Last week I had an opportunity to attend RCAC, a regional technology conference, with two staff members. Although the theme of the conference was Digital Storytelling, each session had an underlying theme of “Student Choice and Student Voice” ~ important components of a strong differentiated program. When looking at ways to provide students with a choice of how best to demonstrate their learning, technology is a natural option. Gone are the days of the Bristol board two dimensional cut and paste projects. Now students can use Notebook software, Glogter, Prezi, MovieMaker and Bitstrips as formats for presenting what they’ve learned. As educators, our job is to ensure that we are providing our students with engaging prompts and learning goals which will create a sense of urgency for their learning. We want to create an environment where students want to be active learners. Simply asking them to regurgitate information they can find on Wikipedia is not a good use of their time or talent. Students want to be challenged to apply their knowledge and to be given a variety of ways of demonstrating what they know.
Student voice is now one of the domains within our Board’s Evidence Tracker for School Improvement. We appreciate that students need to be active participants in their learning and in the learning of their peers. Self assessment and peer assessment, if taught and implemented appropriately, are both proven strategies which lead to improvement in student work. For students who find it challenging to share their “voice” in the traditional ways, assistive technology is a wonderful tool. Programs such as Dragon Dictate and Word Q allow all students the ability to share their thoughts and ideas.
Conversation leads to true understanding. We need to ensure that our students are provided with ample opportunities to talk about what they are learning, how they are learning and what else they want to learn about. When I walk into a classroom, nothing sounds better than listening to a group of students debate on a topic of interest. I worry when I walk into classrooms that are too quiet and I worry when I walk into a classroom and only hear the teacher’s voice most of the time. Our children have many incredible things to share and by listening to them, we can truly assess whether they have mastered a concept or not.