The Social Media Toolbox contains lessons that can be used together or one-on-one, depending on the needs of student journalists and their programs. Here is a brief overview of each lesson. Suggestions on topics for future lessons are welcome – contact me.

1. ETHICAL DECISION-MAKING: Before students explore social media and map out a social media plan for their news organization, they may need practice with reconciling differences of opinion and achieving consensus. This lesson gives students an overview of ethical philosophies and introduces them to an approach for using those philosophies to resolve ethical dilemmas.

2. WHY SOCIAL MEDIA: More than three-quarters (76 percent) of high school students use social media at least several times a week to find news and information – and 47 percent spend some time while there seeking information about what is happening at school. These statistics from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s 2011 “Future of the First Amendment” study help explain why social media are becoming more prevalent in scholastic journalism programs. Before adding these tools to the publication mix, high school journalists should carefully consider their reasons for adopting social media. This lesson helps them think through the issues and begin formulating a plan for social media implementation

3. SOCIAL MEDIA USAGE: “No matter how high-tech the gadgets to gather and watch the news, no matter how instantaneous the delivery is, the real fight is to preserve the core values of good journalism,” David LaFontaine and Taylor Elmore write in “Technological Changes Make Core Journalistic Values Even More Important.” In this lesson, students use that article and one other to evaluate and learn from social media practices of other news outlets as they consider their own journalism values.

4. SOCIAL MEDIA SURVEY: Usage of social media spans age groups. A 2010 study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project sets usage at 40 percent for adults 30 and older, 72 percent for ages 18-29 and 73 percent for ages 12-17. But what are they using? Not surprisingly, answers to that question vary and will continue to do so as new platforms emerge. In this lesson, students learn the basics of surveying in order to develop and conduct an assessment of the school community’s social media usage.

5. SOCIAL MEDIA PLAN: Based on what they have learned in previous lessons, students will develop an initial draft of a social media plan for their news organization. They will revisit the plan on a regular basis during the remainder of this unit, revising as they deem appropriate with respect to what they learn from their usage of social media.

6. LAW REVIEW: Online journalism comes with some unique legal issues. In this lesson, students review the Student Press Law Center’s “Student Media Guide to Internet Law” and educational videos, then create teaching materials to help inform each other about important concepts.

7. A LOOK AT SOCIAL MEDIA POLICIES (part 1): The addition of social media to a school’s publication mix requires careful consideration of how it will affect the news operation – and those involved with it. In this lesson, the first of two, students assess their school district’s policy on electronic media and develop a plan to address any conflicts that might arise from their use of social media.

8. A LOOK AT SOCIAL MEDIA POLICIES (part 2): The addition of social media to a school’s publication mix requires careful consideration of how it will affect the news operation – and those involved with it. This lesson, the second of two, is designed to give students a working knowledge of social media policies used by other news organizations so they can begin drafting their own.

9. SOCIAL MEDIA ROLES: A news organization contemplating the addition of social media should carefully consider how these tools will affect the editorial structure, and plan accordingly. This lesson is designed to help students think about social media’s impact on workloads and job descriptions.

10. CYBERBULLYING: The digital age has allowed bullies to up their game exponentially. Instead of confining themselves to locker-room taunts or graffiti scrawled on victims’ lockers, bullies now can inflict their particular brand of torture with text messages, posts on social media sites, comments on message boards and more. In this lesson, students research the issue of cyberbullying and then plan an educational activity to help raise awareness about it in the school community.

11. ABOUT FACEBOOK: Facebook rules – so says a 2011 study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which showed that 93 percent of teen social media users have Facebook accounts. While Facebook may be ubiquitous, that does not excuse students from making a careful study of it before setting up an account for their news organization. This lesson is designed to help them assess the strengths and weaknesses of this social network as a tool for news media so they can make informed decisions regarding a Facebook presence.

12. TWITTER TIME: The number of Twittering teens is creeping up slowly but surely. A 2011 study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that the percentage of online teens using the microblogging platform rose from 8 percent to 16 percent in two years. With media outlets around the globe embracing Twitter to break and gather news, high school journalists may be eager to try it out themselves. Before doing so, they should assess its strengths and weaknesses as a news media resource. This lesson is designed to help them do just that so they can make an informed decision about Twitter usage in their news organization.

13. SOCIAL MEDIA MESSAGES: Social networks offer a wealth of information. News organizations using these platforms must provide accurate, timely and trustworthy information if they want to attract and retain followers. In this lesson, students review credibility guidelines, discuss the nuances of linking, sharing and retweeting, and practice crafting messages for Facebook and Twitter.

14. VERIFICATION: Journalists spend much time and expend great effort on producing stories. That hard work can be undone in an instant by an error. Mistakes make the journalist and publication look bad, and they also undermine the audience’s trust. This lesson is designed to help students understand the importance of verification.

15. REPORTING WITH SOCIAL MEDIA: Today’s technology gives students a number of tools to use in reporting, including social media. In this lesson, students study how these tools are being used by other news and media organizations, and discuss how to employ them in their own work while still maintaining journalistic objectivity.

16. SOCIAL MEDIA EDUCATION: As educated and trained social media practitioners, student journalists are in an ideal position to model responsible social media practices. This lesson challenges them to plan a series of outreach activities for the school community around social media.