Today, I traveled to Gillette Stadium, for the annual MassCUE (Computer Using Educators) conference, where I was presenting with my colleagues Kate and Tracy about our integrated PD. I admit, I have been so flat out that I did not even really have time to go through the program well to see who was presenting, and if there was even a keynote speaker. We arrived just in time to start what was called the “Cue Bytes” program. I was trying to check out what presentations I wanted to attend, and wasn’t really paying attention to the introduction of the first speaker. I heard her name being mentioned but it didn’t really stick. Then all of the sudden, this speaker started talking and I quickly realized that this was not an adult, but instead was a young student. She may be young in years, but her wisdom was well beyond her 11 years of age.
Olivia Van Ledtje, a current 6th grade student is the founder of LivBits. She uses social media in an extremely positive manner, discussing with others about topics ranging from books to sharks to bullying. She creates videos, writes a blog and yes, talks at conferences all over the country. It was listening to her that I felt the pain of not having a classroom any longer. My message to students was always they are “Seekers of Knowledge” and that “kids can do great things and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” Liv reminded the crowd that “Kids can teach us.” Her stories were inspiring and provided me with a glimmer of hope that perhaps this generation will be a kinder one.
And then up came the next speaker, Jennifer Casa Todd, a librarian from Canada. She talked about social media “improving the lives, well-being and circumstances of others.” At first, one might think about the destructive tendencies of social media, but Casa-Todd discussed that students need opportunities to show empathy and kindness online and that by doing this, they can make a difference in other people’s lives. She provided several examples of this in action – one involving her students sending messages of hope via Twitter to a seriously ill girl. This project evolved into bake sales to raise money for a bike for the girl and make a quilt for the girl. The other point that Casa Todd raised was that as adults, we need to both empower and mentor students. She surveyed many students like Liv, and the alarming result that was the main majority of these students’ mentors were not teachers.
We owe it to our students to develop the whole-child. What are their passions? How can they tell their stories? What opportunities are we providing for them to be kind and show empathy to others both in person and online? How can we allow students to share their interesting and thought-provoking thoughts with others? How can we show teachers that kids are so capable of teaching us quite a few things? Thoughts to ponder after being inspired by Olivia and hearing about Casa Todd’s students. Thanks for providing some light in the World. We need more stories like this!