Wednesday, April 1, 2015

#Student Wisdom: Tech Doesn't Always = Innovation

Fifth grade student Marissa McEvoy shares an important message for classmates, teachers, and parents:

“Technology doesn’t always equal innovation.”

In her speech to various universities and organizations Marissa tells us innovation means “changing something for the better.” When it comes to using technology in school, she is right on target. For example, in many cases interactive whiteboards neither make learning more interactive or better. Word processing can slow down, rather than enhance the writing process, barely reaching the bottom rung of the SAMR model. Just having and using technology does not mean we are doing something better. 

Marissa shares one of the most important ways we can innovate with or without technology:

Talk to strangers. Acknowledge our fellow humans with a smile, a greeting,  let them know they matter. 

Will Richardson made a similar suggestion when online in his 19 bold ideas for change talk.  He tells us this:

“If you think kids aren’t going to interact with strangers on the internet, you’re wrong. Let’s embrace that and support kids in being smart when doing so and learning a lot about the minds they are meeting.”

Will and Marissa are right. Whether f2f or behind the screen, one of the greatest innovations with or without technology is for people of all ages from all places to connect. 

This may be uncomfortable for some parents and educators.  I discovered this first hand when I keynoted a library conference last year, I asked the audience to repeat after me:

“We want our students to meet strangers on the internet.”


We’ve developed a culture of fear that is not based on facts but rather media sensationalism. Free Range Mom, Lenore Skenazy tells it like it is.


Don’t believe it? Visit her site where she shares the stats to prove it at

Marissa reminds us, that “even though we are just kids, we don’t have to be adults to change the world.”

Marissa shares what young people like high school student Alex Laubscher know. They can and will move forward, talk to strangers, in a world where connecting with citizens across the globe has never been easier. 

But students don’t have to go at it alone. Teachers need to know how to help them become engage safely and responsibly as global citizens. Marissa reminds us with the example of Malala Yousfzi that there is no age requirement to do work that matters.  At 11-years-old she delivered a speech titled, “How Dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” She followed that up with a dash of social media and began sharing the injustices of the Taliban. As a result of her voice with social media to amplify it, she received a death threat from the Taliban (and was subsequently shot) and also a nomination for the International Children’s Peace Prize. In 2014 she become the youngest ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize using nothing more than her voice and the social media tools available to us all. 

Marissa has the optimism of youth believing students should live as Mahatma Gandhi advised: “Be the change we want to see in the world.”

Today’s students are ready to use their voice and social media to do just that. What steps are you taking to support, guide, and help them do so safely and responsibly?

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