Where Will Future School Leaders Come From?

Great leadership is inclusive leadership, yet the largest stakeholder group in schools is often forgotten: students. Students are 92% of the population at most every school site. To be a leader, you have to lead 100% of the population, not just the 8% who look like you.

Wonder where the future leaders of education will come from? They sit in front of us everyday. Thinking that “school” doesn’t understand who they are. Wondering what their role will be in changing the world. Wishing that someone would give them the opportunity to make a difference.

Students can be leaders of the future by being leaders today. Leadership lessons cannot be learned in a vacuum. Including students in every aspect of school can be done if caring adults make it a priority. Students can learn to teach others, be on real decision-making committees, provide services like tech support, or run for the school board. Students who take on real and important responsibility learn to trust themselves as they show they can be trusted. Empowerment isn’t something you “do” to people; it’s an outcome of being valued, respected, and listened to. Adults can learn to see young people in a new light as essential partners in creating better learning opportunities for all.

Enabling youth voice in K-12 schools isn’t simple. Once empowered, young people might not say or do what you expect. It takes time to teach them how to speak their minds effectively and to work collaboratively. And they keep growing up and leaving, so the effort never ends. Youth voice is about much more than listening to young people, although that’s a start. It’s about long-term commitment to action, because in action, young people find their voice.

I’m not talking about the kind of token youth panel you see at educational conferences, where students who can be counted on to say acceptable things are trotted out for an hour. Everyone nods and feels good about listening to youth voice, and then lunch is served while the kids are conveniently bused back from whence they came.

Ignoring youth leadership potential is a lose-lose situation. We lose their input, convince them we don’t care, and miss the teachable moment. We enable dependence in youth by not allowing them to participate in the process of school decision making. We create alienation and then blame young people for not caring. The curtailing of student press freedom and the blocking of online discussion creates fewer opportunities for young voices to be heard in every avenue and fewer opportunities to practice these skills.

Leaders of today should be worried about where the leaders of tomorrow will learn how to be informed, involved citizens of the world. Those of us who believe that modern technology is a key to changing schools also know that this digital generation has more direct experience with technology than any other group. They could be powerful allies and advocates–if adults make the choice to listen and provide expertise as needed. When students aren’t included in the effort to improve education, we lose more than their technical know-how; we lose the opportunity to shape the leaders of tomorrow.


Cross-posted on GETideas.org’s Featured Thought Leaders Series as part of a webinar. Here is the link to the archive: http://youtu.be/c77ET5-EX9E

And audience comments: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115848119890273950575/posts/WH1Nko4yhNv

The Kinder & Braver World Project

From danah boyd –

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is pleased to announce the publication of eight new of papers in The Kinder & Braver World Project: Research Series (danah boyd, John Palfrey, and Dena Sacco, editors) as part of its collaboration with the Born This Way Foundation (BTWF), and generously supported by the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  The Kinder & Braver World Project: Research Series is comprised of short papers that are intended to help synthesize research and provide research-grounded insight to the variety of stakeholders working on issues related to youth empowerment and action towards creating a kinder, braver world.

The eight new papers focus on The Role of Youth Organizations and Youth Movements for Social Change, and were selected among submissions from a call for papers that the Berkman Center put out in June 2012.  They include:

I can’t imagine a better time for this to appear.


Student Voices at SETDA Leadership Summit

Parker High School  from the Janesville School District in Wisconsin was  highlighted at the Student Voices Luncheon at the SETDA Leadership Summit on October 15, 2012 in Washington, DC.

During the luncheon, school/district administrators, teachers and a diverse group of students from Parker HS explained and demonstrated how teaching and learning have been transformed with technology, how this meets the needs of each student, and creates inclusion through the use of UDL and assistive technology. Selected from entries from across the United States, the Janesville nomination showcased how young people and educators working together can create more and better opportunities for all.

Adobe Flash is required.

Click here to link to the video if you can’t see it embedded above.


  • Robert Getka, Junior, George S. Parker High School
  • Colin Murdy, Senior, George S. Parker High School
  • Correy Winke, Junior, George S. Parker High School
  • Christopher Laue, Principal, George S. Parker High School
  • Kathy White, Assistive Technology Specialist, Janesville School District
  • Introduction: Stuart Ciske, Education Consultant, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

The Student Voices Luncheon at the State Educational Technology Directors Association’s (SETDA) Leadership Summit was an opportunity for state and national education leaders to learn directly from students about the positive impact technology has on teaching and learning. I hope they were listening!

