Monday, April 9, 2018

Correcting the Disconnect of Social Media on Today's Student

        Smart phones and social media are wonderful tools for communication and research, or are they? For several years now, I walk into my classroom and witness every single one of my students connected to their smart phones. Some are texting, some are viewing their Facebook page while others are sending tweets or sending memes via Instagram. Regardless their method of connection to their friends or family, research shows that they are disconnected from the social interactions enjoyed in the past. Gone are the days of long phone conversations or face to face discussions about the weekend romance, family, vacations, or school. Today, my students rely on Facebook for a look into a friend’s or family’s home or recreational life. Twitter allows 140 characters of dialogue without any sense of tone or mood. Texting asks, replies, and truncates communication while Instagram delivers memes instead of words.  Social media is not only causing a social disconnect that might become irreversible but also affecting the way in which students research data, often gathering information that is unreliable or simply untrue.
Each of these “social” connectors may appear to socialize our youth, yet one would beg to differ. Recently, while having lunch with my husband, I observed several young women silently eating their lunch with one hand while texting either others or the very individuals with whom they were having lunch! I have also witnessed the nuclear family dining yet no one is talking, each person, including the young children, were immersed in their smartphones. The dinner table discussion has gone into the ether of the past. According to writer Katherine Hobson and researcher Brian Primack, today’s youth does not feel socially involved; instead, they have deep feelings of isolation. The study indicates, “people who reported spending the most time on social media — more than two hours a day — had twice the odds of perceived social isolation than those who said they spent a half hour per day or less on those sites” (2017). However, when I ask my students if they feel isolated, they answer with a resounding, “No!” It is my belief that this form of communication is all they know, so they may not think they are isolated. We, those of us born prior to 1980, know there is a different form of communication where one looks into the eyes of the other, or notices the mannerisms and expressions of the one with whom we speak. There’s comfort, we know, when the connection is tangible. It is my opinion that this is what’s missing, and an article written for Child Mind Institute confirms this belief. Author Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist states, “As a species we are very highly attuned to reading social cues. There’s no question kids are missing out on very critical social skills” ( qtd. In Ehmke, 2017).
As educators, how should we assess and handle our student’s preoccupation with social media? An empirical paper written by Paul A. Tess, conveys a multitude of research that has been conducted with findings that promote social media use within the classroom to the various negative aspects of such. According to the article, students refrain from using social media in learning because they view social media as their form of entertainment; whereas, if they were to use it for learning, it would be connected to their definition of work (2013, pg. A62). The appeal of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media tools for the student is most often the ease of communication and least of all the ability to handle class assignments (2013, pg. A63). What we usually see, when we walk into our classrooms, is not students fervently completing their assignments; instead, what they are most likely doing is learning what new post is on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Or, they could be texting their friends from across the room, in another classroom, or outside of campus.
Social media, if used properly, may be used to enhance learning. Some instructors will incorporate social media within their classroom activity. In a study conducted by Northeast college, nearly 2,500 students were surveyed. The study wanted to examine if there was any “relationship between type of and frequency of Facebook use and student engagement.” The study seems to indicate that social media played a minor role in student engagement (Tess, 2013, pg. A63). One particular study found that the level of communication within Facebook was, “superficial… and exposed unsophisticated study skills (A64). It appears that unless a communication or learning activity is directed and guided by an instructor, the effect of social media on education is nominal and unproductive because students would rather follow a more carefree attitude toward their social media accounts and not view it as work.
Perhaps, instructors can apply these technical tools within the classroom because as teachers we want our students to use any if not all methods of learning available. The classroom can become the forum where students understand the positive application of technology, i.e., their smart phone. Facebook can be used to gather information for a survey and Twitter can be used to ask questions and receive quick, succinct responses in return.
A recent in-class assignment for my Composition class proved to be a positive implementation of this tool. The class had read, “Invisible Women” by Yun Yung Choi. After a lengthy discussion on Confucianism and the role of women in Korea then and now, I asked students to form groups of four. Once the groups were created, I passed out poster paper and color pens. Each group chose a writer and speaker. Then, they were to use their phones to research the progress women have made within the United States during the past 50 – 70 years. They were also asked to make contact via Facebook and Twitter if they wanted to ask questions of their moms or grandmothers. The subtopics included: educational, political, professional, social, and cultural changes. Students worked on this for nearly forty-five minutes. A few groups completed their research while others decided to take their project home for the weekend. Time was productive and cell phones were used exponentially for the sole purpose of research. I walked around, inquired about their findings, and discussed some of their surprise findings.
In a study conducted at the University of Adelaide. Professor McCarthy explored the way in which instructors can use social media for class assignments. He designed a lesson so students would incorporate Facebook to complete submissions and to gather peer critique on information found. His findings indicate, “that Facebook was the ideal host site for a blended learning environment. The researcher also found an increase in course engagement particularly with an assessment task as indicated by the Facebook activity logs (2010, pg. 1202).
            There are many studies researching the positive and negative impact social media may have on students; however, there is one fact that will not change. Students will continue to check their smart phones for social contact, however minimal and barren it may be. We as instructors are able to design and create assignments that incorporate social media in order to introduce the ways it can be used for everyone’s benefit. Today, we can use Twitter within a classroom assignment (Literature, Composition, History, Sociology classes) to evaluate how political and social norms are changing the ways leaders maintain a connection with their constituents. Regardless the assignment, I believe that students who are taught that there is an assortment of possibilities for their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account.

