Professionalism, inclusivity, and social media: Educational foundations in these digital times

May 25, 2022
Mathias Ho, Graduate of Political Science from the University of Toronto and communications professional

At the event “Professionalism, Inclusivity, and Social Media: Educational Foundations in these Digital Times” presented by the Canadian Society for the Study of Education at Congress 2022, three presentations discussed the education sector and its future role in politics, risk, and social media. 

The first speaker, Rachel Brickner from the department of political science at Acadia University, presented "What’s Really at Stake? Lessons from Nova Scotia Teachers’ Use of Social Media on Collective Bargaining Frames.” While Brickner comes from a political science background, she presented her findings through an educational lens.

Focusing on a labour dispute between the Government of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union between 2015 and 2017, Brickner examined the tone of language in press releases as well as individual teachers’ opinions shared in blog posts, seeking to determine how care ethics  and care frames were used.

Brickner found that some of the press releases from both the government and the union focused on the care of the students, arguing that the dispute sought their best interest. As the talks went on, Brickner found that hostility increased toward the union’s negotiating opponent, as the provincial government  was accused of not working in the interest of students, and vice versa. However, Brickner noticed a lack of input from teachers themselves, whose grievances about the impact of policy on their jobs were not widely reported or shared.

Next, Bonnie Stelmach from the University of Alberta presented, “Text, Lies, and Mediascapes.”

In a previous study conducted by Stelmach that explored communications between parents and school administrations, Stelmach created a simulated inbox. Stelmach noticed that principals would triage attention towards social media incidents over other crises. These results surprised Stelmach, and she decided to look further into why.

Stelmach, assisted by undergraduate student Sam Pelkey, examined social media coverage of an event in 2015 when parents took a school division to task for the treatment of their child who was living with autism. The student was put in a ‘seclusion room’, which are legal in Alberta. When the parents were called, they found their child unclothed and soiled with his own feces.

Discussing social media conversations surrounding the incident, Stelmach reported, “We found that school board people were not at all in the top 100 tweets. It was very traditional outlets, politicians, news media outlets, who were the most active… Parents and school people were basically passive recipients of social media-distributed information in this topic.”

The final speaker, Erika Smith from Mount Royal University, presented “Critical Literacies for Social Media through Educational Development,” posing the question: which aspects of digital literacy do students view as important?

Although most of the students surveyed agreed that social media is a double-edged sword, Smith found that the majority viewed digital literacy and social media as essential for engaging in their life, community, and even school and future professions.

“When we look at how they answered on these exact same items in terms of how much they've learned, they indicated that they had only learned really a moderate amount or a little amount. They recognize the importance of those things, yet they indicate that they're not being taught in their university programs.”

Text reads: Congress in Conversation. Headshot of Nehal El-Hadi and Kshamta Hunter. Text reads: Part II with Kshamta Hunter.

Congress in Conversation - Part II with Kshamta Hunter

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