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How technology can support student vs teacher driven spaces #edtech #studentdriven

Success in learning is personal for every student, and to be successful students need a way to reach out, to ask questions, to engage with others in discussion, create content, setup meetings, conduct presentations, co-author work in groups and work in teams. Teachers need to do similar things in order to teach and while we have focused on providing technology to teachers to do these things we generall haven't handed control directly to students. It is on the shoulders of teachers to enable add forums, virtual rooms etc for students to learn, but this doesn't leave much of an opportunity for students to take control of their learning.

https://freesvg.org/vector-illustration-of-girl-with-freckles-with-lots-of-questions
Most of the technology rolled out for learning and teaching in my experience has been teacher driven. Take the following platforms for example which are typically found at universities and can  be described as TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) platforms:

  • learning management system
  • lecture capture system
  • virtual classroom
  • reading list tool
  • exam delivery and proctoring systems
  • badge management system
A mix like this is very common rolled out at universities even some schools and are good examples of technologies that enable the teacher to control various aspects of teaching and learning. However the platforms above do not necessarily enable students to drive their own learning or exercise taking ownership of their own success. Not if they are designed to be teacher driven.

In your own context how many universities you have worked or studied at that focused extensively on technologies that enable the teacher to create content, setup virtual rooms, distribute content, initiate forums etc?

Come to think of it though, why should it be on the teacher to make sure communication and cooperative channels are created for students? Lesson planning and learning designs that incorporate a forum is created every week, a social forum for the class, discussion topic specific forums and weekly virtual rooms are one thing if these are teacher led activities. But we still need to enable students to setup channels for collaboration or co-construction with who they want or when they want outside these formally designed activities, because students still want to engage with each other outside these formal structures in the online space just as they would in the physical space. 

I'm aware of at least one local school that provides MS Teams to students. This represents a focus on TEL tools for students, the provision of student driven technology enhanced spaces. In this case students were able to use an institutionally provided service, MS Teams, to connect after hours for collaboration and study. The fact this is an environment integrated into the school means students can find each other because everyone is provisioned in the system. Also privacy and security are better managed, and from an administrative point of view school policies and terms of use can be applied. 

Having access to tools that support your connection to peers for learning and engagement that are easy to use and well integrated with the rest of the learning environment is great, but autonomy and choice can also increase motivation (Schneider, et.al), and the role of intrinsic motivation to student success cannot be understated.

Provisioning TEL for communication and collaboration that is student driven is very important for a good student experience, especially in cases where learners are more autonomous and value connecting with others for their learning. In my own context there is exciting potential to roll out collaboration tools to students that would enable them to connect and study with each other in very meaningful ways and take control of when and how. Synchronous and asynchronous chat, once the domain of the teacher to create opportunities for in a learning management environment, can be made available to students by the institution. Hopefully we can avoid the issues associated with students using external platforms. 

Consider the students you support and what kind of measures they are having to resort to (using external social media platforms for study for example) and what this experience is like for them. Perhaps you already host tools like MSTeams or Zoom or other tools for students to socialise and study with? If you do feel free to share.


Schneider, S., Nebel, S., Beege, M., & Rey, D. G. (2018). The autonomy-enhancing effects of choice on cognitive load, motivation and learning with digital media. Learning and Instruction, 58, 16–172. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959475218300574.

Image courtesy: https://freesvg.org/vector-illustration-of-girl-with-freckles-with-lots-of-questions

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