When trying to find a balance between talking about the positives of technology and keeping kids safe, start with an open and respectful dialogue. Last year, this was a big focus with our upper-grade kids. A lot of them already have cell phones, and many are using those devices unsupervised and using apps that are designed for older users. Even though they aren’t using those devices in school, we have an opportunity to promote a safer use of the devices while also encouraging students to find their positive voice online.

Using projects to inspire digital leadership
My teaching style varies from feeling like teaching digital leadership funnels through me to letting the student take charge (and maybe even teach me a lesson). A recent example of this is a project called Student Book Budget. Students in grades 3 through 5 researched and collaborated on a list of books they wanted to buy to update the library. They created Google Forms to ask other students what they wanted to read, and then we invited vendors to meet with the kids and create purchase orders. When the books arrived, they decided how they would market the books to the school.

How to help students become digital leaders

A couple of years ago, a student really ran with this project. She put her chosen books on display in the library windows for students to see. I took photos of her and put them on social media. The publisher of the books, Capstone, responded and started a conversation about what some of her job duties would be as a marketing employee on their team. They even sent her a certificate as an honorary marketing intern. It was a really empowering experience for the student, who saw how using social media as a digital leader led to learning more about a real career, from a real company.

Teaching students digital leadership skills can be a daunting thing to do, but the skills they learn today will transfer not only in school, but outside those walls in their everyday lives and careers. Every single job requires knowing how to use technology. Companies look for employees who are tech-savvy and can find a balance between work and social interaction. To help our students learn those skills, we need to encourage them to be digital leaders that aren’t afraid to share their ideas, connect with others, and truly have an impact on the world. To start, educators need to be digital leaders themselves.

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.