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These digital resources put the spotlight on student voice as they help foster creativity and collaboration in the classroom

5 tools to amplify student voice

These digital resources put the spotlight on student voice as they help foster creativity and collaboration in the classroom

As we prepare students for college, career, and life, it’s vital that we foster skills that will ensure students are successful. As educators, we’ve heard about the importance of the “21st century 4 C’s” to our students’ future success. Post-secondary schools and employers are looking for students and a workforce that can communicate effectively, work collaboratively, think critically, problem-solve, and use creativity in various settings. I believe there is a 5th C that is also important–and that is Choice. If our scholars have a choice, they have a voice.

In my experience as an Educational Technology Specialist (ETS) and many years as a middle school teacher, one thing I have learned is that if students have a choice in demonstrating their knowledge and showcasing their skills, they are often more invested in the task or end product. When I was a gifted English Language Arts teacher, I used project choice boards for all my units. Furnishing students the opportunity to choose the means and methods for practicing acquired skills, modeling newly learned concepts, and creating original content increases student engagement.

As an ETS, I collaborate with teachers and assist in developing technology-infused standards-based lessons and activities.

Here are five way educators can foster student voice and creativity:

Get creative with Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark is a user-friendly web-based tool with a drag-and-drop interface and quite a few customizable templates. Students can create videos, posts, and webpages to highlight their understanding of key concepts. They can use the video voice recording feature to talk through their thinking, as well as app smashing–creating original content with other tools and adding them to their Adobe Spark creations.

Students can asynchronously collaborate in pairs or teams by sharing a project link. Teachers can scaffold the project process by creating or suggesting templates so students focus on adding the content and showing what they know. The ideas for Adobe Spark are unlimited:

  • Travel guide for social studies or world language
  • Commercials or posters in English language arts
  • Documenting processes in nature for science
  • Blogging for health or physical education

Curate content with Discovery Education Studio

Discovery Education’s Studio is an easy-to-use creation tool that allows teachers and students to curate digital media. Whether creating presentations or interactive boards, Studio is a great tool for synchronous and asynchronous lessons. Teachers have the flexibility to create a collection of digital resources while hyperlinking additional content, including a Google Workspace for Education file or a Microsoft Office 365 file–for example, an interactive Spotlight on Strategy (SOS) activity. The SOS activities are quick, easy-to-adapt instructional strategies for engaging students with digital media. Additionally, interactive buttons can be linked to collaborative tasks such as, or even game-based assessments such as Kahoot or Quizizz. The integration of Microsoft’s Immersive Reader tool provides accessibility for all learners with the ability to read-aloud content, adjust text-size and font, as well as translate into more than 80 languages. There are countless ways students can create with Studio:

  • Goal-setting/vision board
  • Getting to know activity (student interests)
  • Research collection (science/social studies projects)
  • Biography or historical event spotlight

Foster student voice with Flipgrid

Students are frequent consumers of video content with YouTube, Instagram, and Tik Tok. Allowing students the opportunity to create content fosters student voice and creativity. Flipgrid is one of the most versatile interdisciplinary tools for engaging students and content creation. Students can use the Flipgrid camera to explain their thinking, respond to a teacher or fellow student, model a skill, showcase their performances, and more. With Flipgrid students can add images, stickers, and frames to personalize their creations, With screen recording, students can narrate their presentations or products. I love that each student has equitable time for sharing. Teachers can model concepts and create exemplars with the shorts camera. Flipgrid also has Immersive Reader integrated, providing accessibility for diverse learners.  Flipgrid fosters voice by providing all students the opportunity to contribute to the conversation:

  • Weather reports in science
  • Book reviews for the media center or library
  • Business pitches for career tech
  • Tik Tok style math in the real-world

Create and collaborate with Google Apps

Google’s Docs, Slides, Drawings, and Jamboard apps are all fantastic tools for fostering creativity and encouraging real-time collaboration during face-to-face, hybrid, and distance learning. With the ability to edit, add comments, and review changes with revision history, students can collaborate on real-world tasks. The flexibility of Google apps allows students to demonstrate their creativity with various projects including scriptwriting (Docs), stop motion animation (Slides), infographics (Drawings), and brainstorming (Jamboard). Providing students the opportunity to create content fosters creativity and builds critical thinking skills:

  • Memes about historical events or people in social studies
  • Energy animations for science
  • Storytelling in language arts
  • Advertisements for school events or clubs

Build skills with Book Creator

Book Creator is a fun and engaging way for students to create books, develop a collection of resources, and showcase their ideas. With various layout options, students can make comics, social media-style stories, or traditional books. Content can be added, including text, shapes. images, videos, and more. The auto-draw feature uses artificial intelligence to recognize students’ drawings.  Additionally, the read-aloud feature is great for supporting emerging learners. Students can collaborate on a book or create individual books with original digital content, shared class resources, or based on a template:

  • Visual dictionary
  • Class yearbook
  • Art portfolio
  • Newsletter or literary magazine

Level up and app smashing

I believe it’s important to expose students to various tools and apps while encouraging them to explore, create content based on interests and new knowledge, collaborate effectively on tasks with classmates, and feel empowered to showcase their creativity. Students can level up by bringing content from one app or tool into another–for example, adding Discovery Education images to Flipgrid or Adobe Spark for projects. Teachers don’t have to be experts on all the tools, but they should be willing to learn with students. Allowing students a choice when creating projects will foster student voice and increase student engagement.

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