Discussing Social Media with Grade 4 students

I recently spent an hour talking to a Grade 4 class about Social Media. This is the youngest grade that I have had these conversations with and I was pleasantly surprised by their enthusiasm for the topic and willingness to consider my message. As usual I prepared a slide deck and made some notes about general themes I wanted to touch on, and then made it up as I went along. The class was looking at Social Media through the bigger lens of Mass Media and as I talked I felt like I was making some interesting connections (at least to me) that were worth sharing.

Initially I was at a loss as to how to structure my presentation and as a last resort I re-watched ‘Did You Know 4.0‘. I didn’t have any intention of showing this video to the class as I figured it was too fast and most of the important points would go over the student’s heads. But as I watched I was struck by how good some of the visuals were and found myself thinking “If only I could just show them some of this ..”, and then I realised I could. Using my favourite screenshot tool I went through the video and made screenshots of all the visuals I liked. I then imported them into PowerPoint and started to think about what I wanted to say. At that point I realised that the order of information in the video wasn’t a structure I could use, so switching to slide view I rearranged the slides and voila, had a version of ‘Did You Know 4.0’ that worked for me. As it turns out the ‘Did You Know’ video had three really useful messages that I hadn’t really picked up on before. The first one was:‘A surge of new technologies and social media innovations is altering the media landscape.‘To reinforce how much technology has changed I showed them this visual, which is actually from the end of the original movie.

As a lot of grade 4 students at my school have iPods they all have these powerful computers in their pockets. I felt like it made them sit up and take notice when I started talking about the power they had in their possession. I found myself explaining to them that this was part of the reason Social Media is so important these days, because everyone can access it and contribute to it using these powerful devices.We talked about the difference between regular media where only journalists get to be the ones that publish, and social media where anyone can publish. We discussed the pros and cons of having access to information that hasn’t been filtered through an editor. I am constantly amazed at how many students think they just ‘know’ when something online is not real. I tried to explain to them that this all depends on them having enough background knowledge to make a judgement regarding truthfulness, but felt like my explanation was falling on deaf ears (something to ponder for next time).

With the next slides I wanted them to understand how social media innovations were making life difficult for traditional media. I started with a series of slides showing the decline of newspaper readership and the increase in online reading, followed by this slide showing how advertising has changed.

I found myself explaining to them the significance to advertisors of being able to track how many clicks their ads get and who clicks on them. I included a brief explanation of targeted advertising and how companies like Facebook and Google track their online behaviours so they can send them ads they are interested in. They seemed interested but I will have to reflect on whether this was an appropriate message for their age as most of them were not yet on social networks and not a position to purchase online.

The next message I took from the “Did You Know” video was: it’s easier than ever to reach a large audience but harder than ever to really connect with it. An hour or so before my session I sent out a Twitter request for messages to the grade 4 class and had a few replies that I shared while explaining how I use Social Media. I think, however, that I had a bigger impact when I showed them this slide:

Followed by this slide:

I also took the opportunity to explain to them how crowd sourcing worked and we had a very productive conversation about Wikipedia and whether or not it was a trustworthy source. As Wikipedia factors so heavily in almost all school children’s research work these days it is not surprising that they wanted to talk about it. I also showed them the slides about President Obama’s use of social media while fundraising for his presidential campaign.

(And here is where this blog post is going to end. I am afraid that any chance of it getting wrapped up in a neat way has become hijacked by my attempts to blog from my new ipad using the Blogsy app.)

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