The Great EdTech Debate – CHAPTER SEVEN -Educators have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice.

Phew, what a fantastic way to end the debate portions of this class. When I think of what I wanted out of a course regarding Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology – our last debate topic (Educators have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice) would be top of mind.

As a participant who choose to argue a topic that I didn’t necessarily ideologically believe in, going into each topic I am always so curious regarding how the team that I picture having the more difficult argument to present – will structure their initial argument. I know that it was difficult for me, and required far more research than I anticipated to argue against my own predisposition.

In light of the current circumstances, and growing amount of educators I know who are using their social media channels to speak out – I (foolishly perhaps) assumed for this debate that Brad and Michala would have a more difficult stance to take. But as we would later find out, our class was very divided on this issue, with a 50/50 split in the initial debate vote. This division was helped along by their reasonable and measured arguments. It’s important to note however that they mostly argued not that teachers should remain completely neutral or silent on all manners of social justice, but that the use of technology and social media in such endeavors was not the correct route to take.

They put a voice to all of the matters I consider myself before pressing “tweet” or even publishing a blog, the concerns we as educators all have about being misunderstood or misrepresented by words on a page. Words void of your inflection, relevant context or your truest intentions.

When you post about a topic that is deeply personal, and you feel passionately about – how do you allow that connection and passion to come through in a limited amount of characters, AND remain professional to the high standards (rightly) applied to educators? That’s not a question I will pretend to have the answer to.

They also spoke to my own concerns in terms of my online engagement and my ability to follow that engagement up with real and meaningful action in terms of the Social Justice issues I consider important.

There is no time like the present as an educator to discuss social justice issues with your students.  The days of unbiased and neutral stances are a challenge and while I believe there is space for that so children can form their own opinions, there are other times when explaining your stance and acting upon it speaks much louder than any words on a post.

Michala Hegi

Although some of this concern was abated after giving one of my favourite journal articles on this topic another read.

While the link between technology and equity may not always be clear, there is evidence that technology is a powerful support for social justice causes. The research is clear: for Millennials, technology — specifically social media — has become a platform for civic engagement. A 2013 Pew study found, among other things, that in the year preceding, a full 67% of 18-24 year olds had taken part in a social media-related political activity, and 43% of all social network users had gone on to learn more about a particular issue after reading about it online (Smith, 2013). Additionally, even online “slacktivism” (less engaged activities such as retweeting and sharing posts) can have a positive effect: a 2015 study determined that “peripheral users in online protest networks may be as important in expanding the reach of messages as the highly committed minority at the core,” that is, the mobilization that is made possible by those outside of the core of the movement plays a key role in spreading and sustaining political movements (Barberá et al., 2015, para. 20).

Katia Hildebrandt (2018) in : Nurturing #TeacherVoice: Why educators’ online
presence matters to educational equity. Texas Education Review, 6(1), 34-38.

When considering the fact that teachers perhaps should not engage in Social Justice work in online spaces, I think that Michala herself sums up what I found to be their strongest and most thought provoking argument in her title of her blog post on the topic: “Teaching Social Justice in Schools Through Personal Connection”.

I do think that Brad and Michala were on to something with their point that difficult topics including discussions on systemic racism, injustice and inequality are a conversation and not a tweet or a post. I believe that Context, empathy, and connection and relationship are essential to the work of anti-racist education.

In terms of the argument in favour of the debate statement, I think it’s obvious that my opinion remains in agreement – despite the pause I was given by the aforementioned “disagree” team and my classmates in our honest and frank discussion.

I feel it’s easiest once again to refer to Katia’s eloquent writing to summarize my thoughts on the topic (especially since I read her words the first time and thought “YES!”).

So why does all of this matter? To be clear, there are many reasons why the nature of teachers’ online presence matters, but perhaps the most important is this: If we as educators are online, and we remain silent about issues of social justice, if we tweet only about educational resources and not about #BlackLivesMatter (which, I would argue, is deeply related to educational inequities and the school to prison pipeline), if we blog only about new tech tools and not the horrific conditions in many of America’s public schools, we are sending a clear message: These issues are not important. Indeed, silence speaks just as loudly as words — the absence of teacher engagement in discussions that relate to equitable education creates what Eisner (1985) described as a null curriculum: an absence or void in what is taught or discussed that carries with it a powerful lesson about what does and does not matter. As educators, we are modeling for our students (and the world) that it is fine to keep our mouths shut about important issues while we are online.

Katia Hildebrandt (2018) in : Nurturing #TeacherVoice: Why educators’ online
presence matters to educational equity. Texas Education Review, 6(1), 34-38.

Ditto.

Thanks for joining me in my musings over Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology.

Use your #TeacherVoice below to tell me how you feel about this topic.

5 thoughts on “The Great EdTech Debate – CHAPTER SEVEN -Educators have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice.”

  1. Victoria, what a powerful reflection and post about a really challenging conversation where there is no “right” answer, post or move. I, like you, am left with deeper questions and also a call to walk the walk of justice in my personal life, unpack my biases, understand my privilege so I am as equipped as possible to navigate this terrain. As we’ve chatted about before, I don’t think it’s about knowing exactly what to do in all situations, but this course has given space to really reflect on our decisions and this was no different. That’s the power of debate! Get us thinking, reflecting and then doing the best we can with what we know. It was an honor to walk this path with you and I hope our paths cross in future classes!

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  2. I agree that both sides made me really think in terms of my role as an educator promoting social justice. I am not an avid social media person as this is not a comfortable space for me. I share my highlight reel with my close friends and family in person and don’t like to voice my opinions on any matters, social justice related or not, online. I do, however, believe that it is our responsibility to promote social media in the classroom. There are so many teachable moments, comfortable or not, that we must take advantage of to show students how they can make a difference in the world. Although I don’t post much online, I do like to push students to think for themselves and guide them in the direction of positive change. This is how I use my role as a privileged educator each day and don’t feel that I should HAVE to use social media to do this as it may be misconstrued in the short number of characters that are given (as you mentioned). I agree with you when you say “words void of your inflection, relevant context, or your truest intentions.” In-person promotion of social media is what I find more comfortable at this time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic.

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  3. Very informative post Victoria. I agree with so many points you highlighted both from the debate and postings by Katia. I am a very quiet person online…I’m a lurker. I now see that this quiet persona may actually give the impression that social justice issues aren’t important to me which can’t be farther from the truth. Sharing facts with students in the classroom is more important to me personally. Thanks for giving me many points to ponder. I wish you all the best in the future.

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  4. Victoria, You are my blogging role-model. I hope to someday be as eloquent and reflective as you have been. I have enjoyed each of your blogs, and this one in particular is very powerful. I agree with you that ” that Context, empathy, and connection and relationship are essential to the work of anti-racist education.” Regardless if we use social media or not, as educators, and as citizens, we have a responsibility to address the social injustices in our world.

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  5. Thanks for your post Victoria. I like you also had a debate topic to argue that I did not agree with, and definitely got a lot out of thinking about things from the other side. With this debate, while I too agree with the idea that some topics are better suited for a classroom discussion than a social media post. I think a conversation is a powerful tool, and while social media posts may get the ball rolling on this, as an educator I think jumping right to it in our classrooms might be the best method to tackle it! Thanks again for your great post!
    Matt

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