My motto and philosophy for my school library is “expect the miraculous.” Inspired by my favorite author, Kate DiCamillo, I encourage students and educators to keep their eyes open to the world around them to find the miraculous things that happen all the time. But this can be especially hard for educators faced with embracing new technology every year.

Instead of focusing on the negative connotations around technology, I want to shine a light on how it can empower students and schools to be digital leaders. By expecting the miraculous, I believe we can begin to appreciate the little miracles that happen when we teach our students not just digital-citizenship but digital-leadership skills.

Taking digital citizenship one step further
As a media specialist, I begin the year with the idea that students hold the key to unlocking technology’s potential. I use past examples of student work where extraordinary things have happened and projects have reached beyond the walls of the school to inspire others. It’s stories like those that help students see the impact they can have.

I start by asking my students, “What do you think digital leadership means?” The responses are usually along the lines of, “Digital leadership means not doing bad things online.” Sure, they’re not entirely wrong, but there’s so much more to being a digital leader, especially at a young age. A digital leader:

How to help students become digital leaders
  • Uses social media to share ideas and empower others
  • Connects and collaborates with others to learn together
  • Is not afraid to show their work and share their creative outlets for the greater good
  • Is willing to share their thoughts with an open mind and respect for others

Many children have been taught what to not do, instead of how to use the internet to learn in a way that’s effective and meaningful.

Modeling digital leadership
I try to be public with students when sharing what I post online and why I’ve said something. That way, students can see positive ways to use these outlets. I’ll even let them be a part of the conversation and write their own message, under my supervision. We can’t follow students’ home and see what they’re doing, but we can make “what a digital leader looks like” part of the conversation while they’re at school.

About the Author:

Andy Plemmons is the media specialist at David C. Barrow Elementary in Athens, Georgia. He was named the 2017 American Association of School Librarians Social Media Superstar for Sensational Student Voice, a 2016 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, a Google Innovator, and an NSBA “20 to Watch” honoree. Find him the Barrow Media Center blog, or on Twitter at @plemmonsa.


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