First published on Connect & Learn: Preparing for the Future in Education and republished with permission.
I had the honor of facilitating a panel discussion by a few of our high school students on digital citizenship this past spring. This session was at the Texas Social Media Conference held at our local education service center.
This group of students appeared on my radar one evening when their group, Texas Teens Teach, started following me on Twitter. After scheduling a meeting with these students, we met and discussed digital footprints, online presence, and what they wanted to accomplish. The students “fine-tuned” Twitter handles, worked on their website, and had some great discussions about goals for the group. Soon after, an opportunity presented itself for the students to discuss digital citizenship and digital footprints through the eyes of teens at the Texas Social Media conference. We submitted a proposal and made plans to attend once it was accepted.
Through a panel discussion, students shared their journey and the lessons learned a long the way. With comments such as “Our Twitter feed tells a story” and “Followers are the new recommendation letter” showed that these teens definitely understand the impact of social media and how it can have a positive effect when used purposefully. Several of the students discussed how digital citizenship should be taught by teens and should be discussed in friend groups. Time was provided at the end for questions from the attendees, who ranged from educators to social media representatives from various organizations.
While at the conference, the teens (many who already have LinkedIn accounts) networked with the keynote speaker, Dr. Marialice B.F.X. Curran, who talked with them at length about future opportunities and how they can grow their organization. In addition, one school leader invited the students to present to the students on their campus. The students were also interviewed by Fort Worth Today, which allowed them to reach an even broader audience.
Something to note is that these teens had established an organization (Texas Teens Teach) and had a plan on what they wanted to accomplish. This all happened without adults assigning a project or assisting in the process. What they needed was a little guidance and an opportunity to share their story. This was an AUTHENTIC learning experience that was RELEVANT to these learners. This was learning that was PERSONAL to these students.