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Digital partnership – Headmaster’s Blog 10 June 2014

June 11, 2014

I have just attended an annual one-day conference organised by TISCA, one of our school associations, attended by Heads, Governors, alastair reid mar 14lowresChaplains and Teachers from across England. Our task was to try and consider the opportunities and the pitfalls of the digital age and social networking in particular. We looked at a plethora of sites frequented by many young people (and the not so young now) such as ‘Tinder’, ‘Snapchat’ and ‘Whatsapp’ along with the more familiar ‘Facebook’, ‘Twitter’ and ‘YouTube’.
There is perhaps a tendency for adults of my age (over 55s if you must know!) to dismiss social networking as actually antisocial, wasteful of time and, potentially, dangerous. These criticisms may often be valid and evoke reactions such as ‘fight or flight’ when we might be better to consider strategies and approaches which embrace and shape the new media. The Ancient Greek philosopher Plato wrote this about a new invention in his time: This discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in learners’ souls…What he most feared at this time was the invention of writing! In the Renaissance the printing press was also condemned in many quarters but soon served to be a revolutionary tool which is only now being supplanted in our own digital age.
We were encouraged to see that social media has on occasion encouraged the growth of democracy, helped to bring an issue of justice to the public’s notice (such as the recent ‘save our girls’ campaign in Nigeria), promoted online groups which have actually enhanced ‘real’ social interaction, informed and allowed families and friends to keep in touch across the world.
Our speakers certainly tackled the deeply troubling issues of sexting and cyberbullying and I was especially struck by this statement from a pupil in a recent school survey:
Doing your homework on the internet is really great because it’s like going to the biggest library in the world. The only problem is that it also has the biggest games’ room, the biggest porn store, the biggest casino, the biggest mall and the biggest lounge. Sometimes I don’t make it to the library.
The message for us in education and for parents at home is to work in partnership where we can to share information, to understand today’s media-savvy world, to talk with our young people and to help put safe parameters in place. Young people do want boundaries but they also want to be listened to and taken seriously. It’s important we do all we can to redeem the media age rather than simply to condemn it or, worse still, ignore it.

Alastair Reid

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