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Social Media Taught as Part of Social Studies Curriculum
posted by: Alix | January 04, 2012, 07:38 PM   

With the push for online learning gaining traction in states across the country, educators coast to coast are capitalizing on new social media sites like Facebook and Twitter for classroom purposes. While tech-savvy educators tout these websites as innovative ways of keeping classroom activities going well after the school bell rings, safety concerns over bullying and inappropriate use of social media have been dominating headlines and after-school specials for months. As the controversy heightens, one middle school is taking the matter into their own hands by addressing the appropriate use of social media in their social studies curriculum.

Certainly high school students can benefit from sharing notes on Facebook and collaborating in Twitter discussions; however, in the public, yet some-what anonymous world of social media, these websites need to be approached with caution, especially with younger students learning the online ropes. After an online bullying incident at one Colorado middle school, school officials felt that instead of outlawing social media all together, social studies classes would begin to incorporate social media instruction into their curriculum. Since 2009, the school has had curriculum in place that is specific to social media and text messaging.

In one seventh grade classroom, the teacher delves into lessons about what, exactly, the internet is. This is followed by discussion about what's appropriate on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. The same sort of lesson follows concerning text messaging and the proper avenues for alerting adults to inappropriate activities. "This class is extremely important, because we're going to talk about some problems that are going on right now in the school," the teacher explains to his young students.

Students learn about both the educational benefits and dangers of the internet and social media– from the potential for online bullying to the lack of control over content once something is posted online. Everything from keeping personal information private, to learning your unique online audience is covered. Following the lessons, one seventh grader said he saw benefit in what was covered in his social studies class."Some people don't know that stuff can happen," he said in addressing safety concerns.

While the course work is a start for young student learning to navigate the internet both as a social and educational medium, the ever-changing internet is a challenging topic for school officials. "We're trying to figure out what our role is in this," said Gunnison Middle School Principal Doug Tredway. "Ultimately, anything that spills into the school that's causing disarray in the school, we step in. We're trying to help mediate and work with kids. Yes, we've had some suspensions from incidents that maybe started on Facebook and ended in school."

Incorporating social media instruction into classroom discussion should be second nature, especially as young students begin to join these social networks. Before teachers can begin to introduce students to the educational value of the internet, a crash course in appropriate use should be square one.

What do you think about teaching students the ins and outs of the internet and social media in middle school?
Comment below.

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