Classroom Practice Digital Innovation

How to Use #EdTech to Facilitate Student Leadership

Written by Jason Ribeiro

Empowering students to work beyond the perimeters of what is common in education is one of the unique elements to educational technology. In a growing knowledge economy, there is pressure on this generation of students to be able to demonstrate the information they have learned. EdTech tools can allow students to create a digital footprint online that (at a very early stage) draws attention to their ideas, talents, and passions. So here is the challenge for educators:

How do we teach students to use these technologies effectively so they can have a positive impact in and outside of the classroom?

This is no easy task. The pitfalls of irresponsible technology use are well documented (for students and teachers alike). However, we must encourage our students to lead in the 21st century and that begins with the responsible and efficient use of online tools.


Below are some basic ways to help your students become 21st century leaders:

Blogging

Blogging during my high school years might have seemed like an arduous task – but for today’s students it’s never been easier. The benefit is clear. Blogs are amazing platforms for students to learn online ethics and responsible internet use. More importantly, it empowers students to have a voice. This doesn’t have to a be a project that only their classmates know about and they just show mom or dad when it’s complete. A student blog can be a free space where he/she can critically engage with an issue at a depth not possible in 140 characters or in a Facebook status update.

As we shift towards personalization in our classrooms, a blog can be a student’s place to create and design themselves. While there may be a steep learning curve for some (and they might not be ready for WordPress right away), there are numerous blogging tools that can help students who are new to posting online. This is a great way for students to begin contributing to their digital footprint. To share your learning and reveal your thoughts to the masses is a very brave exercise (a process not without its hiccups). However, allowing our students to be bold and critical thinkers is what we want in our future leaders. This practice gives them a vehicle to accomplish so much and it is greatly underused. Get kids blogging early and the possibilities are endless!

Suggested Applications:

Weebly for Education

  • A free tool that allows the teacher to create up to 40 student accounts without the use of student emails. This is a highly controlled environment and teachers can allow the blogs to be made public or private. A very easy platform to use and a popular one amongst students and teachers alike.

Kidblog

  • Kidblog is a newer tool on the blogging scene but is based on the traditional WordPress interface. Once again teachers have full admin control and can shift between private and public content sharing quite easily.

Blogger

  • Though this platform was not built for students, Blogger has become very user-friendly over the years. For senior-level students this may be a more personalized and open environment for them to begin posting. There is a wealth of online content that can help explain the basics to students as well as provide them with a bunch of free imports and templates.

Social Networks

Now I know right off the bat teachers will be weary of this idea. “Students get themselves into enough trouble on social media – what’s the point?” I write about this topic in an article entitled “Teacher Technology Adoption and the Philosophy of Fear” in Antistasis. The article draws attention to the fact that we are letting fear (i.e. teachers being afraid that students will use social networks irresponsibly) dominate a discussion which should be framed around empowerment (i.e. students using Twitter to engage with people around the world about meaningful topics). We cannot let ourselves be driven by fear.

Students should be encouraged to seek out their passions online and find other like-minded individuals who share those thoughts (or challenge them). People complain students don’t know enough about what’s going on in the world. Well what if that’s not the case and it’s just the vehicle of delivery? Just because they don’t read the National Post does that mean they won’t follow its Twitter account? Will they feel more comfortable posting their thoughts online than standing up in class and speaking in a formal presentation?

Gaining the tools to become a professional begins in the classroom. Teachers should feel comfortable teaching students about acceptable use, building professional capacity, and creating a diverse and positive online network. Your students will thank you later.

Digital Portfolios

As I’ve written in past posts, teachers and parents love to have a demonstration of their student’s learning in the classroom. For students this also applies to storing completed work, showcasing achievements, and getting comfortable with documenting their education journey. After high school students scramble to put portfolios together for jobs and have difficulty retracing all of their achievements. If we get students in the habit of documenting their learning earlier, we give them the capacity to feel confident in those tense job interviews. The hard part has already been completed.

Great leaders are able to reflect back on their past work and identify their strengths and weaknesses. In today’s education system students rarely reflect back on past work – the obsession with forward movement, meeting unit plans, and preparing for high-stakes testing has made us forget about looking at how far we have come. This is one step teachers can make that can help students have a personal database geared towards reflection and dissemination.

Suggested Applications:

Sesame

  • Pedagogical documentation needs to start early. Teachers and parents should feel comfortable seeing their child’s learning progression and reviewing it with the student. Sesame offers a beautiful display for showcasing and assessing student work in the classroom.

Google Apps

  • Built for storage, a myriad of Google Apps can help students both house and showcase their work. For example, a Sheets doc can be used to create a contact list while a Drive Folder can be used to store scanned certificates earned over the years.

Prezi

  • From a presentation perspective, Prezi is by far the most creative platform. While this may take students a little more effort, Prezi has a number of customizable templates that can help kids document their personal learning (and leading) journeys.

Leading in the 21st century is no easy task. However the immense potential that exists for students to lead a more connected world through technology is very exciting. Don’t let your students fall behind. Encourage them to capitalize on the opportunities before them and to do so responsibly and efficiently!

 

About the author

Jason Ribeiro

Jason Ribeiro is a guest contributor to the Learning Bird blog. He is a Ph.D. student at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada specializing in Educational Leadership. Jason is also a K-12 teacher and EdTech consultant dedicated to working with districts wishing to tap into the relevant educational technology research to guide their decision-making. Follow Jason on Twitter at @jason_ribeiro.

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