Teaching for Humane Technology

How can your social media story drive change?

ALPHA VERSION - Updated August 17, 2021

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Get the most out of the Center for Humane Technology’s Youth Toolkit in your classroom.

Part

1

Welcome to the Center for Humane Technology’s Youth Toolkit

No one is more aware of how technology brings both extraordinary promise and extraordinary risk than young people. Social media, in particular, has an increasingly dominant role in their relationships and daily reality, but its harms can be overwhelming and dangerous. 

Young people can move from overwhelmed to empowered by learning how persuasive technology manipulates their behavior and how they can push back. As a generation inheriting unprecedented challenges like extreme weather and income inequality, they have a right to demand (and build) technology that supports their well-being and strengthens our collective capacity to solve difficult problems. 

Our Youth Toolkit engages young people in understanding the insidious effects of persuasive technology and the financial incentives beneath. Integrating expertise across technology, mindfulness, and educational instruction, the Toolkit is designed for youth ages 13-25 but can be used by anyone to learn about these issues and to push for a humane, sustainable, and equitable future. 

The Youth Toolkit is currently in alpha testing. We would be grateful for your feedback, which you can share at the end of each resource via this form. Thank you for being a part of the movement for humane technology.


How is the Toolkit structured?

The Center for Humane Technology’s Youth Toolkit is a set of introductory, accessible guides—a sort of “online textbook”—that helps youth to understand how our current technology environment is broken and to consider what it will take to fix it. 

The guides are divided into two categories:

  • Issue Guides that build understanding about specific topics.
  • Action Guides that help youth take meaningful action.

The guides are adaptable to different settings, flexible to learners’ needs, and respectful of learners' time. Each resource can be useful on its own, though they are best when used as a full curriculum. 

The guides contain questions and activities that can be self-directed or worked through in real time in a group or classroom setting where the concepts can come to life through discussion and collaboration.

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2

What are the learning goals of the Youth Toolkit?

The main learning goal is for youth to be able to be a part of the push for humane technology that supports our collective well-being and is a part of a humane, sustainable, and equitable future.

Through the Issue Guides, youth will learn: 

  • the economic incentives and larger systems that drive tech companies to sell attention and behavior to advertisers.
  • how social media products capture attention and change behavior.
  • the basic brain and behavioral science of how social media keeps us hooked.
  • the harms the attention economy and persuasive technology produce, and why those harms are the result of a broken system.

Equipped with this knowledge, youth can navigate their technology environment more wisely, and will be ready to act. Our Action Guides help youth to:

  • use storytelling to reflect on their experiences on social media, and learn how sharing their stories can help make change.
  • change how they use social media by setting goals and working with others.
  • imagine possibilities for humane technology that lead to lasting, systemic change.

These learning goals also match up well with cross-curricular goals for educators in reading, writing, and critical thinking. Students will be challenged to understand new terms and concepts, to apply new information when writing about their experiences, and to use critical thinking to draw connections between the social media products they use every day and larger societal challenges.

These resources can also support other curricular goals. Because technology is infused in everything that we do, these guides can support a writing assignment in an English class, a social studies discussion, or a social-emotional learning activity.

Part

3

How can I help my students get the most out of the Youth Toolkit?

Here are a few key tips:

Watch The Social Dilemma

These guides work best when completed after watching The Social Dilemma, available on Netflix. Watched by an estimated 100 million people worldwide, the documentary lays out a compelling explanation of how social media technology is systematically degrading our well-being, political systems, and capacity to build shared reality and solve our biggest problems. You don’t have to watch the film to benefit from the guides, but we recommend starting there if you can. 

Balance Information and Storytelling

Technology has become personal and intimate. We all have experiences to learn from. Finding the balance between “the scholarship on the shelves and the scholarship in ourselves” unlocks greater understanding.¹ These guides are full of important information about technology, but just as important are the discussion and reflection questions throughout. That’s where youth integrate the concepts into their own lives. To encourage this integration, quotes from young people are integrated throughout the guides, sourced from the Center for Humane Technology’s MySocialTruth project. 

Vulnerability and Humility

Because technology has become personal and intimate, it’s important to approach conversations about its degrading impacts without judgment. Whether you’re facilitating others or using these guides to become a stronger advocate, keep in mind that the challenges of the attention economy are rooted in exploiting vulnerabilities that we are all susceptible to. (We go deep into these vulnerabilities in the Social Media & the Brain Issue Guide.) Do your best to create safe, supportive spaces for vulnerable sharing, and lead by example where you can.

Critical Thinking

We’ve adopted so much technology into our day-to-day lives without fully considering its impact. There are plenty of important questions to ask: Socratic questioning can help to guide discussions and journaling.

A Note About Terms

Throughout the course, we use social media as a case study, but many concepts apply to all types of technology. 

Assessment

If you’re looking to assess understanding, you can combine a vocabulary quiz (you’ll find important vocabulary words highlighted throughout) with assessing written responses to reflection questions. If you’re looking for a summative assessment, the “Tell Your Social Media Story” or “Imagine Humane Technology” resources can work well.

Thank You!

By helping youth in your classrooms and communities see the manipulative, financially-fueled nature of social media, you’re laying the foundation for change. When students understand the problem better, they’ll find better solutions. They’ll recognize harmful technologies more easily, and they will have creative new ideas for more aligned, humane technology. 

Want to dive deeper into the issues? Listen to our podcast Your Undivided Attention and explore our resources. And you can stay up to date by joining our mailing list at humanetech.com

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