Learning deeply with agency and digital technology

Diving deeper into Fullan and Langworthy‘s readings this week (2014), the parts that again resonated with me are those of voice, choice and ownership in learning.

How do you involve students in the process of learning?

This made me think of our current unit of inquiry, “How we express ourselves”.

After the initial provocation of looking at a variety of creators’ messages composed in different media, we came together as teachers and synthesized what our learners were telling us in terms of their prior knowledge.

After listening to our learners’ voices and prior knowledge from the provocation, as teachers, we were able to construct lines of inquiry (and more) to meet learners where they were at.

To simplify this post, we’ll fast forward a few weeks of learning. Through learning engagements (and even a guest storyteller from Australia), students developed a better understanding of audience, communication skills, and how our audience influences the way we communicate (i.e. our central idea).

It was now time to think about the summative task that would empower students to showcase their newfound knowledge.

What our learners were telling us

Quite a few of our students, through regular student voice surveys, had advocated that it would be “cool” to do a talent show. This little nugget of data was the catalyst to the summative task – “Studio 4’s Got Talent”!

Together, with the students, we looked at the unit, reviewed the key learning, and then co-constructed a GRASPS statement (McTighe and Wiggins, 2010) together.

Here are some of the ways, by incorporating the voices of the learners, we’ve embedded ample choice into this task:

  • Work independently or with a peer
  • Present any talent, skill and/or passion
  • Choose your audience from three possible options (peers, adults or both)
  • Decide on your main purpose (persuade, inform or entertain)
  • Select three out of the six communications skills that you have been learning about (e.g. gestures, eye contact, speed of voice, poise, etc) that you used for your selected audience
  • Decide how you want your audience to feel

Engaged or Empowered?

Our talent show is this coming week.

Students are engaged as they know the pathways to success well. As Hattie (2012; in Fullan and Langworthy, 2014) posits…

Because the task is super rich in agency (voice, choice and ownership) right down to the success criteria, kids are not only engaged — they’re empowered.

The submission medium – Flipgrid

Our current context is home-based learning. We chose Flipgrid as our submission medium as it deepens the learning, digitally, in many ways:

  • it provided equity for voices – more introverted students can present at a time and space most comfortable for them without a large physical audience present,
  • the ability to put a time limit requirement (task is 3 min or less),
  • the user interface is simple in terms of ease of access and simplicity of use for our students,
  • all stakeholders could access privately,
  • free for our intended purpose,
  • meets the data security requirements in terms of student privacy,
  • allows our learners to “perform” asynchronously,
  • gives listeners choice in what performances they want to watch, and
  • since it is asynchronous and documented in one space, it provides greater audience access (other classes can and will provide feedback, loved ones of the performers can watch and provide feedback asynchronously, too).

The assessment

This, the students will own, too.

Simple statements and reflections stemming from the success criteria that we co-constructed.

Success criteria that they’ve known for weeks and have multiple experiences and practices so that every learner can be successful.

Here is a modelled example of what this will look like, along with the student response sheet, which students can respond using text, voice or video in their Seesaw portfolio:


Questions to ponder for you, dear reader…

  • What is something that you could co-construct with your learners next week? Any time you’re entering the thought of rubrics and/or success criteria, this is a great time to “let go” and involve your learners in the process.
  • How can you better tap into the creativity of all of your learners? How can you open up choices in the task to allow for this?
  • Which independent tasks could be changed so that they focus more on collaboration?
  • How can you tap into the interest of the students more frequently? How often are you entertaining these “voice” opportunities for your students?

One Reply to “Learning deeply with agency and digital technology”

  1. Hey Justin! I hope you are doing well. I am not sure what Vietnam is like right now but I think you are heading back to school? I follow some people who work there, on Twitter, and it seems as though they have been in their classroom. Let’s pray that Omicron is not as bad as it’s being hyped up to be.

    I really enjoy reading your blog posts. As I am a new PYP educator, you are full of so many ideas that I am able to use in my classroom. . These ideas then give new ideas that i am able to use with my own kids. PLCs are really valuable and I appreciate having you in mine!

    I really love that you allowed your kids to create their own success criteria for their learning. This is something that I am often forget to do and would like to lean in a little bit more. I am so accustomed to handing out a rubric (especially for writing) and dictating what it is that they need to show. There is something really powerful about setting up the success criteria as a group. For one, it allows students ownership over their learning and gets them to think about what is important to learn and why. Also, it just really gets the conversation going in the classroom.

    When we went back into the classroom at the beginning of November, we had to come up with a list of classroom/school rules. I started with “Rules only matter if we know the reason for the rule.” When related back to academics, we could say “learning only matters if we know why we are learning it.” By allowing students to create their own success criteria, they are developing a deeper understanding of the “why” for their own learning.

    Hope you are having a great year. Winter break is quickly approaching! 🙂

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