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How to Empower Students in the Digital Age

How to Empower Students in the Digital Age

By Oliver Schinkten

The buzzword in education right now is more of a phrase: empower students. But what does it mean to “empower students”? Why is it important?

We’re living in a digital age and there has never been a higher demand for innovation and the ability to learn new things quickly. The issue is that schools have been slow to react to this change; most don’t require students to take courses on technology and the professional development that teachers receive regarding technology is subpar.

This has created a dilemma. How can we properly prepare students for their futures with a system that is stuck in the past? In order to adjust, which in turn empowers students, we have to transform the role of the teacher.

“How can we properly prepare students for their futures with a system that is stuck in the past?”

More: How Twitter Transformed My Classroom

Rather than treating teachers as the “sage on the stage,” delivering information to our students, we need them to be a “guide by the side,” or an expert learner that can help students develop skills in a wide variety of subjects.

Educators must “leverage [technology] to provide engaging and powerful learning experiences and content, as well as resources and assessments that measure student achievement in more complete, authentic, and meaningful ways,” according to the National Education Technology Plan.

Although this new model of education has been, and will continue to be difficult to implement, as anything new always is, it’s a necessary step that our students deserve.

The traditional model of education relied on the accumulation of information and emphasized low-level thinking skills such as memorizing, labeling and matching. This must shift to help students develop a higher and more relevant level of thinking that includes creating, connecting and analyzing.

Fortunately, technology has made this shift achievable. We can empower students by allowing them to harness the new tools available to us. Here’s how.

Encourage High-Level Learning

empowering students_skills graphStudents are often rewarded for their ability to absorb information through lectures, memorize the material, and regurgitate it for a test. Many believe that this simply develops learned helplessness in a system that lacks an emphasis on creativity and innovation.

In order to captivate students, prepare them for the real world, and give them a blank slate to build upon we must engage them in high-level thinking skills.

Empower your students: Allow students to demonstrate their knowledge by creating documentaries, podcasts or Infographics. This is an empowering way for students to use creativity, design and innovation while learning skills that will be critical as they continue into higher education and the workforce.

Provide an Authentic Audience

One of the most powerful teaching tactics in the new age of education is providing students with an authentic audience. Traditionally, students complete assignments that are viewed, assessed, and graded by one person. There’s not a lot of motivation to create the next great story or research project when just one person views the final product.

This is where the power of technology and its ability to connect people will revolutionize education.

“Traditionally, students complete assignments that are viewed, assessed, and graded by one person. There’s not a lot of motivation to create the next great story or research project when just one person views the final product.”

Empower your students: Allow students to blog, create websites, design logos and infographics, and create documentaries and videos. All of this is done online, where students can present their final product to an authentic audience. It’s amazing how motivated and determined most students become when they know that their work will be shared with a large group of people.

The degree to which teachers can provide an authentic audience will vary with student age, parental permission, and ability to monitor the work. But remember, the authentic audience doesn’t always have to be the world. Use a restricted platform, like Edmodo, where work is only shared with classmates, other teachers in the building, and/or parents. Tools like this can help to create a safe and authentic audience for younger kids.

More: Use Whooo’s Reading to Encourage Reading and Online Networking With Peers

Engage With Tools

We need to prepare students for the real world by familiarizing them with the tools that allow them to create, innovate, and connect. “The challenge for educators is not to dismiss or keep up with students’ latest technological know-how, but to create meaningful learning experiences in which students are taught how to apply their knowledge to solve real-world problems,” says Dr. William R. Daggett, with the International Center for Leadership in Education.

Empower your students: Allow students to learn and explore the lessons you’re already teaching through video, audio and design, and communication platforms.

It is now the job of the educator to be a “guide by the side;” someone who can help students learn content and vocabulary while empowering them to explore the skills necessary for being successful in the real world.

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How to Empower Students in the Digital Age

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