for kids! Thanks for your post.

    • Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      Thanks also for the mention im your talk & book! Good luck for its release!

      All the best!

  2. Interesting post Dan. What interests me are those students who have developed a profile and presence OUTSIDE of the control and/or awareness of schools. They are not themselves, not searchable, instead they are somebody else. Maybe that is ok? Maybe students also need a place to become on their own accord? However, my question is who is looking out for them? Acting as a ‘coach’ maybe? I really like Alexander Samuel’s work on this (http://readwriterespond.com/?p=1269).

  3. Thanks Aaron. In the talk I linked to I think I mentioned that sometimes (most times with younger kids) the use of pseudonyms etc would mean they remain unsearchable by their name, but they can direct people to their body of work, and as and when they’re ready become more public… Unless they want to emulate Banksy of course! And the issues you raise about who’s coaching them… that’s a really good point, because who came before them? Who has experience? I think often they learn/copy of others… which then makes archaic attempts to ‘educate’ somewhat redundant.

    All that said however, I’ve found few kids are aware of the platforms I mention (with the exception of Wattpad) which in itself is interesting.
    Thx again,

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