Be sure you listen to the wide variety of ways these students see technology as imperative for their learning.


In the face of disaster…

Last week many US and Caribbean schools, including some of our own Generation YES schools were closed while people deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Our thoughts are with you at this time, and we hope that things get back to normal as quickly as possible.

In times of crisis, young people need facts of course (see Hurricane Sandy resources) and they need reassurance that the world is a good place with people who care. As schools resume, it’s never more important for educators to first be caregivers.

Mr. Rogers told stories about his own mother who would point out the helpful neighbors who appear when bad things happen. Volunteers, firefighters, doctors, utility workers – most people are helpful and generous. Disasters like this provide opportunities to find those people and learn about what they do or to even pitch in yourself.

But even more so for those directly affected, young people need to talk about their experiences and share them with others. The digital world provides new avenues for these kinds of collaboration like this one: The Natural Disaster Youth Summit Forum 2013 hosted by iEARN.

This is a year-long event with the theme: Climate Change and Disaster Reduction – timely, eh? Events, forums, sharing, activities and much more are planned for the entire year.

Another idea is to create your own digital space for student sharing, perhaps in collaboration with other educators near or far.

Read about Quakestories, a collaborative writing project for students to share their stories after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011.

Kim Coffino, one of the project organizers writes, “Quakestories is a collaborative project connecting several international schools in Japan to collect and share student-created works (writing, multimedia, visual arts) about their experiences during and after the earthquake. First, all student-created works will be posted on a central website. Then, once we have a diverse collection of student work, we will select certain pieces to be published in both a paper and electronic book, with the proceeds of both going towards Tohoko relief (to help those most directly affected by the tsunami).”

And finally, don’t forget the power of play. Gerald Jones, cartoonist and author of Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence, says “When something troubles children, they have to play with it until it feels safer.”

Smashing, crashing, and playing at being a monster or the super-hero who saves the day can help kids whose lives have been smashed and crashed.

Be safe –


What Your Kids Are Really Doing Online

“…there exists today an underground, invisible network of children taking turns as teachers and students, sharing with each other the skills, ideas, secrets and technological breakthroughs they cherish. This university without walls or national boundaries is, without exaggeration, unparalleled in human history. Children have always been at the mercy of parents, teachers and school administrators when it comes to the question of how, what and when they learn. Now the game has changed and the power has shifted to kids.”

from: What Your Kids Are Really Doing Online by Michael Levin.


Make your voice heard! Speak Up National Research Project now open

Every year, the Speak Up National Research Project collects authentic feedback from students, educators and parents about education, the use of technology in schools, and more.

There are two main reasons you should participate in Speak Up 2012:

  1. The data collected can be used by your organization to incorporate in your own planning. Being able to compare your community input to a national dataset is invaluable.
  2. The data is used at a national level to shed light on the REAL issues, concerns, and perceptions of students, parents, and educators.

Since 2003, educators from over 30,000 schools have used the Speak Up data to create and implement their vision for 21st century learning.  You can too! Schools and/or districts can register to participate. The surveys are easy to use and age appropriate.  Register today to participate in Speak Up 2012.

I’ll write that app for you

classRecently, MIT App Inventor featured a story about Pauline Lake, a Trinty College student in Connecticut who developed and runs an app invention class for high school students. Curious, I gave Pauline a call and we talked about her idea and how the class has run.

App Inventor is a set of tools and resources to write software applications (apps) for the Android phone. Google has given/shared the Android App Inventor with MIT so it is freely available for all to use. EdWeek has also profiled a couple of programs where young people learn to write apps.

But Pauline’s story struck me. Here was one young college student who wanted to do something to help other young people learn important skills. Pauline told me that she is pursuing two majors, education studies and computer science, and that she is the only one at her college doing that. She went on to talk about how she has shaped her course and the resources over several trials in local schools, learning what works best to engage high school students. She’s even taught students as young as 4th to 6th grade how to program apps. Although she’s won awards for her work (and met Michelle Obama at the White House), she worries that the programs won’t continue. However, she is working to spread the idea locally and with presentations at STEM conferences in her area.

But most of all what impressed me was her pride in her students and the changes that a simple programming class had brought to their lives. When you talk to Pauline, it is not difficult to see that creating engaging learning experiences in computer science for young people really matters.

Her resources and lesson plans are all free online on her website.


