User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Social Media a Cause: Learning Activity

leave a comment »


Assisting learners in becoming social activists as part of the educational curriculum is based on three premises:

  1. Kids are bored and disengaged during school time.
  2. Young people are engaged in social activism outside of school time.
  3. If one of the goals of education is to help students become responsible citizens, then learners should be given the opportunity, skills, tools, and strategies to be active change agents.

Kids are bored and disengaged during school time. Young people are bored at school.  Several polls and surveys provide evidence of this.  Gallup in a recently published poll found that Student Engagement Drops With Each School Year.

The Gallup Student Poll surveyed nearly 500,000 students in grades five through 12 from more than 1,700 public schools in 37 states in 2012. We found that nearly eight in 10 elementary students who participated in the poll are engaged with school. By middle school that falls to about six in 10 students. And by high school, only four in 10 students qualify as engaged


On older, more extensive survey, High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE), found similar results.  42,754 high school students participated in the survey. These students where selected from 103 different schools in 27 different states and reflected a cross section of the US population.

However defined, boredom is a temporary form of dis-engaging from school; it is important for schools to understand both the extent of students’ boredom and the reasons why students are bored. HSSSE asked two direct questions about boredom: “Have you ever been bored in class in high school?” and “If you have been bored in class, why?” Two out of three respondents (66%) in 2009 are bored at least every day in class in high school; nearly half of the students (49%) are bored every day and approximately one out of every six students (17%) are bored in every class. Those students who claimed they were ever bored (98%), the material being taught was an issue: more than four out of five noted a reason for their boredom as “Material wasn’t interesting” (81%) and about two out of five students claimed that the lack of relevance of the material (42%) caused their boredom.

What is important to note, especially in the context of this discussion, is that students find the content material covered at school to be uninteresting and that it lacked relevance.  Students desire relevant and meaningful learning.  They want and deserve to learn about things that matter to them, things that they find relevant, things that they feel they can use in their outside of school lives. Young people are engaged in social activism outside of school time. But young people are engaged and find meaningful learning outside of school time through their social networks.

For all we hear about “kids these days” and their irresponsible use of social media−posting questionable pictures of themselves or letting Twitter corrode their ability to hold a thought for more than a nanosecond−it turns out that most are using it to express a genuine passion for changing the world around them. And they’re succeeding. And these trends extend well beyond the U.S. In other countries shows similar interests in contributing to larger causes. China’s young adults for instance, lead the world in online political discussions and offline they donate the most money to charities. India’s younger generation ranks the first in the world when it comes to staying informed, and they’re the most optimistic about the impact their activism has on the world around them.  It seems that our youngest generation of adults are the ones leading the charge when it comes to effectively making a difference.

Specific examples of young people changing the world through social media include:

Although the following Infographics shows data from the 20-28 age group, this is not that far removed from the adolescent age group.


If one of the goals of education is to help students become responsible citizens, then learners should be given the opportunity, skills, tools, and strategies to be active change agents.

Eric Dawson, whose organization has been training educators to teach peacemaking skills for two decades, suggests three things adults can do:

  1. Ask young people questions of engagement. What do you think about that? What would you do? How do you think we could make this better?
  2. Take young people’s ideas seriously.
  3. Give young people concrete opportunities to act on their ideas.

“The idea is to invite them to try on this role,” he adds. “It’s having courage and compassion, taking risks, showing perseverance, crossing lines of difference, mobilizing and working with others.” (

The following learning activity, found in Technology Social Emotional Learning Activities, describes some ways social activism could be brought in to the classroom. Goal

  • To search social networks to explore and identify social causes of personal interest.
  • To decide if and how one wants to contribute to these causes.


  • Social media is being used to promote social causes.  See the Infographic below about the social activism habits of today’s young people.
  • Encourage learners to review some of the causes found on Facebook and other social media (e.g. Harry Potter Alliance); and report to one another causes of interest.  A list of causes that have a presence on Facebook can be found at:
  • A new website, Kicker, helps young people understand what’s going on in the world – so they can then go change the world.  The site aggregates key media pieces; news articles, videos, Tweets, etc., about current news items and then ends their thread of media with a Kicker, ways young people can become active in related causes.  For example, here is a Kicker from the news thread, Youth in Revolt: How to Take Education Into Your Own Hands:


  • harnesses the awesome energy teens have and unleashes it on causes teens care about. Almost every week, a new campaign is launched. The call to action is always something that has a real impact and doesn’t require money, an adult, or a car.
  • Through exploring and researching sites such as those recommended above, learners can decide if and how they want to contribute to identified causes.
  • Note: The purpose of this activity is to have learners to search social networks to explore and identify social causes of which they have interest.  Since it involves social networking sites, Facebook and Twitter, learners will need to be over 13 years old.  An alternative for younger students is to explore the causes as a class using an Interactive Whiteboard or LCD project and decide on cause to follow/contribute to as a group.


  • An extension for older learners (senior high school or older) is to help them establish their own cause and become their own 21st century activists.  Have them view and discuss the following video for ideas:


The junior high students at a middle school were asked to do something to change our community, or change the world. Most groups just created videos about the cause and left it at that.

But one group went beyond these basic requirements and used social media to raise money for their cause, Pencils for Africa.  They . .  .

  • Created a website, HSAAPAAT, to promote their cause


  • Made a video

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 21, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: