The paralyzing fear of social media waters is drowning our children, but that fear is misplaced. Our students are online. They have been online. Our students are in the water. They have been in the water. They were in the water long before we even noticed without lifeguards, without supervision, without support, without guidance. Some swimming, some barely floating, some sinking.
I fear that students do not know how to swim. I do not fear the water.
I once protected my children in the water with my loving and guiding arms. I held my children in the water helping them float and ensuring they stayed afloat. As time passed, I entered the water with them staying close in case my assistance was needed. Now they jump in without my help. My support comes from the side. It is comforting to me knowing I am there if needed. It is comforting to them knowing I am there if needed. Eventually, they will swim without my presence. I knew it was inevitable they would encounter water. I knew it was my role to prepare them. If I failed to teach my children to swim or provide them with an opportunity to learn to swim, I would increase chances of injury. If I failed to teach my children to swim, I realized I was gambling with their protection. Somebody might teach them, somebody might not.
I fear students do not know how to swim. I do not fear the water.
There are undertows and swamps and white caps. There are bodies of water polluted and bodies of water filled with dangerous beasts. Just as there are beautiful mountain springs, scenic freshwater lakes, and gentle turquoise waves. I have worked to model sharing how to tap into the power of social media. We all must work to show the potential of that experience. I am not going to keep students from the water because of what could happen. What could happen if I don’t is exactly why I am going to bring them to the water. Students have a difference to make, an audience to reach, a soul to inspire…digital technology is one way of many ways that can happen.
One more thing: Thank you, Sioux Central High School English teacher, Angie Vanderhoff, for being bold. I am looking forward to moderating the speech class Twitter chat on Friday discussing the power of voice in social media. Thank you for being there to guide your students, thank you for supporting your students as they learn to swim in social media waters.