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SLA Students Highlight Role of Student Voice at ISTE Town Hall

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Tamir HarperI had the pleasure of taking part in ISTE's Lead and Transform Town Hall this morning at ISTE 2015 in Philadelphia.  The session was a wonderful opportunity to hear insights from educators from across the country who have expertise in integrating educational technology in their classrooms, schools, and districts.  However, the group that stole the show was a group of Philadelphia high school students from Science Leadership Academy  (SLA).

Don't get me wrong, the experience and passion of the adults in the room was great. However, the perspective that the group of students from SLA brought into the room was indispensable. As we move forward with discussions surrounding the provision of more technology for students, we often get caught up in speculation regarding how various digital resources will and/or should be used.  The students from SLA provided an important reminder to us all that our students need to play a leading role in these conversations.  

Some Student Insights on Tough Topics

One of the big struggles we have as educators surrounds the importance of digital citizenship and how to articulate this for the adults in our communities who may lack an understanding of why this is so important. Fortunately, SLA's Jessica Celli, provided a perfect explanation.

"When we talk about putting ourselves out there on the internet and student security, we are talking about digital citizenship and  putting out our digital footprint," said Celli, a rising sophomore at SLA. "Digital citizenship needs to become integrated into classrooms, especially moving forward with so much technology. If you Google my name, Jessica Celli, you'll see every project that I've ever done for my school, Science Leadership Academy. While that's scary that it's going to follow me everywhere, my tech teacher taught me about my impact on the digital world and how I will be viewed through it. She taught me that it is all out there, and how to be comfortable with that. And if we're taking this step to put technology in schools, then that needs to be taught."

Another hot-button issue in schools where there is greater access to technology is a concern from adults that students will be distracted and learning will be negatively impacted. SLA's Tamir Harper (pictured above) put these concerns in perspective for the audience. 

"Students learn self control through reflection," said Harper, another rising sophomore at SLA. It has been built into our curriculum to know right from wrong. Twitter is not a distraction it can be a learning tool. We know how to keep improving our grades due to the fact that we reflect and learn from our mistakes. The student will know if they decided to sit on Twitter instead of doing there project. It's only a distraction if you make it one."

As Jessica and Tamir pointed out so articulately, we cannot teach our students how to thrive in a world where technology is ubiquitous without giving them authentic experiences under our watchful eyes.  We do not teach our kids how to drive a car by taking away the keys and having them sit in the car in the driveway. Likewise, we need to empower our students and trust them when it comes to using technological resources to their advantage.  

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