Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Teaching Students Social Media Savvy: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Education

I will preface this post with a call to safety as I am not dismissing the element of true risk in the realm of social media. However, too often our education related to SM stops at the fear-based cautionary tales. Now that we have worked to build programs which teach students how to avoid those "You Can Never Take It Back" moments, we should focus on teaching them to move beyond the negative and harness the positive power of social media in presenting themselves to the world.

I live in New York City, and to me, a great analogy to the multi-tiered steps we should take in educating our students about social media is the city itself, or more specifically teaching a child how to navigate it. The beginning stages of preparing a child to navigate the city on his own mean familiarizing him with the train maps, stranger danger, the neighborhoods, and how to seek help when needed. When we feel that this is done, however, we would not typically say, "Ok go ride the train around" or simply "hangout", at least not as a long-term goal. Where are they going? What is the purpose?

Social media already has a clear purpose: to socialize. However, socialization has several branches! There is a time to simply have fun, but we need to start talking about how to help students use SM as a vehicle to collaboration and success. What can colleges and future employers see before they even read a student's application? On a small scale, how can one glance at a limited Facebook profile showcase character, student interests, and talent? And on a grand scale, how can one build a personal brand and captivate an audience?

I've coached my own daughter on the basics, and I've found other examples to showcase of young people already doing this with huge success, like middle school author Dorian Clay. We can start the conversation on how to teach students to capture the positive power of social media by making their SM work for them in these ways.
There's no doubt that the Internet, like the world it represents, is a place where dangers and predators exist, but like the world, it is a place where opportunities and helpful individuals still outnumber them. Let's give our students the tools to connect with the positive communities out there!

*If not fully loaded or for just the webdoc to show kids, follow this link: Teaching SM Savvy: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Education


  1. Tiffany, this post's title really says it all; a wonderful addition. One thing this got me thinking about in terms of "savvy" is including some awareness of social media marketing tools: aggregation of user provided data from social media for sale to third-parties and/or sponsored posts and tweets. How does our own content creation provide the raw material for commerce exchange by others in the form of selective advertising, for instance? To what extent are celebrity tweets touting products understood as paid ads by their followers? "Monetizing user generated content" is useful search term to provide a teachable moment for perusing its search results.

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