Recently, a fellow teacher came to me elated because her students did exactly what they were supposed to do the previous day, when there was a sub in the room.  She spent the day full of anxiety because her class, broadcast journalism, requires every student to be doing something different with all kinds of equipment — cameras, microphones, computers, and hard drives.  It was imperative, on this particular day, for her students to turn in their video assignments — and turn them in to the right location — because the broadcast had to be finalized the very next day.  And this was just the second week of class, so her students had not had all of their training.

Sounds like a lot for a sub to handle, right?  But the class pulled through.  Every video clip was saved exactly where it was supposed to be, with a file name that made sense.  Every piece of equipment was put away just where it should be.  The broadcast was ready for a final edit, in spite of the newness of the experience and the complicated nature of the tasks.

Welcome to the power of personalized learning.  There are many reasons contributing to the success of this situation, one of which is the skill of the teacher to set clear expectations.  But that’s not all.  In a class where the product is real, such as a broadcast the whole school will see, the students have buy-in to do their best.  When a teacher lets go of the reins and sends the message, “I need you  … the class needs you … the whole school needs you … and I TRUST you to get the job done,” the results can be amazing.  And very satisfying for the teacher.

Of course, not every class has an authentic product being produced like this one, but with a little creativity, most classes can produce something that a real audience will see.  At my school, social studies classes create a museum with artifacts and articles, and the whole school community is invited to visit.  In art classes, students choose their best work to be put on display in an art show and competition.  Language arts classes create blogs.  The bigger the audience, the better.

It’s gratifying to see students take responsibility for their own learning, and they feel good about the time and effort they are putting into their work.

This is the kind of power technology allows us to harness.  When students have control of a device, they have more control over their own learning.  They might also have access to a larger audience, such as the student who creates a Kahoot quiz that is posted on the Kahoot site for others to use.

The power of putting the power in their hands is that students become engaged, motivated partners in their own learning.

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