As an ESL teacher, I am sometimes caught in a time warp. Of course, teaching people younger than I am is always going to expose a generation gap, but actually it is the textbooks that are a bigger culprit. This is probably because of the pictures they use or topics they use for context in whatever grammar or vocabulary I am tasked with teaching.
In a previous text, the theme of the unit was nostalgia. This is certainly a worthy topic with people my age, but doesn’t seem to make a dent in younger people. If your world is less than twenty years old, why would you care that a cell phone used to be “the brick”? With the pace of change, things five years ago are nostalgic for them. In that span of time, they have probably changed their cell phones three times, gained and lost thousands of “friends”, and shared more pictures than I probably took throughout my entire teenage years. They have also seen the rise and fall of several social media platforms, and already abandoned them.
I had tasked my students with writing profile paragraphs, and gave them a variety of contexts. Some chose work profiles, and a few chose social media ones. When I asked them which sites they used, they all answered “Instagram and Twitter.” I, naively perhaps, asked “What happened to Facebook?” After the snorts of derision calmed down, they explained that they still had it, but couldn’t remember the last time they posted anything there. They also went on to explain their various “friending” policies on Instagram. I won’t bore you with any of the responses. All I can say is that I wish they put that kind of mental effort into their studies.
I can certainly understand the appeal of Instagram for my students. They are travelling and they’ve got lots of pictures to show people at home. I have used it for that purpose as well and I suppose it is less clunky than other sites. In the past year, I have started using Instagram and I have to admit that it is nice to see those hearts pop up. However, I am much happier when I see that it has managed to send viewers to my blog–where my real passion is.