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LA Unified turns to teenager to teach social media



A screen shot of Delaney Wells from her Instagram account. The high school senior recently taught a class to Los Angeles Unified staffers on how to use the social media app.
A screen shot of Delaney Wells from her Instagram account. The high school senior recently taught a class to Los Angeles Unified staffers on how to use the social media app.
Courtesy of Delaney Wells

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San Pedro High School senior Delaney Wells has more than 400 Instagram followers — a number she stresses is business as usual for students her age. But for many administrators and teachers in her school district, her following makes her an expert.

Delaney recently taught a technology class on Instagram for a group of Los Angeles Unified staffers, walking them through creating and editing a profile on the photo sharing service and fielding questions about student online privacy.

"It made me nervous at first, but then everybody was really welcoming and they had a whole bunch of good ideas, and it was like a conversation," she said. "I really wanted to do it because I wanted to spread my knowledge."

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Delaney's training is part of a larger effort by the district to tap into students' technology knowledge that often far exceeds that of adults. Another student led a training on online courses known as MOOCs and a third student planned a class on alternatives to Powerpoint. The student-led trainings were integrated into professional workshops offered to staffers at the Educational Service Center - South, one of the L.A. Unified's local districts

One of Delaney's Instagram students was Demi Aguirre, who works at Harry Bridges Span School as a teacher-coach and helps students who are below grade level.

"I think we as educators need to hear from our students," she said. "And be educated from their perspective and their world. And it is a huge generation change."

Delaney's mother, Dayna Wells, works for the school district. She said parenting kids who have a better handle on social media than she does can be scary — Delaney's brother is also tech savvy — but she's learned to trust her kids as they've gotten older.

"I've been lucky, and they're really responsible kids," she said.

Faynessa Armand, another district teacher-coach, said she didn't even know what Instagram was before attending Delaney's class. 

"I'm just totally out of it in terms of social media," she said. "I have a Twitter account, I have four followers, so I know Twitter. I know Facebook, but I only got on Facebook to find my missing dog."

Despite their different worlds, she and Delaney have bonded over the social media presence of the district's popular coffee cake served in the cafeteria. The coffee cake has its own mini-following with 43 Instagram posts. 

"Yeah, we have a hashtag LAUSD coffeecake, hashtag yummy, hashtag who made this," Delaney said.

"Yeah, that was very impressive," agreed Armand. 

Delaney’s been invited to teach another district staff workshop on a topic of her choosing.