I have given a great deal of thought about this post for more than a month of activities and lessons with teachers and students. I have talked to others in my role about what they do and how they lead digital learning in their buildings. In time, I have established that the way I approach activities is different from most. I try not to put students into one solid activity with only one approach or direction to go. I feel that most always leads to little or no creativity and an idea that there is one and only one way to get to an end result. While sometimes it is necessary to drive students all toward the same goals and activity, I try really hard to limit those times. I prefer student choice.
Student choice can be as simple as letting students choose from a list of activities, apps, sites or product creation plans. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or extensively planned, but it does require some thought and sharing what you are looking for in the end result. For me it is about the journey, not the destination, and student choice in activities has really given me some great opportunities to observe the journey. Here are some things I have observed.
•When students have choices between creating and consuming, contrary to popular belief, they create! No matter what site I set Kindergarteners off on, I find most every student finds a way to design a car, create an illustration, or build a masterpiece over watching a video or playing a game.
•Students are in awe over my offer to choose. They often ask if they really can do any of the above selected options. I enjoy telling them that I trust they will make the best choice just for them!
•Open choices within activities means that what students produce tells you far more about the student than just what they know and show. Creativity, interests, and passion really become apparent when there is less emphasis on an exact product and more on a journey to understanding.
I encourage you to try this and observe as I have. I hope you find, as I have, that student choice can make a huge difference in how your students engage, approach learning and growing, and take on new challenges
Jaime Vandergrift is an elementary technology specialist, experienced educator, presenter and conference planner. Jaime is a co-host of EduVue, an EdReach Network Live Education Show. Jaime is pursuing her EdS degree from the University of West Georgia in Media and Instructional Technology.