The definition of an ‘empowered’ student is linked to the way in which those students approach learning. It’s about students engaging in meaningful tasks that are relevant to what they want to achieve; about growing in confidence and taking control of their learning experience.
A connected school can provide the ideal environment for this empowerment to take place. It’s not about giving students completely free rein to aimlessly trawl the internet. Rather, it’s about providing the type of framework where students can challenge and develop their own abilities; where they can develop at their own pace – while staying safe.
Here are examples of how a connected school can encourage this type of development…
Providing open research assignments
This is the opposite of instructing a pupil to turn to a certain page in a certain textbook. It might involve setting a question and asking students to go and research the solutions online. If students are able to access the internet via a managed system (whereby there is access to sites unless there is a reason for them to be blocked), students have the right level of freedom to complete this type of task, while maintaining a safe environment.
Asking for input on activities and homework
For older students, empowerment doesn’t have to relate solely to autonomy on individual tasks. It might also be useful to invite feedback on the type of activities that are being set and work schedules. This might be achieved through a social forum where access is limited to teachers and class members, for instance.
Providing a collaborative ‘brain dump’ area
Empowerment involves going beyond passively receiving information. An element of collaboration can be highly desirable here; such as providing a space for students to share useful resources or interesting snippets that they’ve found through their own research. An Evernote file open to all students within a class might be the way forward here.
Taking notes: encouraging students to use whichever method works for them…
Empowerment also involves letting students organise themselves in such a way that best matches the way they prefer to work. A connected school can introduce to students a selection of ways to get organised and take notes – whether via a portable device – or perhaps taking paper notes and then using a scanner or mobile to digitise them.
Empowerment is less about prescribing a particular way of working, but introducing various methods to students and encouraging them to use whichever tools work best for them. Evernote, Google Docs and Office Student are just some of the platforms that could be useful here.
Enabling students to create and share their own experiences
For older students, this might involve encouraging them to contribute to the school’s own blog site – including encouraging students to work through each of the steps of the writing process, such as brainstorming, drafting and editing. Having a closed blog (i.e. viewable by specific readers only) loses the motivating factor of being able to reach out to the outside world. So if empowerment is your goal, you might want to make it publicly viewable but configured in such a way that you are notified whenever comments to articles are posted in order to safely monitor it.
Empowerment through the right framework
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does our current environment enable students to take control of their learning in an effective way?
- Are we reaching the right balance between allowing students to develop their skills and grow in confidence while staying safe?
If you’re unsure, this might be the ideal time for a consultation to get your IT infrastructure on track.