Social Media in the Classroom

When I finished Grade 11 in June, I reflected on what I had learned in the past school year. I was taught how to solve quadratic equations, the origins of world religions and studied the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Oh and I know the legal requirements of marriage! But there was something I wasn't taught. Scrolling down my Twitter timeline, it hit me -- why was I never taught anything about social media?

Not only do teachers at my school not teach about social media, you could say it is denounced, as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and any other social media site you can name, are blocked. As well, smartphones, or any cell phone for that matter, are absolutely prohibited. Completely understandable, right? Students should be focusing on more important school work instead of checking their tweets.

But I disagree. Why can't our educators actually teach us how to use sites like Twitter and Facebook properly? Why can't we be taught how to effectively manage our profiles to build our online brand? We live in a constant technologically-advancing world and I can’t fathom why we aren't taught this crucial piece of technology. As teens, social media is a large element of our day-to-day lives and to be taught social media literacy is a true life-skill.

A school trustee in Vancouver, British Columbia proposed that all students be taught social media literacy. I couldn't agree more with this seemingly outlandish stance. Being taught social media literacy in schools is a learning experience that will forever be applied to everyday life. It allows teens to gain a deeper understanding of social networking and how to social network safely and productively.

The website Mashable also agrees that social media should be taught in schools. "When schools have tried to ban social media, now an integral part of a young person’s life, they’ve had negative results" writes Sarah Kessler, features writer at Mashable. If you can't beat us, then join us! Social media is here to stay for a long time to come. According to TechCrunch, Twitter alone made $350 million in revenue in 2012. It's an absolutely huge, ever-increasing industry. Twitter’s expected IPO also goes to show how booming an industry social media truly is.

Educators recognize that social media is a very large part of students’ lives, so why fight it? Wouldn’t students benefit from being taught social media literacy so they would know social networking safety inside and out? Being taught security settings and what to do when they come across a post that might indicate someone is in need of help, for example self-harm, is imperative knowledge in our technological society.

Social media has long been criticized by my teachers as another way to bully. Cyberbullying is truly a critical issue that must be addressed. By teaching social media literacy in schools, students would undeniably be better educated on what exactly cyberbullying is, the impact it can have and how to address it. This would unquestionably decrease the number of cyberbullying cases as students would know how to handle them when they see an incident occur.

By no means am I suggesting that we sit on Twitter at school all day (admittedly, that would be pretty amazing); however, I am emphasizing the importance for students to be taught social media literacy. It's a huge topic in our society and we need to educate students on how to efficaciously interact with the internet.

Social media in schools simply comes down to modernization of our education system; we would never be taught how to use a typewriter in school, so why would we not be taught how to effectively navigate social networking? It's time for our educators to embrace Twitter and Facebook and teach us, the students, how to use social media in a way to further our online brand because, undeniably, knowledge is power.

Do you think that social media should be taught and embraced in schools? Tweet me: @PatrickMott.

Patrick Mott is a 16-year-old from Toronto who is dedicated to teaching his peers social media literacy. Along with contributing to Huffington Post Live, Patrick has appeared on many TV shows discussing the importance of being aware of your digital footprint and having a positive online presence. His goal is to teach everyone, particularly teens, that while social media provide great creative outlets, the content should always be appropriate. Combining passion and determination as his personal brand, Patrick encourages youth to be good digital citizens in everything they do online.