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.