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Trust and empowerment of students

Some of the most important changes you can make relate to the nature of your relationship with your students and the degree to which you treat them as responsible and capable young people. The table below provides some examples of changes in the level of trust and empowerment of students.

Old way of thinking With Digital Mindset What is the change?
Teachers mark individual student exercise books during or after each lesson Teachers identify students with similar misconceptions or needs and create audio/video feedback using SeeSaw that groups can watch and discuss together in class, and at home with parents
  • Less teacher marking
  • More student dialogue about learning
  • Next lesson more targeted
Student outcomes must be recorded in their exercise books as evidence of learning Students capture learning through audio and video recording, in their own language, and save in their Showbie (digital) exercise books
  • Removes dependency upon English and Handwriting (where they are not the learning focus)
  • Enables better linking between concepts and subjects
The audience for students’ work is the teacher Students broadcast stories and news reports through their school radio/TV station.
  • Genuine audience increases authenticity, engagement and motivation
Students create videos about ‘how to do long division’ - teaching younger students, and providing evidence of what they can do.
  • Purpose and clarity more defined
  • Authentic feedback loops
Student ideas dependent on existing knowledge and experiences Students use virtual reality to ‘see’ the process of volcanoes erupting
  • Multi-sensory, immersive experiences
  • Equity – all students can access
  • In context of task
A sign says “No running” or the teacher tells the students not to run in the corridor Groups of students make video clips of themselves running in the corridor and having accidents (e.g. bumping into somebody who drops all their books). The videos are played on a loop on the display monitors in the school lobby and entrance from the playground.
  • There is a shift from ‘doing what you are told’ to understanding why you should behave in certain ways.

Part A: Think about what access you have to digital technology resources in your school. Remember you don’t need to have a whole-class set; just list ‘what’ is available. Try searching for the examples above – do you already have that software or kit (or similar) available in your school? Remember even one single device can be used creatively through free apps and add-ons.

Part B: What are others doing with existing kit? How are those uses impacting student experiences – are those uses changing what the students learn, changing how students learn, or are they replicating existing practices?

Key point: Digital technology can enhance student agency (and engagement) – but only if you let it!

Ways to facilitate student independence (and increase ‘teacher capacity’)

The old way of teaching forced our students to be dependent us as their teacher. We would provide an input for our students and then set them off on a task, and at some point they would return to us if they got stuck or for their work to be marked. Think about what message this gives our students – that their learning doesn’t count unless we, their teacher, have seen, assessed and approved it. It also creates a bottleneck where our students can’t move on without our say so. That slows learning down, demotivates students and creates high stress for the teacher.

Some teachers have identified ways to increase teacher capacity and remove dependence on the teacher. Teachers at a mid-sized primary school have filmed or screen-captured their input (you can easily do this with the inbuilt software tools on your interactive whiteboard (IWB), or using a smartphone). These films are put straight onto their class YouTube channel, and a linked QR code is displayed in the classroom. During the lesson, students are able to scan that QR code from a laptop or tablet and access that film – meaning that they can re-watch the teacher demonstration any time they need to. Critically, they can watch, pause, re-watch, copy, re-wind, repeat. As one student put it – you can’t rewind a teacher, but you can rewind a film. This frees the student to work at their own pace, focusing on the bits they didn’t understand.  It frees the teacher to focus on intervention, extension, misconceptions and highly targeted teaching rather than repeating a process over and over again (sound familiar?!). On top of that, teachers share and re-use these films; once they’re created they simply add to a resource bank shared by the whole school and used for intervention groups, staff training and home learning. That short film frees up capacity, encourages independence and opens up new learning opportunities for the whole school community.

Activity: Use your smartphone to record a short (2 minute) set of instructions about how to do something for one small group of students in your class. A maths objective or strategy might lend itself to this initial attempt where you can angle the camera at a demonstration. Then, in the lesson itself, give the students a device and ask them to watch the film and carry out that task as a small group independent of you. Whilst they do this, if you can, listen to the nature of their talk – how does their dialogue change when you are not with them? What impact does that have on their learning? Afterwards ask the students what difference they think it made to their learning – when they respond focus on how they talk about it and the level of ownership they felt for what they were doing and how they were doing it.

In another inner-city school where where 28 different languages are spoken in some year groups, students have been using Google Translate to maintain pace with their peers in subject lessons. Rather than being dependent on professional support, the students instead use the translation app to maintain pace. This is absolutely vital for students who are high attaining in curriculum subject areas but simply don’t have the English language skills to evidence it in practice. If the language is the barrier, let technology offer a solution.

Key point: Digital technology can make your life easier by increasing the students’ independence.

In conclusion
Relationships really matter in education. If you trust and empower your students they will respond with enthusiasm and will become more agentic. Increasing their independence can make your life much easier (as they will be less dependent upon you when they face learning challenges).

This series of blog posts was written by Fiona Aubrey-Smith and Peter Twining.

Posts in the series include:

1. Trust, Empowerment and Learning with Digital Technology
2. Trust and empowerment of teachers
3. What can you do in practice?
4. Trust and empowerment of students
5. But I can't because ...
6. In conclusion - expanding possibilities


1 thought on “Trust and empowerment of students

  1. Jitendra Tiwari

    I found your blog post to be incredibly informative. You tackled a complex subject and broke it down into easily digestible sections, which is commendable. The use of visuals, such as graphs and charts, further enhanced the understanding of the topic. I also appreciate how you included additional resources and references for readers who want to explore the subject further. It shows your commitment to providing comprehensive information. Overall, a well-researched and well-presented article.


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