Ehmke, Rachel. (2017). How Using Social Media Affects Teenagers. Child Mind Institute,
Hobson, Katherine. (2017). Feeling Lonely? Too Much Time On Social Media May Be Why.
McCarthy, J. (2010). Blended learning environments: Using social networking sites
to enhance the first year experience. Australasian Journal of Educational
Technology, 26(6), 729–740.
Tess, Paul A. (2013).  The Role of Social Media in Higher Education Classes (real and virtual) –
           A literature review.” Computers In Human Behavior. Elsevier,  A60 – A68.
© Natala Orobello

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Impact of DNA

My children gifted Mike and I with Ancestry DNA packets for Christmas. As we filled in our application, neither Mike nor I expected a surprise outcome. I was born in Italy of Italian parents whose parents and grandparents had also been born in the southern part of Italy, Sicily to be exact. Mike was born in Brooklyn, New York and that was almost as good as being born in Italy. His parents and grandparents were also Italian born and bred. However, we both expected some other race because Italy, especially Sicily was conquered by many. I was expecting some Middle Easter, Moors specifically, and some Ethiopian, but what I didn’t expect was the breakdown. The results were entertaining, especially for my husband!

Michael’s results were 76 % Italian, 17 % Middle Eastern, and 8 % other. Mine were 69% Italian, 14% Middle Eastern, and 4% African. Nothing surprised us as much as the percentage difference between Mike and I in being Italian. I understand that having been born in Italy is not proof positive of my authenticity, but come on now, he’s more Italian than I am? Suffice it to say, that as soon as he heard the number, he became quite haughty regarding his 76%. “So, tell me again, what is my percentage compared to yours? And, where were you born? Oh yes, Italy!” He taunted. I allowed him his moment of glory, but I’m now more interested than ever to find my story because as I dig deeper, I learn that I have Jewish heritage as well as an Egyptian background! I did not realize I was so exotic; however, I have always had an inkling that Cleopatra and I were once close.
© Natala Orobello

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Nightmare of One - of Millions

Some are leaving for Mexico
Signaling a reverse of trails -
Some are leaving for Canada
With promise of better days -
Some are sticking their head in the sand
Pretending everything’s ok,
while others are losing their mind
Because Trump rules our land.
“How did this happen?” We question,
As our country falls apart
When did we misplace our decency,
compassion, and giving heart?
Alternative facts are passed on as truth
Though the truth is before our eyes
He convinces his followers
By repeating and repeating his lies.
With Russia he is kind and gentle
With China he dictates and scorns
And his people whom he governs
Pretends he loves with throbbing thorns.
Our economy once secure and sure
Now balances on his next tweet spool -
And never before has a president been
The subject of so much ridicule.
He’s a moron
He’s illiterate
He’s a malicious narcissist
He’s too insane to rule.
Yet, he remains in office
And Republicans genuflect
As though he is their god.
His followers believe he guides America
As the leader of the Alt-Right.
They must rejoice as they observe
Gay rights receding
And women ridiculed
While Blacks are maligned
And Mexicans’ papers reviewed.
Our country is divided
By a malevolent reprobate
And when he says “Make America Great Again”
He means before 1958.
I cry at night -
My nightmares repeat his Tweets
And my prayers are mostly for my country
That mourns and silently weeps.
How much longer can we endure
A president who lines his pockets
Who cares more about his bank account
Than the millions of poor without.
The American Dream is dead
It died the day he spoke
An inaugural speech condemned
By the masses in their living room
Not the million supporters in his head.

© Natala Orobello

Monday, February 27, 2017


Witness me in everything
in rapture and abyss
God alone in sight
judges my dissonance.
© Natala Orobello

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hail Trump

The rise of Trump reminds me much of the rise of Stalin who said, “It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.” And, let us not forget Hitler’s belief that, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

Many Americans did not vote for Hillary Clinton because of the email scandal and the Bengasi Attack. Few of these Americans took the trouble to learn the facts, but that’s past history; she’s not our president. Donald Trump is. Here’s what I learned about him during the campaign. Everything he accused others of doing, he did first. “Crooked Hillary” was his code name for her while he kept his tax records a secret, asked Wiki leaks to leak some more emails of hers, and plotted her demise with emails being found one week before the election, later proved unimportant. “Lying Ted” was another method of removing the attention from his lies to someone else. What did he lie about? Check Politifact to learn that he lied over 70% of the time during the campaign and continues to lie as president. “Fake News” to all media as he sets up his version of Fake News, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” Trump believed and stated that if Hillary won the election was rigged. I believe that he did rig the election, once again taking the mirror away from his face and placing it in front of someone else, Hillary. How did he rig the election? How about the leaks? How about the lies? How about the last minute attack by the head of the FBI? How about the obvious affiliation with Russia?

Americans were promised a return to a Great America. I’m not sure what that means anymore. Great for whom? It is obvious it is not great for our farmers, our immigrants (legal or not), our free speech (when all who speak against him are accused of being part of fake news), not for women, blacks, Jews, or minorities when you have someone like Steve Bannon looking over Trump’s shoulder and helping him write policies.

Hitler’s economy rose exponentially during his first years in office much like our Stock market reflects the rise of our economy; however, let us not forget where Germany gained his figures through the annihilation of an entire religion, the forced labor of many young men, the elimination of women in the workforce, and the rise of his military regime. Trump is deporting many Mexican workers, so who will work the farmlands? Who will work the roads? Who will mine the coal? Will our young men be told that there is work to be done and forced to work? Will our workforce dwindle because everyone will be put to work regardless the lowly level of the job? Like Hitler will America try to decrease importation and exportation? It sure sounds that way.

My concern is that few who voted for Trump researched anything. They voted based on his propaganda of how he would make America Great Again. They did not research his business dealings or his past regarding blacks, Mexicans, and other immigrants. They did not think hard on his opinions regarding women or his opinions regarding Putin and Russia. They did not think that repealing ACA (Obama Care) would mean a loss of their insurance. They did not think that friends of theirs would not be allowed to reenter our country even if they were legally here. They did not think…



© Natala Orobello