June 3, 2014 8:13 pm

Whitby student turns to social media to ace school assignment

TORONTO – You may have seen the tweets, high school students shaking hands with their teacher, making a deal.

The deal? To receive thousands of retweets via Twitter and get a better grade or get out of an exam.

This was the request from Andrea Nyagai. In a picture she is holding a sign and part of the message reads: ‘Retweet this to help raise awareness and get me an A plus.’

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“Asking and being polite and using the word please and I put a little smiley face, all kind of contributed to people wanting to help out,” says the Grade 12 student.

READ MORE: Students negotiate deal with teachers: 15,000 retweets for no exam

And a lot of people did help out. Nyagai posted the tweet Monday at 4:46pm. By Tuesday afternoon, it was retweeted more than 17-thousand times.

“I was getting messages from Malaysia, from Australia, a couple different cities in the US and in Russia and Norway…so all over the world,” she said.

You may wonder what is going on with our education system when students have to barter for better grades. But this wasn’t the case for Nyagai. The Whitby student from All Saints school says the tweet was actually part of something bigger.

It was for an assignment in her challenging change course. Nyagai was looking at the dangers of social media.

“Particularly focusing on privacy issues, and all that kind of stuff that comes with posting on these sites,” she says.

And she is doing more to go after that “A”. She wrote a 16-page essay and presented her findings to her class.

“It’s kind of the culminating part of the assignment but so much work went into this, so much research, so much editing of formal APA style writings,” says her teacher Pamela Grant. “I mean the amount of work this girl has put into this project is impressive.”

READ MORE: New cyberbullying unit seeks Facebook, Google data to identify suspect

Grant says all her students had to look at issues in society. Many topics were presented to the students but the dangers of social media wasn’t one of them.

“This is Andy’s baby. And I totally love this topic and I’m going to put it on the list for next year,” says Grant.

“They get excited about it because they are actually seeing that they can create a change. At the end of the day that’s what I want them to leave feeling — that individuals can make a change.”

It’s easy to see why Nyagai’s message could be misconstrued. Last month, Andrew Muennink asked for 15-thousand retweets to get out of his art final. He got the retweets, but still had to write his exam.

Since then, students across North America have posted similar requests. Social media expert Tom Vassos says that’s not a bad thing.

“Any way that students are using the power of social media to achieve a certain objective shows that they understand this environment, they understand the power of social media,” says Vassos.

Researchers have found that there is a lot of power in tweets if you specifically request for a retweet or RT.

Nyagai says she discovered that in her research and that is why she sent out the request.

She says it’s just one of the lessons from her school assignment. The biggest lesson? How powerful social media can be.

“People should be using it but you need to be informed,” she says. “How to use it and how to use effectively and safely.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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