By Billy Spicer – Guest Blogger
Creating a digital classroom is essential to engaging students in learning for today’s YouTube generation. We all know the “one size fits all” approach does not work. Through the use of authentic tools that bring students personal choice in their reading journey, teachers can leverage technology to create a digital environment that engages students and families collaboratively, fosters personal growth, and provide quality content to frame an environment to build life long readers and learners.
Full disclosure: student choice is messy! But here’s a secret: the messiness is proof you’re getting somewhere! You’re trying! I’m still tinkering, taking risks, and trying new ideas as well. But here’s what I have learned…
In order to support students’ ongoing literacy needs, teachers must provide choice based on the student’s interest, but more importantly, frame it with inquiry-based learning. When students are seeking answers and solutions to questions they pose themselves, true and authentic learning can occur.
When we ask students to seek solutions to problems of their own choosing, we are encouraging them to engage in deep learning through a process of investigation rather that the low-grade clerical work we know has a low effect in improving student outcomes. Meaningful topics that connect with the standards and learning targets within a school can provide opportunities for students to think critically and connect with larger themes. And isn’t that what we are striving for as advocates for building lifelong readers? Yes-Thinking critically while engaged in a variety of texts to the student’s interest that promote individual growth!
Students who own their own learning will be positioning themselves for their future, not the one they are often being forced into. Providing students with authentic choice goes beyond simply picking an item out of a menu. In that case it’s still the teacher who is ultimately directing the learning. Instead, seek out opportunities for students to be self-directed in taking charge of their own learning. Whether you are already on board with student choice or looking to get started, consider the following tips as a possible catalyst to dive in.
- Readers get to select texts that are to their own interest and independant level while following the big themes within a unit of study.
- Readers pose questions and then seek the answers through diving deep into the topic.
- Readers leverage literacy tools to curate their own personalized literacy environment: sketchnoting, mind maps, journals, text annotation etc.
- Readers get to choose when they want to read silently, participate in a shared reading, or listen to the audio version of a book.
- Readers will decide on an avenue for sharing their findings and answering their own “big question”.
Purposeful and meaningful experiences that integrate technology is at the core of today’s classroom in seeking avenues to improve student learning. When we provide students with quality resources and tools we are not only empowering them to drive their own learning, but also maximizing their individual reading growth.
To learn about some other applications in which I leverage myON in my quest to empower student choice in my reading workshop, please check out the video below!
Billy Spicer teaches in Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95 in suburban Chicago. As a member of the district’s Demonstration Classroom project, he spends 50% of his time in the classroom, with the other 50% serving as a technology integration specialist. He enjoys facilitating a passion for literacy, passionate learning through student choice, and social media to discover creative ways for students to meet their individual learning needs.