Young activists tackle bullying prevention

Anne Collier of Net Family News has collected some examples of youth-led responses towards solving bullying in their schools and communities. As you know at Generation YES, we believe strongly that youth-led initiatives are an outstanding way of involving youth as leaders and problem-solvers. These initiatives can really make a difference!

Read more about:

  • The Voice – a program where high schools students buddy with younger students to become “hallway friends” and become mentors and role models.
  • Torin Hovander in Albuquerque, NM and his friends who started a bullying prevention club in their high school. Their goal is to raise awareness and spread the club to all 13 district high schools.
  •  Aidan McDaniel and friends who hold a “friend zone” at his West Virginia school’s cafeteria so that students can have a safe place to eat.

As Anne concludes, “There are so many things about these social-good projects to celebrate, including that young people 1) aren’t waiting around for adults to end bullying and social aggression, 2) are taking positive, supportive action in diverse ways that are meaningful to them, 3) are showing a remarkable level of commitment to solving the social aggression problem, 4) instinctively get what the research says, that the solution is not punishing individuals but changing the community’s culture and 5) are creating that school climate through a collective, whole-school approach. They are modeling the respect they so deserve!”

Congratulations to all the students profiled!


2011 Student Speak up results

From Student Speak Up press release


Just Nine Percent of Student Describe Their Most Recent Math and Science Classes This Way; More than 40 percent Still Describe Traditional Format

Nearly one-third of high school students who experience math and science classrooms where instruction is led by teachers, learning is directed by students and where technology is used to support both, express a strong interest in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career, according to the latest findings from the 2011 Speak Up survey. Nationally, just nine percent of students described their most recent math or science class this way.

Only 20 percent of students in traditional classrooms, where the instruction is teacher directed and the use of technology is limited, expressed the same interest in STEM careers.

“This is the first time we’ve noticed this correlation between the type of math and science instruction and the students’ interest in STEM careers,” said Julie Evans. “For a nation concerned with developing the next generations of scientists, engineers and innovators, this finding should raise some eyebrows.”

When asked to describe their most recent math or science class, the majority of middle and high school students chose one of these three classroom paradigms:

  1. Traditional class with teacher-directed instruction – lectures, textbook assignments, group projects and labs (43 percent)
  2. Traditional class with teacher-directed instruction as in #1, but with some technology used to support instruction (33 percent)
  3. Traditional class with a mix of teacher-directed instruction and student-directed learning and the use of technology tools to support both teachers and students (9 percent)

“For three-quarters of today’s students in grades 6-12, math and science class is still much like it was when we adults were in school: predominately teacher-centered with little or no opportunities for students to direct their own learning, at their own pace, with their own tools,” said Evans.

“Think about that in contrast to what is being called for by the new Common Core Standards for math. The Common Core approach is based on teachers laying out a specific task and inviting the students to dig in and solve the problem using appropriate tools and resources,” explain Evans. “If our schools are able to implement this type of teaching and learning, the potential for interest in math and science should grow.”

These findings can be found in a Speak Up 2012 report, Mapping a Personalized Learning Journey – K-12 Students and Parents Connects the Dots with Digital Learning.

This year’s survey findings also show:

  • Significant increase in students’ mobile Internet access outside of school with more than half of all students (urban, suburban and rural) reporting access through 3G/4G mobile devices.
  • Middle and high school students’ access to a personal tablet device doubled from 2010-2011 (26 percent of middle school and 21 percent of high school students now report personal access to a tablet).
  • Students are adopting technologies and then adapting them to support their own self-directed learning (tweeting about academic topics, tutoring other students online, using mobile apps to organize school work, used Facebook as a collaboration tool for classroom projects, etc.).

The 2011 online survey – completed by more than 416,000 K-12 students, parents, teachers, librarians and administrators – offers the largest collection of authentic, unfiltered input on education and technology from those ‘on the ground’ in the schools.

Free webinar: The voices of girls & women and the future of STEM

Girl Scout Research Institute STEMinar: The voices of girls & women and the future of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

When: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Time: 2PM EDT (time in your time zone)

This “STEMinar” will bring together experts from diverse backgrounds and different sectors of the STEM work force to speak about the current status of girls’ interest and engagement in STEM fields, as well as current efforts to diversify the STEM workforce by boosting the number of women in STEM careers in the next decade.

We will highlight new research from the Girl Scout Research Institute, along with exciting new mentoring initiatives from Women@NASA, science education programs from the New York Academy of Sciences, and outreach efforts to college STEM majors from Johns Hopkins University.

Reserve your Webinar seat now!

Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (2012)