Letting Your Students Create
According to author Marc Prensky in his book “Teaching Digital Natives” students are “eager to create and desire more diverse avenues for expression of what they have learned”. Prensky explains that we need to explore the possibilities of letting students develop new tools referred to as “nouns” in the book, uniquely demonstrating what they have learned and understand about a concept through answering guiding questions by research and design. Encountering this idea was a bit daunting for me as a teacher used to designing the lessons, instructing on content, and having control for the delivery of the learning (because that’s what teacher’s do). Shifting this personal paradigm, I have found (in baby steps) that giving up some of the control to the students and letting them become the technical experts in their chosen medium of expression can actually be freeing. It helped to know that according to Prensky, teachers don’t have to be able to use all of the tools or applications out there; it’s okay to let the students explore and use the nouns and possibly teach other classmates and their teachers how to use the tools. A great idea he had was to create a list of possibilities for creation and posting the list on a school web or class blog site. Prensky also emphasizes allowing students to join a world conversation by encouraging students to publish to different mediums. By publishing to this world wide audience, the bar raises for the students who now are responsible for communicating what they know to a world wide peer group. He terms this as “creating to their maximum capacity”.
By providing the guiding questions for learning, and allowing students to create, students are given more choice, a second essential step for the partnering method to succeed. This means that we need to ask them for feedback and input on how best to design the lessons. The goal is that they will then take more ownership in the ideas, choices and outcomes. No matter what, Prensky states that you will always have slackers that will shrug off group assignments and collaboration style work. To counter this, he suggests possibly putting the slackers together and letting them exceed expectations together. In my own classroom, I have seen that when I put less motivated students together, they will usually surprise me by pushing each other so they will not be shown up by other groups.