Leaders today and tomorrow

Great leadership is inclusive leadership, yet the largest stakeholder group in schools is often forgotten — students.

Those of us who believe the modern technology is the way to change schools must also realize that this digital generation has more direct experience with technology than any other group–if we were listening. When students aren’t included in the effort to improve education with technology, we lose more than their technical know-how, we lose the opportunity to shape the ongoing conversation and cultivate the leaders of tomorrow.

While we wonder where the future leaders of the educational reform movement will come from, there they sit in front of us everyday, being ignored. Thinking that “school” doesn’t understand what their lives are like outside of the classroom. Wondering what their role will be in changing the world. Wishing that someone would give them the opportunity to make a difference.

Enabling youth voice in K-12 schools isn’t simple. They might not say what you expect; it takes time to teach them how to speak their minds effectively and work collaboratively. And they keep growing up and leaving, so it never ends. I’m not talking about the kind of token youth panel you often see at educational technology 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 bussed back from whence they came.

This 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. And technology is only a small part of this. The curtailing of student press freedom and the blocking of online discussion creates fewer opportunities for student voices to be heard in every avenue and less opportunity to practice these skills.

It’s not just about leadership in educational technology, we should be worried about where the leaders of tomorrow will learn how to be informed, involved citizens of the world.

Related Download: From Vision to Action: Including Student Leadership in Your Technology Plan (PDF) This 8-page guide contains research, sample language, practical suggestions, 6 models of student involvement, and a planning worksheet. Print it out and give it to your favorite tech planning committee members!


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