Student empowerment is something every good teacher strives to have in their classroom. Watching students take charge of their own learning is one of the greatest rewards we can get. For the past couple of weeks, I have been thinking about student empowerment, especially in relation to technology. As a starting point, I used ISTE student standard 1 which talks about students leveraging technology in order to take charge of their own learning. From there I came up with my own focus question:
How can technology be incorporated into classrooms to help students feel a sense of empowerment in their own learning?
I started my research with an article called The Power of Student Empowerment: Measuring Classroom Predictors and Individual Indicators. In the article, it talked about how student empowerment can be a predictor of student success. I was very interested to read about how the school setting plays such an important role in creating student empowerment. In education, I feel like we hear frequently about making positive bonds with students and making sure that our classrooms are a safe space. Something I don’t think is talked about as much is teachers allowing themselves to be failures in front of their students. Letting the students see us for who we are – humans capable of making mistakes and learning from them. The one part of this article that really caught my attention was the idea that teachers who allowed students to see them as human saw more success in their students.
My question focuses on technology and student empowerment, but I found myself drawn more to the relational aspect of student empowerment. I found myself asking what if my classroom was a place where the kids knew I was learning with them every day? That I was able to allow them to see me be unsure, make mistakes, and pick myself up after failing? Would it make my students better people? With these ideas in mind I continued researching. I came across a book that I have since decided to order and keep in my classroom as a resource. It is called Maker-centered Learning: Empowering Young People to Shape Their Worlds.
Initially my reference to technology in my question was focused only on digital technologies. Through reading in this book, my mind has been opened to thinking of more than just digital technology. In the introduction to the book it simply defines a maker as anyone who makes things. Is this not what I want my students to be? Before this book I had never heard of maker-centered learning yet as I continued reading I found myself dreaming up ways to include a maker station in my classroom. Rewriting lesson plans to allow my students to become leaders in their learning.
These ideas tied nicely with what I read in the first article as well. By using maker-centered learning to create and problem solve, teachers are giving power to the students to become the leaders. Teachers will not have all the answers and therefore shift from knowledge holders to learners along with the students. One quote really struck me from my reading:
“It’s not even self-esteem, it’s more of a self-competence – seeing themselves as contributing members of society, with empathy to recognize interests of others and to reach out and help” (Clapp, 2017).
Right before this quote it was talking about benefits that come to students from their experiences in maker centered learning and this quote captured the essence of what I was looking for when I asked my question.
While I don’t have a simple answer to my question, I feel like I have found a strategy that can be used to allow students to feel empowerment in the classroom using technology: Maker-centered Learning. When students are able to release their creativity to problem-solve amazing things will happen. Allowing them to be faced with problems that actually exist in society, usually viewed as “adult problems”, gives the students an opportunity to build empowerment. They realize what they are doing matters and can make people’s lives better.
Clapp, Edward P., Berger, Ron, and Donner, Wendy (2017). Introduction and Chapter 1 in Maker-centered Learning : Empowering Young People to Shape Their Worlds (27-68). First ed. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.
ISTE Standards for Students. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students
Kirk, Chris Michael, Brown, Kyrah, Karibo, Brittany, and Park, Elle (2016). The power of student empowerment: Measuring classroom predictors and individual indicators (589-595). The Journal of Educational Research. Retrieved from https://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.spu.edu/doi/full/10.1080/00220671.2014.1002880