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.