Let Them Choose

During my ongoing curation of articles about learning, digital tools and social media, I recently came across this article exploring perspectives on  social media in the lecture theatres.  Although the article was primarily examining post secondary perspectives, I would argue the same discussions are relevant in K12. The discussion was centred around various viewpoints on whether or not students:

  • be allowed (by profs) to bring technology to class
  • are distracted by having access to social media  and
  • experience benefits?

Two interviewees interviewed commented that “… because the students are most likely taking notes. Many don’t use pen and paper, and rely on their devices. She says students are old enough to decide if they are to learn or not.” andMy view is they are old enough to choose and multitask (and choose to fail too),“. Meanwhile, others choose to dictate “no access”.

SM choices

Now, if I put a personal perspective on this and let you observe my learning mode,  this is what you would see. Typically I use 2 devices … taking notes on my iPad using notability – not just for notes – adding audio recording, and insert photos for context for a more complete package.  On the second device I organize lists, todos, ideas and share via social media, typically Twitter but this could easily be a Facebook group, G+ community, LinkedIn or open Google doc. I reiterate – this is MY style. This is how I learn best. Paper and pen doesn’t work for me.

device choice

Why not let students choose what works best for them – student voice. To me,  letting students choose what tools they use and how they organize shows a strength based approach to student learning. What benefit is there in forcing students to function in a way that may not be self directed and self optimized?

Weigh in:  Where do you stand?


7 thoughts on “Let Them Choose”

  1. Interesting thoughts, Mark. I think in early primary, once they have been taught a variety of ways to show their thinking and learning, choice is HUGE. There’s a place for pencils and paper as much as there’s a place for technology. It’s all dependent on how you use it. With some prompting, most 6-7 year olds usually know what works best for them, as long as they’ve been given the opportunity to explore all the options first. I think some educators have a fear that paper and pencils will be a thing of the past, but I don’t think so. Some kids choose paper over technology. They feel more comfortable or it’s an easier way to get their thinking out. Allowing the students to choose what works best for them is empowering. Imagine what kind of learners we’d have if we started giving choice in the early grades and it continued every year throughout their schooling?

  2. Mark,
    I am solidly on the “let the choose” side of the ledger, at least partly because, like you, I process digitally when learning at this point. I usually use Evernote or Penultimate for note-taking on the Pad, and am also often Tweeting to share my learning.

    I offer my students options, and I think one of the really important pieces is teaching techniques to them, particularly in the intermediate grades. For example, if they want to take a photo of something on the screen, that’s great, but where is the photo going? How are you going to organize what you’re capturing? How are you going to find it again? If you’re accessing a screen-shot that I’ve posted in one of our class shared spaces, what are you doing with it? Printing it? Putting it somewhere else for easy access later? What tool do you want to use to annotate it? To me, these are the important skills we need to teach as we offer our students choice.

    I was appalled recently to hear from a friend that when admin gathered in her board, one of the first expectations was to turn their devices off, to avoid distraction. Have to wonder how that modelling helps principals open choice up for their staff.

  3. Mark, I totally agree with you! I think that we need to show our young students these various tools, and then allow them to decide how and why they use each (or if they combine low-tech and high-tech tools). I think that we need to have students talk about their choices and why they make them, with the hope of them thinking more about their choices and knowing when they have to maybe re-think their decisions.

    We also have to remember that what works for one may not work for all. I never use a paper and pen. I can’t organize my thinking this way. I go to more meetings with multiple devices and no pen, and am then asked to use a paper and pen. Why? Maybe if more of us are “educational troublemakers” and question the options available, more will be available to us. I’m okay being different. I wonder how many others are too!


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