Tech Tools

Marker Mic Drop #8: The Social Institute

When you think about our students, our very own children, you realize that this generation is growing up in a world very different from previous generations. While there are timeless issues that students face – bullying, their self-image and confidence, or simply balancing responsibilities – they face these challenges at younger ages and in a higher frequency than ever before. Laura Tierney recognized this and thus started The Social Institute.

Laura Tierney, Founder and CEO of The Social Institute

Laura Tierney, Founder and CEO of The Social Institute (TSI), combined ten years of social media and marketing experience into the TSI platform that has quickly gained traction. Before TSI, she had already reached millions of female athletes during her work with ESPN as a Social Media Manager. Her ten years of social media work also helped build campaigns for household names, such as Samsung, Coca-Cola, Travelocity, Oakley and Disney. What does Laura Tierney bring to the table, though, that makes TSI greatly appealing?

Her passion.

A single training with TSI’s Founder, alongside Josh Lutkus, TSI Senior Partner Success Manager, showed an admirable authenticity for a higher purpose concerning our students. As a 4x Duke All-American athlete and 2-time team captain, Laura Tierney knows how to lead.

What is The Social Institute?

The Social Institute (TSI) is a gamified, online learning curriculum that addresses social media and technology concerns facing our younger generations. TSI believes that empathy, integrity, and teamwork are keys to help guide our students toward a successful path not only for their health but also their happiness. The platform neither endorses nor condemns social media but encourages students to make responsible daily decisions with their technology use.

“We’re on a mission to fuel students’ health, happiness, and future success.” -The Social Institute

TSI believes in a positive approach as a base for their work. Instead of telling our students all that is wrong with social media and technology, Laura Tierney’s foundational belief is that we can use technology on a daily basis to enhance our lives. Whether you are connecting with old friends or following positive role models, technology has the potential to lift others up instead of tear people down. While we often have these conversations as parents and teachers, students tend to shut down because they anticipate a lecture. TSI opens up the conversation.

How does TSI work?

Once a school is set up with a TSI account, teachers will be able to run a series of scenarios based on TSI’s Seven Social Standards:

  • Play To Your Core
  • Protect Your Privacy Like You’re Famous
  • Strike a Balance
  • Cyberback
  • Find Your Influencers
  • Use Your Mic For Good
  • Handle the Pressure

Scenarios vary based on the grade level you choose. (Currently, grades 4-12 are available.) Through generated scenarios and student testimonials, participants can choose how they would react and have follow-up discussion. Here are favorite highlights that have been most effective among my students:

  • After students choose how they would react to a given scenario, a percentage breakdown is given based on your class, your school, and the nation. This has promoted empathetic discussion when students were trying to understand others’ choices.
  • Press pause: Is the discussion so good that they want to keep talking? The lesson will automatically advance to the next question (making it extremely user-friendly) but you also have the option to press pause if your students are fired up about a topic.
  • Schools can send out a Parent Toolkit that will help parents and students navigate social media and technology in a healthy way. This includes family discussion questions along with links to related news and research for additional resources powering each lesson.
  • The “wow” factor: Your students will be face-to-face with their daily use averages, their hard data that tells them how much time they spend on their device and face tough questions. It will surprise some but not others, but all of our conversations thus far have been extremely positive.

With that said, let’s talk about this from the student side.

Initial Reactions

I cannot tell you how many students said to their teachers “You’re here to tell me how bad social media is, right?” before day one of TSI.

Flashforward thirty minutes later.

I have two advisory classes: eighth grade girls and ninth grade girls. They were convinced teachers were out for their phones and the lesson would be nothing less than a shaming. The day’s lesson was “Strike a Balance,” looking at personal phone usage. My twenty-two students were fully-engaged, some pleasantly surprised by their daily use average, and some wide-eyed, not realizing that their average was double or sometimes quadruple of their peers.

But no one felt shamed.

“Rather than scare and restrict, we empower and equip.” – TSI

Let’s return to TSI’s “Positive Approach” stance. One aspect of TSI that I most appreciate is its realism. TSI “elevates the positives rather than focusing on the negatives.” You will be hard-pressed to find an adult who is not also devouring social media on their device, so why condemn our children for it?

The platform beautifully transitions from interactive scenarios to short clips that students can watch, including middle school, high school, and university students, passing down their experience and knowledge. The video testimonials of students take the scenario from text on a screen to a relatable story.

The average teen consumes media for over seven hours a day. We live in a world where eyes are down and our face-to-face interaction is constantly disrupted. As a World Language teacher, I fully endorse any program that brings about the human factor and healthy communication.

TSI and Your School

TSI addresses universal and timeless issues that seem more aggressive than ever for our younger generations. Laura Tierney brings her values to the table in a program that can reach not one age group or category of student, but all students. TSI’s user-friendly and extremely timely program makes having the right conversations comfortable for both the student and the adult.

If you are interested in partnering with The Social Institute, you can reach them on their website by clicking here: The Social Institute (Contact Us). You can also follow them on social media @TheSocialInst (Twitter and Instagram) and follow their hashtag #WinAtSocial.