Quest Walkthrough: Be Careful What You Like

In the quest “Be Careful What You Like,” students investigate how social media sites make money, and how their users contribute to the success of a site or app. Students integrate their own connection to market economy forces by examining their usage of their personal social media, as part of a short interdisciplinary course on markets. Through the exploration of this quest, students not only develop the skill of summarizing complex phenomena, but they also practice how to share such concepts succinctly and clearly.

The first activity immediately asks students to do something they probably do multiple times a day: log on to a social media account. They are then prompted to examine the ads that pop up and to think about how much these ads correspond to their likes and interests. By doing this, students are introduced to the way social media sites make money through advertising. This sets students up for the next activity, in which they’ll learn how shrewd business decisions create what may appear to be unobtrusive advertising.

In Activity 2, students review articles, videos, and an infographic to gain insight into how Facebook makes money via targeted advertising on individual pages. Students conduct research, take notes, organize their thoughts, and then discuss their findings with their mentor. By engaging in a conversation about challenging material and concepts, particularly the concepts of cost per clicks (CPC) and cost per impression (CPM), students understand it more clearly and are able to prepare for their final artifact.

In Activity 3, students take a break. The mentor notes suggest different ways to structure this break, based on what fits best with student schedules. During this time, students assess how often they check their phones, open social media sites, and click or think about clicking on ads. They should begin to make connections between the frequency of their social media use and the money that media sites make off them, and to look critically at the role technology and social media play in their daily lives. This activity prepares students for Activity 4, where they explore how increased engagement with social media sites results in increased advertising.

The essential resource in Activity 4 is an article, “Your Addiction to Social Media is No Accident.” After exploring this resource, students reflect on their place in the market economy and their use of “free” social media sites. This ties into the Quest Forward Learning emphasis on connecting learning with personal growth. Linking their study of the market economy to the role they play in it enables students to increase their understanding of themselves and the world around them.

Activity 5 asks students to write a summary using an example from one of their own social media sites, about how Facebook and other social media sites make money. They can reference their answers from Activities 2 and 4, and use a rubric to guide their summary. Although students are asked to write summaries all the time, this quest is unique in that it challenges them to write about something they are just beginning to understand. The personal example that students provide in their summary assists them in explaining advertising on social media sites, making it not only more comprehensible to readers but also to themselves.

The mentor notes for this activity offer suggestions about how the activity can be reframed and adjusted to meet individual student needs. For example, mentors can choose to have students include suggestions about how to reduce their time on social media, or how to avoid clicking on ads if they’d prefer not to. The mentor notes also provide options for different types of artifacts, in order to address differentiation within a classroom.

This quest highlights the ways in which Quest Forward Learning connects students with the world around them, in order to facilitate deeper critical thinking. By the conclusion of the quest, students have advanced in their development of important skills while broadening their understanding of the economic dynamics in which they are active participants.

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