In my last article, I spoke about students assuming ownership of their learning. Research literature calls this "student agency." Even though this is a simple concept, it is difficult for most teachers to implement because it involves giving students a voice over what happens in their class. Traditional classroom practices usually involve the teacher making all the decisions for the student. Whereas, with a student-centered classroom, students are allowed to make some decisions as to what and how they learn. When a teacher puts the student at the center of the learning experience, then the students begin to take ownership of their learning.
Two of our middle schools are experimenting with giving their students a voice in their schools' use of technology. Each of these two middle schools has taken a slightly different approach to their use of student agency. It will be very interesting to follow these two approaches to see how they work. Cousins Middle School is creating a student technology support team in which students will help other students and teachers with their technology needs. Veterans Middle School is creating a student technology advisory committee which will help their school's administrators in making decisions regarding which technologies to buy and to use.
The following paragraphs describe in more detail what is happening at these two schools. They are written by each of the two schools' Technology Teacher Leader: Melissa Jackson at Cousins and Jaclyn Scott at Veterans.
Cousins Middle School
by Melissa Jackson
We are constantly amazed by the level of technological capabilities that our students have at Cousins. They have proven themselves to be capable of video production from filming to a fully edited product with very little guidance from a teacher. In the yearbook class, the students are capable of independently uploading and editing photos, creating page layouts and producing a yearbook.
Our students' projects, once poster boards, are now completed in PowerPoint, Prezi, and Glogster, and are now published on the web. Our Technology Support Team has decided to harness this power. Selected students will be part of our Technology Support Team and will act as liaisons between teachers and students. These selected students will assist the teachers with the previewing of software and applications, and with the integration of technology into the classrooms while being a knowledge-bank of resources. These students will be an important part of our training efforts and will act as assistant trainers in the classrooms.
Also, these students will be an important part of our "Bring Your Own Technology" initiative. At Cousins, we want to empower our students to be change leaders who employ their skills to influence our school to use technology effectively.
Veterans Middle School
by Jaclyn Scott
Veterans Memorial Middle School has started a new program called "Bring Your Own Technology" in the hopes of educating students not only in how to use the technology they have, but in how to safely and to correctly do so. This program has been successful. Since our students seem to have plenty of ideas and resources for projects, free sites, and learning online, our students want to share their ideas and their resources with our teachers and with our other students. Based on this fact, Veterans Middle teachers' Technology Support Team created a student committee.
This committee is made up of eight students; 4 eighth graders, 2 seventh graders, and 2 sixth graders. These students meet with the Technology Support Team and with the administrators once a month to voice the students' opinions and to show new skills and products as they relate to technology in the classroom.
Also, students on this committee are asked to talk with their classmates and to bring ideas, concerns, and suggestions to the meeting. This committee's interaction allows the Technology Support Team to hear from our students in an organized way and to look at our students' new ideas before presenting these new ideas to the faculty and to other students. At Veterans Memorial Middle School, our Technology Support Team believes that it is not only important to get new technology into the classrooms, but for our students to take ownership of the available technology.
Providing students with the opportunity to participate in their education in a meaningful way is the beginning of empowering students to take ownership of their learning. It is important to recognize that students can be beneficial contributors in creating a truly meaningful and authentic learning environment.
Already, other schools have heard about these efforts at Cousins and at Veterans and are beginning to explore how they can create their version of student agency. I will update you on the progress of these efforts in a later article.
Gary Shattuck is the director of technology and media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.