Engagement and Empowerment

How you engage your students? Actually, no…. How do you EMPOWER your students?

I recently read George Couros’ book The Innovator’s Mindset and he talks about going BEYOND engagement and into EMPOWERMENT. In order to empower students we have to get out of the way more often, we have to get kids to be excited about their things. And this means (to me) that I need to show them the tools, the techniques, the ways… and then get out of the way. (more on the getting out of the way at a later date… today’s focus is on showing them some tools)

So how do I get students excited to do their things? Well that’s super easy, just giving them the time and space to create work that they’re into. The Social Issue Unit  and the steps leading there were some great ways to show kids some tools, techniques…and then get out of the way.

But I’ve been expanding my use of tech in the classroom – for a variety of reasons, 1) duh… technology is fun and a lot of the times immediately engaging 2) I’ve realized my students often don’t use technology as much as I think they do in the ways that I assume they can use it 3) the tools to capture information or engage students in information is so amazing right now.

One of the MOST fun and successful things we’ve done so far is during the paper exploration lesson, students created how-to videos and shared them on Seesaw. They were incredible. The goal was to transform paper from 2D to 3D and then create a tutorial on how to transform. Their knowledge of youtube and tutorials was perfect and they really amazed me with their videos. (Please ignore their ridiculous conversations… ugh)

I wrote about  transitioning from clay to the Recycled Fashion  and using Kahoot which isn’t innovative at all but for my students, you would’ve thought I was throwing out money or something. They were so excited about remembering the information about clay. It’s something I hadn’t really thought of – that sometimes you do want to get a “right” answer and oftentimes in my classroom and in interactions with me, there is no “right” or “wrong”. But Kahoot was awesome and it may become an option in terms of students creating their own Kahoot quizzes we can use.

So these are two great techniques to ENGAGE students… but how do I EMPOWER them? How do I get them to WANT to create their own things?

This is where I believe that the relationships I build with students are vital. Using Circles to create open dialogue and trust within the class is one of the ways we build relationships. We also work at collaboration – I don’t believe in “cheating” because if I have asked a question or posed a problem that you can google easily or that I expect you to complete completely alone…. well… I’m just fooling myself in what life is like. We all get support and help. We all need to use our resources. That’s how this world works. So collaboration and resource sharing is part of relationship building. I also work hard at conferencing one on one with kids in a really structured way, as well as daily talking to each kid. The daily talking to each kid may seem daunting – but it’s as easy as stopping by each table and asking How are you?

These seemingly tiny steps from engaging students using tech to building relationships in tiny ways is the way I’m intentionally working on empowering my students.

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Image from George Couros’ blog The Principal of Change; The Timespan and Impact of Empowerment. 

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