A Conversation about Social Media

I had a chance to visit with Eric at Rousseau Lake College in late August.

I read @edaigle’s post on Google+ about social media, and this started a very generative conversation – one that I hope keeps going! – that I am now taking back to my the hallways and offices on my own school. It centers around Rousseau Lake College’s Social Media policy. Rousseau is a smaller school than mine, with a more pronounced emphasis on boarding culture. I say this only to highlight the tension that I feel between the role of parents and the role of in loco parentis.

What follows is the direct correspondence between Eric and I. Enjoy!


Hi Eric,

Call me crazy, but I think that our conversation that we’ve had over the last 24hrs would make a great blog post – with a little editing.  Do you want to collaborate on a join blog post?  I see it as something where we just cut and paste our conversation, and maybe insert some media, some questions and highlight some quotations.


On Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 6:16 AM, Eric Daigle <eric.daigle@rosseaulakecollege.com> wrote:


Thanks for being my biggest fan!

Our new headmaster, who you met, Robert Carreau, wanted to send a bold message to the community. We had been reporting to him how difficult it had been to involve our boarding students in weekend activities because they either always choose the easiest options or showed up and were on their phones the whole time. That plus the rampant gaming across the school at all times of the night and day and we felt enough was enough.

In order for us to truly stand behind the value proposition of an outdoor education school, we thought we’d make a blanket rule regarding electronics on Saturday afternoons. The students didn’t choose the time, we did. We felt Saturday afternoons would not be as impactful to study and this would get the students outside more (which it has) and help them prioritize their time more (which it has). Employees who are working on the weekends are also supposed to recognize the time out. Day students are encouraged to do so at home. Our dining hall is also a digital free zone.


One weekend when I was on duty, I ended up having to abscond a dozen laptops to lock them up. The students moaned and groaned, of course, but then a funny thing happened. One group of boys went for a walk to the store together. Another group of boys started playing cards. Yet another group of boys sat in the common room and talked about memories of Mexico. The final little boy went wee wee wee all the way home!

It’s not so much a “heavy-handed ban” as it is a shared time where students can choose alternative methods of communication. There is no wiggle room when it comes to smoking or doing drugs on campus. No student choice in the matter. As you know, screen addiction is just as serious (may likely be a huge addition to the next DSM). I’m not saying they love it (and teenagers being teenagers, many have found ways to buckle the system), but our parents love it, and we know we are doing the right thing by providing at least one weekly space for active reflection.
Kind regards,

On Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 7:21 AM, Garth Nichols <[email protected]> wrote:

Amazing!  Thanks for the info’ – we are engaged in a similar challenge, but with the big thrust is coming from our DAY school parents who want us to limit the screen time during the day, and block out certain websites (social media). We are trying to find examples and strategies.

What I am struck by most of all is the blunt measures that ppl are willing to take and enact ON students, as opposed to engaging them in the discussion.  I totally agree that these steps are necessary, but I guess I’m hoping it’s something we do with students and not to students.

Would you mind if I used your school as an example of what might be possible here?
Thanks Eric!

On Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 7:47 AM, Eric Daigle <[email protected]> wrote:


I agree with student involvement in almost all issues related to education. I see this as a “social” issue.
Also, we are not France and I still believe it is highly important to have the option to use technology in the classroom, including phones and laptops. We haven’t banned anything from the classroom itself. If the teacher can’t control the use or misuse of smartphones in the classroom, then there is something wrong with their teaching engagement style.
Academic Lead
Rosseau Lake College

On Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 8:09 AM,Garth Nichols <[email protected]>  wrote:

Totally agree again! I think that an intentional, well communicated approach from a philosophical perspective will improve the intentionality with which we use Tech across the school.  For example, if we ban the use of social media to students in the school WHILE AT THE SAME TIME our school is using these same platforms to try and engage students and the broader community, it seems we are working a cross purposes. The only thing I would add to your latest comment is that parents are so integral in all of this.  I guess that is covered for you having a significant boarding population.
Check out this article:
“Should We Limit ‘Screen Time’ in School?” by Daniel Scoggin and Tom Vander Ark in Education Next, Winter 2018 (Vol. 18, 31, p. 54-63), http://bit.ly/2gz4c9d

On Wed, Jan 10, 2018 at 11:28 AM, Eric Daigle <[email protected]> wrote:

Thanks for sharing. Great article.

These two views on technology will never abate. As in all things, a balance is often what is required. I continue to promote a “hybrid approach” with any new pedagogical tool. Use what works, disregard the rest. Have a healthy and purposeful mix of high-tech and low-tech in your classroom, back and forth between teacher instruction and student autonomy. Have guidelines and rules regarding technology usage but make exceptions when learning opportunities are more beneficial.
Most importantly, and to address your original query, have this dialogue with your students and parents. Co-construct fair and reasonable spaces and places for technology free experiences, comfortable in the knowledge that there are things to be gained and lost through any advancement and that quick and new doesn’t always mean better.
Good luck with your Havergal stakeholders!

