Some of the trendiest topics in Education are Student-Directed learning, #LearnerAgency and #StudentOwnership. As I hear these phrases, I ask myself…are these topics that new? I’ve been a Teacher/Trainer/Specialist/Facilitator for 23 years. To me, the idea of students owning their learning is nothing new. For years, good teaching has been good teaching. What has changed is pedagogy, mindset and the tools available to students. The tools in which students have available to own and empower their learning has created a learning environment that has allowed for learning beyond the desks. These tools are changing the way students Collaborate, Create, Critical Think, and Communicate with the world.
When I started teaching 5th grade, over 20 years ago, the tools were much different. The tools that brought the information to the students were either me, as the teacher, a print resource like a textbook, magazine, or worksheet, or manipulatives that were tangible objects to help discover and explore. I was the main source of information. I allowed ownership of learning, but student ownership of learning was very limited.
Not only was the way students consumed and acquired knowledge limited, but the way they worked together and shared what they learned was also limited. Students worked together in a classroom, during a set time, using paper and pencil to take notes. There was typically one note taker and 2-3 contributors. Sharing and collaborating amongst classmates was in the moment.
Sharing knowledge typically looked like a student, or group of students, either turning in a handwritten paper to the teacher or standing in front of the class presenting information. The sharing of their knowledge ended there. Knowledge written on paper, turned in, graded, thrown in the trash to be forever lost.
Fast forward to the year 2017. Learning is much more complex now. Students can Google almost anything they want to know. I often wonder, “If you can Google it, why teach it?”
If students don’t know how to do something they search YouTube and follow along. Watch this video, (thanks Alec Couros for the find) it’s an amazing example of student empowerment :
Students can collaborate together using Google products. Students can share docs over space and time. They can contribute their thoughts at any time. When a student is ready to share their knowledge and learning, their audience is no longer just the teacher and students in the classroom, but the entire world. Students can Blog, create websites, Skype, and Podcast. The possibilities to stretch student thinking and learning go way beyond the teacher or the print material in the library.
Empowering students is necessary. Gone are the days that student learning happens only in the classroom. We must learn alongside and with our students. We must help facilitate learning instead of telling students what and how to learn. We must support and encourage student’s thoughts and experiences. We must be flexible and celebrate #GrowthMindset. We must use all of the tools readily available to us and don’t be afraid of letting go of control. Our #KidsDeserveIt.
One of my favorite leaders George Couros reminds us: