I am passionate about Student Agency and student’s voice and believe very much in providing opportunities for kids to lead learning in multiple ways. In my role as Head of Educational Technology, I am responsible for leading a team of coaches across the school (N-12, 2800 students, and 400 staff) as well as a team in our Stamford Innovation Center. This includes the development of technology integration schoolwide and includes all stakeholders in our school from students to staff to the wider school community.
Our Coaching Model has moved from being student focussed to being adult focussed. Our kids know more than we do and our job is to upskill and support teachers in the integration of technology to add value to student learning AND to support and develop parents in the HOW and the WHY of technology integration at school.
Tonight with the support of our Student Counsellors and Middle/High School students we led a Professional Learning session for parents of Middle and High School Students. The session was entitled Social Media and your teen.
The session began with a spark and a question (as most good ideas do). Questions were constantly being raised to us by parents regarding their children and social media. Most of these questions were raised due to a lack of understanding and knowledge. Over time I realized that the answer to these questions didn’t need to come from me. I needed to include the people who know most about it ….. the students!
After many discussions with our Student Counselling team, we decided on a date (about 2 months out) and promoted the idea of the event to the student community (we shared very little about what we wanted to achieve – this was important). We asked for volunteers from Grade 6-12. After a few promotional pushes, we narrowed it down to a group of 12 confident students (6 MS and 6 HS) who were willing to be a part of our initiative.
With very little knowledge about what we were trying to achieve (besides knowing it had something to do with Social Media), the students were introduced to our idea. A Professional Learning Experience led by students for parents. An opportunity to tell adults what it really is that makes teens tick and what they are doing online (truthfully). We pitched the idea and immediately we had their buy-in – they wanted to have a voice. They were going to choose the topics that they felt their parents NEEDED to know. The intention was clear … Create a transparent learning community where students felt comfortable and confident in talking about topics related to their use of devices and social media.
A date was set, parents invited and RSVP’s collected. Students began to plan their topics (MS and HS topics were very different and quite diverse. The discussion on what should be included and what shouldn’t was amazing) and narrowed it down to 5 categories that they felt were the most important:
- SnapChat, Yellow, Sarahah, and Polly.fun
- Instagram & Musical.ly
- Messaging Apps (WhatsApp, Messenger, Fam/iMessage)
- Netflix & YouTube
- Parental Controls, Device Control Strategies & Time Management Strategies
Common Sense Media was our go-to resource to support the teaching and learning process and each group found resources that supported their topic (links above).
No groups (groups were made up of 1-2 MS and 1-2 HS students with no more than 3 students at any one station) planned or rehearsed with a script and this was important. The topics were set and on the night, parents lead by asking questions at each station directed to the students. As the students already had a huge knowledge base of these topics they didn’t need to research or do any digging to find information. They could tell it from the heart and were given freedom to do so.
The overview of the night was as follows:
- 15 min intro by staff using this video from Common Sense Media as a discussion starter
- 50 min (made up of 5x10min rotations around the 5 stations)
- 25 min Q & A
The night came and was totally inspiring with more than 40 parents in attendance. The students lead with confidence and with total passion for a subject that they are true experts in. Parents asked good questions, and at no stage was it uncomfortable. Students had the opportunity to pass on any questions (no one had to) and we had a staff member with each group (who for 95% of the time sat silently as a bystander).
After parents had rotated around all 5 stations we provided students an opportunity to share any additional thoughts, suggestions or comments as well as opening the floor to questions and comments from parents.
Takeaways from the evening:
- Student Agency is Powerful! Give kids the chance to lead and they will amaze and inspire you!
- Parents need to hear it from kids! They were so much more accepting and understanding hearing it this way.
- The students in my school are inspiring and powerful. They inspired me to think about how we can create mini TedX style talks on these topics (watch this space) and share it with the world.
- Social Media is a HUGE topic and 50% of the topics the students came up we (as educators) had no idea about let alone parents.
- Common Sense Media links and a follow-up blog with resources is critical so parents can go away and digest the information and pass it on to other family members.
- Trust is key from the perspective of students. Try to micromanage and control and they will push back, trust gets you very far!
- Students expressed that they learn best from being given space and being allowed the opportunity to explore and make mistakes
- Parents wanted to know how to ‘control’ their children’s devices. The students wanted parents to know that controlling doesn’t always work. Their suggestion was to set expectations related to the completion of tasks (e.g. finish this part of your homework) rather than related to time (e.g. do 2 hours of homework). The students said they were ALWAYS more efficient when it was task oriented rather than time oriented.
I have left this evening totally inspired and ready to go back tomorrow and think of how this idea can continue and be expanded. Watch this space and follow our school and what is happening via our hashtag #SAISrocks
Connect with me on Twitter to follow our journey and to receive updates