By Teachers, For Teachers
It is an exciting time in education, with the implementation of technology and the ever-changing, easy-to-use tools students are benefiting from now more than ever before. Across the country, educators are using unique teaching strategies to provide students with new roles that have them making contributions to their classrooms, as well as the communities that surround them. This comes at a time when children are taking more passive roles in the community, but are expected to compete with their peers from across the globe. In earlier decades, children were responsible for performing meaningful jobs that helped their families live and survive. In today’s society, children’s main purpose is to succeed in school so that once they finish, they will be able to live and be an integral part of society. Today, teachers have the opportunity to use teaching strategies to provide students with the chance to contribute to their class as well as their community. They can provide students with more engaging and motivating lessons so that they can be more productive in our community once they graduate from school. Here are a few teaching strategies that you can use to empower your students to be contributors in their own learning, as well as to the community that surrounds them.
In this digital age, there is a lot of information as well as misinformation on the Internet. Back in the day, when you wanted to find information on a topic, all you had to do was open up an encyclopedia, look in the index and find it. That was all you had, that one page of information which most people found to be a reputable source because it was the honorable “Encyclopedia.” Today, you have the opportunity to type in a topic and browse through pages and pages of information in order to figure out what it is all about. While some pages may have the correct information, others will not. It is up to you to figure out what is the truth and what is not.
A great way for students to find out information is to become researchers. Each day you can appoint a new student to be the “Researcher for the day” and scour the Internet to find legitimate answers to class questions. In order for the student to successfully contribute, they must be able to determine what sources are good and which are not. You will have to instruct a lesson on how to determine which sources are legitimate in order for the student to successfully get an answer. Honing students’ research skills is a great way for them to actively contribute to the classroom.
There are many ways in this digital era that students can collaborate with their peers. Besides the obvious ways of cooperative learning groups and peer presentations, students can take their collaboration to a whole new level and connect to their peers outside of the classroom. Skype, Facetime, and video conferencing offer students the opportunity to collaborate with other students that are not in the classroom. Today, children get the chance to learn about different cultures and how other students live not by just a textbook or a video, but by the children that are living it themselves. Students can learn how their peers in China live by creating interview questions and asking them about their lives. They can gain access about another country by Facetimeing an expert who lives in the country. There are virtually hundreds of ways that students are able to communicate and collaborate with their peers.
Students can contribute to their community in a meaningful way by learning the value of helping others in their community. From volunteering at a local shelter to feeding the hungry and picking up trash, students can learn that by contributing their community, they are making the world a better place. Research shows that by contributing to your community, you develop a greater self-esteem and are less likely to engage in risky or inappropriate behavior, and we all know that many young children have a hard time with their self-esteem and making the right decisions. By serving their community, students will learn how powerful it is to be a contributor.
In this new culture of what many are calling the “Digital farm,” we as teachers must take the opportunity to empower our students to become active contributors in their own right. This requires teaching students to engage in important contributions not only in school but outside of the classroom walls as well. Our students have already embraced communicating with others digitally, now we must show them how to take these new tools and use them to better their life for their future.
How do you empower your students to be classroom and community contributors? Do you have any ideas or suggestions that would like to share? Please feel free to leave your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you have to say.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.