Another dot in the blogosphere?

Pot calling the kettle black

Posted on: March 15, 2014

Pot was out numbered 2:1 and thought twi by ....Tim, on Flickr
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I have been following the official news on MH370, the Malaysian Airlines plane that disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

In the absence of compelling evidence, possibilities have emerged from a multitude of sources. They range from an act of terrorism or hijacking to aircraft malfunction or psychologically unstable or irresponsible person(s).

These in turn were due to rumours or information on a relatively unknown group claiming responsibility for the downing of the plane, stolen passports and illegal immigrants, the aircraft reportedly veering off course or turning back, the co-pilot previously allowing two female passengers into the cockpit against regulations, and even someone who might want to pay off debts with insurance money.

The traditional media channels often vilify social media for creating a frenzy. Look who’s talking now!

One might argue that creating a media frenzy is a sure fire way of selling papers. It is might also be a method of investigation by considering all possibilities and then narrowing them down.

But the media circus largely ignores two other aspects.

The first is the human story of the loved ones of the victims of this event. They want action and answers. But the press is not doing them any favours particularly when their anguish becomes the news. An exception to this rule might be the Boston Globe’s Big Picture series.

The second is how more quickly rumours are spread (but also more quickly weeded out) when leveraging on the collective intelligence on platforms like Twitter. Traditional media channels want to take advantage of the first part (share information), but they do not have strategic mechanisms to resolve the issues the information creates.

To be fair, it is not necessarily the role of traditional media channels to educate. So my mind wanders and attempts to connect these aspects with educational technology.

The press tend to highlight dangers or misuse of new/social media. Teachers and parents fear technology because of promised ills instead of working towards the possible good. If teachers use technology, it tends to be in transmission mode instead of problem-solving mode.

I titled this reflection “pot calling the kettle black” because traditional media (the pot) is creating the same type of frenzy that it normally accuses new or social media (the kettle) of doing. But it is not educating people on how to resolve such issues. Educators of all kinds must do this.

More of such content dissemination and discussion will take place in social media channels, not less. It is up to us to model and teach behaviours like finding, analyzing, evaluating, and creating in social media so that there is more signal and less noise. But many teachers still drag their feet on doing this.

Both the missing plane and irresponsible teaching affect lives.

The missing plane might lead to the revelation of lives lost. While tragic and difficult to understand, this is a relatively rare event. But it is immediate and high profile, so it captures attention.

The poor integration of technology like social media in school seems relatively mundane. But for me this is just as tragic and difficult to accept because it is an accident happening in slow motion and totally preventable.

5 Responses to "Pot calling the kettle black"

Totally agree with you on “more signal less noise”. Btw, this could be the alternate title for this post.

I think one big barrier in using social media in education is the discomfort of teachers. Knowing that one does not have full control of the situation and various opinions and instructions can have a bigger and wilder life on its own. That alone is scary enough for anyone.

So you suggest that this “problem” is preventable? What possible solutions are there? Thanks.


Thank you for taking the time to read and share your thoughts, Elizabeth.

I agree with the alternate title. I had several but none seemed to capture the entire essence of my reflection. 🙂

Anything new (or newish) is scary. Putting my thoughts online for others to dissect or critique is scary. Why not keep them to myself? Simply because there is great value in exchanges like the one we are having now. So rather than focus on the fear of the unknown, I focus on the benefit while minimizing the risk.

I also think that teachers need to learn from their learners and be more like them. Very few other jobs provide so much time with kids and yet some teachers hardly understand or relate to their learners.

I think “control” should be expunged from the mindset and vocabulary of educators who want to reach in order to teach. Even Zuckerberg cannot control Facebook. But he can certainly manage and direct it, as can educators in their own way.

I think one important way for teachers to prevent the problem of fear and control is to learn how to integrate social media into their own lives. Sure, they might use them personally in their social lives, but are they actively thinking and transferring ideas to teaching? Are they extending their social circles to collegial personal learning networks (PLNs) with tools like Twitter?

Once that active and persistent immersion takes place, I notice that very few teachers turn back. They change and they wonder why they even avoided social media before.

The very blooming, buzzing confusion that is the perceived problem of social media sources now becomes an asset. It is an authentic context from real life rather than an artificial one in the classroom.


Insightful post, Dr Tan.

I agree that it is not necessarily the role of traditional media channels to educate; rather, it is to inform.

Social media is frequented by literally millions of people, so the full gamut of human responses are voiced for all to see. Unfortunately this form of egalitarianism must accommodate the biased, the stupid and the disrespectful.

The sensationalism of MSM is a universal problem that, I fear, will only get worse in the face of competition from the likes of Reddit.


I like your comment about how being more open also means accommodating the biased, the stupid, and the disrespectful. Some platforms will be more than their fair share of these sorts and the facelessness only adds to their brazenness.

Some years ago, I read an article or two about researchers who analyzed such online discourse. While anecdotal reports and a qualitative-only feel might give the impression that online social platforms seemed to be promoting anarchy or chaos, the researchers pointed out how much balancing of views a more representative crowd would do. I think the example might have been Amazon book reviews in this case.

I also think that these social channels are outlets for expression and of frustration. So there might be a more idiotic behaviours than rational ones. If educators understand that, manage their own expectations, and manage communication, I see social media doing more good than harm.

Just some more thoughts that you helped me draw out. 🙂


[…] Shut Down Singapore’s Airspace for 50 Minutes – Another dot in the blogosphere?: Pot calling the kettle black – Musings From the Lion City: Hand Thing Over – My Singapore News: MH370 – Explaining […]


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