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Who’s Concerned IF Social Media Affects Education and E-Learning …this teacher sees 5 problems.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

How to teach, how to learn, in the process of how to be educated is the foundation for developing our communication, personally and socially, for competent communities. We exchange information by using a common system of symbols, signs and behavior.

As an English teacher, now retired, I have five serious concerns about how teenagers are bonded to social media for talking and thinking. I believe that formal education within its set of objective curriculum as I taught it, now suffers because online communication is a new dimension within a new territory with a definite lack of interactive skills; relying more on reaction and less on intelligent debate.

Communication has always been about people talking to each other in real time relying on personal rapport. It’s not blank screens messaging other blank screens.

When just texting or tweeting, the basic act of talking is removed without seeing how words can directly affect somebody … there is no need to read body language, facial expressions or vocal inflections.

For example, as a cyberbully, if you can’t see the reaction of victims, it’s easier to be anonymous without any consequence for writing something online. Did you know that the majority of harassers are friends or acquaintances? Only 23 percent of people report that a complete stranger has bullied them online.

Did you know that American teens send and receive text messages 144 times a day?

Grammar is about structure and precision about how language works, types of words, word groups, sentences and paragraphs to make communication logical, clear and correct. Spelling is important to memorize as part of the brain’s mental capacity in creating constant patterns of language. We used to memorize multiplication tables, or do we still?

Who wants to learn proper communication skills when 140 or 240 characters can take the place of a sentence? Or, better yet, who wants to learn how to write a paragraph, a whole group of sentences to state a topic, theme and resolution? What matters most is measurement by data called LIKES, HATCH TAGS, RETWEETS … even ignorant ones.

Let me ask you … have you read any teenager’s texts lately? Do you think there is a problem if there is limited evidence of proper spelling, syntax and grammar? Do you know that texting lingo has at least 1500 text messages and online chat abbreviations? Does it bother you that that writing skills, whether formal or informal, descriptive or expository, may be in decline? Who knows the proper format for letter writing? Even cursive writing is an anachronism now.

Real thinking is a mental process by which to form models of the world and psychological associations. The brain’s neurology takes practice to amalgamate concepts, solve problems, find reasons and make decisions. Cognitive frames are experiential, built by absorbing, processing and remembering, to be smarter and more emotionally and environmentally competent.

Does it bother you that learning itself may be in decline, also? Learning is an activity or process of gaining knowledge or skill through study, practice and experience. Learning helps to reorganize the structural changes of the brain to better understand and contribute to our surrounding culture.

Then you can say, “I learned something new today.”

In the classroom, to learn a unit of study on any topic, may involve weeks of presentation, asking questions, analyzing facts, making decisions, and evaluating from different points of view. It is not the same thing as using the internet hoping to find a reliable notation for information. It is not checking out social media platforms for quick answers.

This is not teaching … this is not learning. This may be retaining information for the moment but based on what collaboration?

What happens if there is a communication disconnect with parents who may not be as adept on social media compared to teenagers who live in their own Selfie domain? They may both lack an understanding of potential overuse. Perhaps, students are allowed to use their cellphones during classes which becomes a major distraction. Studies have shown that teens who frequently check their profiles have lower grades and lower reading retention. Academic performance may be impacted by lack of sleep, which parents may not know about.

In my opinion, because high school years are so intense and critical that often hold success factors for a lifetime, it is imperative that parents and teachers have interviews three times a year to discuss the student’s progress and goals. Young people are to be encouraged to share their challenges and work with all the attention and support they need to do their best. After all, it’s 5 short years on their total timeline.

Because of the pandemic and social isolation, the necessity of public education has entered the arena of online learning or E-Learning.

All this social context is a new phenomena that will also be open to later study to measure its positive intentions and negative results. There are both important advantages and disadvantages. At the core, I believe, a strong grounding in any previous formal education based on rules, set objectives and disciplines could greatly help individual progress in this new learning style.

There are definite advantages for students who are self-centered able to learn at their own pace. Their home environments can be customized with less distractions. Highest quality teachers can deliver their materials to a broader range of students with more time efficiency to update and evaluate lessons quickly. There is no need for textbooks or paper so less cost.

However, there are certain drawbacks for other students. Some may not have developed strong self-motivation and time management skills, may not like working in isolation, may need that one-on-one feedback by a teacher, may need more time to work on hands-on projects versus less theory, may be limited to certain subjects rather than a broad spectrum of knowledge, and studies that may not be available to computer illiterate students.

My biggest concern is to maintain equity for a fair educational opportunity for all students. It’s important at these uncertain times that each teenager builds a proficient individual in all senses: academic, psychological, physical and even spiritual.

The bottom line is that I’m not sure how social media can play a holistic or significant role for many students in self-minding their own motivation and value for a well-rounded mind. I do worry that as more language irregularities become more truncated and conventional; as the public system fragments and online learning is more individualized and specialized that we lose that population base with the knowledge, skills and sense of contribution to one’s own community and country based on democratic justice.

I don’t know about you, but I feel there is a special bonding when writing with pencil or pen, connecting fingers with language processes in the brain compiled over time, watching words come alive on paper … a holistic manifestation of thoughts in formation … something new … something confirmed ... something wonderful coming into being. Not sure how a glass interface can do that.

Questions and comments are always welcome. What are your concerns? What are your successes with education on social media for teenagers?

Annemarie Berukoff

Leave a message: 833 471 4661

PS: Democracy depends on an educated public. People need to be able to reason beyond superficial tweets for mass attention or indoctrination.

The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate. Thomas Jefferson

Excerpt: A frown crosses Grannie’s face. “You know the role of technology in society is very new. It’s only a couple decades versus centuries of human interaction. And you can read about how many people are worried about addressing the problems as they get deeper and deeper.

Your dear Smart phone is just one player without any instructions; you can cross any lines you want. You can watch the internet unsupervised. Just think, you can take a picture anytime, anywhere and post it wherever, whenever; regardless of an invasion of privacy and self-rights. Don’t you agree?

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