By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

The Bristol Meyers-Squbb Science Horizons Camp, hosted by Syracuse University, exposed middle school students to the latest trends in social media and emerging technology as they participated in an Informatics class at the School of Information Studies (iSchool) last week.

Hailey-Margaret Temple, an iSchool/information technology and Newhouse School/public relations dual major, and Julie Walas Huynh, undergraduate programs manager for the iSchool, hosted eight of the 45 middle school students during a three-hour class of activities about iSchool life and information technology. Temple and Huynh put together a learning experience for the group that featured the topics of social media and emerging technologies.

Every year, Syracuse University hosts the camp for students from Syracuse-area middle schools interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The weeklong day camp offers campers experience in STEM discipline areas, including forensics, earth science, physics, and medicine.

Temple involved the students in hands-on activities that gave them an overview of social media and its impact on society: several social media platforms, citizen journalism, and various ways to form a connected community through social media. She said she found that her group of middle school students already had established skills and their own social media accounts, and were familiar with it on a personal level. “They didn’t necessarily understand how powerful social media is and how influential it can be. I wanted to bring that to light so they understood that they can be more than observers; they can be active participants in the conversations going on online, and that if they want to reach out to meet community members with the same interests, they have the knowledge to do so.”

For another learning segment, Temple challenged students to create objects using an open-source library of information modules as a team. The effort illustrated the importance of recognizing individuals’ varied talents as well as the importance of teamwork, the type of efforts that occur in an information technology setting all the time, Temple noted. “They were going online [to the littleBits website] learning how to use the open-source library of electronic resources and working together as a team, which is a big part of technology,” she said.

The third segment focused on viral media. Temple, whose own online video for a social media class went viral last year, showed the students how to create videos using Vine and Instagram to showcase their projects. They also discussed emerging technologies, such as Google Balloon and Google Glass, 3D printing, and the Baxter research robot as part of study on open source robotics.

Temple said she thinks the younger students “came away with an understanding that social media can be used not just to post your own sentiments, but how powerful it is on a larger scale, connecting people–like the movements in Egypt. That’s a big concept for them being so young. I think they also just had fun,” she elaborated.

What was this first experience teaching like for her? “I really enjoyed it,” Hailey reflected. “I was really excited to get to be the person to expose them to the world of technology. It was my first time teaching anything social media-wise, and I was surprised that so many of them were so active in social media already.” Hailey added that once she recognized her students’ level of sophistication, she adapted to present more sophisticated concepts. “That was definitely surprising, and it shows me how much more social media is influencing students at even younger ages.”

“I was thinking to myself the whole time, I never had something like this when I was in middle school,” Hailey said. “It would have been so cool then, to know how influential technology is and to connect with technology to study it and maybe pursue it as a career.”