Hear this: Teachers everywhere are looking for ways to amplify their students’ voices in classrooms that are increasingly test-based. Developing student voice—or finding the capacity for students to recognize and express their own beliefs—can be difficult. But in today’s tech-filled classrooms, empowering students is easier, more necessary, and more fun than ever.
When students feel heard, they have more ownership over both their classroom community and their learning. To combat passive participation in the classroom, teachers must find ways to step out of the spotlight and engage students so their ideas can be voiced and validated. This is especially true for quiet students who may need a bit of extra time and space in which to share their opinions.
Here are three ways to incorporate student voice in your classroom:
1. Enable Collaboration to Reinvent Project-Based Learning
Project-based learning has been around a long time, but new technologies are helping reinvent PBL in classrooms. In PBL, students identify real-world problems that they are interested in exploring and use evidence to support their solutions. It’s an interdisciplinary approach to education that allows students to control the method they use to study and solve problems. And, it’s an amazing way to show students that learning can be hands-on.
New tools help teachers use PBL to support and showcase students with different strengths working together on a single assignment. For example, one group of students might design and conduct a poll using the class Facebook page, while others use Skype to interview experts. Some teachers have found success using Padlet, an easy-to-use collaboration tool that allows students to engage in group discussions by commenting virtually in real time.
2. Empower Students to Tweet Fact and Fiction
Although using social media in the classroom has been off limits in the past, adopting communications platforms familiar to kids provides non-threatening ways for them to express their voice. For example, a class might create Twitter accounts (real or pretend) for fictional characters; this allows the teacher to understand how students interpret the actions of a text. Asking students to create 140 character statements will challenge them to use their voices wisely and in a focused manner.
3. Embrace Blogging to Create a Safe Space
Blogging may be the communication platform introverted students have been waiting for. They can express their thoughts by writing to an invisible audience; teachers are able to identify where these students are in the learning process. Blogging also affords all students an alternate space to thoughtfully compose answers to questions asked in class. Best of all, other students may be inspired by seeing their classmates’ work—or that of peers across the globe. Edublogs is a student-friendly blog platform that can help teachers get set up quickly and easily.
New ways to help students be heard continue to evolve. Classrooms are creating podcasts and videos, and even filming their own television shows. Elevating student voice can require lots of planning and involve creative challenges for teachers, but the benefits are loud and clear.