Who’s Concerned IF Social Media Affects Education and E-Learning with 5 Teaching 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.
In simple literacy, democracy depends on an educated public. People need to be able to reason beyond superficial tweets for mass attention or indoctrination.
As a retired English teacher, 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.
ONE: Virtual communication is not face to face communication … stop the illusion that it is!
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 with quickest shortest texts. Did you know that American teens send and receive text messages 144 times a day?
If just texting or tweeting, the basic act of face-to-face 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 victim's reactions, it’s easier to be anonymous without any consequence for writing something offensive 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.
TWO: Grammar is still a timeless function that matters
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 need to now?
Who wants to learn proper communication skills when 140 or 240 alphabet letters 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.
THREE: Texting or tweeting has learning limitations
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 a smarter problem solver in a more emotional and environmental competent way.
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 for what holistic purpose?
FOUR: Parents need to actively help with technology
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 or misuse.
Perhaps, if students are allowed to use their cellphones during class time, then distractions can affect attention span. 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 with 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.
Five: Social media has side effects on online learning
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 with 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 enough to learn at their own pace in customized home environments 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 lack strong self-motivation and time management skills who may not like working in isolation needing that one-on-one feedback by a teacher and more time to work on hands-on projects versus less theory. Online courses may be limited to certain subjects rather than a broad spectrum of knowledge with studies that may not be available to computer illiterate students.
The bottom line is that I’m not sure how social media can play a holistic or significant role for many students in self-determining 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 synergy of thoughts in formation … something new … something confirmed ... something wonderful coming into being. Not sure how a cell phone interface can do that.
PS: The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate. Thomas Jefferson