The Google Certified Innovator Academy included a deep dive into my chosen issue through the design thinking process. From there, I developed an idea for a product and, this week, I have started turning my idea into action. I am excited to launch Media By Example. Below, I have outlined the rationale and main aims of this project. The Academy was just the beginning.
As part of the application process, Google Innovators must identify a meaningful issue in education. I wanted to explore social media misuse in teenage years and all of the issues that are often associated with it. Before the Academy, I interviewed secondary educators, parents and students in order to gain a better understanding of the problem from their perspectives. These were my main findings:
- Many students have social media accounts well before the required minimum age of 13
- The minimum age is difficult for parents to enforce because the child’s friends are often connected already
- Standalone social media lessons overwhelmingly focus on fearmongering and the negatives of the internet
- Cyberbullying is the most common issue regarding social media in secondary schools
- Staff in secondary schools are “constantly” dealing with issues involving social media
Because social media is for 13+, we have mostly ignored it in primary schools. Then, when students are thrown in at the deep end at 13 (or earlier, in many cases), problems occur because they have had no scaffolding or guidance. They are provided with powerful platforms, often without any supervision, and expected to use them responsibly. It isn’t working. In other areas of learning, it seems obvious to scaffold. We need to apply this solid practice to social media. It is my belief that all teachers, as early as kindergarten, need to accept this responsibility and scaffold social media throughout a child’s education.
How might we scaffold students’ use of social media?
This was the question that drove my application, research and brainstorming. My scribbles below show part of the messy design process.
As an important part of the scaffolding, I came to the conclusion that all teachers need to embrace their role as digital role models. Teachers are strong, influential figures in students’ lives. As well as being obvious, it is strongly supported by research. It is time for us to apply that influence online and model to students how social media can be used positively. Imagine if all children grew up seeing positive and inspiring examples of how social media can be leveraged for good. I’m reminded of this quote by Jimmy Casas:
“What we model is what we get.”
Jimmy Casas, Culturize
I also believe that digital citizenship is the absolute minimum that we should expect. Being safe and responsible online is non-negotiable. Media By Example aims to take it further. We should aim to inspire young digital leaders; users who leverage the possibilities of social media to learn, influence, advocate and better themselves and others. Social media can be used to make the world a better place, but we need to lead by example. Media by Example will support educators in this important (and possibly daunting) mission.
I’m currently working on the website (coming soon). Among many other features, it will include resources, lesson integration ideas, opportunities to connect with others and general support regarding social media. Once the brand is established, I will create an online certification course to develop teachers in this area and reward those who are embracing this responsibility. My vision is to have Media By Example Certified Educators who are leading the way. These features (and more) are all on my roadmap for the coming year. So far, I have a logo that I am proud of and a Twitter profile for the brand. Please follow, support and watch this project grow. Feel free to add the #MediaByExample hashtag to any relevant tweets and look out for upcoming Twitter chats!
Media By Example could potentially prevent serious issues such as cyberbullying, depression and addiction and, instead, inspire the next generation of digital leaders. That excites me and motivates me to work hard on this. I hope that you also see value in this mission and join me on the way. For now, I’ll leave you with this quote that perfectly captures the intended impact of Media By Example. I welcome your thoughts and feedback at this early stage.
“Social media is like water. It’s everywhere. You can either let us drown, or teach us to swim.”
Student to George Couros
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