Not Just a Teacher

binge thinking on technology and education

Not Just a Teacher

NOT voice

December 19th, 2015 · 6 Comments · General

Earlier today, @mesterman prompted me to read another blog post by the continually inspiring @mrkrndvs: Vision for eLearning. A confident and provocative post, there is a lot to take from Aaron’s work. However, there was a point I felt I had to make to Aaron on Twitter and the resulting discussion involving @rgesthuizen@ozjuliancox@rhonimcfarlane prompted this blog post.

Basically, the issue is:

“it has to be student action …not voice. I prefer to label it as having students active in integrating tech

My current slog through a PhD, researching Improvements to Technology Integrated Pedagogy: The Role of K-12 Students, has this description:

“Personal experience in the field of involving students as an active element in the technology integration process indicates to me that their involvement could greatly influence its success. In a variety of capacities, students can take an active role in how technology is used in classrooms, how and what their peers should learn, sharing their existing knowledge and the best approaches in using technology to meeting the needs of learning exercises and students (Mullen, 2015). The role does not need to be confined to classroom practice, however. It can be seen in physical design of learning spaces (Classrooms of the Future, 2003) and in decision-making around the enhancement of technology enabled learning, advising on policy and curriculum matters (State Government Victoria Dept of Education and Training, 2014).
Describing students as having an active role, in this research, is intended to highlight where they are empowered and given responsibilities involving the use of technology in school. Inactive, or for want of better terminology, indirect action by students exists in most schools. Examples of these range from self-organised online study groups to personal use of technology in learning such as choosing digital methods for presenting work. I also see active roles as those that are sanctioned by the school and a component of the learning process. These do no cover non-sanctioned ways such as having a mobile text conversation with a friend as a distraction from classroom activities.”
In Aaron’s blog post, he cited work by @PeterMDeWittWithout Student Voice, Technology Just Fosters Another Type of Compliance and, to my mind, much of what he talks about in this post concurs with my views. Terms such as ‘fostering’, ‘amplifying’ and ‘working collaboratively with students’ are the essential ingredients to student voice being action. They are the foundations for active involvement of students in technology enhanced education.
In many ways, @rhonimcfarlane is right to argue that these are merely labels and it is what we do that really matters. What I think is important, however, is that we distinguish in two ways for this context:
  • between those in education who think they have done enough to ‘modernise’ and empower their school by letting students have a voice, for example in a student council but there only real power is at such a low level as changing the quality of the toilet paper as opposed to those who are willing to let their students get involved in education decision-making from top to bottom, real projects that they own, learn from and learn with the staff in the school and communities beyond
  • that technology continues to revolutionise education, to upset the traditional relationships and roles that have existed for centuries. I love this as an explanation:

“We now face a situation in which the teachers and experts, who know more than the learners about the ‘stuff’ we want people to learn, may well not know as much as the learners about the technologies that could act as learning tools. There is now a real opportunity for reciprocal teaching and learning.” (Luckin, 2008)

Thus, the language does matter because in some ways, student voice could be argued to have been tainted by weak, low-level empowerment of students and because we are now facing power shifts on a completely different level due to technology. Whether you agree or not, I will keep banging the action NOT voice drum 🙂


6 Comments so far ↓

  • Rhoni McFarlane

    Keep banging your drum Nick! It’s always more fun to work with and interact with people who are willing to engage in dialogue that is student centered and focussed on how “we” (the collective learning community – adults & kids) can be better. Student voice (action) & leadership is something I am extremely passionate about and have fostered opportunities which have resulted in students having an impact on processes, structures and curriculum at WSS, but this is just the tip of the iceberg and it is what lies underneath the surface that we want our students impacting on. I would like to think that 2016 will be our opportunity to demonstrate what student “voice” should actually be – action, influence, creation & innovation. Which brings me to the discourse of language. I myself have “banged the drum” (just ask anyone involved in the inception of the Learning Hub) regarding the term “innovative”. Many claim to be innovative, just as you argue that many claim to support student “voice”. I agree with a substantial amount of what Alan November has to say here: . Despite this, I don’t argue that we should stop using the word “innovative” I just argue that we call out those who make claims that do not align with what should be regarded as “innovation”. I take this approach with all language. I believe we need to maintain the unanimity between the intention of language and what materialises. We see so often in Ed the way we change language, because what evolved did not meet the intention, but this doesn’t necessarily lead to better results. I hope that just as people claim “student voice” when it is really token involvement, isn’t the same for “student action” in 10 years, where some claim “student action”, but kids are just moving furniture in open spaces or rebuilding computers.
    P.S. awesome that you bring light to these issues in a forum which promotes dialogue – thanks 🙂

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    Any power shift can be very frightening for school administrations but we should not let that stall a move in the right direction.

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