Social media is a valuable tool for social justice advocates. It allows organizers to reach broad audiences, network with other organizations and gain visibility for their cause. Using social media as part of a classroom activity helps students think about social justice in concrete terms, apply their learning authentically and explore new dimensions of digital citizenship.
- Review your school's policies on: (1) publicly sharing images of students; and (2) using social media within the school building. Secure administrative and parental permission for either activity if necessary.
- Assess your students' technology strengths. How many have Twitter accounts? Devices? Access to the Internet? Do your students know how to create image shares? Have access to design software? Consult with your school librarian or with colleagues in the art or computer science departments to fill in the gaps.
- Review adolescent- and teen-specific tips for being safe on social media.
- Show students examples of live Twitter chats created by organizations and individuals. Some examples include #StuVoice, #iCitizen and #CivicParticipation.
- Discuss issues or themes from the central text that students are passionate about. Come to a class consensus on the topic for the chat.
- Provide students with information about roles—moderators, greeter and archivist.
- Provide students with the task rubric. Discuss the project components and objectives, and clarify how student work will be assessed.
- Determine the length of the live chat, and select a date and time.
- Instruct students to complete the Do Something Student Planning Guide and review the Tweeting for Change Planning Guide.
- Instruct students to determine a hashtag to advertise the live Twitter chat and use during the chat itself.
- Have students prepare 3-5 individual responses and questions that can be tweeted periodically to keep the conversation on track and share important information that may not otherwise be shared. Review the IDJA hashtags and model how students can use them in their individual responses.
- Come to consensus on 5-7 questions to use during the live event. Assign students to create image shares for each.
- Identify and invite a class or student organization in another school to participate in the chat; this will allow for a livelier discussion and a wider range of viewpoints.
- Advertise the live Twitter chat on all social media and available school and community channels (announcements, posters, school newsletter) during the week leading up to the event.
(The student in the role responsible for the respective task should carry out these instructions.)
- Start the live chat with a welcome message. Then introduce the Twitter chat team and ask the participants to introduce themselves. Make sure the greeter and moderators include the hashtag for the live chat event in every tweet sent and remind participants to do so as well.
- Post the first question five minutes after the chat begins. Ask participants to respond using the letter A (for answer) with the corresponding number. Example: For Q1, participants should respond with A1.
- Give participants the same amount of time to respond to each question (between 5-7 minutes).
- As necessary, remind the moderators to retweet and follow up on key comments. Remind student to tweet their individual responses and questions during lulls to keep the conversation lively and to use hashtags from the anti-bias framework.
- Conclude the chat by thanking the participants and sharing the student-generated related resources.
- Archive the chat, and make the archive available to all students and participants.
- Be selective about the tweets you respond to. It isn’t necessary to reply to every tweet.
- Reply and retweet as appropriate.
- Offer links to resources. Use bitly.com to shorten the links if necessary.
- Prepare students to intervene with negative, biased or inappropriate comments immediately, using statements like: “@ __________, Twitter etiquette dictates negative comments and conversations move to a different medium,” or “@__________, we welcome differing points of view but want to keep it positive and productive in our forum.”
Use journal writing or Talking Circles to facilitate student reflection. Some suggested reflection questions:
- Did you consider the chat a success? Why? What would you do differently next time?
- What frustrations did you experience while planning the chat? What frustrations did you experience during the chat?
- What is different about communicating via Twitter versus other media? What practical, ethical and social issues did you have to consider?
- What did you learn about your topic from the conversation? What action would you consider taking based on what you’ve learned?
- How does the material you discussed during the chat relate back to the central text?
English language learners
Preparing questions and answers prior to the live event benefits English language learners by exposing them to new vocabulary and requiring them to write in a space-limited format. Specifically, responding to complex concepts in 140 characters provides parameters that can challenge ELL students to practice using concise language and fine-tune their editing skills. The real-time tweeting of the students’ individual questions and responses reinforces language usage skills in context.
Connection to anti-bias education
Social media provides a platform for individuals to communicate messages of solidarity and raise awareness of social justice issues. Live Twitter chats create a synchronous environment where diverse groups of people in different geographic locations can think and act collectively to increase awareness and effect change. The chat environment also offers the moderator potential opportunities to stand up for others or intervene to interrupt hateful or biased speech.