On a day known for eating gluttonous amounts turkey, cranberries, stuffing, gravy, hamburgers, milkshakes or whatever your family traditions entail, I find it only fitting to blog about the amount of “consuming” we do as a society. While many of us will sit down to consume 8, 10, or even 12,000 calorie meals today, we have probably already spent a great deal of time consuming information from our phones, devices, or computers.
As a society, we have become constant consumers of information. From the minute we wake up to the time we go to bed, we are constantly bombarded with information. Whereas our ancestors from only a few generations ago had to wait to go to town to catch the latest gossip, get their hands on a book, or pick up the newspaper to get the latest news, it is instantaneous in the social media day and age. However, what we are consuming can either benefit us and help us grow or fill our minds with endless garbage.
Looking at studies this trend of digital overconsumption doesn’t start with screenagers but even toddlers are getting nearly an hour a day in front of digital screens. And from there the amount of time young kids through adults spend on their phones continues to rise. Whether it is Snapchat, Instagram, or Youtube for children and young adults or Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for adults, we are all guilty of this trend to be constantly “liking”, “snapping”, or “pinning” our favorite content. So as schools and educational communities, what can be done to adapt to this new way of consuming content and information?
For starters we need to teach students to be good consumers of digital content. Studies show that teenagers spend on average nine hours a day on social media or other forms of digital consumption. (From a somewhat dated article from The Washington Post, “Teens Spend Nearly Nine Hours Every Day Consuming Media”) If ⅓ of a student’s days is spent on their device why not encourage students to take time each day to close the Snapchat app and read a trusted news site? Teachers can take a minute at the end of each class period and share a blog post, TED Talk, ebook, or inspirational video for them to consume after class. Have them google something they are passionate about and start collecting resources where they can learn something new in an subject that excites them. Never before in the history of humans has so much knowledge been at our fingertips and it is only a simple Google search away.
But as educators, it cannot only be about consuming content. Students need to learn how to create content worth sharing. Ask any kid over the age of six where they go to find information on how to do something and nearly everyone of them will say YouTube. Whether it be how to solve a Rubik’s cube, instructional videos on Parkour, or strategies on winning their next Pokemon card game they know how and where to find this information. Our challenge to them needs to be how to create this content to share with the world and not just for “likes”, “views”, or “pins”. Sure we all like it when a picture or blog post is viewed hundreds or thousands of times, but the art of creating and sharing your talent for others to learn from needs to be the true lesson.
One would be remiss to write a post about social media use without mentioning digital citizenship and internet safety. Now more than ever this needs to be a constant focus when speaking with students about any of these digital consumption and creation topics. From being kind, appropriate postings, when to post, or when not say anything at all, these lessons need to be continually reinforced with those that are most vulnerable to the dangers our internet world possesses.
So as you finish off that last piece of pumpkin pie, settle in your favorite chair, and more than likely pick up your device from some after dinner consumption, ponder how you yourself can become not only a consumer but creator of content. Will it be that long overdue blog you’ve been meaning to start? A new pinterest board with your favorite family recipes? A YouTube channel with healthy living tips? A Facebook fan page with your best photos with tips on taking better pictures? We all have our own skills and talents we can share with the world. No longer can we be just a consumer of digital content but strive to be a creator who gives back as well.
Inspired by Nebraska Loves Public Schools “Feel the Love Friday” I thought I would share a story of LOVE. It reminds me of the impact we can have as educators and that words do matter.
There is no greater honor for me (or many principals) than to announce each individual student by name as they walk across the stage to receive their high school diploma. I work for weeks to be sure I get each student’s name correct although I still manage to miss this up at least once a year. It has been a long held tradition at Milford High School that after we announce the graduate's name we wait and wait and wait until each parent, grandparent, friend, aunt, uncle, etc gets the perfect picture. As soon as they begin the walk across the stage, I say the next name and so on.
A few years back, I was announcing the graduates and the previous student stopped behind me at the podium and said four little words, “I love you, Mo!” After being taken aback by the comment, I turned and said, “I love you too, (insert student’s name).” This student wasn’t the most popular, valedictorian, all-star athlete, fine arts superstar, but was a student that was always here grinding away at earning a diploma. This wasn’t the kid that would chat with me everyday at lunch but was one that I would say hi to every morning and ask how he/she was doing.
During a student’s senior year at MHS I hold a number of “meetings” for them and we talk about legacy, saying thanks, not burning bridges, what’s next, being a good community member, and the list goes on and on. However, my favorite day of the year, and always most memorable, is the seniors last day in school. We start the day with band and then I get them for about an hour. We hash out all the details for the final week leading up to graduation and then I read them a book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Suess.
I wrap up the morning by a few last pieces of “life advice”, tell them what they mean to me as a class, and always, always tell them “I Love Them.” This isn’t a hollow sentiment, but one I truly believe as each and every class does mean something to me and I do love them for who they are and the wonderful adults they have become. Some are taken aback by the comment, some are confused, while others get it!
Educators are in this wonderful profession because of our passion for kids. I know at times it can be trying, wearing, exhausting, frustrating but with patience and persistence we are making a difference and hopefully we all get that “I love you” moment.
Milford Jr/Sr High Principal