Spotlight Speaker Devorah Heitner Designs the Future for Independent Schools

Welcome to the second in our series of interviews with our Spotlight Speakers for the ATLIS Annual Conference. Here we share insights from Dr. Devorah Heitner, founder of Raising Digital Natives and author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital WorldHer mission is to cultivate a culture of empathy in the digital age. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, TheWall Street Journal and Real Simple magazine. She has a Ph.D. in Media Studies from Northwestern University and she is delighted to be raising her own digital native. For Monday's Spotlight Speaker format at the Annual Conference, we ask the same question of three experts for them to address from different perspectives. This post provides a glimpse of Heitner's response to "How would you design the future for independent schools?" -- SD


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How would you design the future for independent schools?

[10-minute read]


Devorah Heitner headshotSpotlight Topic (Opening Session, Monday, April 6): 
Empathy Is the App

Spotlight Break-Out (Session 1, Monday, April 6): 
Meeting Student Social Emotional Needs in Connected Classrooms


Mentorship is the most important commitment we can make to our students as educators. 

If we interact with young people every day, we are part of a community where mentorship is our responsibility.


Educators as Mentors

  • Let's be optimists. We don’t make negative assumptions about what kids do with technology. We don’t succumb to fear. We give them a chance to try, fail, and learn.
  • We believe in curiosity. Technology is a means to learn—to do other things. Our students are ready, and together we can use these tools to unlocks kids’ natural creativity.
  • We recognize that misunderstandings happen including between educators and between students and peers. We commit to bringing empathy these gaps in understanding.

The Thinking Behind Mentorship

  • As mentors, we see that kids are very creative and insightful—but that they still need modeling, and they still need help navigating this world.Mentorship, Digital Citizenship, Digital Citizenship for Kids, Teaching Digital Citizenship, kids and technology
  • We as mentors recognize that being tech savvy is not the same as wisdom. Our life experience is a critical factor in the equation.
  • We as mentors believe in collaboration over control. Co-creating solutions with kids takes advantage of their creativity and builds trust at the same time.
  • We as mentors recognize that the realm of social interactions is more complex now, and that kids need help in order to build good personal relationships.
  • We as mentors believe in the power of curiosity to activate young minds.Mentorship, Digital Citizenship, Digital Citizenship for Kids, Teaching Digital Citizenship, kids and technology
  • We as mentors don’t want to catch kids doing the wrong thing–we want to teach our kids to do the right thing!
  • We as mentors believe in creativity over consumption. All screentime is not created equal.
  • We as mentors understand that tech limits alone are no substitute for engagement. Monitoring degrades trust in exchange for a false sense of control.
  • We as mentors understand that part of growing up is about experimenting with identities, and that issues around “digital footprint” can constrain kids in the wrong way at the wrong time.
  • We as mentors are ready to be accountable to kids, in turn. The good and bad habits we harbor with technology serve as a model for kids.

Mentoring Our Students: A Commitment

True digital citizenship is our shared responsibility and the stakes are too high to leave it to chance. It’s vital for our students and necessary for our communities.

Let’s stand up. Let’s be mentors. It’s up to us.

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