The word search immediately makes me think Google. I am sure I am not the only one. I know that it’s Elul and this prompt is intended to inspire reflection and introspection, but I can’t quite seem to get my brain past the notion of an online search for ideas and images.
Maybe one reason for this is that I have finished reading the book “It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens” by Danah Boyd. To be honest, I have done little more than think about this book’s impact since setting it down. Yes, it really was that significant.
So I went to Google. I figured that if I was going to write a post about using Google to search, I should go ahead and do it myself. I googled (yes, it is a verb) “inclusion” and the first hits were, as I expected, mostly education focused. I was also pleasantly surprised to see one of my own posts as the second hit. And yet, I realized that from the moment I pressed “enter” I was thinking more critically about what I might encounter online. I recognized that this search was tailored to my own biases based on my own past search history. Boyd elaborates on this in chapter 7 where she explains that, “most parents, teachers, and teens express reverence toward Google” and “many of the people I met believed that Google was neutral.” She further explains that most of the people she encountered failed to recognize that Google, a for-profit company monetized through advertising, is far from neutral.
This isn’t a bad thing, and it doesn’t mean that we should stop using the search engine. Rather, it illustrates that we have an obligation to teach our students and our children how to view and think critically about the information they access online.
That message is one of this book’s most significant takeaways. As Boyd states in her closing chapter, “Networked publics are here to stay. Rather than resisting technology or fearing what might happen if youth embrace social media, adults should help youth develop the skills and perspective to productively navigate the complication brought about by living in networked publics. Collaboratively, adults and youth can help to create a networked world that we all want to live in.”
As a Jewish Educator this speaks to me of tikkun olam; working as partners to repair and perfect the world.
As a teacher this speaks to me of directly teaching the skills of critical thinking and digital awareness.
As an advocate for inclusion this speaks to me of opening new doors and embracing new possibilities.
It’s Elul, so I am still processing, still reflecting, still searching for the ways that this book can and will impact my work and my students. I believe that this book is an important read for anyone who works with, lives with or cares about teens.
And if anyone has read “It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens” and wants to discuss, please let me know!