Technology and the Socially Conscious Classroom

News on March 21 2016

We at Teq have talked about Good Digital Citizenship many times in the past. This phrase usually encompasses questions of safety, of ethics, and of what is and is not acceptable behavior for students and teachers alike.

However, there is one other way this phrase can be viewed that has not been touched on in much detail, and that is social awareness.

Nowadays, teachers have found themselves increasingly responsible for every aspect of their students education–not just the parts outlined in their curriculum. With the rise of widespread social media and a near-constant exposure to issues like racism, sexism, poverty, and other complicated social questions, the issue of helping kids develop a sense of social responsibility is more likely to appear in your classroom than ever.
As educators, we’re responsible for helping children learn how to live effectively in the world they will graduate into, and that includes being able to navigate these questions whenever they arise.

We’ll admit that many of these social questions are difficult to answer, if not outright impossible to do so definitively. We’re also not saying that we know the answers, and know that every teacher should decide to approach these discussions in their own way and in their own time. However, we’d like to at least help you start considering the possibilities by providing some resources and ideas that make use of our personal expertise–technology.

Elementary school teacher works with students on digital tablets

 Find Resources that Let Them Do Good

Free Rice is a very simple form of such a web resource: after logging on, students can answer multiple-choice questions on the platform. Each correct answer, instead of just earning points for the student, earns grains of rice in the real world that can then be shipped to areas stuggling with widespread poverty. Students can create logins to track the amount of rice they earn, as well as filter their questions by subject and difficulty. Another resource that hits a little closer to home is a site known as Givling, which works to help pay off education loans for college students all over the country. While the questions on this site are chosen at random and are closer to being trivia, a site like this can be used as an engagement tool at the beginning or end of a lesson

Develop Systems That Promote Positive Behavior

Even when not actively discussing such topics, social consciousness can be promoted by the structure of your classroom. By utilizing behavior management platforms like Classdojo or Classcraft, teachers can create systems where they can reward students who display positive behavior, such as acceptance of others. The Morningside Center also provides a sample project that students can complete that can help students become active members of their community as part of their classwork, developing skills like teamwork and social problem-solving as part of a group.

Other parts of the class can be used to develop a sense of mutual support throughout the school, by allowing students to create content for other students to use. For example, students in a higher-level class could use Apple Platforms like iBooks or iMovie to create stories for younger or struggling students. Other examples include having computer science students program tools for the special education class, or helping exchange students create tours in Google Earth to show their new classmates what the world looks like to them. When students are working to help each other, using their strengths to build up the weaknesses of others, you’ll find that school unity becomes a real, positive force for good.

Use Tech to Bring The World Into Your Classroom

One of the greatest benefits of technology is that it gives everyone access to information almost as soon as it exists. News articles, videos, or even simple images can be posted online, go viral, and be viewed by millions of people within just a couple of days. This kind of accessibility allows anyone to have access to a wealth of information that would have been impossible even ten years ago, from a wide variety of sources and locations, and lets people see trends that used to exist in silence before.

This can be a huge boon to classes! For example, students in social studies classes can use this level of access to explore both historical and modern issues with a level of depth previously unheard-of in schools, while science students can keep their knowledge up-to-date with the most modern research. Rather than just memorizing information that may be out of date, students can use this tool to hone their research and critical-thinking skills, which will be much more useful to them in the adult world.

This universality of technology can also help bring students together in entirely new ways. By letting them explore and present their lives and cultures to the world at large, each student can help their classroom learn diversity of people and the need for understanding and respect. Fortunately, many online resources provide tools for helping celebrate different cultures and lifestyles. Scholastic’s Teachers Website is one such example; in addition to their other topics, they provide a whole page of possible lessons, web resources, and ideas about multiculturalism! They also touch on citizenship, bullying, and a lot of other topics that the socially conscious student should be aware of.



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