Bridging The Digital Divide

Communication Shakedown (1)

Over the past decade, the growth of social media has been quite remarkable. Global citizens have embraced new ways to communicate which have, quite literally, changed The World. Text messages and emails are fast becoming a thing of the past as new and innovative social media concepts continually spring up and pave new ways for communication and sharing. Just the other day, I was conversing with a friend of mine, @hallboy10, via Garmin Connect; a social media for runners and cyclists to share their exercise statistics and comment on achievements. It dawned on me that I was using at least 5 different mediums with which to communicate with the same person depending on the context!

The graphic on the left was made using Piktochart and demonstrates how the methods by which I communicate have changed since the 1980s. I have never been the first to utilise a social media, and until 2011 was pretty sceptical about most of them. However, I pride myself on being open to new ideas and after hearing the praises of Twitter being sung by HGJohn during his visit to The International School of Monaco, I gave it a go and have not looked back.

However, not everyone who grew up in the 60s, 70s and 80s has taken the plunge into the murky depths of social media, many preferring to skim the surface or indeed avoid getting their toes wet altogether. A consequence of this however, is the emergence of a digital-divide. Our children are growing up in a world where communication via social media is the norm and in many cases parents, guardians and teachers have no real idea about what these services provide, what there terms and conditions of use are, how they differ from each other and what their children are doing on them.

However, burying our heads in the sand is simply NOT an option. Social Media is not going away. Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 20.12.02In addition to the very clear data presented in my line-graph, there are some stark statistics that give further insight into the revolution that is happening on screens large and small across the globe:

  • 6 out of 7 people on the planet have internet access
  • 72% of all internet users use social media
  • 89% of 18-29 year olds use Social Media
  • 93% of marketers use social media for business

So, social media is here to stay, but what can be do to ensure we are comfortable that our children are using it responsibly and are aware of its dangers? I think a sensible, open minded and informed approach is best. Children are far more likely to take advice from someone who knows the difference between Snapchat and WhatsApp than someone who still thinks Instagram is a quick form of measurement. Furthermore, simply removing a device will not solve the potential problems. In fact, I believe this could be counter productive as children will still have access to social media via friend’s phones and as we know, those who are less educated in matters tend to be the ones who do or say the daftest things. Embracing the changing digital world, whilst being fully aware of (and sharing) its potential pitfalls, will most likely have positive outcomes.

Teachers, therefore, must make it an absolute priority to intertwine digital literacy within the curriculum wherever appropriate, whilst projecting a positive yet cautious approach to social media. The benefits of the internet far outweigh the negatives, but children need to be aware of the harm a damaging digital footprint can leave. Furthermore, the tragic consequences of cyberbullying should never be overlooked and positive strategies for avoiding/dealing/preventing it should be made as coherent and as accessible as possible.

Using digital leaders to promote e-awareness and responsible digital citizenship could be another idea, and one that may have an effect on those less likely to listen to a “boring old teacher”.  Developing a school blogging platform also provides an opportunity for children to learn about digital literacy and use social media in a secure and authentic environment. Involving parents in both these initiatives is another way of bridging the digital divide whilst also providing a more significant audience and purpose for any published content.

Finally, as we prepare ourselves for whatever the future of digital communication may hold, holding a workshop with parents will also lead to a more knowledgeable, informed and progressive approach towards social media by all those in the school community.  If you do decide to do this then please feel free to utilise this SOCIAL MEDIA PREZI that was successfully used to walk concerned parents through some of the basics of popular social media. It contains links to sites and user terms and conditions which will hopefully prove useful.



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