Does giving students the usernames and passwords to your school social media accounts sound like a good idea? Probably not. Conversely, giving students the opportunity to create content for your school’s social media accounts is a great idea if you have a plan to moderate their content in a secure and systematic way.
We talk about digital citizenship a lot. We reference the T-H-I-N-K graphic. We complain about the negative influence of social media–think Tide Pods, tea rooms, devious licks–on our students a lot. But how often do we offer the opportunity for students to participate in social media on behalf of their school? How often do we give them an authentic audience and allow them to “get a reaction” rooted in positivity?
By giving students the opportunity to practice digital citizenship skills and receive feedback in order to learn and grow, we empower students to tell their story. Does this sound like a daunting task? It’s easier than you might think! Follow these four steps: Recruit, Train, Retain, and Sustain to build your team and Inspire your students to take ownership of telling their school’s story.
According to the ISTE Standards for Education Leaders, “Educators inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibly participate in the digital world” (2018). As part of being good citizens and good designers, educators should:
- bullet list create experiences for Learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit and pathetic Behavior online that build relationships and community (3a);
- establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and Critical examination of online resource and fosters digital literacy and media fluency (3b);
- mentor students in safe, legal, and ethical practices with digital tools and the protection of intellectual rights and property (3c); and
- design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning (5).
Just as you established specific objectives and SMART goals for your district, you will want to set them for your students. Review the list of objectives on the clipboard and consider the goals you and your students would like to achieve during the next quarter, semester, or year. Check the objectives that pertain to your district and add additional goals, as needed.
How do we recruit students to serve on our team?
The first step is to decide which and how many students should be on your social media team. This should include a variety of students based on age, interest, and knowledge of various activities. The key is to remember that you can’t do this alone. The sooner you let go of the control and begin empowering others, the sooner you will see success.
Start small. My very first student social media intern, Bekah Klenke, was a student who was off and on SnapChat. During lunch, which indicated she had a desire to create content and communicate it to others. She was also very outgoing and willing to give the internship a try. Conversely, my second intern, Bryson Janousek, was a quiet student who loved sports. Each had unique leadership qualities I didn’t see or expect until I gave them the opportunity to assume these rules. It’s important to let go of your preconceived notions about students and give them a chance. I always say, “Students live up to your expectations, so set them high!”
You’ll also want to tap into existing groups of interested students already established in your school. Journalism, yearbook club, multimedia, digital marketing, graphic design, and creative writing are all good places to start. Consider students who are outspoken as well as those who seem shy. Oftentimes, the quiet kids have just as much to say; they just need an outlet for flexing their voice.
Recruiting more students means less work for everyone. This also gives you the opportunity to learn who is reliable and dedicated to improving their craft, and you can easily move students in and out of roles if you do not find a good fit on the first try. The students who rise to the top naturally become your leaders and start to take ownership of the roles once needing to be held by an adult sponsor.
These leaders will also start to notice ways to make things easier. Remember Bryson? He was one of the quiet ones, who quickly impressed me not only with his reliability, but also, his creativity and accuracy in making football posts. When I asked him to push his content creation by adding handles and hashtags to his score updates, he took the extra step and made a list of all the conference opponent schools’ hashtags and handles. He added handles for some senior players for each sport, along with the local news outlets and printed them on card stock. We added one of these “cheat sheets” to each social media team member’s badge holder and our engagement number soared.
Diversity is the key in recruiting. Not every student can be a video expert. You need students who can be leaders, organizers, videographers, and content creators. You also need students who are just looking for a place to belong. Use your connections with staff and activity sponsors to hone in on some solid choices, but also open up the option by putting announcements in whatever system your school uses to communicate directly to students. The quarterback of the football team will not be a good representative for the football team because he is busy playing football. However, the student who loves football but is not an athlete will most likely be honored to be the one to tell the football team’s story; plus, he/she knows the game. Also, contact coaches and sponsors to find out if they have an extra student manager or an injured player, who may be a good candidate for the soul media team.
If you’d like a more formalized process, you can request applications. These documents from Class Intercom schools may give you a start as to how you’d like to begin the process:
- Sample application form from Seward HS
- Internship application form, Lewis Central HS
- Sample email to student, Grand Island Northwest HS