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Fear of Being Authentic on Social Media

“I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.” Monica Lewinsky

I was very moved by the TED Talk by Monica Lewinsky. She spoke about the challenges of people “stealing private words, video and pictures and making them public without consent and without context”. She made a very valid point that society is becoming “desensitized” and this is leading to increased trolling and cyberbullying. The internet, and now social media, allows us to comment, share jokes, call names and other kinds of harassing behaviour instantaneously. What we fail to realize is that this, as Lewinsky emotionally states, not only causes individuals harm to their reputation, it also strips them of their dignity.

Jon Ronson, a journalist and film maker, spoke about social media and the “constant high-dramas” that are created. We either have to do something heroic or something that shames someone else to get validation. I see a lot of people in my Facebook feed posting about their personal lives or criticizing the lifestyle of others which generates a frenzy of drama. Think about the dentist and Cecil the Lion. I don’t even have to say anything more than that because you know what a social media frenzy that was, Ronson provides a few more examples in his interview with Lewinsky.

I also found myself reflecting and identifying with Ronson in One Tweet Can Ruin Your Life. We “tweet” and “post” on Facebook and are saddened when we don’t get a “retweet” or “like”. I have been overjoyed when my tweet was retweeted or my latest Facebook post liked. We, and admittedly I, have become dependent on the congratulatory responses of others on social media. Why do we need the approval of others?

Ronson explains that “Twitter is a mutual approval machine. We surround ourselves with others that approve us.” It is so true! Granted my new “professional” Twitter account is mostly academics and colleagues, I can’t say the same for my Facebook account. I have been guilty of “unfriending” someone who was making posts that I found offensive. My actions sort of validate what Jennifer was talking about in her blog Digital Citizenship, Engagement and Breaking Out of Our Social Bubbles’ and perhaps I was unable to see their perspective because  of the discomfort from what they were saying. It is so much easier to unfollow and unfriend then to sit back and have an open mind. A very humbling moment in my journey.

In her blog Helen Regan writes briefly about the “Psychology of Online Shaming”. It becomes so easy to publicly shame others on social media. It allows us to get things “off our chest” and feel better but we often forget that there is someone, a real human being, at the other end of our comments. We don’t have to look into their eyes or hear the hurt in their voice. We can just spew forth whatever hurtful things we want and not have to worry, heck we can even turn the device off after we are finished. In her TED Talk Monica Lewinsky also identified that we lose context of the person. We forget that they are someone’s daughter, someone’s wife or someone’s sister. Our students need to reconnect to the human element of interacting with people.

So what does this mean in my classroom? The Saskatchewan Government gave us a great place to start (Yes it is a start with a long road ahead). The document Saskatchewan’s Action Plan to Address Bullying and Cyberbullying states that:

We need to support students to develop responsible and appropriate online behaviour:

  • Although students are comfortable using technology, they may not be using it appropriately.
  • Because technology is a part of children’s everyday lives, they need to learn the necessary skills to use technology in healthy and ethical ways.
  • Cyberbullying is a major concern, particularly for parents and caregivers; some feel they lack the knowledge and expertise to help their children in the digital age.
  • We need tools to support parents and caregivers to recognize when their child is in need and know how to help them.

A final reflection… I find myself drawn into a vortex when reading and exploring the topics in the class. One link leads to another and then another. Pretty soon I can’t remember where I started. This week was one of my favourite! I came across Psychology of Social Networking when delving deeper into the topic of online shaming. I spent hours reading through the various blog posts by Dr. Balick. He believes that we “present ourselves in the ways that we wish others to see us” and social media is merely the “outward expressions of ego”. We can control what people see and although it is primarily the ego (think of all the selfies) it is still an online extension of our self. Looking back my online identity has certainly evolved (perhaps matured) and has moved from the ego to a more authentic outward extension of myself, however I am still very cautious of moving forward without restraint because of my position as an educator. I don’t want to find myself in the online shaming arena.

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Posted by on October 19, 2015 in EC&I832

 

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Digital Loss of My “Third Child”

 

It was the start of a long day as I arrived at work and went about my daily routine. I set my bag on the table, took my laptop out and booted it up to retrieve my day plan as well as all of the documents I needed to print for the day. Without fail my battery bleeps “10% remaining” and of course I know this actually means that if I don’t plug it in within the next 42 seconds it is going to go into cardiac arrest. Bleep one more time as a reminder appeared on the screen letting me know that tonight is Open House / Meet the Teacher. Ever so gently I tote it over to the table and plugged it in. It bleeped a final time in gratitude.

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José Manuel_ via Compfight cc

Looking down at it I remember the day I picked up this shiny new device. It was fresh out of the box and waiting to make my acquaintance. It was awkward learning a new operating system and reverting back to a PC since I converted to Mac. Nonetheless I embraced this technology and began the journey of making it work for me. That was a year ago but it was like adopting a child… the paperwork, cleaning it, updating it, and always by my side. Funny how something inanimate can become an integral part of your life.

As the day progressed I unhooked it from its life line to accompany me around the room as I taught. It graciously provided videos, behaviour management tools, interactive lessons as well as allowing me to demonstrate to the students what they needed to complete in their notebooks. It was a very smooth day with technology and relatively stress free… for now.

