50 Ways To Empower Students In A Connected World

contributed by Saga Briggs, opencolleges.edu.au

What does it mean to find your voice?

Having the courage to speak up? Expressing your opinions more often? Having opinions in the first place? Or is it more than that? “We each have our own fingerprint; we each have our own voice,” says Kylie Minogue, host of The Voice. A hackneyed analogy from a questionable source, perhaps, but somehow it satisfies.

Finding your voice can be as simple as piping up in class or as complicated as defining your life goals. As teachers, most of us would probably like to hear a little less of our own voice and a little more of our students. So let’s use our experience and authority to help our students discover what makes each of them unique and prevent it from going unrecognized.

50 Ways To Empower Students In A Connected World

1. Practice positive reinforcement

Students should want to find their voice. Make it a positive experience.

2. Allow for creative expression

Students should be given the freedom not only to voice what they think but also to voice it however they choose. Let them be creative with the how and you will most likely be pleased with the what.

3. Give students more discussion time to explore and develop their ideas

Many of us are afraid that we won’t be able to cover all the material we need to cover if we devote too much time to discussion. The truth is, discussion enhances learning and memory, as does forming an opinion about a topic. Use this to your advantage and you won’t have a time crunch on your hands at all.

4. Offer more engaging prompts

The best marketing and advertising provokes us on emotional, personal, or comical levels. Try using these same strategies to get students to speak out on topics covered in your curriculum.

5. Blogging

Perhaps one of the best tools available for supporting student voice, blogging has become a common platform in schools across the world.

6. Use social media in new ways (ed note: this item was added by TeachThought editors in an update of this post)

Using social media to promote and share and document is a fairly well-established practice in the classroom. But finding new ways to use social media–for change, for research, or for critical thinking, for example–can help students not just ‘connect’ but connect in intentional and specific ways.

While using social in this capacity seems obvious and can get messy with privacy concerns and even ‘what they’re actually learning’ issues, in the modern classroom, social media is likely the most powerful way a student can ‘connect’ with other people and ideas on a large scale–assuming that kind of scale fits the need of the lesson or project.

7. Podcasting or VoiceThread

Tools like podcasting and VoiceThread bridge the gap between real-time discussions and standard video lectures or online presentations. This makes both great platforms for teaching, learning, training, and student collaboration in project-based learning.

8. YouTube Channels

Invite students to create their own educational videos to post on YouTube.

9. Digital storytelling

If you haven’t tried this one yet, give it a go. The topics used in digital storytelling range from personal tales to the recounting of historical events, from exploring life in one’s own community to the search for life in other corners of the universe, and literally, everything in between.

10. Writing in the voice of a character

Emulating a character from a book or a film is a great way to ‘try out’ different voices.

11. Help students find their passion

Passionate people don’t remain quiet for long.

12. Recognize those who speak out

This doesn’t mean saying, “Thank you for volunteering, Greg” in front of the whole class or giving extra credit points to your more vocal students. It means pulling Greg aside after class and telling him privately that you appreciate his courage, or referring to his comment later in the discussion as ‘Greg’s comment.’ It’s the personal touch that is most rewarding.

13. Showcase inspiring stories

The more evidence of successful self-expression students see, the more likely they are to try it themselves.

14. Support innovation

Making something new both necessitates and perpetuates new thinking.

15. Make lessons personally relevant

It’s easier for students to see where their voice might fit in to a situation if that situation is relevant to their daily lives.

16. Let students disagree with you

Most of us relish arguments we haven’t heard before. Make sure your students feel comfortable enough to express them.

17. Encourage casual debate

Debate is one of the best excuses to exercise your voice.

18. Reward risks

Students will find their voices much more quickly if they aren’t afraid of taking risks.

19. Give second chances

Nothing’s worse than a failed attempt at self-expression. Be aware of attempts when you see them and encourage students to keep trying.

