Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Lesson for Our Students from Iran

This is why social networking is such a powerful tool. I'm humbled to think of the power it holds. I just might share this story with my students in the morning to demonstrate how far Facebook can take them. The truth is that, aside from occasionally organizing group work, they use it for silly banter and even online bullying. It isn't that these activities aren't important for developing 21st Century social skills, it's just that social networking can do so much more!

December 7th commemorates an important day for Americans; Pearl Harbor Day. In Iran, the date has a different significance. It is 16 Azar, AKA National Student Day. An Academia.org article explains that on this day students on university campuses around Iran stage demonstrations to show solidarity for the three students who were killed while protesting the Shah in 1953. Traditionally, these protests have included some anti-American sentiment, but this year was different.

Iranian university student protesters from Tehran Bureau

First, there was the deeply questioned reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June that led students to question whether their votes were truly counted. Then, in the protests that followed the announcement of the controversial election results, millions worldwide witnessed the violent death of young protester Neda Agha Soltan. It was posted on YouTube and distributed virally for days. This year, instead of targeting America, Iranian university students directed their 16 Azar protests at their own government.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from Flickr.com by Daniella Zalcman

Neda Agha Soltan from Flickr.com by GlenFa

The Iranian government issued notice to the media just before December 7 that their licenses were suspended for three days to prevent reporting on the protests. The government also orchestrated a "wave of arrests," as it is put in a Tehran Bureau article, of student leaders in the days leading up to 16 Azar, but their efforts were unsuccessful. Largely due to social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, university students are more organized than ever.

Videos of student protests that started on December 7 are all over YouTube.



These are the kind of global events that we need to show our students so they can understand the true power of social networking.