Thursday, January 27, 2011

Social Media

Now that I’ve completely suffocated you with cuteness to the point that you’re afraid to ever read this blog again, let’s rant about a more typically-Christine topic, shall we?

In short, my school curriculum is bizarre. This semester alone I’ve taught about such diverse topics as the Amish, ancient Egyptian cosmetics, the value of paper money, peacocks (did you know the babies are called peachicks?), totem poles, tarot cards, zonkeys, and the Berlin Wall (which should have been a relevant topic for Korean children had it not included an illustration of a man climbing over the wall with a dog biting his pants exposing a Galileo tattoo on his ass while another man stands in the background peeing on a lamppost). Combine these with my lessons on dolphin hunting and the aforementioned victimless crime from last semester and oh gosh, it’s shocking the number of useless facts I’ve picked up in the past six months! Yet, what strikes me in all of this randomness is the number of lessons I’ve taught on cell phones, social media, and technology.

Try just for a minute to remember your curriculum from elementary school. I distinctly recall watching Bill Nye the Science Guy, getting excited for long division contests on the board, and something vague about a show called The something something Mimi, where all I can remember is that the captain of the boat fell off and got hypothermia? The closest thing we had to a lesson on technology was playing Oregon Trail on Wednesdays and giggling stupidly at, the viral video of the 90’s I suppose.

Returning to 2011, I swear every book I teach has at least one article on technology of some kind. My JA’s learned about social media, my GB’s about cell phone addiction, and today, Mark Zuckerburg. Technology has become one of those go-to topics lumped in with the likes of food, animals, and sports that everyone can communicate about on some level. It's not that I think technology in and of itself is a bad thing, quite the opposite. I just worry about the inclusion of certain aspects of technology and social media in my elementary school textbooks, printed words my students take to be completely unbiased and true. Furthermore, it makes sense for my kids to learn how to talk about technology in this ever technologically advancing world in which we live, but I still feel dissonant encouraging them to fully embrace this technologically driven culture I have yet to fully embrace myself.

My GB book cites three warning signs that you may be addicted to your cell phone: Spending excessive amounts of time on your phone while, say studying; Getting angry when someone doesn’t message/call you back quickly, and; refusing to turn it off in inappropriate places. Check, check, and check. And I’m only a mild case! When I first moved to Korea, I lived without a cell phone in my life for about 50 days. I’m skeptical that my kids could do the same. Who would have thought I’d need a cell phone policy in my classroom of ten to thirteen year olds, but I can’t tell you the number of cell phones that have rung in class and the number I’ve kept in my designated cell phone mug on my desk for up to a week for such outbursts.

(I’m starting to sound awfully old fashioned, aren’t I?)

Though my kids haven’t yet started using Facebook and Twitter, my books seem to be doing everything they can to make sure that they eventually do. In my GB class, we spent two articles today talking about Mark Zuckerburg and the role of Facebook in the social networking world. Because the article itself was written in language and terminology way above their heads, I had them design their profile pages for their own imaginary social networking site (many of which contained battles between Kimchi and Tony, Harry’s alligator shaped pencil case) instead. Overall, they got really into deciding what information about themselves they wanted to share and finding ways to make their profiles unique and “funny.”

I’m torn about Facebook (although obviously not torn enough to give it up). I joined the site during my freshman year of college because “everyone else was doing it,” and now that the site boasts over 550 million users (or appx. one in every 12 people in the entire world), it really does seem that way. I think Facebook is great for keeping in touch with people you would otherwise rarely see, but it can also encourage exhibitionist tendencies in trying to prove your worth by having the most friends, the best pictures, and biggest collections of “likes,” not to mention that it’s completely addicting and easy to get lost stalking profiles of people you haven’t thought about in years. It’s concerning enough for people my age, I really worry about the impact such social-networking pressures will have on my eleven-year old kids…

And finally, leaving me even more dissonant than Facebook is blogging. The word blogging still instills in me images of nerdy people spilling their guts over the internet, keeping a diary that everyone else can read (As Bo Burnham would say, "And I want you like Anne Frank wanted nobody to read her @$%#ing diary, 'Cause a diary is a collection of secret things that no one's supposed to read, that's the whole point of a diary. Millions of people have breached this little girls privacy after she was chased by Nazis... kick her while she's down"). My JA listening book spent a chapter talking about the benefits of blogging and that keeping a traditional private diary is simply old fashioned. If you are eleven years old, however, I think there’s definitely something to be said for keeping your secrets, well, secret and not posting them all over the internet for everyone to see… Actually let me scratch that and extend that advice to everyone…

Obviously my blogging dissonance comes from the fact that I keep a blog (shocking, I know) and that I get surprisingly into it when I really take the time to write. In addition to feeling relieved at having written a really solid post (pretend I’ve written a couple such posts), I can access stats that tell me how many readers I have, what browsers and types of computers you use, what country you’re in (Shout-out to my readers in India and the Ukraine!), and what my most popular posts are. Basically everything short of your social security number. I like the fact that I have this outlet to share my experiences living in Korea and occasionally rant about, say, social media’s impact on Korean elementary children and the like, but I really don’t advertise myself publicly as a blogger, nor do I plan on continuing to blog once I’m back to living in the States…

Who knows, maybe I’m being old and fussy, but I really do think it’s fascinating how social media and technology have not only permeated my students’ lives through pop culture, but also through their textbooks. Textbooks which they take for truth, which tell them to rely on technology in ways I‘m hesitant to do myself. To think that so much has changed in just the past ten years!

For the record, I think technology is amazing, I really do! The fact that I live thousands of miles away from everyone and can still keep in touch with my friends and family in the States (and almasicr in France… of whom I am still jealous!) is just awesome!


- Christine –

Also, today is my 6 month anniversary of arriving in Korea! Can you believe I survived this long!?!

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