Amplifying Student Voice

Before you read any further, watch this video. http://tinyurl.com/k4yorxj Seriously.

Now imagine you were a 4th grade student who just watched that video. You are one in a class of 28. The teacher asks the class for their thoughts: “What can we learn from that video?” Your neighbor raises her hand but doesn’t get called on. You sink lower in your chair, slipping under the radar as usual. The boy in the front row gets called on (as always). Someone blurts out without being called on. How rude, you think! The teacher reminds the class to raise their hands to speak and calls on two more people. With two minutes left until recess, the teacher shares their own opinion of the video, validating some students’ ideas, and adding the other take-aways that didn’t come up. How many people were able to share their thinking? Sadly, too often, the vast majority of students are not directly engaged with the learning because their voices are not asked for or heard.

Giving students the chance to have a voice might be the single most important thing that you can do to help students learn and grow. According to John Hattie’s meta-studies of 138 influences and effect sizes related to student achievement, two actionable items that rank among the highest include providing formative evaluation and student self-verbalization and self-questioning. Student voice is important to really know what’s going on “out there”, and asking for it gives all the chance to speak up!

Valuing student voice increases student confidence and shows them that their ideas matter. The quiet voices are just as important to hear as the loud ones, and they need to know that their ideas and opinions have worth. As forward-thinking educators, I’m pretty sure we can all agree on this point. If giving students the power to project their voice is going to be a priority, we may start asking the questions, “how?”, “when?”, and “how often?”

There are a number of low tech solutions that a teacher could employ by simply being cognizant of the fact that ALL, not some, students need to have the opportunity to share their thinking. For instance,

  • The poker chip idea discussed in the video
  • Exit slips
  • Turn and talk routines
  • Think, pair, share routines
  • Headlines routines
  • Fake twitter accounts
  • Sticky note parking lots
  • What others have you used? Leave a comment below…

The purpose of this post, however, will be to address these questions and share how we in our classroom have utilized three phenomenal apps that help to amplify student voice in a digital way, which in our experience results in much higher levels of student engagement: Seesaw, FlipGrid, and Padlet.

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SeeSaw is a web-based and app-based platform that easily allows students of all ages to create a safe online presence where they can post videos, pictures, audio comments, narrated drawings, notes, certain files, and links to any other kind of web-based creations. Using SeeSaw opens work to feedback from students, teachers, and even parents, who can receive notifications when their students post, like the content, and comment. Perhaps the coolest part of this is that the student’s voice immediately becomes shareable (if desired) with a global community. The free version of SeeSaw offers plenty of bells and whistles, and we’ve been using it for years without feeling the need to upgrade to the school version. If your main goal is to give students a platform to share their voice and be heard by all, SeeSaw would be a great place to start.

Here’s an example of one application of SeeSaw in a 4th grade math class:

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In our classroom, FlipGrid is the new kid on the block. FlipGrid has many features in common with SeeSaw, but in a much more pared-down format.

Same as SeeSaw:

  • Shareable with the global community if desired
  • Students upload video selfie responses to prompts
  • Students, teachers, and parents can respond to other students comments
  • Likes for videos from watchers
  • Both are “safe” in that you can password protect your class’ content
  • Both will send you notifications when there is activity

Different than SeeSaw:

  • Tracks the number of views a video gets
  • Video selfies are the only format of content. No notes, files, links, etc…
  • Much easier to keep topics and responses organized together. In SeeSaw, items uploaded are organized by date, not topic. In FlipGrid, all videos and responses are grouped together by topic. While SeeSaw does allow for organization by folder, you would end up with a ton of folders if you tried to make a new folder for every discussion.
  • SeeSaw allows for easy tracking of individual students over time
  • With FlipGrid, there is no way to see every video and comment that an individual student has made
  • No rosters need to be uploaded with FlipGrid. Anyone with the board or topic code can access and comment
  • You can “freeze” topics when you no longer want students to add to

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Possibly the best way to describe the two: SeeSaw is to Facebook as FlipGrid is to Instagram. One is a catch-all while the other is more specialized for response type.

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Padlet is a great tool to allow all students to have a voice. Padlet is essentially a digital version of doing the Chalk Talk Visible Thinking Routine. Padlet’s design looks like a bulletin board that each student can add a sticky note too with their own opinion. This allows students to see eachothers thinking and grow their own ideas by seeing what other people are saying all on their own iPad screen. One great thing about Padlet is that students do not need to have their own accounts, you just need a teacher account and then students go to the link and can participate, no login necessary!

Pro Tips for Padlet: In settings, choose the “Grid” view so all posts will line up in an orderly way. Otherwise they are a jumbled mess with some posts covering the others.

Example from a teacher training

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We hope that these examples that we’ve shared give you some ideas of ways to make student voice visible, valued, and actively promoted in your classroom. What other modes have you found effective at raising the level of student voice through active engagement? Leave a comment below and we’ll respond to the discussion!

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