“To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea
For me, the theme of our EC&I 832 lecture this week, along with our assigned readings, has turned into somewhat of a recurring theme for me: Balance. Balance, or striving for it, is a big part of our lives. We balance needs, wants and means. We balance the demands of our personal lives and professional obligations. Politically, although discourse often presents as either or (liberal – Conservative, good policy – bad policy), I have gradually become practiced at taking a measured look before rushing to judgement.
Light and Shadow
When it comes to online activity and social media,I am not even sure how or why, but I have always had a deeply entrenched predisposition to see the worst, the shadow. When I think of how far technology has gone with allowing us to bank online (light), I think of this Equifax data breach (shadow). I don’t think about how creative and dynamic social media has become (light), I think of the most extreme cases of cyber-bullying, like Amanda Todd. (shadow)
Mark Prensky’s focus on emphasizing distinctions and differences between digital natives and digital immigrants resonate with me on some sort of instinctual level. There is definitely temptation to look at something as profound as the rise of social media with our kids from a fatalistic lens, grouping into neat categories of us and them. I can practically hear myself talking in reading Nathan Jurgenson’s article, IRL Fetish, which summarizes the backlash to social media with quips like “While eating, defecating, or resting in our beds, we are rubbing on our glowing rectangles, seemingly lost within the infostream.” He could’ve taken those words right out of my mouth.
The problem is, by letting myself fall into categorizing and sorting, I’m basically throwing up my arms and giving up. I’m resigning myself to being completely alien to the next generation of students in our schools, to their modes of communication and way of learning. For a teacher, this is not ok.
Social Media Visitor = Me
David White’s alternative perspective on Visitors and Residents is helpful for me. He argues that we all fall somewhere on a continuum between being a resident, or visitor, and that our place on that continuum will be context dependent. Exactly!
There is certainly something to be said for my student’s being more immersed with certain aspects of technology. Yes, I use Facebook a bit. I am warming to twitter and see the fun of some apps like Snapchat. But I am secure in the knowledge that I will be learning from my students on ongoing basis, especially when it comes to the latest app that somehow caught fire while I wasn’t looking, and is suddenly being used by millions. Clearly, when it comes to social media, I am somewhere on the visitor end of the spectrum. Many of my students, whose identities are more immersed with what they do online, would fall more towards the resident end of the spectrum.
So, what does being more of a visitor (especially as far as social media is concerned) mean for my role as a teacher? As I eluded to earlier, the temptation has been to see myself as not really having one. What do I have to teach kids whose online presence dwarfs mine? Well, as it happens, a lot: Rebecca Sedwick, Hannah Smith, David Molak, …
It’s not just kids who are using their online presence in ways that make me scratch my head. Uttering threats to political figures seems to be a very common occurrence. Even individuals elevated to the highest positions of power are modeling the worst kind of online behaviours:
Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2016
“To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”
Clearly, being well versed and a frequent user, on the resident end of the spectrum, does not necessarily correlate to responsible and ethical use. Having had a device in ones hand for a greater proportion of ones life does not automatically mean the device will be used for good. But it doesn’t mean that technology will automatically be used for negative ends either. It is capable of creating both light and shadow.
Our students may well have been immersed with technology from infancy,but they are using technology in the way they have seen and learned. I, as a visitor, but nonetheless a teacher, can have a role in how my student see themselves and their online identity being portrayed.
As our class moves into digital citizenship, I suspect we’ll be getting into this in far more detail!
Thanks for reading!