Mike Lombardi: Time to focus on social media literacy in our schools
Something’s happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear! This opening line from a popular song describes the constantly shifting world of social media. The new world of Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and other social media tools continues to have a significant impact on our schools and society.
The outbreak of viral Facebook images from the recent incidents in our communities underscores the need for the K-12 education system, parents, community organizations, and postsecondary system to take a proactive leadership role in developing education and awareness programs and strategies to assist our kids to navigate the murky waters of Facebook and other social media tools.
Are students really as tech savvy as they may think they are? Although this generation of students is very adept at using social media for entertainment and leisure, schools can play an important role in helping students to develop their social media literacy skills. Even though students have been online since childhood, they need to learn the basics of navigating privacy and personal information.
A social media literacy education and awareness program should be developed in conjunction with parents, students, educators, law enforcement agencies, community organizations, and other appropriate agencies. The social media literacy program should be designed to help students understand the responsible use of social media and should focus on appropriate use, ethical considerations, protocols, and dos and don’ts. Parents, students, and community organizations should play a key role with members of the education community in helping to define and shape the education and awareness program.
Potential elements of the social media education and awareness program could include:
• Understanding social media
• Social media: reputation, identity, and authority
• Privacy, security, legal, and ethical issues
• Critical thinking and reasoned choices
• Dealing with cyberbullying
• Guidelines for adult interaction with students
• Benefits/risks of social media
• Using social media to enhance learning
• Best practices
Many organizations including the Vancouver school board have made a decision to use social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, et cetera) to enhance communications, public engagement, and community outreach. The province, municipalities, boards of education, postsecondary institutions, and community organizations have a responsibility to take a leadership role in promoting the development of strategies and programs to assist students, parents, educators, and members of the public to develop their social media literacy skills.
Some school districts and agencies are developing social media literacy programs. However, such programs have been developed in isolation and are implemented on a hit-and-miss basis.
Now is the time for school trustees and other policymakers to play a leadership role in bringing together educators, students, parents, law enforcement agencies, community organizations and other appropriate agencies to develop a comprehensive social media literacy program. The program should be supported by resources, community education, training, parent and community outreach, and K-12 and postsecondary curriculum.
As a school trustee I am interested in leading a community effort to develop a social media education and awareness program that deals with the new realities facing kids and our communities.
Mike Lombardi was elected to the Vancouver school board in 2008. He is running for reelection as a Vision Vancouver school trustee.