“Greta Thunberg,” just the name alone garners a response from almost anyone you speak to. How did a 16 year-old swede become one of the recognisable and influential names on the planet?
Few high-profile figures resonate with 17 year-olds as much as they do with 70 year-olds. Whether you are inspired or triggered when the name ‘Greta Thunberg’ is invoked, one thing is for sure; she has reached an audience!
Let’s put the ideology of environmental activism aside…
There is a lot to learn about how Greta Thunberg was able to have her voice and views cut through the noise of an already overcrowded arena. What are the ‘meta-traits’ of this passionate young person? Her ability to engage with her audience, explain her point of view and collaborate with others to create a genuine movement cannot be denied. In this exposition of the Greta phenomena, we will identify these meta-traits and look at what practical actions we can take in our classrooms and schools to help the students that we teach tap into their passions, develop a deep knowledge of the curriculum and communicate their voice to a wider audience.
We know from the research that has been conducted by multiple sources around the globe that activating student voice has a measurable positive impact on the learning and achievement that students demonstrate. There are several ways that schools can engage students as partners in learning. Sometimes it is through feedback, involvement in decision making and by allowing some autonomy over what students learn, the way in which they learn or even how they demonstrate that learning!
Student voice (and student agency) plays a major role in engagement and self-reflection. Even flipping the way feedback occurs can activate student voice and deepen a student’s understanding of a topic and how they can improve and develop their own skills.
By involving students in their learning and giving them an authentic voice, schools are creating a positive learning culture where students can develop the skills that will serve them during the further tertiary study and allow them to be effective problem solvers in the workforce of tomorrow.
Recently it was announced that Greta Thunberg has been named as Time Magazine’s ‘Person of the Year.’ Already the reactions have begun; both affirmative and negative responses are flying through social media, including feedback from some ‘heads of state’.
The question begs to be asked, “How might we learn from Greta Thunberg and better enable our students to find their voice in this noisy world?”
I subscribe to the old ‘Ford’ motto that was entrenched in the manufacturer’s business model during the dawn of motorsports. Ford espoused, “Win the race on Sunday; sell the car on Monday.” In that same vein, those who know me are aware that I always endeavour to achieve a similar goal by sharing a tool/idea today that teachers can use in the classroom tomorrow.
Collaboration and Communication
The ability to communicate ideas effectively has always been a powerful tool. Having the right words to say has made for memorable moments throughout history, think Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address, Martin Luther King Jr. and his ‘I have a dream speech or Paul Keeting’s ‘The Redfern Speech.
Teachers work hard to give effective feedback to students after a set written task. It takes time to correct the grammar and spelling of students work. Then the teachers makes suggestions on ways the student could improve the effectiveness of their writing. Multiply this by the number of students the teacher has and you have a considerable amount of time. On top of this there is always the question, how serious will the student take the feedback?
The EDtech world has a solution. Companies like Literatu have developed AI tools that auto-correct student work and makes suggestions on language features and content that could/should be added to the text. A tool like ‘scribo’ found at literatu.com can save teachers endless hours and give students instant feedback to help improve their work and make it not only functionally better but far deeper and more evocative!
Critical Thinking and Problem-solving
Adobe Spark is one of the most versatile tools that can be incorporated into the classroom. It is a simple platform that allows students the ability to easily create a multimedia experience based on any topic they are studying and present to the teacher/class their own vision and understanding of the topic.
AI tools like Chatbots can also prompt critical thinking of a topic in a set curriculum. They can be designed to deliver lectures via conversational messages and engage students in learning with a communication tool they have become quite comfortable with. Online learning platforms like CourseQ do this well already. Ultimately, if chatbots can make the learning process more engaging for students and reduce the workload on human educators, their use in education will continue to grow.
Beyond this, tools like Microsoft Teams allow students the ability to create their own chatbots. Imagine taking a serious issue or problem in the world and having students research every possible scenario around it so that they can effectively program a chatbot to have a variety of responses. I’d call that quality teaching.
Deep Content Knowledge
The United Nations estimates that over 250 million children globally do not receive an education. While there are many reasons for this number, such as access to a qualified educational facility, there are also issues with proper materials, and importantly access to a qualified teacher to explain things. Online learning makes education available to those even in remote areas as well as make it easy to share curriculum across borders. EdTech solutions can overcome many common barriers to quality education.
Technology can improve access to education. Digital textbooks that can be accessed online 24/7 won’t require transportation to get to an educational facility or library during certain hours. Digital copies are relatively cheap to produce, so textbook fees aren’t as taxing for digital versions as they might be with physical versions that cost more to create. Similarly, translating physical textbooks into all the languages natively spoken is cost-prohibitive for publishers when they are producing only physical copies of books. Digital versions make these translations much more feasible.
Within the classroom, the ultimate accommodation for learning differences is called differentiated learning. This allows students to have learning that is tailored to their personal needs. This and student-paced learning where students can move through and review material at the speed they need is much more feasible when using technology.
There are also tech solutions for students who have physical or learning disabilities. One of the simplest tools that teachers can use straight away to support children with a particular need is ‘voice typing’. If someone lacks the dexterity or ability to writing/type for an extended period features like ‘Voice Typing’ in google docs allows those who would be unable to complete a task the ability to work at the same pace as their peers.
XR is a term that many are not familiar with yet. Extended (X) Reality (R) brings augmented and virtual reality together to create a fully immersive learning experience tfor a student no matter where in the world they are. A lesson about the Roman Empire can literally come alive when a student puts on a VR headset and walks around a digital version of the time period.
Students can experience hard-to-conceptualize current-day topics through extended reality, such as walking among camps of Syrian refugees or even the streets of an isolate Wuhan to grasp the effects of the Coronvirus and forced quarantine. This technology enables learning by doing. Students are used to using voice interface at home when asking Alexa to define a word w of an entire city.
Of course, we all know that the best way for students to experience things is by responding personally and creating their own example of something not just passively using content made by a multinational tech company. That is why I love ‘Merge Cube’. This tool allows students to easily create their own Augmented Reality experiences.
Here is a ‘how to video’ that I made: salakas.me/mergecube
Please reach out to me on twitter at @MRsalakas or comment below and tell me what students (or us as educators) could learn from Greta Thunberg and the stir she has caused in the world today!
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