Getting Schooled on Social Media

Most educators try to police social media in the classroom by instituting universal bans. CONFISCATE THE PHONES. SMASH THE LAPTOPS. CRUSH THE SMART WATCHES. But Nadia Lopez, principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brooklyn, realized early on that it was a fool’s errand to try to ban social media from her school. Instead, she decided to integrate it into the very fabric of the school. Students receive social media etiquette training as part of the school curriculum, and Lopez herself engages in near-constant social media use during the school day, marketing her students’ success in tweets, Instagram photos and Facebook posts. It’s an approach that’s earned her nationwide attention and acclaim from the likes of Ellen, Robin Roberts, Humans of New York and President Obama. This winter, MEL Films hit the books with Lopez and spent a day with her at Mott Hall Bridges Academy as she and her students worked to internet better.

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On January 19th, I met a young man on the street named Vidal, and I asked him to tell me about the person who had influenced him the most in his life. He told me about his principal, Ms. Lopez, and he explained how she had taught him that he mattered. Over the next two weeks, I learned the story of Ms. Lopez and her school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy. By hearing the stories of MHBA students and educators, my eyes were opened to the unique challenges facing a school in an under-served community. Ms. Lopez taught me that before a student is ready for academic training, they must be made to understand that they deserve success. And that can be the hardest battle in education. Ms. Lopez always said that there was no place her students did not belong. Recently we received an invitation that proved just that.

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Watch our mini-doc about Lopez and her students, Social Media Etiquette School, above.

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