Giving Students a Voice

Leadership, Mission-Driven Work / by

“I had plenty of great resources and educators,” said Zak Malamed of his Long Island high school. “My dissatisfaction came from the lack of ability to be an individual.”

Zak noticed how #EdChat had quickly become a community that gave teachers a voice. He thought students needed the same and launched #StuVoice Twitter chats last May. During Teacher Appreciation Week, the first chat was “What makes a great teacher?”

His #StuVoice Twitter chats (Mondays, 8:30 EDT)  grew quickly, “A few months after launching I was connecting with renowned educators.” He knew he was onto something and has started the process for Student Voice to become a nonprofit.

During his freshman year at the University of Maryland, Zak said he probably spent more time on Student Voice than his school work but he “learned more from that than anything.” Zak said, “I learned how to work with and manage people, formed relationships, and had an incredible experience.”

Student Voice has expanded beyond Twitter to bimonthly Google hangouts. “We recognized the value of face-to-face interaction–it’s often less about the topics and more about the relationships formed.”

Lisa Nielsen (The Innovative Educator) introduced us to Zak. She noted that “He recently put together their first conference (sponsored by Dell) which was a terrific success.”

An added benefit of promoting student voice is that it “helps develop entrepreneurial mindset,” said Zak. He was frustrated with the limitation of his political science major
so he created his own major in social engagements–a study of social, media, business, civic engagement.

The young organization is supported by dozens of volunteer students like Zak. Like Zak, they are convinced that the “idea of student voice, as individual and organizational level, needs to be promoted.” He noted that “plenty of teachers inspired me, but I recognize how much work needs to be done.”

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is founder and CEO of Getting Smart. He is also a partner in Learn Capital and a director of iNACOL, Digital Learning Institute, Imagination Foundation, Charter Board Partners, Strive for College, and Bloomboard.