An Ordinary Girl Living An Extraordinary Life

The Second in a Series of Five Guest Posts

I consider it a privilege to know Jesinta Campbell. In 2008 and 2009, I taught her at Aquinas College on the Gold Coast and she was an exceptional English student, hard-working, sensitive and insightful. I particularly remember her heart-felt response to the well-known Jodi Picoult novel My Sister’s Keeper. Jesinta is, to my mind, the perfect counter argument to the stereotypical perception of the “dumb beauty queen.” She is capable of so much and I know that gradually Australia and the world will come to see her in a very different light. Jesinta has rightly become a role model for young, female Australians but it’s high time that her “demographic” broadened. Yes, she is extraordinarily beautiful but she considers herself just “an ordinary girl living an extraordinary life.”

When I asked a number of past students to offer their opinions on Social Media and education, she was quick to respond and found time in her hectic schedule to provide the insights which follow. But, before that, here is the only photo you will ever see with this caption!

The Connected Teacher and The Miss Universe Finalist

 

It’s fair to say that social media, in all its forms, has a huge influence on our lives. Even if you have no interaction personally with any platform– Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – all have become such a big part of our culture that almost everyone (unless you live under a rock) has heard of them. The term “social media” has become a part of the vernacular – not a day would go by that you don’t talk about it or read about it. What most people don’t realize is that even if you have nothing to do with it, it has influenced you or someone you know. Print publications have had to make adjustments due to information being so readily available online and TV shows have begun to include it in production so that they can reach a wider audience and interact with viewers. Politicians have adopted social media strategies to get in touch with people they usually wouldn’t have access to and some of the stories you read in the newspapers have actually been sourced from places like Twitter.

In my field of work, social media is everything; not a day, in fact, not even a few hours (unless I am sleeping) go by without me checking out what the people I am following on Twitter are writing, updating my blog or Facebook status or even posting a picture on Instagram. It’s fair to say that I am very familiar with social media and how it works, it’s often part of my contracts with certain brands or TV shows. I am contracted to tweet and use Instagram.

This brings me to my next point. Should we allow social media to be used in classrooms by our students? My immediate answer is “yes” followed by a very quick “Only if…” Like anything there are going to be pros and cons and social media is not excused from this. In fact I believe that if schools are considering the idea of utilizing social media in the classroom they need to be very realistic about the positive and negative effects of it. I have been blessed to have had positive experiences with social media. Some people aren’t so lucky. We’ve seen sports stars “come undone” with careless tweeting and we’ve all witnessed the very public effects that Twitter trolls had upon media personality Charlotte Dawson. We’ve all viewed YouTube videos that have gone viral, divided religious groups and been the catalyst for huge riots. Then, there are the stories that none of us hear about; the bullying, intimidation and online abuse of people on platforms such as Facebook.

Social media can be dangerous, very dangerous if you don’t know what you are dealing with. I recently attended a luncheon with our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, along with nine other young people who were seen as the Top 10 Most Influential people on social media under the age of 30. I felt so honoured to be included in the group alongside TV presenters, Olympians, sport stars, actors and bloggers. It was a fantastic lunch; we spent two hours with the PM discussing our experiences and interactions with Social Media. We shared personal stories and our own ideas and viewpoints on various online platforms. One of the topics brought up was the NBN (National Broadband Network) being introduced to Australia.

For those of you who don’t know, the NBN will allow 93% of workplaces, schools and homes to be connected to a superfast broadband network allowing communication to happen all but instantaneously – yep, that’s possible! After our Prime Minister explained the ins and outs of it all to us and the multiple benefits that the NBN would have for Australia, we raised a point, the most valid of the lunch in my opinion; how was the government going to manage the effects that this superfast, super-accessible network would have on our youth?

Having access to this kind of network also has obvious benefits. However, we said we would all like to see programs integrated into the current school curriculum that teach students how to conduct themselves on social media and how to manage their interactions with other people on whatever platform they are using. The “trouble” with social media is anonymity, young people feel as if they don’t have to take responsibility for their words. What most people fail to realize is that everything you post is just like walking in wet concrete; it leaves an imprint forever. So, in reality, we should all be even more conscious of everything we post, instead of the nonchalant manner in which we are currently approaching social media. If our government and schools can teach students how to conduct themselves on social media and raise their awareness about the impact their interactions have, then I believe social media is fantastic tool that can be harnessed for good in the classroom.

In the lead up to the Miss Universe pageant I spent hours on social media. What most people don’t realize is that when you compete in the pageant you need to be up to date and have opinions on current affairs and what is happening in the world around you. You are constantly interacting with people from all around the world and are interviewed and asked questions on a daily basis about any topic you could possibly imagine. Every day in the lead up to pageant I would read every major newspaper in the world via twitter and follow humanitarian groups, charities and influential world leaders on blogs, Facebook and of course Twitter. This allowed me to broaden my 18-year-old view of the world by being exposed to what was happening around me. This simply would not have been possible without the aid of social media.

I am a glass half full kind of girl so when I was asked the question if Social Media should be included in the classroom I couldn’t help but say yes. When I reflect on the way in which it has broadened my world I can’t help but see the positive impact it could have in the classroom. My glass is always half full but I am not wearing Coke bottle glass goggles so I am aware of the negative impact it could also have. This is why I say yes to social media in the classrooms, only if our government and teachers can find a way to first educate students on the power and potential negative effects.

Now, Jesinta has 36,000 followers on Twitter (…whilst her former teacher has 328!) but if you want to join the hordes she can be found @JesintaCampbell. More importantly we would love some feedback and comments. Remember that this young woman is one of the most influential “under 30s” on Social Media … and she has the ear of Prime Minister Gillard.

 

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