The Internet is a great medium to get things changed and flex your muscles. It can greatly reduce the power balance between the powerful and mighty corporations, and Jo Average – almost to the degree that Ms/Mr Average is stronger. A single tweet, a comment on Facebook or a blog post can change the world. We do have power to get things changed.
a) Tweeting for Rwanda
Make writing activities real by getting students to write to, tweet, comment on the Facebook page of political leaders, UN representatives, business leaders and other key figures who can help bring about change or who are doing great wrong. One great example of this was Tara Kendyle’s project in which her class http://www.tm4rwanda.com/. In Tara’s words:
In April of 2010, we started a student project to spread awareness of the Rwandan genocide that occurred in 1994. My students and I wanted to remember the victims of Rwanda because there is no “real” memorial here in the U.S. Our goal was to receive 1 Million Tweets in 100 days in remembrance of those who died at the hands of hate. The project earned us a complimentary ad valued at over $50,000 in The USA Today newspaper to spread our message of remembrance and peace … While we did not reach our goal of 1 Million Tweets, our lives were changed. My 23 teens now know their voices make a difference. These students are changing the world!
b) The Arab Spring
No real need here to explain how social media has had a major impact in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Syria, Yemen…
c) Britain’s “News Of The World” newspaper
Britain’s top-selling Sunday newspaper closed down after a flood of revelations that newspaper workers hacked the phones of murder victims, terror victims, and the bereaving families of military killed in Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as politicians, sports starts, singers…). The British public were appalled at this. A torrent of tweets were aimed at the newspaper’s advertisers. Many of these succumbed to this (among other pressure) and decided to withdraw their contracts with the newspaper.
So how do teachers (and students) flex their cyber-muscle?
You can probably think of dozens more examples of how the use of social media and the Internet can and has brought about change. Here are a few we could use (carefully and with students likely to be interested) in the classroom
- Discuss with students how social media can and does make a difference.
- Encourage students to join Facebook groups
- Show students what a hashtag does on Twitter and get them following or using some.
- Discuss how effective it is to post comments on the Facebook sites of companies or people doing wrong. (My experience has been that companies take negative comments seriously and will quickly start addressing issues).
- Get students involved in their own campaign for change, like Tara’s above. The students make the online posters, design the logos and website, create the aims and ideas, etc. – all in English.
- Get students blogging! When they are given a voice and an audience you start to see their ideas taken seriously as well as spreading throughout society. You can do this with kids of all ages. (Thanks to Pernille Ripp for this suggestion.)
- Students visit http://freerice.com/ It’s a small way to make a difference with world hunger, yet students can benefit from it too by improving their vocabulary. (Thanks to HSeslteacher for this suggestion.)
I’m not overly happy with this post as I think I could have thought of more ways for teachers and students to use the Internet to get things changed. If you can think of more ways, please comment and I’ll add them to the list.