Motivations and Skills for Sharing Student Work Publicly

Engaging with social media tools

When the goal of using social media tools is to share student work publicly I become curious of the individual teacher’s motivations for engaging students in this way and the skills needed to engage.

If the motivation is for students to collaborate on projects, share ideas, or learn about the world in interesting ways I think it can be an exciting and highly engaging method. It seems that there would be more concerns about sharing student work publicly if students are younger, such as in the K-12 system, or if students are not supported by opportunities to constructively reflect on their online learning experiences. Older students in secondary or post-secondary may have developed the skills to be reflexive learners and may not require as much guidance and support.

I believe that teachers must be well versed in the social media tools they are using in order to navigate the learning experience and to protect, as much as possible, against cyber bullying, hate, and spam which often exist in online spaces. In the case of using social media tools in K-12 classrooms I agree with my classmate, Coralee Czinkota’s assessment of social media enhancing digital literacy or digital citizenship which is described in her blog post, Sharing and Learning Using Social Media in Formal Education. Digital literacy is essential in navigating our online world and digital citizenship is an important concept which in practice has much capacity to equalize power imbalances promoted through access to digital spaces.

Photo credit: Dakman5

As an educator with no formal education, until now, on digital literacy I have literally no experience with using Twitter, blogs, or other social media tools in a classroom. As an educator who is not practicing in a formal education setting my experiences with the benefits and challenges of social media and open education in a classroom are not based on first-hand experience. However, from my professional and other social experience I can appreciate the positive and negative implications of using online tools to share student work.

Through my work at the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation (SCIC) I have had several encounters with unexpected and inappropriate ads that appear in YouTube videos when showing a clip for a professional audience. Further, I regularly receive pornographic spam in my work email and unless we change servers, I am told there isn’t much to do about it. Until now, my limited exposure to social networking and to open/online learning has been predominantly through Facebook where I often post or share content that contains contested and often moral dilemmas on being vegetarian, fighting Monsanto, eating organic, or combating settler-colonialism, etc. Over the years I have argued against trolls and engaged with people who impose hate-speech, however now it seems that only people who agree with my point of view see my posts or care to engage with them. These experiences helped me to understand that no one is immune to the negative aspects of technology whether it be spam, trolls, porn, hate speech, etc.

When I learned that we would be documenting our learning in such a public way I immediately had anxiety. No longer can I hide behind an assumed commitment to the traditional schooling experience whereby learning is done in private. Coming to terms with the fact that my processing and learning of these online tools as well as my own passion project of inquiry would be publicly available to anyone who wished to agree or disagree with my perspective. Recognizing this fear demands attention. It takes courage to take up digital space. Taking space that isn’t accessible to all can feel colonial. Possible consequences for learning and processing in public include one’s ideas being called out in a post, which may include loss of confidence or voice, harassment or bullying, hate speech, etc. As such there is a certain degree of risk one must take if they are to engage in social media and the implications or impact on the individual may be significant.

Learning “in the open” has the potential to liberate, encourage and collaborate, create voice and solidarity. Learning online may have positive results for educating transient students since they can still access their digital learning space if they have access to technology away from the school. Or, it can further isolate them if their work is all online and they don’t have consistent access to technology.

In my work, I discuss terms like global citizenship education which, I am learning, has much to do with digital citizenship. According to UNESCO, “Global Citizenship Education (GCED) aims to empower learners to assume active roles to face and resolve global challenges and to become proactive contributors to a more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive and secure world.” These empowered learners can better solve global challenges if they are connected with people globally and can process or add to discussions around peace and justice for all. This definition aligns itself well with the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship described by Mike Ribble, education technologist and the ethics of digital citizenship discussed in the video by CyberWise1, see below.

Overall I believe it is beneficial for everyone, but students especially, to learn how to engage in online spaces ethically. I think it is a good practice in higher level education for students to evaluate their processes of learning through social media tools because it provides another lens with which they can understand themselves as citizens of the world.

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