3 years ago
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#BashTag: Why We Need to Teach Social Media Literacy
I'm going on memory here, so dates are a bit fuzzy. A few months ago, a librarian on LM_NET wrote that she'd been denied a teacher's pass to Sesame Place because she wasn't a classroom teacher. The canned response asked that she submit proof of her teaching credential and Sesame Place would reconsider. Several librarians took the issue to Twitter and Facebook, and it quickly spread. I won't rehash the issue, as I am neither a teacher, nor a resident of the states that qualified for this promotion. But it got me thinking about the ways we use social media. Sesame Place is a part of a large corporation, and to me, a large enough entity itself to have a presence on social media. But the person who holds the @SesamePlace Twitter handle is the vice-president of marketing, and another employee claims the role of "unofficial social media spokesperson." A few of the tweets from the @SesamePlace handle were downright snarky, which is not what what I expected from a corporate account. More than a few people reported their comments on Sesame Place's Facebook page were deleted. I thought a corporation would have a better feel for finessing social media. Clearly, I was wrong. A few days after the Sesame Place kerfuffle, I read about the New York Police Department's hashtag fail. They had tweeted to their followers to ask for photos of civilians with NYPD officers. What they got was probably not what they had in mind. Occupy Wall Street protestors being dragged down the street, an elderly jaywalker with blood spilling down his face--clearly not the warm and fuzzy they'd hoped for. Eventually those photos did get posted, but the #MyNYPD hashtag had been subverted. Both of these stories struck me at the time because I was working on a project with 7th grade science classes. It evolved from a short project in which students researched an environmental issue into something that incorporates some things I've been thinking about social media. Students looked at questions of how (or if) social media can impact environmental policy, whether it can be used to increase awareness about an environmental issue, or if it can force action by a government agency or corporation. Some students also developed their own social media campaign for an environmental issue. I also challenged them to a corporate social media campaign, too. Someone has to write those Tweets about oil spills! (I didn't get any results on that one, though.) We discussed how social media is blocked in some countries, and that Twitter itself will comply with government requests to filter or block specific accounts. The key point that I wanted them all to grasp--one that Sesame Place and the NYPD failed to--is that no one can control the narrative on social media. Whether we like it or not (and I'm guessing Sesame Place doesn't) social media is somewhat like the Wild West right now. So let's teach our students how to use it responsibly, or at least, make them aware of how even adults are still learning the social media ropes!
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