To Be Seen and Heard: Cultivating a Social Education

by Sophia Madana

“This post is part of the Lightspan Digital #MarketingHop on “Social Media for Social Good,” in which bloggers were asked to share their story about how people are using social media to raise money, awareness, communicate with volunteers and otherwise further their cause and grow their organization.”

History Teacher: “Which country did Nazi Germany invade first, beginning World War II?

Anyone in the class remember?”

7th grade me: Poland, Sept. 1, 1939. It’s totally Poland. I’m going to raise my ha—No, wait!

Was it Poland? It was Poland, right? I don’t know, now. If she picks me, and it’s not Poland—

History Teacher: “No one? Really? It was Poland. Remember? We went over this?”

I imagine everyone has been through this situation as a kid at some point during elementary school, or even high school. You have one traumatic experience publicly presenting the wrong answer, and won’t raise your hand in class for a week while overcoming the embarrassment.

However, with technology and social media tools far more advanced than the old school Macs we used to play Lemonade Stand, we’re partially able to take out the embarrassment factor in participating in class discussion.

the afrorementioned Lemonade Stand

I attended a session at Social Media Week last fall that addressed using social media in the classroom. While social media often carries a bad rep when it comes to our youth (Snapchat porn, cyber-bullying, etc.), the session showed how children have been benefiting from these same technologies.

At National Teachers Academy, a Chicago Public School, Jennie Magiera brought her class of 5th graders in to demonstrate all the capabilities they have as students using iPads in class.

They’ve been able to sign on to a social network strictly for schools called Edmodo.com where they hold group discussions online during class. Jennie showed us a conversation between three students attempting to solve a math word problem. While she wasn’t able to tend to them in class, she read the discussion after class and was able to analyze their thought process, seeing how they came up with the answer. She mentioned that being able to see into their thoughts has improved her teaching.

Jennie’s students used Skype in their classroom to interact with classrooms in different parts of the country. Jennie explained there was one instance when they partnered with a classroom on a group discussion in rural Indiana, but the lesson took a different turn.

One of her students pointed and asked out loud, ‘Hey, Ms. Magiera, how come there aren’t any black kids in that class? They’re all white? We learned in Brown vs. Board of Education that schools had to be mixed!’

Jennie decided to drop the planned discussion and pick up the one her student presented instead.

The students, by the way, loved participating on these platforms. They’ve also been maintaining their own blogs using Kidblog.com, a protected source for student blogging. I found it fascinating to read their opinions on their day-to-day lives as well as their thoughts on the recent CPS strike and election. Some of the children participated in the question and answer session, and I was delighted to hear them confidently come forth with their opinions. Some of the benefits mentioned by the students were:

  1. Being able to connect with people around the world and ask them questions.
  2. Being able to hear from the kids that are shy.
  3. Give and receive advice.
  4. Hear different opinions.
  5. Learn from a lot of people instead of just one.

There was one statement made by a student that truly resonated with me:

“I like using iPads and technology because I have something to say and now people finally listen.”

I stopped to dig into what she said. As children, especially in school we were always told to be quiet, to stop talking so the other kids get a chance to speak, to listen to the teacher. What we thought didn’t matter. It must feel pretty empowering for a 10 year-old to publicly express her opinion without the anxiety of that face-to-face interaction and the fear that she may be wrong. They can’t get cut off because time ran out in class, or because another schoolmate needed extra attention from the teacher.

It does seem that all we hear in the media is how cruel children have become hiding behind their computer screens. I’ve come to argue that the flip side should be acknowledged and celebrated. Students with technology in the classroom are becoming more savvy to not only several Internet platforms at a young age, but to the world around them. They’re able to learn, sooner than later, that there is life outside of their neighborhood and it’s completely different than what they know.

It’s possible that I’m being too optimistic, but I firmly believe this kind of early exposure to something different can lead to a more confident and tolerable society, and that’s a society I will welcome with open arms.

“Check out other views from directors, board members, community managers and leaders in the social good community about what’s working and not working to make change by checking out their posts below. To continue the conversation join us in a Twitter Chat with the hashtag #Marketinghop on Tuesday at 1pm.”

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