Students are the Heart of Education: How are They Guiding Innovative Solutions? - Digital Promise

Students are the Heart of Education: How are They Guiding Innovative Solutions?

Two high school girls and one high school boy in science lab

May 20, 2022 | By and

Students are at the heart of education and should have a role in developing meaningful experiences of powerful learning that best fit their needs and interests. Digital Promise is committed to centering student voices to advance equity and innovation in education.

Leveraging the power of networks is a key component to collaborating, learning, and scaling innovations. Similar to the robust network of forward-thinking district leaders in the League of Innovative Schools, our new League of Innovative Students will consist of young leaders who are passionate about making change in their communities. Through their expertise and lived experiences, they will provide unique and essential perspectives on education topics that can guide valuable education research and solutions.

Digital Promise’s League of Innovative Schools is excited to launch this new network to bring student voices to the forefront. The first cohort for 2022-2023 will consist of approximately 30 high school students nominated by League of Innovative Schools member districts. This diverse network of students will share a passion for transforming education, represent the needs and demographics of their school communities, and be comfortable voicing their own viewpoints. To ensure equity and inclusion, the cohort will seek students who are from historically and systematically excluded communities and/or represent perspectives across geographic, racial ethnic, and economic differences. We are developing mechanisms through which their voices can be heard and amplified within Digital Promise and beyond.

Looking to Students as Leaders

One way to amplify student voice and perspective is to provide students with a platform. In collaboration with a number of school districts, Digital Promise has hosted the Students for Equitable Education (SEE) Summit for the past two years. This student-led social justice summit positions students as leaders and facilitators of authentic professional learning for the education community. The SEE Summit is a space for students to share their stories and present on topics that impact their own educational experiences. District and student leaders from the first SEE Summit had an opportunity to present at the ASU+GSV’s 13th annual edtech summit in San Diego in April. In our very own panel on “Centering and Amplifying Student Voice and Choice,” panelists emphasized the need for centering student voice to make meaningful changes in their communities.

“How can we create the conditions for our students to address some of the issues they are facing in schools?” said Marlon Styles, superintendent of Middletown City School District and co-advisor of a SEE Summit. “If the topics make you uncomfortable, you need a SEE Summit. If the topics don’t make you uncomfortable, you need a SEE Summit.”

The League of Innovative Students will provide opportunities for students to develop their leadership, communication, and collaboration skills. To support the network, earlier this year, we established a national student advisory council—a group of six students who will guide the planning, recruitment, and engagement of the Students network. We believe it is essential to have students at the table to provide their perspectives to help inform decisions that most impact them. The network will encourage peer collaboration and include mentorship from Digital Promise staff and district leaders. Other leadership opportunities will include planning and participating in the SEE Summit, TED-Ed Talks at the bi-annual League convenings, and other national education events.

Elevating Student Voice in Research

Education practitioners, researchers, developers, and designers regularly work on challenges in silos, and often without including the perspectives of students—the people who they are most often designing for.

Aligned with Digital Promise’s Inclusive Innovation model, these students will have opportunities to contribute their perspectives in education R&D (research and development)s. Through student research teams and panels, students will provide feedback to practitioners, developers, and designers to inform emerging products, technologies, and services that will directly impact their own educational experiences

Curious about this new network of students? The League of Innovative Students application is currently open to League school district members. We will be announcing the first student network at the Fall 2022 League of Innovative Schools Convening in Los Angeles, and we are excited to see how the power of student voice can impact the work we do to bring innovative learning to all students. Learn more.

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