To prepare for the future, we need to help our students develop skills that will transfer to whatever they decide to do once they leave our classrooms. An important part of learning is also the practice of reflection and becoming self-aware in the process. Beyond building skills in the content area, we need to promote the development of social-emotional learning (SEL) skills and help students to become confident learners. Through different learning activities such as project-based learning (PBL), Genius Hour, STEM and STEAM-related curriculum, we can promote the development of many of the essential skills that our students need now and in the future. We can also promote more student choice and involve students more in learning, by helping them move from being consumers to being the creators of content.
There are some very versatile methods and tools that can help students to develop the skills they need to be successful. In each of these, we can also promote the act of reflecting and help students to build confidence, communication and collaboration skills. As educators, we must also be comfortable taking on the role of co-learner in the classroom. It can be a change that feels uncomfortable, but it has tremendous benefits when we create opportunities for our students to lead and we can learn with and from them. Together we should engage in regular reflection on our progress, our growth, our goals, and how we can make a difference in the world. What can we create and share that will help others? How can our students share their stories and their learning? Here are a few ways to involve our students in more active learning which will foster the development of these essential skills.
4 Ways to foster confidence, communication and collaboration skills:
Students can benefit in many ways from blogging, especially when leveraging digital tools to build their online presence and digital citizenship skills. It is a great option for having students reflect on their work in class, progress during PBL, sharing ideas for Genius Hour or exploring some other independent learning choice. A blog can take many forms whether students use paper or leverage tools specific to blogging like Kidblog, Seesaw, Padlet, or Edublogs. Each of these can be shared with classmates and teachers to invite feedback and build student confidence in conveying their ideas and expressing themselves. It is also great for promoting collaboration and communication by having students participate in a class blog, adding posts and comments, responding to questions, and sharing what they are doing in each class. Educators should also make time to blog as it serves as a good model for students and colleagues and creates supportive networks for us as well.
To encourage students to share ideas, the use of podcasting can be a comfortable way to help students develop their voice and confidence. Whether you decide to create a class podcast, encourage students to collaborate with classmates and create their own, or use individual podcasts, it is a beneficial addition to our classroom practice. For some students, they may prefer to write their thoughts in a blog, however, we need to help them to develop public speaking skills as well, and creating this option for students leads to more confident learners and provides the chance for students to create more in the classroom. When it comes to sharing ideas, many wonder what to talk about? Perhaps have students create a podcast rather than a presentation for class, they can interview a peer, role-play, post questions and gather responses from peers, for just a few options. When doing PBL or something like Genius Hour, it can be great for sharing unique ideas, skills and perspectives. There are many tools available for free which make it easy to create a short 5 -15 minute podcast, talking about a specific topic or something brought up in class. We have used Synth and Anchor and getting started is easy with both. Through Synth, my students were able to engage in more authentic PBL and have discussions with students in Argentina.
Screencasting and Demonstrations
Something that has been truly beneficial in my classroom over the past few years is when students have created video tutorials or screencasts. Students have prepared a video lesson or a vocabulary activity, or even a “how-to” video for a digital tool. When these have been shared, they also became resources for students throughout the year as well as the following years. For students, seeing authentic work created by peers has made a difference in their content retention, it led to more peer collaborations, and fostered relationships in the classroom. For educators, having these student-created lessons or tutorials available can make a difference. Creating can take as little as a few minutes to get started but create a long-lasting learning experience.
Personally, I have used Screencastify, which enables me to record my screen and navigate a website, explain a project, clarify a concept, teach a lesson, for a few examples. Students have also used Educreations to design a lesson to share and we have used these over the years and refer back to them often. It is also a great way for students to reflect on their growth over time and reflect. In my STEAM class, students will use screencasts to explain how to use a digital tool or showcase an example of a project that they have done. It is comfortable to create these because we are in control and can revise or redo if needed. Continuing to build our skills and share our expertise with others by creating more learning opportunities that will benefit educators and students.
In my classroom, building the skills over time through scaffolding the activities or by providing students with a choice in where to begin has made a difference. For some students, writing a blog is where they start, before moving to podcasting or video responses, or sharing their learning through video. Many students can be shy to speak in class however have stated that they prefer to use a video response tool to record a message. In doing this ahead of time, they have been perfectly fine with their video being shown in class. In their words, it is more comfortable than having to stand in front of the room. Being able to create these learning products in their own space has made a difference.
Each of these ideas offers many benefits for educators and students. We want students to build many skills and through these opportunities, students will develop essential 21st-century skills and also promote creativity, initiative, resilience, and flexibility in learning.
About the Author:
Rachelle Dene is a Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle Dene is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a master’s in Instructional Technology. She serves as the President of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. Author of 'In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking," and "The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead," Rachelle Dene’s other titles include "Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU" and "Chart A New Course. Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @rdene915.
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