George Lucas Educational Foundation
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4 Technologies to Help Students Find Their Voice in Your Classroom

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Students need a voice.

By voice, I mean the ability to recognize their own beliefs, practice articulating them in a variety of forms, and then find the confidence -- and the platform -- to express them.

The platforms part can go a long way toward serving the confidence part. Introverted students (who may be gifted with self-reflection) might find the openness of a social media channel like Twitter intimidating, but they might also love the idea of long-form blogging, or even communicating indirectly through the creation of mini-documentaries, podcasts or music videos.

This (correctly) implies that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for students to express themselves and interact with the world. You can indeed insist that all students blog because, from your perspective, it sounds justifiable and beneficial, but if the goal is to help students find their own voice, they will need choices. Here are just four possibilities. A creative teacher could easily come up with more.

1. Blogging

This one is simple. WordPress, Blogger and a variety of education-focused blogging platforms help students establish their own digital space to meet the world. It allows the embedding of images, videos, tweets and of course text. To be successful here, they just need a reason to blog.

2. Storify or Storehouse

Storify and Storehouse essentially allow students to collect media bits and pieces from across the web, and to socialize them -- that is, to shape them into a unique form of expression through social media. The focus here is less on the student articulation of ideas (in contrast to blogging), and more on what they share and why they share it. In other words, the content itself is the star. To be successful here, students need an eye for compelling content, as well as an understanding of the ways that various digital media can work together to tell a story.

3. Podcasting or VoiceThread

While podcasting and VoiceThread have fundamental differences, they boil down to the ability for students to express themselves verbally around an idea important to them. To be successful here, students need to be comfortable talking, and to be able to do so in ways that are interesting to listen to. They also need strong audience awareness -- but then again, when don't they?

4. YouTube Channels

YouTube is the ultimate digital distribution channel -- billions and billions and billions of views. It works, and it's staggeringly efficient, with a world of analytics and an instant global audience for any video that can find traction. Students can create review channels, perform music, humorously remix existing content, act, create documentaries, and a million other possibilities. Success here depends on a student's comfort level in front of a camera (if they're somehow performing), and/or an eye for standing out in front of said billions and billions of competing videos (if they're behind the camera or somehow producing).

To work with YouTube -- and really with any of the above-mentioned media -- students need to have a strong awareness of both legal copyright issues and notions of digital citizenship. As a teacher encouraging them to find their voice, you are in a unique position to teach or reinforce these concepts.

How are you using technology to help your students find their voice?

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Comments (6) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

I really appreciate the way you included some content curation elements here. I just finished a Challenge with my graduate students in which they needed to select, share, and reflect upon why they included different resources connected to the stages of the facilitation process. I learned so much about their thinking and their understanding of the content- particularly when they selected the same resources but placed them in different stages or when they shared the ways they were using the resources in their own classrooms.

Kate's picture

Self-reflection is so important for all of us! Thank you for presenting four very different (but easy to use) pieces of tech. They recognize different learning styles and student needs, as well as reminding us that our own preferred style of communication may not be right for all of the students in our classroom. Journaling and blogging may be in my comfort zone, but I know I will have students who are at ease in front of the camera or able to come to thoughtful conclusions by simply talking through their process.

Kat's picture

Great examples of using engaging technology to address a variety of learning preferences. It is amazing how innovating these individualized learning opportunities have become. So long as teachers have the courage to challenge themselves to learn about these new ways to learn from and teach the world the learning venues for students are endless.

Elise's picture

I love the idea of providing students with the choice of selecting which tool they would like to use to share their "voice." I think it is important, however, to encourage students to try different modes of communication for different projects as they may end of surprising themselves with a particular skill or talent:)

Owen Laughlin, JD's picture
Owen Laughlin, JD
Education Software Developer and Flight Instructor.

Your comment that many students need the confidence and the platform to express themselves is so true. Excessive use of technological devices (smart phones) can actually suppress the ability to conduct face to face discussion. We have found that using an in-classroom engagement system has helped introverted students express themselves electronically on their "entertainment device" and given them the confidence to then express verbally. This is accomplished by instant visual display of classroom answers without revealing the source to anyone except the instructor.

Stacy N's picture

I like the idea of students being able to choose their avenue for expression. I too, like Elise, feel that students need to be pushed a little to avoid relying on the same method. Sometimes getting our of our comfort zones produces some amazing results.

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