Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ask a Student

Photo credit: jdurham from

Recently I was asked to give a presentation to a group of faculty and staff at one of our local universities.  They were interested in seeing a snapshot of teens and their use of technology.  So I talked to students in my school and asked them some questions along the lines of:

  • How do you learn best?
  • What resources do you find most useful?
  • What is the teacher's role in education?
  • How do you think students should demonstrate their learning?
  • What role does technology play in your learning?
This is what they told me:  

They like to find out things for themselves and they know that's how they really learn something.
They have discovered that YouTube is a gold mine of how-to video on almost any topic.
They love getting comments on their work from people other than their teacher.  It expands their thinking.
They want their teachers to ignite a passion for learning, to guide them along the path of learning.  It's the teachers role to get students excited about their subject matter, to make them want to learn about it.
They want their teachers to point them in the direction of good resources.
They want their teachers to be there as a fall back when they don't understand a concept.
They see the value in collaborating to produce more creative solutions to problems.
They love problem solving.
They need time to think.
They see technology as a way to better organize their learning and to express themselves more creatively.

I also talked to teachers who had let their students use technology to complete a project.  They overwhelming reported that when technology was part of the picture the students were more engaged.  But, more importantly it was "not the usual suspects" who turned in the most creative work.  The students were excited about what they had created and had brought their friends to the classroom to see what they had done.

These comments came from projects where students were asked to  respond to a problem by collecting or creating images, music or brief quotations and to include their own written or oral responses.  The tools they used were ones like Animoto, movie making, Posterous, and Wordle.

What did I take away from this?  

If I'm going to ask students questions in class, it needs to be more than just a way to find out who regurgitates information the best or used as a means of moving MY presentation forward.  One student commented that the good questions required thought and that they often came up with a good answer long after the class was finished.  If these questions were happening online students would be able to join the conversation when they were ready.

If I want students to be good problem solvers I need to think like an employer.  Wouldn't I want my employees to know where to find reliable information and then collaborate in building useful resources for the work place?  My job is to engage students in activities that teach them how to problem solve; think critically; find, assess and use resources; collaborate; create and express themselves effectively.  (See Tony Wagner's book"The Global Achievement Gap" where he discusses the New World of Work and the Seven Survival Skills.)

If I want to really engage my students I need to listen to what they say works for them.
I need to show them my passion for my subject area.

Two of my student interviews were recorded and may be found here:
This student is commenting on her experience as a Students Live Olympic Games 2010 Reporter:


mego said...

Excellent blog post! We should more often ask students, they could teach us so much if we would just listen!
Thanks! Meg Ormiston

Sadako said...

Very true--you forget how much the younger gen knows sometimes, but they can be a real wealth. Great interviews.

MrsE said...

Hi Meg, thanks for reading my post and passing it on to Ross Crockett at the Committed Sardine. I came across another post featuring student voices today on the Innovative Educator: Students really do know what works for them.

MrsE said...

Thanks Sadako, it is so often a case of "out of the mouths of babes" isn't it?