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One of my first summer reads of the summer was Jennifer Casa-Todd's Social LEADia. This book covers all of the angles to help educators and parents understand the critical role that digital resources will play in the success of our students. The book is broken down into the following three sections:
- Why Digital Leadership Matters
- What Digital Leadership Looks Like
- How We Make Digital Leadership Happen In Schools
I. Why Digital Leadership Matters
The opening section of the book makes a clear case for why we need to be moving beyond scaring students (and their parents) about the behaviors they need to avoid in utilizing social media tools. Our job in schools is to help students create a digital identity that will help get them where they need to go. In addition, we need to support parents in our school communities develop a comfort level with digital tools so that they can also support their children.
Casa-Todd makes a clear case for the fact that we can no longer separate digital literacy from literacy and because of this those who wish to be considered literate need to understand how to use digital tools communicate and learn. In order for this to happen, we need to ensure that educators also have the necessary comfort level to support students in this area. She notes the following:
"So, for student to become successful, they need to be proficient in all literacies, not just the traditional ones we're accustomed to or with which we are comfortable...We need to help students see that their blogging texting and tweeting on social media is real writing."In addition to students utilizing social media tools to communicate and create, it has also become the primary source through which many people get their news. With this in mind, we need to help our students understand the sources of the information coming at them. Casa-Todd cited a November 2016 Stanford University research study of 7,804 students found that "students have trouble judging the credibility of information online."
The final big reason under "Why" concerns supporting our students in finding balance in their lives regarding the use of digital devices/tools. Casa-Todd asks her students one important question - "Is your device helping you or distracting you?" She adds the following, "when I co-teach with teachers where cell-phone distraction is an ongoing concern, we explicitly make self-regulation a learning goal we assess."
If we do not lead our students to this sense of self-awareness then we will come up short of fulfilling their potential in this area.
II. What Digital Leadership Looks Like
This section of the book gives a number of concrete examples of how we can support students in finding meaningful online connections that will support their ongoing learning.
Resources like the Digital Human Library as well as Twitter hashtags like #GlobalEd, #EduMatch, #cblchat (for connections-based learning) are just a few of the resources that Casa-Todd highlights which allow educators to jump right in and start building their Professional Learning Networks PLN's) so they can model what this looks like for students to do the same.
Casa-Todd states the following regarding this topic:
"Remember, social media os defined as tool or platforms through which people can engage 'in a large-scale conversation, exploration, and opinion sharing' and 'create and share their own content.'"A critical part of this equation is curation, the ability of students to find relevant sources of information and decide if they are reliable. If we are not providing opportunities for our students to locate and evaluate resources, then we are doing them a disservice in this area.
III. How We Make Digital Leadership Happen In Schools
The final section of the book looks at ways we can set up schools and classrooms that empower students to be digital leaders. Casa-Todd shares some very authentic ways that other teachers have allowed their students to gain experience with digital tools. She notes the following:
"It is important that we travel alongside our students on this journey and be mentors for them."This mentoring needs to start early on in elementary school with teachers following the lead of some of the examples outlined in this section (i.e. classroom Tweeter, Instagrammer, and Snapchatter of the Day, or a rotating classroom PR team to update the classroom blog and social media accounts.).
Casa-Todd makes the point that allowing students to gain a comfort level in promoting all of the positive things happening in their classroom will help them build a great foundation for promoting other causes that they become involved in down the road:
"We need to consider the extent to which our students can create (or are already creating) a positive change and how that positivity can spread via social media."As I mentioned earlier, this book is full of practical examples that will allow teachers to begin or deepen the depth of their students' engagement in utilizing digital tools for learning. There are also great discussion questions at the end of each chapter that will allow teams of teachers or entire school communities to read this book together in order to expand conversations in this area. Even if you are the only one in your school reading this book, you can connect with all of the other educators around the globe who are also reading it by going to the Twitter hashtag #SocialLEADia and sharing your insights.
In concluding this post, I will leave you with one final quote from the book:
"Social media and technology affect everything our kids do, so we need to stop teaching as if they don't exist."If you are wondering where to start in this overwhelming area, Casa-Todd has given you a path...