Choice, Choice, Choice!

One of the biggest tips I give to people when using technology in the classroom is to give your students choices.  Choices on how they work in the classroom, choices on what they create and even choices on how they are assessed.  By giving choices we are allowing students a greater chance to own their learning.  If we decide how they are going to do everything, they will feel like a passenger instead of the driver they need to be.

For example, I was recently in a classroom where the teacher wanted their students to create a concept map.  They did not tell their students what tool to use, they suggested a few but as long as the students were able to get the concept map to them, any tool would work.  The students quickly went to work and even discussed options with each other.  A lot of people may have used the same tool, but many students were using something different because that tool worked best for them or they enjoyed using that tool more than the others.  They were more engaged with that lesson because they had some control over it than they would been otherwise if everything was dictated for them.

Sometimes a specific tool needs to be used for a task at hand but there are so many times that an activity can be completed using any one of a variety of tools.  As the teacher, you do not need to be the expert of all of the tools, but be there to help them as they work.  You can focus on the content while they are focusing on the application.  If we are really striving for a student-centered classroom and focus, then we need to make sure we give the students some control over how they are learning.  If you give them options and open things up, you will be surprised how much better things can get.

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