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Social media + photography


In this two-day lesson, students will be introduced to many issues surrounding social media, technology and photography, including copyright considerations and how to use photography effectively in different social media outlets.  Then, students will experiment with using a specific social media outlet (of the teacher’s choice) for journalistic purposes and will reconvene to share their experiences and debrief.  Students will also examine both professional news outlets and student media outlets that use social media effectively.

There is also a middle school version of this lesson.

For more information about how to use social media effectively, take a look at the entrepreneurship lesson called “Social Media Marketing.”


  • Students will learn about benefits and disadvantages of using different social media tools.
  • Students will examine the social media accounts of both professional and student media and participate in discussions about how to use photography effectively in social media.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.c. Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.d. Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.


90 minutes (Two 45-minute classes)


Slideshow: Social media + photography

Classroom social media account (pick whichever platform the teacher is comfortable using)

Class set: “Social media + photography = classroom experiment handout

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

1. Slideshow — 30 minutes

Go through Presentation “Social media + photography” with students, stopping frequently to discuss, share, and debrief.  Students may want to take notes, particularly if they are unaware of some of the specific details of social media sites.

After the presentation, ask students to share information with the class about any other Social Media tools that they are familiar with.  (This is useful because social media tools are cropping up all of the time)  For each tool that they share, ask students to highlight the benefits and disadvantages that journalists might face when using it.

2. Instructions — 10 minutes

Hand out “Social media + photography = classroom experiment” paper and go through expectations with students.  Over the next 24 hours, students will be expected to “log” activity on a social media account created by the classroom teacher.  The account can be whatever type of account the teacher feels most comfortable with or what is available through school, and the teacher can determine in what ways the students will be able to access the account (by accessing the account directly or “sharing”/“linking” to the account from students’ individual accounts).

During the span of time between this class and the next class, students will need to log 10 points’ worth of activity.  All activity should be related to photojournalism in some way. Students get 4 pts for posting an original photo, 3 pts for linking to an existing photo, and 2 pts for commenting on other students’ posts/content.

3. Q&A — 5 minutes

Answer questions about expectations for this assignment.

4. Homework

Students must log at least 10 points’ worth of participation on the classroom social media site between now and class tomorrow. (4 pts=posting a photo; 3 pts=linking to an existing photo; 2 pts=commenting on other content)

Day 2

1. Think/pair/share —  20 minutes

(Depending on student maturity level and work ethic, consider giving students 2-3 minutes per question and sharing out with the class before moving on to the next question).

In small groups, ask students to do the following things:

-Share general thoughts about their experience

-Briefly discuss their posts/comments

-Answer the following question: What challenges did you face in this experiment?

2. Activity — 10 minutes

Have students open up their own social media accounts (on a cell phone, computer, whatever isn’t blocked by your school filter). If students don’t have a social media account, share with a partner. Pick a popular news outlet (Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CNN, a local paper, etc) and see if you can find that outlet’s social media accounts.

-Browse the outlet’s social media accounts and see what you can find out about: how prevalent photos are, whether content is new or re-posted from elsewhere, how many similarities exist between social media networks.

*Note: For many large news outlets, you don’t have to be logged into a social media network to access their pages. Doing a Google search for “Wall Street Journal Instagram,” for instance, allows you to see their page without having an account.

3. Discussion — 15 minutes

Ask students to share about what they found from looking at professional organizations’ pages.  How do you think that relates to student news outlets, such as high school newspapers and yearbooks?  Then, as a class or in pairs, access social media accounts of student publications and see how they utilize photography in their posts.

The Talon, Argyle (Tex.) High School, @thetalonnews

FHNToday, Saint Charles, Mo., @FHNtoday

Ladue View, St. Louis, Mo., @ladueview

Mustang Morning News, Manhattan Beach, Calif., @miracostanews


Some students may not have access to a social media account at all.  In these cases, students can “hypothetically” participate by finding photos that they would like to share if they could, or writing posts on a piece of paper instead of electronically.  In this case, they can also add to the discussion of the group – what was it like to have ideas but not be able to share them with others? How did that make your experience different? How can those lessons be applied to social media and journalism?


Students will turn in their Social Media Experiment activity logs for the teacher to evaluate and grade.