Learning Environment

The Power of Student Choice in Open Learning Time (1 of 2)

When learning time choices are left to students, what activities can be provided to meet as many unique interests as possible?

Helping students take ownership of their learning is a powerful stepping stone to developing lifelong learners who are passionate about education. As with any scenario in life, being given choices can make a huge difference in the attitude and behaviors students bring to their educational endeavors. When teachers carve out the time and create the spaces to make these choices come to fruition, some amazing learning outcomes can result.

With a chance to make choices during an open learning time, students may feel a renewed sense of purpose as they tackle a project more in line with their choosing. While having thirty different stations for thirty different interests can seem an insurmountable task from a planning and logistics standpoint, having several learning zones with options that can be modified and/or customized is a much more manageable option to undertake.

For Part One of our series, we’re looking at 3 open learning ideas that can make their way into the classroom without the addition of excessive materials or the need to find a secondary specialized space.

  1. Genius Hour – By its very nature, Genius Hour is the power to choose. Students are able to select a topic of interest and dive into formulating questions and researching. A timeframe for study and exploration is coupled with designing a product in the form of an informative report or other tangible creation to share with the class. Teachers act as facilitators and allow students to take the reins on where their research leads. This is a great way to meet the interests of all students and allow them to demonstrate their learning with a personalized product.
  2. Computer Coding – In this day and age, coding is the new must-have foundational skill. With programs like MIT’s Scratch, students have a plethora of coding options to meet their unique interests in any subject area. As Mitch Resnick shares in his TED Talk, “If you learn to code, you can code to learn.” Much like the idea of garnering the foundational skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic, coding opens a whole new way of learning and processing information. Students are able to design, create, and express their thoughts and ideas via a highly-engaging digital format.
  3. Virtual Exploration – When the walls of the classroom transform into the windows of the world, students are able to explore and gain a broader understanding of different societies and cultures. While there are some amazing whole-class virtual options (g., Google Expeditions), turning students into virtual trip planners is a wonderful way to allow them to research a particular locale of interest. The planning of the ultimate virtual road trip could involve a study of the routes, expenses, highlights, etc. that one would encounter when making the journey.

Powering up some devices and adding a personalized twist can be just what students need to take ownership of open learning time. These 3 easy to implement ideas will get students actively engaged while giving them the power to choose the direction of their studies. In Part 2 of The Power of Student Choice, we’ll look at some options that can utilize more specialized learning zones inside and outside of the classroom.