Homelessness: Using Technology and Social Media

From The Graduates: Youth Action Guide collection, lesson plan 6 of 7

Objectives: Students will investigate how homelessness can be an obstacle to success for some Latino youth, and examine how technology and social media can be powerful tools for raising awareness and sharing information in a dynamic way. They will explore different websites and apps and how to maximize their usefulness.

Note: While it may seem like "everyone’s using" social media, mobile devices, computers, and the Internet, race and socioeconomic status does play a significant role in who has access to the technology. Refer to the Colorlines.Com article "How Big Telecom Used Smartphones to Create a New Digital Divide" for statistics and infographics related to access. As not every participant will have the same hardware or familiarity with the Internet, it would be effective to host this module where everyone can access the technology together such as a computer lab, media center, or library. If technology is limited then pair or group participants up in a way that they can share a mobile device or computer.

Principal Writer: David Maduli is an independent educational consultant who has contributed many curriculum guides and conducted various workshops for PBS and ITVS programs. He has a master’s in teaching and curriculum from Harvard Graduate School of Education and has extensive experience as a veteran Bay Area public school language arts and social studies teacher. He is currently at Mills College as a new teacher coach and Community Engagement Fellow in the Mills College creative writing program.

Time: 60 minutes


Shout It Out! (5 minutes)

  1. Prepare three categories on the board or projector screen:

    • Mobile devices
    • Websites
    • Apps
  2. For each category, have participants "shout out" any and all names, brands, that apply. They can be ones they already use or have firsthand experience with, or ones they have heard about.

  3. Through show of hands, have the group get a sense of what’s popular right now with teenagers, and what’s new and up-and-coming.

Digital Tools for Social Change (10 minutes)

  1. Distribute, project on-screen, or read aloud the article "'Revolution 2.0': How Social Media Toppled a Dictator"

  2. Examine these two infographics by having students project on-screen, view at computer stations, or access on their own mobile devices:

  3. Discuss the power of technology and social media in bringing about change and sparking movements. Also talk about how digital tools can be used to present information in new, interactive, and dynamic ways.


The Graduates/Los Graduados Film Module (16 minutes film + 10 minutes discussion)

  1. Screen the module spotlighting Chastity’s story. Preface by reading or distributing the background text about her from the Community Cinema Discussion Guide.

  2. Discuss reactions and responses

    • How do you relate to Chastity? What similarities and differences do you see in her situation and yours or people you know?
    • Do you think young Latinas experience a different sense of responsibility for their families than young Latinos? Why or why not?
    • What skills, knowledge, and support did the school and arts programs provide her with? What programs like those exist in your school or community?
    • How is homelessness commonly portrayed in the media? How does Chastity’s story challenge those images and narratives?
    • What specific challenges do homeless youth face that others may take for granted?


Explore and Practice (10 minutes research + 15 minutes report back and discuss)

  1. Have participants pair off and assign each of them a website, web-based tool, or app to research and learn more about:

    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Instagram
    • YouTube
    • Tumblr
    • VoiceThread
    • SoundCloud
    • Prezi
    • Infographics
    • Any other suggestions or newer sites/apps (Wordpress and other blog tools)
  2. Pairs should prepare to report back to the large group and "teach" each other how this tool can be used:

    • What is the purpose according to the company or organization?
    • Who is the app designed for?
    • What are the main functions and parts?
    • Are there any limitations of the tool?
    • How are teenagers currently using it?
    • How might it be used in detrimental ways, ie. cyberbullying?
    • Where do you draw the line between sharing and being private on social media? What’s the longterm impact of the information you share online?
    • How can it be used for our purposes of raising awareness and presenting information dynamically about the issue of youth homelessness?
  3. Discuss the strengths and challenges of each tool and narrow down a handful to focus on for your campaign.


The previous activity is an introduction to engaging with the topic and exploring the strategy. The following research and development activities can be done as outside assignments or can be the focus of future sessions to develop this organizing strategy for your campaign. Depending on your priorities, you may choose to go deeper here or with any of the other modules over the course of weeks or even months:

  • Use the websites, web-based tools, and apps to create media, such as videos, web pages, blogs, infographics, and presentations with youth homelessness as a focus.
  • Research and incorporate "QR" Codes that can be printed on flyers, handbills, stickers, etc. and link to web content online. This can go hand-in-hand with the media created in Module 2.
  • Develop a #hashtag campaign for promoting via social media.

A SUCCESS STORY: Homeless Youth Alliance, San Francisco, CA

Homeless Youth Alliance (HYA) exists to meet homeless youth where they are, and to help them build healthier lives. They provide accessible, non-judgmental, drop-in and outreach sessions, one-on-one counseling, and medical and mental health care, as well as creative and educational workshops, needle exchange, and accurate, up-to-date referrals and information. They strive to empower homeless youth to protect themselves, educate each other, reduce harm within the community, and transition off the streets. They recently organized a youth-led fundraising and awareness campaign by placing beds in parking spaces and using video on social media to spread their message.

  • Film module:

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