Thursday, May 16, 2019

Voice and Choice - Dissecting ISTE Standard for Student "Empowered Learner"

ISTE Student Standard #1- Empowered Learner: Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.

The idea of centers is nothing new in education. In fact, if you are an elementary teacher centers/stations are probably a part of your day, every day. They allow you to work with small groups, they allow for embedded movement and centers/stations can be a great way to differentiate. But how often do we let students choose which center/station to learn a concept from? Or even yet, how often do we help students learn which ways they learn best through giving voice and choice of how they learn and feedback to help them think through what works best for them? For most teachers, this isn’t our natural way to teach but with the advent of this thing called the internet, we no longer have to be the imparter of all things known as knowledge in the classroom. Beyond that, we shouldn’t take that role on a regular basis. We should be growing our students into lifelong learners that know how to learn. Is this missing from your classroom?

For more years than less, teachers have spent 7 hours a day teaching all students in their classroom the exact same information knowing that some kids would get it quickly, some kids would eventually get it and some kids would never get it. We learned to teach to the middle. We hope that the quicker learners will help the slower learners as we work the classroom helping the average to slower learners and we have this predictable bell curve every year of what signifies our blood, sweat, and tears in trying to make a difference in this world.

Because of the closeness of information availability, our students no longer have to be completely dependent on the teacher to know the subject matter. The ubiquitousness of technology gives both the educator and the student the ability to consider the educational process differently. Platforms like YouTube and Khan Academy create opportunities for students to learn anytime, anywhere, and pretty much anything. Some students are doing just that. But how do we empower all students to be more involved in their learning path?

This is where giving them voice and choice in their learning process could make a difference. It’s not going to come naturally to them. One would think that when you say “Ok, kiddos you can choose how you want to learn this concept today - here are 3 choices” that they would be like, “finally!” But students are conditioned to learn the way we have taught them all these years. Tell me what I need to know so I can regurgitate it back to you to prove that I was listening in class. I’m not saying teachers don’t try to differentiate the way they instruct but let’s be real, most classes follow a predictable pattern of instruction that would look familiar to anyone walking in the door.

How do we change this? Options. It will take time on your part to create these options but what if students walked into class and there were 3 different stations in the room and they were given a rubric that let them know what they needed to learn that day. Let’s say the lesson was for third graders to learn about Electrical Circuits. You walked into the room and you see:
  • Area 1 in the classroom is set up with 9-volt batteries, alligator clips, and a section of Christmas tree lights with one light available. (high tech)
  • Area 2 set up with a video cued and ready to go in front of a group of desks. (low tech)
  • Area 3 there is a small area in the front of the room where the teacher is waiting to lead a lesson on circuits. (no tech)
In the above case, you are creating voice and choice and have high tech, low tech, and no tech options all in the same lesson. But how can you empower your learners in other ways? 
What are ways you can look at ISTE Student Standard #1 "Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences" in your classroom (yes, even a high school classroom) that would allow you to feel like you were introducing or even helping student master the concept of knowing what it means to be an empowered learner? If you are unsure, click on the link in the first line of this post and look at the breakdown of Standard 1, then create an opportunity. 

Other ideas for creating "Empowered Learner" opportunities in the classroom:

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