I recently ran a workshop with parents at our school around the important topic of parenting in a digital world. This session centered on our core beliefs about empowering young people to use technology’s potential, to avoid media scare stories, and to maintain open lines of communication with children. It’s the type of session I have been running for the past several years. The following quote encapsulates the theme of this session well:
“Rather than sliding into a moral vacuum when they go online, young people draw upon the same moral framework that shapes their offline engagements. This underlines the importance of parents continuing to have open and ongoing conversations with young people about their online activities that reiterate their family’s values.” – Young and Well – 4 Feb 2013
We are fortunate to enjoy very strong parental support at our school. We do our best to keep the topic of digital learning high on our agenda and routinely share readings and ideas with our community on this topic. The workshop conversations generated some good ideas and sharing of parenting frustrations, wisdom, and common sense. It is reassuring to be reminded that those parents who maintain open lines of communication with their children have a good grasp on the realities of the digital landscape. This idea of including students in the conversation is our mantra. We refer to this as “the most important thing”.
As the workshop ended, parents dropped by to offer their thanks and thoughts. One father then uttered an epiphany that stopped me in my tracks. “I drove the boys to school this morning because I was coming to the workshop. They asked what the session was about. When I told them, Sam asked, ‘So which students are speaking?’”
Students know that we value their voices and expect to be part of the conversation. Unfortunately, we had overlooked a great opportunity to demonstrate this. We speak about empowering learners, including young people in the conversation, and student agency … yet sometimes we forget the most important person in the conversation. Empowerment is a key element of our culture, and we need to reflect this in every decision we make.
Too often we speak about students but neglect to include their voices. The next workshops we run will have students sharing their own story and offering their perspectives as valued contributors to the conversation. If we truly believe that student voice matters, we need to be sure to make it heard.