Students Voices were Everywhere in Barcelona!

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The Microsoft Education Global Forum was a showcase of over 200 educators from around the world; most of which were sharing work in which their students had a voice. First, thank you to Microsoft Education/Partners in Learning for such a top notch professional development event and celebration of innovative teachers. I encourage anyone who uses technology in their classroom to apply for the Expert Educators program and to attend the global forum in 2015. No matter how experienced or innovative you are in your classroom you can always learn and be inspired by other educators. I am kind of going through a mini-depression knowing the forum is over and I will have to wait another year to meet with such a fantastic group of educators.

Each year of the forum there seems to be an overall theme that a lot of teachers address, as pointed out by participants that have participated multiple years. In 2012 Global Collaboration was a popular theme and this year Service Based (including social justice) was seen in a lot of featured lessons. A common belief and attribute of the lessons and teachers I spoke with during the time in Barcelona was the invaluable aspect of student voice in the classroom.

The discussions really opened my mind to how to Student Voice center my class even more. A common theme in workshops was that teachers need to let go and let the students run with a concept. If our objectives and goals are based around Sustainability, we do not even need to define the term for our students. Give them the choice on how to research and define the term themselves, and then to decide what sustainability issues are most important to them. Do they all have to investigate the same issues? No. As teachers we guide the students to relevant issues and may have to redirect them occasionally, but still give them the opportunity to have a voice.

As teachers we provide a skeleton of requirements, a general rubric, and guide them to discovery of topics. By doing this the pedagogy is meaningful to each student, they take ownership, and value their learning at a level we cannot measure. It is time for us as teachers to let go and let the students take the reigns of their learning, we us being the guide by the side. It is okay for them to fail, we help them get up, brush themselves off and then get back to work.

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