Posted by Dr. Brad Gustafson
Much like a crayon or magic marker, Social Media mirrors the thinking and creativity of the user. Some people can take a few simple crayons and create astonishing works of art! There are others that may choose to use the crayons in less appropriate ways. For example, I’ve seen crayons used in creative ways on playground equipment. As an elementary principal, I’m pleased to share that the overwhelming majority of time our students are using tools like crayons and markers to do really inspiring work.
The take-away for this story is that more often than not, crayons are used to spread joy and beauty. They inspire creativity and sometimes their messages even touch the soul. I think the same can be true of Social Media. If we begin to cultivate digital citizenship in our students at a very young age, there will be no limit to the positive impact they can have on the world.
One way to cultivate digital citizenship is via conversation. Talk early and often with children about online tools and communication. Help kids learn to leverage Social Media to make a positive mark on the world through modeling. A great example of Social Media at its best is the Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge has gone viral…and for good reasons:
1.) The Ice Bucket Challenge gives us the ability to connect to a cause bigger than ourselves (ALS).
2.) Social Media is being used to connect people to each other’s “story.” The resulting communication I’ve observed has been fun-loving and authentic.
3.) The Ice Bucket Challenge and its inherent link to Social Media has helped us collectively create, communicate, and make a difference. The possibilities for self-expression and citizenship/service are very powerful.
4.) Most importantly, the Ice Bucket Challenge and sharing via Social Media have served as a catalyst for deeper conversations about ALS, service and real people that are hurting.
My wife’s uncle has been battling ALS for years. We’re hopeful that the awareness, energy, and funds being generated by the Ice Bucket Challenge leave a positive and lasting mark on a dreaded disease.
As an educator I’m also committed to teaching students responsible use and digital citizenship so that they can change the world and leave a positive mark. I don’t see this as optional anymore, and our kids are counting on us to learn, engage, and model for them so they have the capacity to thrive in a digital age.