One of the great works in the dramatic tradition of Commedia Dell’Arte is Servant of Two Masters (1743) by Carlo Goldoni. Its comedic zenith occurs when the clever servant, Truffaldino, races around Venice attempting to tend to the needs of both his employers while convincing them he is loyal to each exclusively. Truffaldino started looking quite foolish – thinking himself twice as clever as he actually was, and contorting himself into all kinds of uncomfortable scenarios all the while trying to satisfy a hungry stomach.
Students in the 21st Century are not too far removed from the slapstick of Truffaldino when you discuss social media with them. Desiring both the attention of the world and privacy from the same, they desperately try to have it both ways. I hear innumerable tales of postings online that went awry because the intended audience was not the only recipient of the message. Too many students have yet to learn proper Expression, the second phase of the Cycle of Learning.
In my last post, I identified the need for promoting curating as a 21st Century skill. After students have developed an understanding of content, then they need to harness the proper means of sharing their understanding. The Internet is an ideal vehicle for sharing content, yet the pitfalls are numerous, and it is incumbent upon today’s educators to guide students in the maturation of their voice in what is a very public arena. The major difficulty for honing 21st Century communication skills involves recognizing Web 2.0 as a megaphone, not a confessional.
While there is certainly a place for weaving a personal narrative into the fabric of cyberspace, far too many students fail to realize that the narrative you weave may live beyond your initial motivation. Commentary that you believe to the private whisperings of two is actually a drama witnessed vicariously by many. There is no such thing as volume control in social media sharing, and this is the element that needs to become part of our educational practice. Tone and audience are both nuanced concepts that need rigorous practice, and if our students are going to be successful participants in the new information economy, then they need training in how to calibrate their narrative voice.
Just like Truffaldino, our students are often hungry – they want respect, attention, and positive reinforcement. Instead of bemoaning the state of affairs in social media today, let’s create a new pedagogy that harnesses these powerful tools in a way that leaves all of the players onstage smiling at the end!