Online learning. It has become essential in educational institutions across the globe. For me personally, March 13th, 2020 will be a day that shook up the educational world. That is the day many institutions figured out how they would teach in a pandemic. Systems spent their time scrambling to learn how to do this. It was something we never thought to do before… or was it?
We heard student voice regarding the benefits of remote learning long before 2020.
In 2015, I was part of a student group along with an innovative administrator working on a community WiFi project. The proposal was to engage local communities in connecting WiFi hotspots for our local high school students. Businesses and community areas would be a part of the hotspots in order to give our students safe places to connect to the web and work on assignments and engage in learning. The project was ahead of its time. We certainly weren’t the first to attempt it, we were the first to have our students lead the project!
For 2 years, our students in our business club traveled to local businesses and government agencies. Hours upon hours of research, questions, and how-to documents helped our students lead the innovative process. With the help of the administrator, we were able to attain a WiFi system that we tried out in a local Yogurt shop. The students created an expectations list for our students and the businesses involved.
We were going to change the community and engage in innovative offsite learning. The possibilities for community learning and engagement opened up. Students were dreaming up their ideal ways to engage and learn outside the 4 walls of school.
As beta information came in, the time came to show our local school board what we had found. The presentation was carefully prepared and data was calculated. The students practice their presentation during business club. Each of the presenters were excited to share their voices and ideas at the meeting.
As the school board filtered in, my business club sponsor, the administrator and I followed the proud students into the room. We all patiently waited for the formalities and agenda items before our time was rattled off. I remember seeing the students sitting up straight with pride. This project had taken over 3 years to work on and some of the students who had graduated and worked on it initially came to the meeting as well. Our students were about to be heard.
The presentation went flawlessly. Questions from the board were answered in depth. I noticed the pride and joy on the faces of the previous and present students in attendance. After a pause, one of the board members made a sarcastic comment.
“Are we going to have classes at the local Starbucks now?”
The board member proceeded to roll his eyes in and it was very obvious he was being condescending. The rest of the board chuckled. I could feel the innovative energy being sucked out of the system in that moment.
As the meeting ended, the students and I all gathered outside in the hallway. I let them know how proud I was of their work over the years. I let them know that they were innovative thinkers that the world is going to benefit from.
I could see they were still disappointed. They all knew what had happened in that room. One of my previous students spoke up. “That was all just for show. That board won’t move forward with this idea. They are not innovative. They want to keep the status quo.”
He was right. Those students knew they were listened to… they just weren’t heard. They knew no action or follow up was going to be taken.
Too often this is the case in educational systems. The trend to “listen to student voice” is very evident in schools today. We put on sessions with students included. We send out surveys for students to talk about things. We listen. And it ends there.
The bold innovative educational leaders will HEAR students… and create a space to innovate within their organizations. Student voice that is heard, embraced, and acted on will better prepare us all for the future!
Creator of Disrupt Education
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