Speak Up, Speak Out! The Student Voices That Stirred Higher Ed in 2016

Digital Learning

Speak Up, Speak Out! The Student Voices That Stirred Higher Ed in 2016

By Allison Dulin Salisbury     Dec 30, 2016

Speak Up, Speak Out! The Student Voices That Stirred Higher Ed in 2016

Adaptive courseware. Early warning systems. “Open” textbooks. Such are the tools that many education entrepreneurs are building—and which educators are increasingly adopting—to improve outcomes for students. But what do students themselves think of such “innovations”?

Students often lack a voice in shaping the institutions they attend and the broader narrative around how programs, tools and services can better support their increasingly diverse needs. Today’s postsecondary learners are often earning credits from multiple institutions; they’re navigating what it means to balance the demands of work and school; many are the first in their family to attend college.

We’ve watched and admired as groups from Student Voice to Young Invincibles grow in power and visibility, emboldening students to speak up and speak out. In 2016 we added one of our own to the mix: EdSurge Independent. Our aim: to amplify the voices of students from all backgrounds to shape how higher education is evolving.

EdSurge Independent is a student-run community that meets online once a week to discuss trends and ideas within postsecondary education, and share their experiences on a student-run Medium blog. Below is just a small sample of the range of activities and conversations they engaged in, as described by Andrew Rikard, an undergraduate at Davidson College and the facilitator of the inaugural cohort:

“We built our own syllabus, decided what topics interested us and recruited experts to talk to us about those topics. We argued about adaptive-learning technologies or interviewed senior advisors in the Department of Education, and wrote essays asking, “Do virtual environments hinder democratic participation?” “Why adaptive learning?” and “Standardization in Testing: Necessary for Education?

We’ve learned so much from the wit, energy and thoughtfulness from the first two cohorts of students. They’ve inspired us to continue and grow EdSurge Independent in 2017. We’re currently accepting applications for the spring cohort. Know someone who might be interested? Spread the word to postsecondary students you know and encourage them to apply by January 9.

As 2016 comes to a close, we’d like to recognize a few students whose words have inspired our work at EdSurge as we aim to understand and honor the increasingly differentiated needs and aspirations of today’s learners.

I Love Community Colleges (and Tech Should Too) (Alejandra Cervantes, Yuba Community College & UCLA)

Community colleges are integral to the advancement of this country, and need to be prioritized accordingly when it comes to edtech research and development. This way, we can make them a place where all students — the veteran, the single mother, the refugee, and everyone in between — can succeed. (EdSurge Independent)

Academia, Love Me Back (Tiffany Martínez, Suffolk University)

This morning, my professor handed me back a paper (a literature review) in front of my entire class and exclaimed ‘this is not your language.’ On the top of the page they wrote in blue ink: ‘Please go back and indicate where you cut and paste.’ The period was included. They assumed that the work I turned in was not my own. My professor did not ask me if it was my language, instead they immediately blamed me in front of peers. On the second page the professor circled the word ‘hence’ and wrote in between the typed lines ‘This is not your word.’ The word ‘not’ was underlined. Twice. My professor assumed someone like me would never use language like that. As I stood in the front of the class while a professor challenged my intelligence I could just imagine them reading my paper in their home thinking could someone like her write something like this? (Personal blog)

Student Voice: My Journey From Kentucky’s Rural Poverty to Wellesley — and Across the Empathy Gap (Amanda Wahlstedt, Wellesley College)

There is an empathy gap between far too many educators and students like me, and I think it may explain why I so often felt disenfranchised in school. (The Hechinger Report)

If Credits Don’t Reflect What I Learn, What Does? (Emily Rapport, Davidson College)

I still think that course credits don’t reflect what I learn, but I’m also more sensitive to the range of learning experiences that shape people’s lives and the complex ways that their stories connect to coursework. I recently finished my final undergraduate courses, but as I look toward learning in the professional world, I will continue to seek out opportunities for overcoming, mentorship and integration. Now that I have seen the wide variety of spaces and situations in which our participants experienced their transformative moments, I am confident that some of my own best learning stories are still to come. (EdSurge)

This Mongolian Teenager Aced a MOOC. Now He Wants to Widen Their Impact. (Battushig Myanganbayar, MIT)

If you’re just learning for the sake of the learning, the knowledge alone is useless without the opportunity to build, or show, or to use it. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

‘I Spend Half My Days in Accelerated Classes and the Other Half in Special Ed’ (Jack Bradley, Dupont Manual High School)

Please don’t listen to my story and think, “oh, he’s just an outlier,” because while that is true in some ways, it’s not true when it comes to what is most important. I am just like each of you when it comes to wanting friends, wanting to do interesting work, wanting to feel like I am heard, and wanting to enjoy my life.

Although I do not believe our election process is rigged, I do believe that in many ways, our education system is.

In two years, I’ll be able to vote, but I shouldn’t have to wait until I am 18 to be heard. (The Hechinger Report)

Learn more about EdSurge operations, ethics and policies here. Learn more about EdSurge supporters here.

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