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Posted: May 17, 2014 1:12 p.m.

Hashtags in high schools

EHS Teacher of the Year starts schoolwide movement to teach students how to use technology responsib

submitted photo /The Covington News/

Students at Eastside High School hold a banner with the hashtag that is attached to the Twitter and social media movement calling for world leaders to aid rescue efforts for more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped in Nigeria.

A high school’s 2014 Teacher of the Year is demonstrating why she deserved that distinction by bringing social media and international current events into the classroom in an educational and effective lesson plan.

Monique Mitchell, an AP U.S. government teacher at Eastside High School, introduced what was originally a simple lesson plan to teach digital citizenship and how to use social media responsibly. She used the worldwide-trending Twitter keyword #BringBackOurGirls, a social media movement that calls for world leaders to help rescue the more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped a month ago, to teach her students how they can use social media to bring global awareness to issues and find others across the world who share the same views.

Mitchell had her students make a banner of the hashtag and took pictures and tweeted the class with the banner as part of her “Digital Citizenship and Global Awareness” initiative, which she began with Eastside teachers Jessie Moon and Cricket Butler.

“As educators, we have to capitalize on the fact that technology is here to stay,” Mitchell said. “Just because they use it at school, they don’t necessarily know responsible usage. It is our role to teach digital citizenship.

“Our (Newton County School System) goal is to have our kids be able to compete globally, and one of those things is actually being aware of the global community. Because they don’t want to find things in a textbook, but I can show them where else to find it.”

Students immediately began tweeting and retweeting Mitchell’s class tweets. Jessie Moon approached her about making the initiative school-wide. Before she knew it, students all over school had made t-shirts, posters and banners with #BringBackOurGirls on them.

Mitchell made a video of students and teachers, including Cricket Butler, the Social Studies Department chair, reacting to the kidnapping and of the banners and signs and posted it on YouTube. The video will play on morning announcements.

This was all within the same week she found out she won Teacher of the Year.

“They (students) were just really excited,” Mitchell said. “I underestimated how passionate they would be about it. Their hashtag is their linkage. When you hit that, you are automatically connected to people who hold that opinion.

“They felt empathy. Some of the kids were really sad about it.”

She said she wants to use as many social media outlets as possible to continue spreading the word.

“Our jocks and athletes, our nerds, everyone, once they heard it was schoolgirls who got kidnapped, they knew it was serious,” Mitchell said.

She said she taught her students that you can use Twitter and Facebook to find news and that social media is not just a public diary. You can find anything, “from BBC to Beyonce.” But she also stresses to her classes that “once I put this message out there, it’s forever.”

“The more we use technology in schools, and the more we’re used to it, it will be a little easier,” Mitchell said.

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