Trending Reasons to Teach Social Media in Schools

Social media. We still need to have this conversation. We have seen its use in political campaigns, national uprisings, social movements, marketing campaigns, data collection, content delivery, and even capturing bad guys. This same media can also be filled with questionable and inaccurate content. Users of this media have to be savvy. Being literate in social media is an essential skill for the future workforce.

“We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media. The question is how well we do it.”  –Erick Qualman

These stats aren’t new, but they are still impressive.

50% of the world’s population is under 30. These are high-end social media users.

96% of the Millennials belong to a social network.

Facebook tops Google in weekly traffic.

1 in 8 couples married in the U.S. met through social media.

The number of years it took to reach 50 million users:

Radio: 38

TV: 13

Internet: 4

iPod 3

Facebook >1

Facebook added 200 million users in the first year.

If Facebook were a country, it would be the 3rd largest in the world.

Users downloaded 1 billion iTunes store apps in first 9 months.

80% of U.S. companies use social media for recruitment. 95% of those are using LinkedIn.

Ashton Kutcher has more Twitter followers than the countries of Sweden, Israel, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway, and Panama.

Generation Y and Z think email is dead.

Some universities have abandoned student email accounts.

YouTube has the 2nd largest search engine in the world. Over 100 hours of video will be uploaded by the time you finish reading this blog post.

There are over 200 billion blogs. Word of mouth has been replace by word of blog.

25% of search results for the world’s Top 20 brands link to user-generated content.

Before you dismiss Ashton Kutcher, check out his speech at the Teen Choice Awards.


I’m usually hard pressed to thank celebrities for their contributions to the world of K-12 education, but that was pretty great.

LinkedIn upped the ante for teen social networking when the company lowered its user age limit to 14.  Before kids wreck LinkedIn with their adolescent online social behaviors, let’s see if we can deliver some outstanding digital citizens to this medium.

We need to not only use social media, but we also need to teach social media to this generation of students. They need to know more than how to survive social media. They also need to know how to capitalize on it. We need to let go of our old notions that prepare students for a world that no longer exists. There’s a lot at stake here as there are a lot of pitfalls in social media. Unfortunate mistakes even early on can leave students with a social media tattoo that reads: IMADUMMIE.

We don’t need to let that happen. We can’t let that happen. To do so would be incredibly short sighted. I’m not sure that we need an “Intro to Social Media” course in school, but it can certainly be an entire module in a required course. It can also be integrated throughout the curriculum with clear objectives, modeling from teachers, and coaching along the way.

Don’t forget the technology divide, either. Some students have little access to social media at home. Many parents are afraid of the technology. Others lack access because of economic reasons. Can we afford to let the gap get wider, though? Imagine the disadvantage of applying to college if you didn’t have access to the internet. If you own a next-generation business and you were interviewing candidates with an equal background, but one knew social media well and the other didn’t have a clue, which one would you hire?

We’ve done this for other things in the past. Think about the book. Not a specific book, but just books in general. During pre-K or K, young learners get lessons on what a book is. These aren’t lessons on what the content inside is. No, they are lessons on what that pulp product is and how it’s constructed and what the identifying parts are. The lesson goes something like: “This is a book. This is its cover. This is the binding. It was written by an author. These are his words . . .” and so on and so on. That’s done in early grades across the country. As students get older, the lesson changes slightly. Teachers review the structure of their classroom textbook with students. “This is the glossary. This is the appendix.  The odd answers are in the back. We’ll be doing the evens.”

Soooo . . . . if we do that for our pulp products, why not for our digital products?

We tend to live by a lot of “bumper stickers” in education, but do we really practice what we display on our bumpers? I love the one that says, “Education is not the filling of buckets , but the lighting of a fire.” But are we really lighting a fire?  Or do we serve up some damp embers and then wonder why we don’t have a light show?

Let’s dive into some of the trending reasons why we should both teach and utilize social media in our schools.

Brand – If students are ready to join social media, they need to be prepared to establish and protect their own brand.  One way or another, they will brand themselves with their social online behavior.

Think Critically – Students need to take some reflective time to review what they are doing socially. Is it worthy of their time? Or are they just mindlessly trolling through the web’s social media sites?

Connect – Teachers can connect with both students and parents via social media. Schools can notify stakeholders with timely updates.

Networking – Students should learn to network with peers and experts in areas that they interested in.

Collaborate – This is a future-ready job skill. Schools should be teaching it, and students should be practicing it.

The Backchannel – This might seem crazy, but let students backchannel with a hashtag (if using Twitter) during class. This is good for the student who likes to blurt out everything that comes to his or her mind during class. Sometimes it’s a good thought or question, but just at an inopportune time. Have you seen Purdue University’s Hotseat? Coolest communication thing ever in the classroom. Hopefully other users will be able to use in the future.

Search – Improve students’ search capabilities. There’s too much data to mine without having this essential skill.

Curate – Students need to learn how to store and catalog information for later use, how to make it usable for them, and how to improve it in some way. They need to be “information chemists.”

Teaching Tool – Check out these great social media activities in the classroom and school: 60 examples here.  28 examples here.

Greater Participation – You’ve seen the statistic that students get an opportunity to ask a question every ten hours at school. That’s beyond discouraging, that’s appalling. Social media is an easy way for students to find a voice.

Audience – Let students share their work, projects, and thoughts with a larger audience than one teacher.  I like this old adage: “Students will make it good for their teachers. They will make it great for their peers.” Displaying content for their peers makes the need for revision much more important and real to them. They can’t post a highlight reel without all the hard work behind the scenes.

Digital Citizenship – Let students practice this with social media. If the school offers digital citizenship instruction, social media should be part of it.

Future Ready – Once again, this is a future ready skill as students prepare for higher education and the workforce.

Engagement – Students are already engaged with social and digital media. Meet them where they already are.

Power of the Crowd – Let students capitalize on the power of the crowd. Crowd sourcing and crowd funding are common digital practices.

Follow the Jobs – Who will get the jobs that manage social media accounts for companies?  Someone who knows social media!  Understanding social media will never be a disadvantage in the workplace.

Where to Start

If you’re not ready to jump into Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook (which is really the least necessary), then a platform like Edmodo would be a great place to start. This allows for an environment that you can safely model good practices and monitor student behavior.  Reward good behavior and good contributions. You can even open one section school wide if you need to. You’ll likely need smaller groups, too, as some students will dominate the conversation. If your school has an LMS like Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, Haiku, etc., they all have social features that can be enabled.

Good luck to you! We would love to hear how it’s working in your schools. Drop us a line.

Edmodo is a Learn Capital portfolio company where Tom Vander Ark is a partner.

Adam Renfro

Adam was a classroom English teacher for ten years and began teaching online in 1998. He now works for the North Carolina Virtual Public School, the 2nd largest virtual school in the nation. Adam has blogged for Getting Smart since September of 2011.

Discover the latest in learning innovations

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.