HWDSB students comment on how they learn best and the environments that help them learn during the 2014 HWDSB Director’s Student Voice Forum. The student voice documented in this video was gathered from:
World Issues (CGW4U).
For this assignment, students brainstorm what they feel are the most serious world issues. From there, students choose a world issue they want to learn more about. They do some preliminary research and conference with me to ensure their topic is well focused. After that, I just continued to work with students in making sense of the content and reducing it into a presentation while clearly articulating the depth/complexity of their issue.
I am often asked what the student voice forums look like, sound like, and feel like. It is a dynamic experience that emulates an instrumented blended learning environment en masse. What this model illustrates is that learning can be differentiated for students with a variety of mediums and tools in both small classroom sized environments (30-ish students) and large conference sized environments (200-ish students). It has been a highly successful proof of concept. Here you will see students expressing themselves through inquiry by having face-to-face conversations, private reflections via podcasting, private and group blogging (via text, audio, and video), online collaborations with students both physically present and from elsewhere, and by writing their ideas down on graffiti walls and tables. The options are endless and the design is completely student centered. It’s THEIR voice, THEIR way!
This video was created recently by students in grades 9 and 10 in HWDSB. They were asked a series of questions relating to their experience at school: What is a specific time you had fun learning and what made it fun for you?; How do you learn best?; What motivates you and interests you bests when learning? These are there voices.
School board officials in Hamilton say they’re doing what they can to bring their classrooms into the 21st century.
“A classroom of today shouldn’t look like the classroom of 20 years ago,” said John Malloy, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s Director of Education.
To that end, the HWDSB hosted the first of three Director’s Student Voice Forums at Sherwood Secondary School on Thursday.
The premise is simple — educators ask students from different schools in the board what they want to see in their high school.
It’s a kind of town hall-style process that officials say lets students take some ownership of their school experience. Malloy says it invites students to think creatively, while giving them a voice.
“Too often, adults are deciding what students want and need.”
He says educators are teaching in a world where students are increasingly attached to smartphones and social media — so it would be foolish to try and keep students from using those tools.
“Why come into a classroom and tell students to put their iPhones away?”
And at this forum, they didn’t. Students were encouraged to tweet and liveblog their experience and ideas using the hashtag #HWDSBVoices.
Their tweets were then projected on a huge screen at the front of the auditorium. Malloy says that kind of real time interaction is crucial to driving student engagement.
“Because if we didn’t, it would just be more of the traditional,” he said. “And as educators, we have to do more to relate to the world today.”
A student voice
Students spoke up about a lot of things — but similar themes showed up. Bullying. Inclusiveness. A better curriculum. Increased extracurricular activity. Better food.
“I think improvements could definitely be made,” said Sydney Stenekes, a student trustee with the HWDSB.
“In the future, there are going to be a lot of new opportunities, especially in the workforce,” she said. “So more programs could be offered that allow students to discover their interests at a younger age rather than waiting until university.”
Malloy says though students come from different backgrounds, they all want the same core things — feeling safe, happy, included and interested.
When addressing the 200 or so students in attendance, Malloy said the HWDSB has had to make some “hard decisions about high schools” in the Hamilton area.
“We wouldn’t be having these conversation with students if the conversations about the buildings themselves hadn’t happened,” he said.
And while the students at Thursday’s forum won’t have to deal with the closures personally, Malloy says they have the opportunity to step up and help shape the experiences of those that are coming after them.
“It’s difficult for a sixth-grader to talk about his or her perceived high school experience,” Malloy said. “But now these students have a chance to serve the students coming behind them.”
“It’s an opportunity to engage in something positive after all the challenges we have faced.”
This is the second year the HWDSB has hosted these forums. Rob Faulkner, communications officer for the board, said that material from last year “went into a report sent to senior staff and has influenced programming.”
Feedback from this year is expected to be given to trustees in February.