Breaking News! Your Phone Isn’t Just for Cat Pictures: Take Action!

Today I would like to reflect on how technology can be used to promote social action. Ben Rattray discusses how social media can be used to create grassroots movements through sharing digital stories and starting campaigns and petitions that lead to nation-wide movements. Maybe most influential is the idea that our technology is just beginning, therefore, our social action is just beginning. Ben notes that “we face big problems… but the democratization of technology [means] people will be able to start more campaigns than we can possibly imagine… because together with the right tools, we can change the world.” This video gives me hope that “there is no issue that will be left untouched.”

But how do we get students to engage in these issues that matter? I do think great change will happen but the technology is just the tool. In other words, the tools don’t use themselves. We must use the tools properly to make the change. It is the people behind the screen that matter.

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Photo Credit: andres musta via Compfight cc

So how do we promote social action for our students?

1. Knowledge/Exposure – kids cannot fix things if they do not know they are broken. We have the information at our hands. It is very important that we do not let single stories dominate our teaching. It is important that we show the voices of all: strengths, weaknesses, issues, successes, etc. If we expose children to knowledge in the right ways, this creates a culture of empathy in our classrooms/societies.

2. Create a Positive Digital Citizenship – kids need to create a positive online self. They need to actively be creating this positive imagine and we must assist them along the way (ie. get them to create a blog, discuss the risks/provide examples of inappropriate technology use that led to issues for people like this UCLA Student, discuss cyberbullying through examples like Amanda Todd, etc.).

3. Passion – with exposure to the knowledge and the know-how and platform to have a positive voice, students will find things that matter to them. It is up to us to help them pursue these things. Committees like We Day or SRC can help students work towards their goals. I was proud to be part of both of these groups during my internship and amazed at the action the students took; for instance, selling rafikis to empower women/families in Kenya. Here are some more examples of what has been done or what could be done:

Note that with all positives, come negatives, too. For instance, the ASL bucket challenge was a huge waste of water and highlights privilege (many people do not have clean drinking water so dumping good water on ones head would seem a bit insane to some). There is also the socio-economic divide causing a lack of access to technology. And we can’t forget the trolls of the internet.

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Photo Credit: uomoplanetario.org via Compfight cc

But in my opinion the pros outweigh the cons. If we expose students to different causes in an environment that encourages a positive sense of self; if we are proactive about bullying; if we help students find their passions; if we provide additional tools so that everyone has access to learning (even if it isn’t through technology); if we make technology a top budget priority in our schools; there really will be no issue that will go untouched. The internet, like our world, can be a more equitable place for all if we work from within. 

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4 thoughts on “Breaking News! Your Phone Isn’t Just for Cat Pictures: Take Action!

  1. Just an example of the inequality that is displayed/perpetuated on the internet: http://www.buzzfeed.com/elliewoodward/times-celebrities-had-the-best-damn-responses-to-body-sha#.mmMZol2LM. This article, “28 Times Celebrities Had the Best Damn Responses to Body-Shaming” really highlights the gender discrimination that occurs online. However, I will counter this negativity (which we, as teachers, need to help overcome through proper education for students) with a social action movement #WearYellowForSeth http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/year-boy-asks-wear-yellow-seth-29748719. This movement involves a 5 year old boy born without an immune system getting people all around the world to wear yellow to support him/raise awareness. It has been booming all over social media, such as Snapchat, today and really highlights the benefits of technology as a tool for social awareness/action. It is our job as teachers to shift the culture from example 1 to example 2. If we can teach students to use technology appropriately, it can be a very powerful and positive thing!

  2. “the technology is just the tool. In other words, the tools don’t use themselves. We must use the tools properly to make the change. It is the people behind the screen that matter.”
    So true. I really enjoyed your post.

  3. So cool and relatable to this topic: http://www.upworthy.com/one-little-girl-took-pictures-of-her-school-lunches-the-internet-responded-and-so-did-the-school?c=click by Upworthy. This article discusses how we often fear the internet/technology and more particularly children using these things. But it is time to uncover the internet for what it really is: awesome, educational, and empowering. These young adults and kids used technology to document inequality or their special talents. In all cases, social media platforms got a hold of the stories and their voices were heard by many others, either earning them money, credit, or resulting in positive change!! The internet is a powerful tool and when used for more than cat photos and not to bully others… it can and will make life better for everyone!!

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