Hi Kids. Here's To Changing The World.

I just finished reading - for the first time - one of my favorite books of all time: No Talking, by Andrew Clements. Even though a juvenile fictional work, this book demonstrates the potential power of student voice. Little more than a few-hour read, I highly recommend it to every principal, teacher, and student, alike. The back cover of the book provides an excellent description:

Okay, here's the deal: a whole day of no talking at school. Not in class, not in the halls, not on the playground, nowhere. No talking at all. And it's a contests - boys against girls. Whichever sides talks less, wins.
As it turns out, Dave Packer and Linsey Burgess were actually able to lead the entire fifth grade at Laketon Elementary, throughout the duration of their heated "no talking" competition and into the hearts of their teachers and principal. In spite of the resistance they had in the beginning - from parents, from teachers, and from the principal - they were able to change the way others thought, in time, and through the manner with which they conducted themselves.

Now, the reasons they were able to effectuate change are simple:
  1. They had a unique cause.
  2. They learned to think before they spoke.

    And Most Important:

  3. They worked together as a large, unified body.
In both limiting their voice and in acting together as a large body of students, these kids truly had a voice.

Enter Students 2.0

The student-contributors of the newly created Students 2.0 blog are similarly concerned with voice. Student voice. Quoting directly from their blog's side-panel:
We are students: the ones who come to school every day, raise our hands with safe questions, and keep our heads down. Except, now we have a voice—a strong voice—to share our ideas through a global network.
Now in spite of my original perceptions, I'm actually quite impressed with most of that which has been written on this newly created edublog phenomenon. On the whole, the student contributors have each chimed in very thoughtfully with well-synthesized posts - often to the praise of many members of the edublogosphere. Unlike most inhabitants of the echo-chamber, however, I can't say that everything about their efforts has been without blemish. They are, after all, kids. Nevertheless, I too was once in their shoes and recall far too many days riddled with blemish - my face, in fact, produced so much oil as a teen that there were definitely no oil shortages in Utah during my high-school years.

As I have commented on a few of their most intriguing posts, I thought it prudent to also include a few of my takes here, combined with a few nuggets of advice. What they choose to do with these words is, of course, their own prerogative.

The Good:
  • These kids are talented and very articulate - especially for their ages. Don't believe me? Think about how well you were writing when you were fourteen - then compare it with this.

  • Like it or not, these kids are not the norm. Most kids their ages are more worried about zits, new cars, and popularity contests than they are about school improvement. Thus, I tip my hat to each one of them. They are trying their best to make a difference, and should be commended for the effort alone.
  • The posts contributed by these students have been surprisingly varying. From student technology leadership to educational hierarchy to learning with networks, these kids have been spot-on in identifying some of the issues that need to be solved in order for real progress to take place.
The Bad:
  • I've got a real problem with their "About" page. If we've entered "an age where thinking is more important than knowing" and "where thoughts out-do the facts" then I guess my answer is '42'. Can somebody please explain this to me? It's possible that I haven't quite spent enough time masquerading about as Master Chief to clearly understand how "knowing" doesn't encompass "thinking". And do thoughts really out-do the facts? Only if it's 1989 and your name is O.J. Simpson.
  • While probably only a misinterpretation of their unbridled enthusiasm, these kids (at times) come off as rather arrogant. Yes, I know they're the first of their kind. Yes, I understand that they've got a bone to pick. But still... I'm just sayin': Cockiness does not prove effectiveness.
My Advice To The Students - For What It's Worth:
  • Do you really want to effectuate change? I mean really? Then never ignore the tough questions. Ken Pruitt, for example, asked several that you've all but ignored. You want to know why changes aren't made in our school systems? Ken's questions lie at the heart of it. Welcome to the real world.
  • I see that you've steered away from the "new post every six hours" strategy. Very good move. In writing effective posts, I'm learning that quality is far more important than quantity. Don't believe me? Follow Karl Fisch's example - his "Most Influential Blog Post" was one of only two that he wrote in a two-week time span. Again, quality - not quantity.

    And Most Important:
  • Never forget that everything in education is political. Yep: everything. As a result, the number of eyes that see your work will never be important if the right eyes never see it. Legislators, other leaders in government, and ultimately your parents are the people that you will need to inspire. And while your voice might be "strong", it's only one voice. Get millions of your peers to echo your thoughts, with a roar that's impossible to ignore, and you will truly succeed.
Here's to the success that we all hope for Students 2.0. May they succeed where others, perhaps, have failed.


Image Source - Arthus

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