On Wed, Jan 10, 2018 at 1:15 PM, Garth Nichols <[email protected]> wrote:

Hi Eric,

Call me crazy, but I think that our conversation that we’ve had over the last 24hrs would make a great blog post – with a little editing.  Do you want to collaborate on a join blog post?  I see it as something where we just cut and paste our conversation, and maybe insert some media, some questions and highlight some quotations.

On Wed, Jan 10, 2018 at 2:44 PM, Eric Daigle <[email protected]> wrote:

You are crazy!

Sure, why not.

Academic Lead
Rosseau Lake College

7 thoughts on “A Conversation about Social Media

  1. Amazing you two and thanks for letting us in – especially through this wonderfully provocative post-modern approach. As I’m sure it is for many, this is very timely; at RNS we hosted a bit of a forum – open invite – for all teachers this past Monday. It was VERY well attended and folks had a A LOT to say. Indeed, there is a growing tension between the value of technology/social media, and the extent to and manner in which our students interact with it. Luckily, for our community, there’s widespread agreement on a number of fronts, which you both captured above:

    1. Devices have profound value and implications as learning tools and we must actively embrace and explore that.
    2. Devices often get in the way of learning (one of the most profound points was that it helps students to avoid the discomfort on the edge of curiosity/inquiry; a place that we consistently, actively try to place them as we know that’s where the best learning begins – they defer to their devices to avoid).
    3. Devices can be the enemy of mindfulness and social interaction; both of these are 21st Century skill that we must teach and demand
    4. Students need to be mentored on constructive, appropriate use of devices (appropriate use is also a 21st century skill) and so expectations (restrictions?) must be implemented and clear.
    5. Expectations hold much more value if co-constructed with students (we are currently putting together a panel of students that represents a range of grade levels and perspectives).

    Eric, it’s funny that you describe it as smoking. When planning our “mindfulness week” last year, we talked about creating a “smoking tree” (remember those?!) – students could scramble towards it at certain times in the day to receive their “fix” – The learning here was not to ban and humiliate cell-phone use – it was to simply draw students’ awareness to their reliance on their devices through a tangible experience, and this might provide an opportunity for meaningful reflection. We never did do this as we were not confident we could help students to see it this way.

    Finally, yes! Thanks for highlighting parents as essential “users” in this discussion. We have learned some painful lessons with this oversight. It turns out parents – particularly boarding – have some strong feelings about the access they’re granted to their children. Who knew?

    Again, thanks for letting us in on this amazing discussion.


  2. @edaigle and @gnichols Ally O’Grady and I would love to chat with you both!

    We have been discussing the same things as you since last Spring. There has been much conversation about tech (mostly of the social variety – snapchat, insta, texting) among the staff at our School, especially those working in the boarding houses.

    It seemed like there were two choices: Do nothing or ban tech at times the adults felt appropriate.

    Before banning all phones or computers from the school, or before taking them away at night we wanted to get our students voice and engage them in the discussion. Like you said, we didn’t want to “enact ON students” and rather, we wanted to “engage them in the discussion”.

    On Tuesday we are making a call for students to engage with us in focus groups (there will be pizza!) regarding their use of tech. The only agenda is to learn more about their relationship with tech so that we can begin to understand our students and engage them in the discussion regarding tech policy.

    As this project moves along, I think it will be vital to hear our parents voices as well — thanks for the reminder.

    1. Hi Nicola,

      Thanks for this comment. And yes, I am pursuing how to best engage our parents in this conversation because this is a group effort of then entire community!

      See you soon,

  3. I love reading through these conversations – thanks so much for posting, Garth and Eric.

    In my Anthropology class, my students were very divided over the work of Amber Case, a Cyborg Anthropologist. https://www.ted.com/talks/amber_case_we_are_all_cyborgs_now

    Case’s main hypothesis is that smartphones actually have the ability to make us more human because they allow us to connect in ways that were never possible before. They also limit our ability to self-reflect and this is concerning; we become more aware of our identities in the period of time where we are processing and not accepting input. Smartphones limit this time.

    The students debated voraciously about this for over a week. Some thought that smartphones were destroying our species, while others felt that it was a tool that teachers needed to help them use. As a class, we remain divided but I feel thankful that I was able to be a part of the dialogue with students. One thing I do note is that the majority of them feel helpless with their phones – they don’t feel that they have control.

    1. Hi Erica

      Thanks so much for this comment and insight! I really appreciate you sharing your experience in your classroom. I think that it is interesting that you landed on these two extremes: either it is destroying our species or it will take our species to a higher plane. Even some in other schools are talking about phones as an appendage of their body. I find the Netflix show “Black Mirror” to be a great ‘reflection’ of this debate. In particular, the one called “The Seed”.

      One thing that I am sure of, is that we are never going to have the tools and resources to know and understand and respond to the latest in technology; however, we are capable of equipping our students with a mindset, tools and strategies to support their growth as a human being in an increasingly digital environment.

      Thanks so very much,

  4. Thanks @gnichols and @edaigle for sharing your conversation on this, and everyone else for chiming in as well. I think this is one of the biggest challenges for our schools right now and your reflections are much appreciated!

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