The Power of Innovation Using Positive Social Media in Schools

by Melissa Nies | May 03, 2013

The day after spring break this year, the West High Bros Twitter account tweeted the following message: “Final stretch of the school year. Let’s get it.”

West High Bros is a social media group started by students at Iowa City West High School as an answer to online bullying. This one innovative idea has grown, receiving accolades and na­tional attention from organizations including the Today show and Ellen DeGeneres Show. And with over 5,172 followers having already received more than 3,000 tweets that use positive messaging to uplift students, West High Bros is an example of the innova­tive uses of social media that educators can get behind.

The innovation of students is an in­spiring thing. As educators we see this first hand in our schools. Students come together to donate canned food to local pantries; they raise awareness about is­sues that are meaningful to them; and they volunteer their time to help those in need. Students have a voice, and when they speak together, they can move mountains. Social media and social net­working provides a valuable opportunity for students to share that voice and their ideas to positively influence and impact their communities and their world on a large scale.

Naturally, educators may hesitate to engage in social media with their stu­dents. However, educators can embrace social media in their schools and class­rooms, even in small ways, in order to encourage and inspire students to use their online networks for good.

One easy way to support positive uses of social media in the classroom is to take advantage of social networking op­portunities that already exist. Incorpo­rate YouTube videos that display other students and young adults making pos­itive changes in their communities into lessons or daily warm-ups and encour­age students to share those ideas on their own Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter ac­counts. Or use closed-and-secure, edu­cation-based social networking sites like Edmodo and Schoology to create a web­site of your own where students can post on discussion boards and share ideas. Fi­nally, allow students to be the creators of innovative and positive materials in the classroom that can be shared online.

Students are powerful engines for change and for innovation, and with a little help from educators, they can use their social networks and social media to transform those ideas into real and last­ing impacts in their world — something well worth supporting.

Nies received her master’s degree in teaching and learning in 2010. She currently teaches social studies at Iowa City West High School.

The College of Education’s Teacher Leader Center hosted a panel discussion, “Tweet the Good: Positive Social Media in Schools” March 27. The panel was part of a year-long series of discussions and workshops offered in the TLC called “Stop the Bully, Find a Solution.” Read more of the story.

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