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Learning at its Best

Listen, Share, Repeat.

There are a couple of things I’ve been thinking about  lately. They revolve around listening to students (I’ve blogged about this before) and measuring technology integration success/effectiveness. I really thought that these two topics would be separate posts. The more I thought about it, which was spurred on further in a blog post I read earlier today by Ryan Bretag called The Real Change Agents, where Ryan asks this (in what I believe is essential to our best practices) question: “How many of you are having ongoing conversations with students about school – a genuine conversations about learning, leading, and teaching?”

I started to realize how important one was to the other. If you don’t think what you’re doing to integrate/infuse technology is working effectively, shouldn’t we be asking our students how to be better at it? These can be very powerful conversations that not only can impact the effectiveness of students using technology, but can leverage effective change in education. I see this as two rather basic and straightforward questions: 1) What technology opportunities should we be offering students to impact every facet of their education? 2) How can we make it better (perhaps after some initial implementation)?

Russ Goerend also tweeted this out this morning that got me thinking further about the impact listening to students can have:

Now I don’t know the reason that Russ was spending his prep period with these students, but I gathered from his tweet that there was some pretty powerful (or at least interesting) conversation happening. I would love to hear what these students came up with about what “school” should look like.  I also wonder what impact Russ’ conversation made on them personally. If you are having “student focus groups” (light bulb moment) at your school, are you varying which students you gather input from? We should be.

I invite you to watch this 5 minute clip from a student panel titled “Is ANYONE listening to students? Students Speak Up About Education Technology” – and think about what kind of real change listening to students could bring to change what “school” looks like.

Students want to have access to the types of devices (mobile or not) that allow them take their learning experiences further at that moment. Our students have passions for learning and if they want to take it further than we can in one class period we’re doing them a disservice by not allowing/banning/generally frowning upon them doing so. We’ve been in the 21st century for eleven years now! When are we going to stop referring to “21st century skills” or “21st century classrooms”? How about we just make this necessary in terms of  skill sets and how our classrooms look/function?

As I look back to the title of this post I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the importance of sharing, which continues to be a critical component after we have listened to our students. I always try my best to stress this when I’m working with teachers, especially if they’re considered a “trail blazer” in their school for using said technology with students. Share with your parents, share with your staff, share with your principal. Share what worked, what didn’t work, and share feedback from students. Just share!

Listening to students. Should this be a critical component of a school’s or district’s improvement plan? Oh, and I think I’d add another word to the title after Listen: CHANGE.

About Kyle Pace

Director of Technology, Google Certified, Apple Teacher, and connector of dots. Relationships are the key to all amazing things.


9 thoughts on “Listen, Share, Repeat.

  1. Listening to kids needs to remain a priority – thanks for reinforcing this idea, Kyle.

    It’s telling that we consider it best practice to involve kids in setting up expectations for classroom behavior, but we shut them out of the technology decisions that impact them at school. We adults create a lot of the distractions we bemoan – and often we create kids’ need for them.

    I would like gut my room, hand my kids a budget, and let them start being heard by creating the learning environment they want me to see.

    Kyle, what other instances of school ownership apart from tech do you think would benefit kids, us, and school culture most?


    Posted by Chad Sansing | May 11, 2011, 8:48 pm
    • Hey Chad! Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment. I think involving students at all levels, not just tech, can greatly benefit school culture. I love your idea, and it would definitely be radical but to think about what could (and hopefully would) come from it is pretty cool to envision. I’ve really been thinking a lot about the idea of student focus groups and where that could take things.

      Posted by Kyle | May 16, 2011, 3:20 pm
  2. Kyle, You bring up such a strong point here. We must listen to our students, and like you say, not just listen but then act. This can be done in so many ways that there really is no excuse not to make them a part of the conversation and yet I think many teachers are afraid that they may not like what they hear. This year my 4th grade students have blogged repeatedly about our classroom, about what they want to learn, and about what they like or dislike about school. There has been some tough truths in there but boy, are they frank. And my teaching has certainly improved because of their raw honesty. It is time we all start to listen and not just think we know better. Great post!

    Posted by pgreens | May 11, 2011, 8:52 pm
    • Thanks PGREENS I really appreciate you taking the time to read my post and for your honest comment. I also had a great experience recently with some high school students giving feedback on experiences they’ve had with our online courses. It was such a rewarding experience. Still to this day I think, “Why don’t we do this more?”. I would think most teachers would rather hear it from their students vs. a parent or administrator don’t you?

      Posted by Kyle Pace | May 16, 2011, 3:23 pm
  3. I recently posted on Teach Paperless about this concept of listening to students (in this case, my own son)

    I was slammed by an anonymous commenter and, honestly, it had me feeling a little shaky. I see what people mean. It’s easy to be a cynic and ask why students need to share their voice. But we need to listen. I need to listen. I still have too many days when I hold the megaphone and shout down my kids in very subtle, quiet ways.

    Posted by johntspencer | May 11, 2011, 11:35 pm
    • Hey John thanks so much for reading. I did also catch that comment and I don’t blame you. Listening to our students helps awesome things to happen. Does it have to be in every facet of the day to day running of the school? No. I think it can be a very eye-opening, and rewarding experience for all in the long-run.

      Posted by Kyle Pace | May 16, 2011, 3:26 pm
  4. Kyle,

    Did you also see this in Saturday’s New York Times, front page? About using backchanneling in high school classrooms to democratize participation?

    Posted by Kirsten | May 16, 2011, 10:01 am
    • Hi Kristen! Thank you for reading my post. Yes I did read the NY Times article and the comments were equally as interesting as the post was. To me this falls under the category of “Why aren’t we doing this more?”. Does it have to be used every single class period of every single school day? Absolutely not. We’re not there (yet). What another great way to listen to our students!
      Thank you again. I’m enjoying checking out your site as well and learning more!

      Posted by Kyle Pace | May 16, 2011, 3:38 pm
  5. The video is awesome, too; the kids are great. I’m going to use it in PD. Thanks.

    Posted by Kirsten | May 16, 2011, 10:05 am

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