Role of Student
The majority of teens are well-versed in social media, often moreso than their teachers. As such, this curriculum will be most effective in a classroom environment that empowers students to not only take an active role in sharing their own experiential input but where students also co-construct new ideas alongside their peers and teachers. The rapid pace of technological innovation requires a curriculum that is adaptable and even negotiated by the students themselves. “Negotiating the curriculum means deliberately planning to invite students to contribute to, and to modify, the educational program, so that they will have real investment both in the learning journey and in the outcomes” (Boomer, 2005, p. 24). This curriculum should allow space for students to discuss their media habits and analyze their impact.
In their paper on critical pedagogy in social media literacy, Burnett and Merchant (2011) criticize the traditional method of teaching media literacy in which “decisions about this are often made for students — ‘you will learn literacy in a certain way because that will be enable you to read/write in a way that reflects who we think you should become’” (p. 55, emphasis added). Instead, they remind educators that “the critical tradition is about enabling individuals to have some control over this positioning and offering them the potential for future action” (p. 55).
Ultimately, through introspection and peer learning, students should be able to understand the use, the impact, and the role of social media in our lives as a tool for empowerment. They should come to this knowledge through their own self-examination, rather than through hand-holding by the teacher.
Role of Teacher
It is important for teachers to acknowledge the generational gap that will inevitably exist within their classroom. Teachers may feel threatened by their lack of expertise in these emerging digital mediums. Ultimately, teachers have the choice to see the Internet as an antagonist — a distraction, a source for plagiarism — or as an ally — a mutually beneficial tool that can both transform their practice and their student’s learning environment. Social media specifically provides a platform to “turn people from spectators and consumers into innovators and creators” (Levine, 2008, p. 122). The 21st century demands a pedagogical shift from the “know-what” to the “know-how” and the web, with its boundless potential for creativity and exploration, can facilitate that shift.
This curriculum is not intended to be delivered as an informational, “Internet 101” unit. Rather, the role of the teacher is to facilitate discussion and critical thinking of students’ emerging media habits. This decentralized theory of curriculum development “encompasses a move away from seeing curriculum as a core canon or central body of content to seeing curriculum as hyperlinked with networked digital media, popular cultures, and everyday interactions” (Williamson, 2013, p. 8). Teachers are encouraged to promote a safe, judgment-free learning environment. Students’ social media habits should not be discouraged or labeled “bad” by the teacher. Burnett & Merchant (2011) argue that educators often mistakenly make decisions for their students, e.g., “you will learn literacy in a certain way because that will enable you to read/write in a way that reflects who we think you should become” (p. 55). This is counterproductive to the critical pedagogy tradition, which empowers students’ agency and control. Through group discussion, debate, media journals, and self-reflection students will analyze the risks and benefits of their online behavior and come to their own conclusion about what is ideal.