Raising student voices – the power of a positive online presence

I speak often about how I dislike the idea of focusing on what not to do online. We spend a lot of time instilling fear in adults and students about the online world rather than teaching them how to use to make change. In the process of teaching the don’ts, we’ve actually stopped teaching. We’ve started fearing. 

So this year, we’ve made an effort to focus less on the don’ts and more on the dos. 

Yesterday, we held two chapel services – one for middle school students and one for high school students (we are a private Episcopalian school so it works!). Over the past two months, we recruited various students who were rumored to have online presences. These online environments could be anything from a music sharing site, YouTube channel to a crowdsource funding page. 

After getting a list of all of the rumored students, I sent out emails and used word of mouth to get in touch with the students. Though it took several attempts, I was able to get four high school and two middle school students to present, which was perfect due to our time limitations. 

I met with each group, provided them with a script and turned them loose with a few questions.

The rest…they did. And, I was blown away. 

I let each student know they would have three minutes or less to share their online presence, using my questions as guidance. I assigned them an order and asked them to send me the specific links they wanted us to show while in chapel. Once we received the links, we took screenshots of them in the event Wifi went down, and we reviewed the content. One student’s music site had curse words in the comments section. Though, the student brought this up ahead of time and reminded us to make sure not to show certain sections. 

I wish I had recorded the chapels, but I only managed to sneak a few photos of the students. I asked a teacher to read a quick 30 second intro and conclusion before the students spent the remaining 12 minutes sharing their work. 

Below is the script I sent students and assisting faculty. 

Topic: Feature 3-4 students at SSES who use their online presence for positive actions.
Date: 4/12/16


  • Overview – narrate: “Today, we have several St. Stephen’s students here to share examples of their online presence. Your online presence is anything that can be found when Googling your name. It’s important to not only avoid negative topics, but to make your name noticeable through the positive things you do online. For example, you can create a crowdsourcing page to raise money for a charity. You can start your own art portfolio. You can teach others on YouTube. Find your passion and share it. The following students did just that.” Teacher narrator.
  • Introduce students in order (in background, project student site)
  • Student 1 [steps to mic/podium]: (about 2-3 minutes)
    • explain what your online presences is
    • show what your online presence is
    • explain why you created your online presence
    • explain how you created your online presence
  • Repeat for other students (2-3 minutes for each student)
  • Conclusion – narrate: “Please help support these students. And, we challenge you to start something positive online. Raise money for a cause near to you. Teach others your skill. Share with others your passion.” Teacher narrator.

Each student was unique. No student fit any particular description. This helped keep it diverse and more approachable. One student even passed out fliers for interested girls who wanted to join her organization.

The bottom line – help raise student voices. Don’t instill fear in those voices. I’m sure our chapel did not change behavior overnight, but I hope it did inspire others to use their voice to do good. I want to teach students to be positive. But, to do that, they have to use their voices.

So, I challenge you to raise student voices!

I hope you can share the positive presences your students have cultivated!

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