The school was buzzing with everyone getting ready for the barbecue and I needed to speak to a colleague. When I returned to my classroom 20 minutes later I was certain someone was playing a cruel joke on me. My face began to get flushed and I scanned the room frantically. My laptop was gone. Panic ensued and I ran from classroom to classroom looking for it. I was convinced someone just borrowed it. Everyone I spoke to knew nothing about it. With all of the activity in the school someone had walked in the front door, helped themselves to my device and
walked out the back door.

It was a feeling I had only felt once before when my daughter wandered off in the mall. A deep gut wrenching sick feeling. As I moved through the steps to report it stolen the same questions were asked – Did you back it up? Did you sync it to the cloud? Well most of it yes, but there were still a number of documents on the hard drive. Argh, I should have been more diligent with using the cloud!

As silly as it sounds I went through the stages of grief , albeit rather quickly.

  1. Denial – I was certain someone was just playing a cruel joke.
  2. Anger – How dare they violate my space and take what doesn’t belong to them?!? I lost a lot of work that was saved to that device! It is useless to whoever took it!
  3. Bargaining – If only I had put it out of sight… If only I had closed my door… if only I backed everything up on the cloud
  4. Depression – searching the perimeter of the building in hopes that they realized the battery was dying and they didn’t take the charging cord. Only an hour before it was completely depleted and then there was no hope of tracking it.
  5. Acceptance – It was hardware. Most of what I need and my digital foot print is in the cloud and the stuff that wasn’t can be recreated. It could have been worse.

In the end I did get another device but it just isn’t the same.  I had spent a year personalizing the last one and now I am back to the beginning. I found myself wanting to share this in my blog as I am sure I am not the only one to feel this or have their device stolen. I did a quick google search to see if there were any other blogs that related to theft and loss of digital property but could only find a few. I would be interested in hearing from others as I know I am not alone.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2015 in EC&I832

 

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Baptism by Fire and a Conundrum of Conformity

This is my first attempt at creating a blog and I feel … well in all honesty I feel like I am sure many of my students feel when I am teaching a new concept… a little anxious, a lot of insecurity and hoping to “you know what” that I can catch on quickly. The difference here is that none of you witnessed the tantrum I threw because I made several errors trying to figure my way though the set up details! Imagine a grown woman ready to flip her desk over because the task seemed so overwhelming. The words of the social media memes that mock how easy things are supposed to be keep running through my head… Use wordpress they said… It’ll be easy they said. I managed to continue to breathe and make it this far so that is a success in my eyes.

In all honesty I was overwhelmed with all of the layout choices and ended up choosing the one that appealed to my organized side. Yes it is a “side”. It seems to be a weird illness that some of my colleagues can attest to. When we are at work we are the most meticulously organized people on Earth. We make year plans, day plans, short term goals, long term goals, and lists upon lists of things to accomplish but when we get home we are lucky if we can find two socks that match or remember when recycling day is.

The tutorial and walk through for WordPress led me through an activity to create an interesting “about” section. I was struck by the message that if you want to be “somebody” this section needs to be well written and developed. I found myself following along with the exercises and completing a “better” about  section. It wasn’t until I sat back and critically looked at the message that was conveyed that I recognized what had happened. I bought into their idea that if I wanted to make this a successful blog (according to “them”, whoever that might be) I need to follow their recipe and share what they thought should be included. I must admit that the exercise allowed me to peel back the layers and be authentic but it also created a vulnerability that even though I sit behind a screen as I type I feel I must be cautious. Can one ever be completely authentic online and share our opinions, thoughts or ideas given our positions as an educator?

So why am I here? Media literacy and digital citizenship are concepts that I have just scratched the surface of in my life. I thought I was fairly technologically savvy but I quickly realized that I am just barely managing to tread water. Within an hour of the first class it became apparent I had just jumped into what felt like an endless abyss of hashtags, filters, blogs and loads of information. So much to learn but a deep breath in and I began to swim.

As I continued getting acquainted with digital media I was faced with what I call the “Conundrum of Conformity”. I moved forward keeping in mind that anything I write gets published in “cyberspace” to be shared with more people than I could ever imagine. This has me again questioning wanting to share my authentic ‘voice’ because I am very aware of remaining “professional” or what others deem as professional. This means that everything is in draft version with endless edits and re-reads and makes me acutely aware of my digital footprint. Second guessing everything I have on social media thus far, I did quick check back to my Facebook page after remembering what Professor Couros shared about images on the web and that many people can access them even when it is set to private. How many of them did I post without thinking about who would have access to them? I believe things are ‘okay’ with the albums there but it may be a task I have to revisit later on.

Setting up a professional Twitter account and joining the Google+ communities were an easier task for me. Utilizing them efficiently is another story. I have never been a big fan of Twitter, perhaps because it limits my verbal diarrhea and forces me to make my 140 character message very succinct. I am venturing out of my comfort zone to really see what it can do with it.

Over the past few days I have become very cognizant of how I interact with technology and what impact it has on me. Facebook is like my morning newspaper with Twitter a close second. I usually spend a few minutes scrolling through and pausing every now and then on stories of interest (mostly gossip in all honesty). Now I spend more than just a few minutes scrolling. I have made a conscious effort to be aware of what is going on in the world, our country and our city. I think about what the message is that I am receiving from these different forms, what is the message that may be hidden and how does this impact my life.

So what is Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship… It seems to be the experience of recognizing, understanding and interpreting the messages that are sent and received constantly through different forms of media and how those messages shape or influence me. Continuing to be a critical and creative thinker is imperative for me as a learner, educator and for my students as learners.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2015 in EC&I832

 

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