Students need a voice and a choice.

Giving students ownership over their learning empowers them to make better decisions.

Photo of Jennifer Lennox
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We all can relate to this concept: when we make a personal investment in anything, we care more about the results of that investment. I'm a music teacher. I teach in a technology-infused general music classroom. I have a box of headphones at the front of the room that students can borrow to complete the work they need to complete each day. Some students bring their own headphones, but many borrow them from me. I observed one day the difference in the way the students cared for my loaner headphones vs. how they cared for the headphones they brought in from home. Mine get thrown around, carelessly tossed into a bag, and often returned haphazardly to the box at the end of each class. And then I watched now students cared for the Beats headphones their parents allowed them to bring into school. You'd think those things were dipped in 24k gold. The care they take with them. They protect them. They won't let other students touch them. Why? Ownership. When you own something, and you invest in something, you care about it. You protect it. Why can't see see the parallels between this simple concept and the idea of how students learn? When we hand them lessons that give them no voice, no choice, and no ownership over their learning, how can we expect them to feel any kind of real investment? If we redesign our lessons to teach the same concepts and give students an opportunity to invest by choosing their own way to express their understanding, they want to create something that reflects who they are. They are no longer completing assignments out of duty, but out of desire. Their attitude towards what they produce and the path to the final product begins to transform. Give students ownership, and they will invest wisely.

Share research or student experiences that informed your idea!

I did a student project where my students were allowed to choose an artist or musician to study. I gave them parameters of the assignment and told them it was their job to become an expert on this person, and present to the class why they felt their music was valuable. Using Google Keep for research and Google Slides and YouTube for presentations, the students threw themselves into making their project one the rest of the class would remember. Their investment in this project was remarkable.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Paul Kim

Hi Jennifer,

First of all, thanks for participating in this collaboration between the Teachers Guild and ISTE. We really appreciate your contributions!

We’re in the last week of the build phase of the challenge on digital citizenship so it’s time to fine tune your idea before final voting begins next week.

Here are some things to consider as you continue to build on your idea:
- is your idea clear and will it inspire action from other teachers?
- would it be easy for a teacher to incorporate your idea about digital citizenship in their classroom?
- does your idea include some component of research and are there shareable resources?
- is your idea student-centered and does it promote agency?


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