20. Don’t dismiss fleeting interest

Interest is interest, and it’s always a good thing–or can at least be channeled into a good thing. Encourage students to satisfy as many curiosities as possible so that they may find what they truly care about.

21. Welcome feedback on your teaching

This is one of the best ways to show your students’ voices matter.

22. Be a better listener

No one admits to being a poor listener. We all think we’ve got the gift. The truth is, no matter how good we are, we can always be better. Our students’ voices depend on it.

23. Inquire, think, reflect

Have students ask questions on a topic, consider possible answers, and evaluate the accuracy of each. This can be a great voice-strengthening exercise.

24. Let each student solve a unique problem

Don’t make every problem a competition; let students feel personally connected and responsible for their own issue from time to time.

25. Promote research

An opinion backed by research makes for a stronger voice.

26. Brainstorm with your students

Be part of the process in order to treat all voices equally.

27. Show that you don’t have all the answers

Having a voice doesn’t mean you are always right.

28. Recognize progress and performance

While all of us appreciate effort, it’s the progress we really want to see. Make sure students know the difference between the two, and help them understand what you expect.

29. Help students elaborate and dig deeper

Not all analyzing is over-analyzing.

30. Have patience

Let each student finish their thought, and don’t immediately step in when they struggle with words.

31. Practice visualization techniques

Students who visualize self-expression will be more likely to express themselves in real life.

32. Help students determine what they want

Knowing what you want can lead to knowing what you think, and feeling motivated to express it.

33. Build respect for one’s opinion

A student’s voice doesn’t have to be ‘right’ or ‘popular’ but it does have to reflect self-respect.

34. You don’t get what you don’t ask for

Emphasize the cold hard truth: no one will magically guess how you feel or what you want if you don’t express yourself.

35. Personal missions

Get students thinking about personal missions early on in the year and have them conduct ‘self check-ins’ every few months.

36. Reflections on the past

It’s sometimes easiest to view your present self in terms of how your past has shaped you. Ask students to reflect on their “old selves” and they may learn a thing or two about who they are today.

37. Identifying patterns

Urge students to remain aware of their own interests, passions, and ideas, and to try to identify themes and patterns when present.

38. Sharing triumphs and challenges

You can get to know yourself better by sharing your experiences with others.

39. Documenting new ideas

Encourage students to record new ideas, in the moment, as they arise.

40. Invite each student to lead

Students should be asked to lead, whether they accept the offer or not. Keep asking, throughout the year, and eventually, having watched so many others do it, they will realize it’s not so scary.

41. Practice empathy

And teach it, too. Empathy is one of the most powerful tools students can use to make themselves heard. It’s all about knowing your audience. See also 30 Books That Teach Empathy.

42. Talk about resilience

Students need to know that people will try to shoot them down, stifle or change their views, and reject them for thinking and acting the way they do. This is a given; what’s harder, and more important, is how students respond.

43. Explore different forms of leadership

Not all leadership requires standing at the front of a conference room and running meetings. Leadership can come from art, social media, teaching others, and much more.

44. Don’t force participation; inspire it

Cold-calling or requiring participation won’t help students find their voice. If you can spark participation with an engaging lesson or controversial question, you’re on the right track.

45. Urge students to explain their views

Agreeing or disagreeing with a concept is a start, but if students can explain why they agree or disagree, they’ll be one step closer to turning all those opinions into a single voice.

46. Emphasize the right to voice your opinion

Students should understand that they have a basic right to voice their opinions and find their calling in life.

47. Teach a lesson on freedom of speech

If finding your voice is supported by the law, it can’t be that scary.

48. Encourage emulation

The best and brightest learn from the best and brightest before them.

49. Provide a platform

Whether your students like writing, speaking, or building–you’ll need to support their means of self-expression with an appropriate platform.

50. Expose students to radical ideas

Non-radical ideas are cool too, but they don’t support unique voices the way radical ones do.

This post was first shared on opencolleges.edu.au; also previously published at TeachThought.com

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