How to create a student-centered digital classroom

The key to creating a student-centered digital classroom is teaching students many web tools, the author writes.

Someone recently inquired if there is a time in the classroom when you just know that everything is right. She asked me to envision that time and to describe it. “When is it great?” she wondered.

It didn’t take long for me to picture a recent day, when my seventh-grade students created that perfect 50 minutes of class. It was magical, but it had little to do with their teacher. Twenty-five 12-year-olds were scattered about the room, some at desktop computers and others on mobile devices.

One dictated a 60-second narrative into his cell phone, while peering eagerly into a computer monitor, waiting for the completed podcast to come to life in his animated character. A couple of chairs away, another student sought advice about an appropriate picture to embed into a slide for her web-based presentation, which she’d share later with the class on an interactive whiteboard.

Some students worked in pairs; others worked independently. There was a quiet chaos in the classroom, when another adult strolled in to observe the action. He surveyed the work and nodded approvingly in my direction. “Look at how engaged they are,” I blurted, indirectly. “I think I could leave, and they wouldn’t even notice.”

This, I told my curious friend, is a Results Only Learning Environment (ROLE). What makes it so effective is its student-centered nature. I provide brief, interactive lessons, and the students take the information and expand on it through ongoing projects, using a variety of web tools. A ROLE is student-centered; the less there is from the teacher, the more amazing the class becomes.

(Next page: How to create a ROLE—and technology’s role in doing so)

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