The above program on the American show “Frontline” is a pretty good look at how teens have adapted their lives to social media. The question is, have we? I am a card carrying member of Generation X. And I thought we were rebels. We were the heir apparents to the baby boomers in America (a generation of children born from World War II veterans, creating a population bubble). We were the ones breaking the mould, asking the questions, being rebellious. Oh, have things have changed.
Ok, just for kicks and giggles, I always get a kick out of this hashtag sketch even though it’s more for actual Gen Xrs than teens. I don’t even think teens use hashtags which I guess undermines the point of this post. But I digress…
Yes, hashtagging has been around for awhile. You know something has reached its trending peak when it gets panned on late night tv in America. That’s not the point. The point is when Gen X’ers try to be cool with this stuff it can backfire miserably. Enter the digital literacy class I am teaching to 11th graders. I announced the other day that since Facebook is no longer “cool” that we would be using Instagram for a project I wanted them to do on an issue. They got visibly and physically upset. Several shut down their smart phones and said that they would never share their Instagram accounts with me. I backed off. I felt like the parent entering my daughter’s slumber party with a flashlight, asking them if everything was alright. Clearly a line had been drawn. We neutralized the situation by agreeing to open up new dummy accounts that they could use for the project. Crisis averted.
Teaching of this sort is pushing the line between the teacher and learner unlike never before. Although “Generation Like” students are putting it all out there and making themselves vulnerable and exposed in ways never imagined before the digital age, the same does not apply to the classroom. There’s a line there that we cannot cross. But what about individualized learning and differentiation? What about “reach them and then teach them?” Not so fast. Teach me that “school stuff” but keep your hands off my hashtag. But whether we like it or not, the role and that line of teacher/student is changing dramatically and affecting the culture in ways that are going to take awhile to adjust. The meaningful use of technology is intensely personal, and pushing those borders, that personalized environment that we all talk about as educators is not necessarily shared with our students.
So, I opened up my own dummy Instagram account like my students. I tugged the lapels of my plaid tweed jacket, adjusted my horn rimmed glasses, and said, “Okay, kids, let’s get to work.”