A Twitter Midterm? CTD Students Study Social Media

by Lindsey Wallem

While students are in my class, they spend up to five hours a week commenting on Facebook, writing Tweets, creating YouTube videos, reaching out to their friends, and making new ones. No, they’re not procrastinating. They’re doing their homework! What might be any other teacher’s nightmare is my students’ model behavior. I am a Gifted LearningLinks (GLL) instructor for the Center for Talent Development and my high school Honors Elective course is called “Social Media: More than just Facebook”.

Today’s teenagers are living in a very different world than that of even ten years ago. Social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and blogging are everywhere; they are built into the structure of our teens’ lives. Smart phones are becoming less of a luxury and more of a necessity.  Young people have an innate desire to connect with their peers and the current technologies readily accommodate the urge.

To ensure that these students grow up using social media safely and successfully, I developed this online course with the help of Gifted LearningLinks’ program coordinators. Students learn how to manage a social media account in a professional way (a likely job skill in the future market)  and how to be safe and smart with their own online identity.

The course centers around a topic of the student’s choice that they wish to promote online; anything from crafting teen-friendly political news, to saving the whales, or bringing a 12th century historical figure to life. Their task is to create and execute their very own 18-week social media campaign.  Each week, we discuss a different theory or tool relating to social media, and they build upon these lessons to run their campaigns more effectively.

I have been extremely impressed with the students’ ideas and abilities. They take initiative and are fast learners. Whereas many adults struggle to make sense of the social media landscape, these gifted teens fit right in.  The  class has been a learning experience for me too, as my students anticipate the future of the social web on the course discussion board, and brainstorm about building “the next Facebook”! If I were an employer looking to expand my company’s social media presence, these are the types of candidates I would want to hire.

GLL is the perfect medium for a course like this. It all happens on the web, which is the students’ natural “field”.  I can view their progress as it happens, as the Facebook pages for their causes get more “likes” and their Tweets are retweeted. Even the midterm is held on Twitter! It is my hope that through this course students will learn valuable marketing  and communication skills,  as well as personal development skills that will prepare them for adulthood  in an online world.

Sign up for “Social Media: More than Just Facebook” and other GLL courses here.

The Center for Talent Development’s online learning program, “Gifted LearningLinks” offers stimulating classes for advanced students from Kindergarten (with parent participation) through high school. Our new 2011-2012 course catalog is now available.

What do you think? How do you teach your teen to be safe and successful on social media sites?

Lindsey Wallem coaches organizations on how to utilize social media effectively to share information, advocate for causes and gain supporters. She currently works on CTD’s marketing team to promote the Center’s programming through new media efforts.

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