Thursday, February 5, 2015

Giving Students Voice - #TCEA15

Notes from Presentation at TCEA 2015
Zach Snow, Instructional Technology Coordinator, Royse City ISD

Kevin Worthy, Superintendent, Royse City ISD -@kworthy11

Empowering Students, Shaping the Future - Vision statement that came out of Royse City ISD strategic planning.

Start With "Why?"

The most important voice in our educational community is our students. It's also the least heard voice. Students have incredible things they want to accomplish and want to see done, but we often don't take time to listen to them.

Live has changed drastically since most of us were in the classroom as students.


Through strategic planning, Royse City did a number of things to involve people in decision making processes in the district. They had many advisory teams, but felt like they were missing student voice. After year one of planning, they formed a student advisory team.

Students help us keep connected with our Why.

Biggest question was how can we change instruction in the high school by using technology? What device is needed and how should it be used. Members of student advisory team were given Chromebooks to use and to give feedback. Cabinet members come to meetings with the student advisory team so they can hear about the student experience.

Talked with students on the advisory panel about 21st Century learning. We know best practices, but if they aren't connecting with students, they don't matter. Found out in some settings where we think something isn't a best practice, it might be. For example, they found out some teachers were really good at lecture and students liked it. Also found that some students prefer the AP route over dual credit because of the rigor of the learning.


Listen. But just listening isn't enough. We have to respond. What we hear should influence decision making.

Advisory team members - 2 seniors, 2 juniors, 1 sophomore, 2 freshmen; 4 girls, 3 boys

  • Students introduced themselves and felt good about being able to give input and be listened to by the superintendent and technology coordinator.
  • Love being able to speak on behalf of the student body.
  • Students talk about their concerns with peers all the time, but now they have someone who can make changes listening

Social Media and Student Voice
  • Monday nights at 8 there is a #StuVoice Twitter Chat

Questions for the Student Panel

Who is on social media?
  • Every student! They have Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other stuff. And they check it constantly. 

Who is listening when you're on social media?
  • Everyone is listening. It's a powerful tool for communicating.
  • Everyone. Adults. Other students. One of the students on the panel was encouraged when she posted about a women's issue and got responses from adults.

Compared to other high schools, Royse City High School has many more followers. Twitter is engrained in the culture at Royse City.
  • @RC_StuVoice is run by students.
  • Students often look at student organization accounts to see what is going on.
  • Twitter acts as a release for students to express themselves and their thoughts. They get to advocate for what is going on in the school. People in the school community pick up on these conversations and sometimes this leads to action.
  • If schools don't tell their story, someone else will tell it for them.
  • Twitter has also become a part of PD in Royce City. It takes individuals to model this behavior.
  • Every campus and principal in Royse City has a Twitter account.
  • Modeling is important for digital citizenship,

How do the students feel they've influenced their teachers in the use of social media and technology?
  • Feels validated knowing that principals and administrators are listening
  • Feels like ideas are being taken seriously because they are seeing results based on the opinions they've shared. For the first time in the educational system, the students feel like they are considered equal instead of "less than" the adults in the system.
  • By using Chromebooks they've been able to show teachers that they want to use technology.

Do you want adults to interact with and comment on your social media? Your parents?
  • This depends on the student or teenager.
  • A couple of the students said they don't care who listens or comments. They are trying to show their accomplishments. Other students, though, might want to just vent.
  • One student shares she feels good when her mom or band director favorites or re-shares her posts. It makes her feel important.
  • Another student shares he likes to get in conversations on Twitter as long as they stay civil. He disengages if someone gets ugly.

Does knowing your school admins or parents are following them on Twitter make you think twice about what you post or make you want to go elsewhere to post?
  • A lot of kids do use Instagram because parents don't use it.
  • Student quote - "What you post online reflects who you are. If you aren't comfortable with others knowing it, then you shouldn't be posting it."
  • Social media should be used as an outlet for what should be said. It shouldn't be vulgar or immature. 
  • People who follow you aren't only people you know.

This is a group of good students. Do you feel you represent marginalized students? Do you represent all corners of your school?

  • You're never going to be able to put every opinion out there.
  • One student shares that he does leave the meetings and asks others their opinions on what they are talking about. Word of mouth is a powerful way to get input and have discussions. Technology is a tool but it isn't the only way to gather info. 
  • One project the panel was involved with was getting students to participate in a survey. They made announcements, posted QR codes. They got over 600 people to participate.
  • Students realize they don't represent the opinions of every student in the school.

How are teachers using social media to help students, and how could they use social media to help students?

  • Majority is informational. Reminders, accomplishments
  • One way it could be used is to post what is coming up lesson-wise for the week so students can better prepare for the week. For example, which textbooks should I bring to school each day?

What advice would you give to parents and teachers of younger students regarding introducing social media to them and using it properly?
  • Start kids young even though it might be a little scary. But teach them from the start that they need to keep it positive. They should use it to affirm others, not tear them down.
  • Follow your kids on social media

Upcoming Meetings in Royse City ISD

  • Bringing in speakers to discuss digital citizenship with parents and students
  • Then doing a parent panel for community to ask questions
  • Then a student panel for community to ask questions
  • All of this leading up to providing a Chromebook for every student in the high school so they have access to information when they need it (staying away from 1:1 terminology; focus is on students driving their learning)

 All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.