Monday, March 27, 2017

Letting Students Take the Lead in Learning

   Tech coaches and integrators often say it’s ok to “let the kids take the lead” when accessing digital tools. Often, our kids may discover (or already know) a very clever way to incorporate technology in ways we haven’t thought of as classroom teachers. Too often, we believe we have to master certain tools before handing them over to kids instead of viewing collective exploration time as learning time. This fear we maintain might keep students from taking the initiative. As a result, they are conditioned to becoming both passive and spoon-fed. When we are more focused on compliance, we can lose sight of curiosity, inquiry, and relevant learning. We can stifle initiative and motivation.
   In real life, compliance is only a fraction of the equation (click here for a short but powerful video on this point). As adults, we know if we want to learn how to do something, we have to take the initiative. We have to take risks. We experiment, try things, fail, and try again. We access Google, Youtube, Pinterest, Facebook, or we collaborate with others to get help and construct knowledge until we attain the mastery we seek. We think outside the box and know that learning is not limited to a compartmentalized 42 minute period. How often do our classrooms mirror that real world process? 
    Last week, I ran into a neat example when I observed a young lady using the popular social app media app “Snapchat” to superimpose the face of her student model over the clay bust she was sculpting. By using a Snapchat filter, her sculpting will be far more accurate. Many adults either don’t know what Snapchat is or tend to be critical of it as a “teen app” where kids are up to “no good”. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not the specific tool that transforms a classroom; it’s how we (or our students) use it. Most of us might not even know how to use Snapchat. But the young lady didn’t need us to know. This is the kind of “innovative mindset” we should seek from our students.
   I am hopeful we will continue to support opportunities for students to develop these kinds of skills K-12. It is imperative we consider innovative and transformative opportunities for students, making schools places of curiosity, passion, and inquiry beyond merely “passing the test”.
   Let your kids lead sometimes. You might be surprised by what they discover and learn – and teach us all in the process!
   Do you have any examples of your students taking the lead with technology in your class? Feel free to leave a comment below!