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How to see learning through students’ eyes

Seeing student perspectives

Imagine if you could see learning through students’ eyes.

As an educator, you know it’s important to understand how students think and what they feel. Just imagine the potential for you to engage students, understand their challenges, and de-escalate conflicts, if only you knew what they were thinking.

Achieving that level of symbiotic understanding is next-to-impossible. But what if technology could help you literally see what your students see during the school day?

That’s what Ontario, Canada-based third-grade teacher Michelle Cordy is trying do with GoPro cameras, as described in a recent article on Mind/Shift.

Cordy attaches the small, HD cameras to specific students who are tasked with engaging other students. She then uses the footage to understand classroom engagement from the perspective of her students.

Not only do the GoPros give Cordy a glimpse into what students are hearing and seeing, the technology helps her understand, through body language and reactions, how students think and feel, all important factors in student engagement.

See what students see
When students in Cordy’s classes participate in large projects, she often asks one student to serve as “Hero of the Day.” That student voluntarily straps a GoPro to their chest and travels around the classroom, checking in on fellow classmates.

These daily “heroes” are also challenged to dive deeper by posing probing questions to their classmates, such as “What’s your plan?”

“It ended up being this cool tool for kids to be metacognitive,” Cordy tells Mind/Shift. “It served a double purpose of capturing, in the moment, stop, think, and justify.”

Getting students to think intrinsically about how they learn is important, but Cordy says the insight she gains from reviewing and editing the videos also make her a better teacher. Here’s how:

  1. It allows Cordy to see how students develop certain soft skills, such as working with others and sharing tools.
  2. It helps her identify holes in her lessons, ones she hadn’t anticipated during planning.
  3. It allows her and her students to review incidences of bad behavior and to understand, with some more perspective, how certain incidents unfolded.

Want to see a class project unfold through the eyes of a third-grader? Check out this video of Cordy’s class working together to build shelters out of Christmas trees:

Giving students a voice
Cordy’s approach is unorthodox, and might have privacy implications, depending on where you work.

Still, the notion of stronger student engagement, and of seeing learning from the vantage point of students is a good one.

As students and parents demand a louder say in education, educators have to get better at inviting and understanding these different perspectives.

Do your teachers employ creative strategies that emphasize collaboration, creative thinking, and student voice? Tell us in the comments.

Want more on how to engage your students in critical conversations? Read what other school leaders are doing to give students a voice.

About the Author

Todd Kominiak
Todd is Managing Editor of TrustED. Email: tkominiak@k12insight.com.

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