We need a smart social network designed to help students.

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Social media revolutionized the world.

It’s right up there past the Internet, computers, television, radio, newspapers, the printing press, and the first written words.

But it’s annoying how far away it all still is from solving the biggest problems for high schoolers.

And it’s super annoying that today’s American Teacher also has to teach students (and your mom) how to use it effectively (to get your kid vaccinated).

The New York Times even summarized our collective misfortune:

Venture capital hasn’t produced safer, more democratic spaces to authentically connect as scholars and citizens throughout school.

Not counting Gmail, Slack, and Trello, I need to use three different social platforms to organize my work life: Facebook = my Family, Twitter = my School, LinkedIn = my Money.

Don’t even get me started on the geopolitics of TikTok!

Teachers not only have to figure out where best to reach students digitally, but also have to decide if it’s even worthwhile to try and connect with them there.

Add that to the 4 decisions they already make each minute and you’ve got yourself a real quagmire!

This constant frustration prompted me to occasionally rage in front of my high school scholars, feeling the need to cry out about things like:

“Why are you even there if you’re going to be an egghead?!”

“Why should I accept your friend request if you look like that in your profile picture?!”

“Are you discovering anything there other than boobs and drugs? Because I’m not…”

These epic classroom rants usually played out like this and sometimes (if I got lucky) resulted in a productive phone call from a parent I hadn’t met yet.

I almost-always concluded those “lessons” with a loud, exhaustive “This is my nightmare” yaup.

Throughout the 2010s, I just started showing all 9th-grade Civics students stuff like this, instead:

Isn’t it bonkers that it’s now 2020 and we’re all still struggling to take learning online?!

If Facebook was a country, it would be the largest in the world.

Imagine if it was totally helpful…

Upton Sinclair once summarized, “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it”.

Facebook mucked it up from the start because nothing is actually free and you can’t just embed learning into users: That’s called paid advertising, Mark.

Think about a few innovative, inspiring acronyms we’ve forgotten the meaning of in favor of simpler ones like YOLO, LMFAO, SMH, and STFU:

IP = Internet Protocol

URL = Uniform Resource Locator

ZIP code = Zone Improvement Plan

EPCOT = Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow

Imagine if social media was explicitly designed around these positive protocols and started with scholars and citizens (search for South Korea’s “Netiquette,” for instance)…

While they’ve all figured out a few Truths about human needs — Connection, Voice, News, Groups — their lack of modeling has led to more of a “Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible” vibe in a country with a constitutional culture that demands “deep respect for learning, hard work, thoroughness, patience, honesty, and justice.”

All existing social media happens to young people rather than with and for them.

Once we’re there, we get filtered and funneled into marketing columns so that the highest payers can send us messages in an effort to attract eyeballs, get clicks, and become conversions.

Even with the explosion of a million “media literacy” initiatives, it’s impossible to do the real work of teaching how to distinguish false messages from true ones as we’re trying to discover our True Selves at the same time.

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Thomas Jefferson said that we should go to school not necessarily to be better off but to become better. (Read that sentence again if you need to.)

The best education communities help us all move from Dependence → Independence → INTERdependence where we get fulfillment and purpose (what we actually need) from each other.

It seems like we’ve forgotten this.

The first solution might be to start seeing and elevating helpers on existing social media more.

The second solution might be to help students program their own social media more productively.

Spend a decade programming your Twitter and Facebook to bring you the best learning from your networks and you can get pretty close… There’s nothing more rewarding than loving a former student’s share about that job they just scored or a shout-out to someone who’s helped them recently.

But the truth “if you don’t see it, it’s hard to be it” applies here too.

The third and best solution is to take everything we’ve learned from existing social media and begin the world anew with a smarter, safer space designed explicitly for students.

A smarter, scholarly space that turns the real world into your curriculum and connects students, parents, and teachers in addition to schools, organizations, and publishers — A learning culture platform for every school community that’s actually personalized for each scholar.

“That’d be dope-amine,” as the kids say. (J/K, nobody talks like that, yet.)

Social media is showing us that “School” is on the ropes right now.

But we’re all starting to realize and remember that,

There’s no place like School.

(this is what we’re really working on at fan.school)

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Founded by teachers and technologists, we turn students into FANs of learning with fantasy sports-like games for school content + current events.

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