Last week, I taught my students about Facebook. Not how to use it, they know that already. Not how to be safe and smart, we're getting to that. I taught them a few basic etiquette guidelines for using social media. The biggest revelation for the kids was not that we were talking about Facebook in school (which is generally not done), but that we could have a (relatively) intelligent conversation about how we use social media, and how to be interesting people to digitally be around. We talked about the most annoying things people do on social media, we talked about how often to post to be polite, and how not to be boring. But my point is not the social media. It's thinking critically about the world around us.
For most students, they'd never sat down and thought about HOW they used social media. They just do it and don't ask questions. It is our job as educators to teach students how to think critically about how they interact with the world. It is one of those 21st century skills that gets lip service all over the internet, but for good cause. Critical thinking and metacognition (thinking about your thinking process) help kids develop a more analytical eye to the world. Without this skill, they just get carried along by the waves of the most popular idea in the room at the time.
Today, I began a project with my 8th grade photojournalism students regarding identity. We talked briefly about how part of growing up is figuring out who you really are, behind the identity you project (particularly as it relates to social media. Then, we watched these two videos depicting how people hide behind masks, and what types of identities we hide. If we don't provide opportunities like this for kids to examine and question their assumptions, many will not choose to do that on their own. As educators, we must foster the type of environment that welcomes questions and critical thinking. Not all of our lessons have to be based around the obvious. We don't just have to limit them to critical thinking about Shakespeare through close reading. We can incorporate the world they live in, and help them begin to analyze why things are the way they are. This is imperative for all of us. Without this skill, how will they be able to envision and create a better world?