Many educators and schools have reached out to me regarding what their students are doing online. Unfortunately, it is often in reaction to an issue that they are trying to fix, not a plan to be proactive in leading their students.
I have even heard of schools that do some extra monitoring of students online so that they can find out when students are doing something wrong online, and that has raised some concerns.
My contention for years has been on the idea of “Digital Leadership.” Trying to put my thoughts together, I defined the term in January 2013 as the following:
“Using the vast reach of technology (especially the use of social media) to improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others.”
For years, many educators like Jason Shaffer and Jennifer Casa-Todd, have been promoting and creating opportunities for students to be proactive and build opportunities for themselves to use the advantages of social media. This goes beyond citizenship, but into leadership.
As I work with students on their use of social media, they have communicated that they are tired of the “cyberbullying” talk, and I don’t blame them. Being constantly told what not to do is not very inspiring. Although it is an important message, what are the best results because of the focus on cyberbullying by schools? That our students won’t be horrible online? As Shelley Wright stated, “students often defy expectations if you give them the opportunity.” Schools should focus on empowering students to do something amazing with the opportunities that lie in front of them.
There are lots of complexities with social media that adults are still figuring out, let alone students. It is messy, but we need to be in on the conversation. We can fear the worst and react after the fact, or we can be proactive in leading students in doing something that we couldn’t do when we were the same age. Yes, there are negatives, but we need to focus on the powerful opportunities that lie in front of our students and take advantage.
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