Sure, your students are probably great at using technology. But are they great at knowing how it’s using them? How much do they know about what goes on under the hood of a website or smartphone app? How much do you know? Social studies teachers also have to teach the history, politics, economics, and sociology of technology use — and this subject will only get more important with time.
People realize its importance, but the technology moves so fast that ignorance of how it works stokes fear, as this chart by based on data from The Chapman University Survey on American Fears shows:
But there’s no reason to remain paralyzed, like a deer in the headlights. Just as humans can be taught to cross roads safely, we can teach ourselves to safely use the internet and other digital technologies.
For a good introduction to the subject, see the Tutorial: Social Media in WorldView Software’s U.S. Government. In it, we discuss the ways in which social media is used as a tool in political campaigns, in the organization of political protests, and in the process of governing. Continue with the Tutorial: Internet Research Primer, which is in all WorldView products.
Wrap it up with the series of lessons “Privacy Basics: Passwords, Tracking, and Data Retention” developed by Mozilla (the makers of the Firefox web browser). In this series, learners develop an understanding Web mechanics, security, and privacy as they analyze and reflect on common surveillance practices, as well as their own privacy habits.
So much of our lives is determined by what we do online; see this roundup from ProPublica for examples of how algorithms already make decisions for and about us. Knowing how online behavior impacts offline life chances is already a part of responsible citizenship — for everybody.
(Featured image by Quevaal at Wikimedia Commons.)