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Renting vs. Owning Education

Session 5
Anastacia Brie, Jennifer Gunn — Hudson High School

Most teachers want to engage students. But is it enough? Are we asking our students to “rent” their education from us as educators, rather than “own” it themselves? What does it mean to have an “engaged” student? What does it look like? How do you grade engagement? Is it linked to knowledge? Are we actually just looking for compliance? Next, how is an engaged student different from an “empowered” student? How do we foster ownership (empowerment) of learning and how do we grade such learning?

In this media-rich environment of education, where buzzwords seem to be more important than what is going on in the classroom, what does it mean to have an “engaged” student? And how does that contrast with an “empowered” student or one that has taken “ownership” of his or her own learning?

In this discussion, educators will have the chance to define and debate what it means to be engaged with learning versus having ownership (empowerment) of learning. Utilizing practical examples, participants will have the chance to reflect on what they are doing in the classroom and categorize it as engagement and/or ownership (empowerment). Two educators from a New York City public high school will share from-the-field examples, including English classes where the students create their own unit plans, lessons, rubrics and grading policies, as well as choose their own texts. Also shared will be Science lessons where students take on the role of instructor and facilitate laboratory lessons.

Conversational Practice: 1. Introduction & Appetizer Upon entry, participants will be given an index card that asks the question: “What does an engaged student look like?” Participants should write their answer on their card. Responses will be collected and entered into a digital word cloud projected on the wall. Participants can also log in to see the Word Cloud on their own device. Repeated concepts will appear bigger than lesser mentioned concepts, thus showing the commonalities of thought. Facilitators will open with a brief welcome, introduction and short discussion of the responses.

  1. Renting Vs. Owning One’s Education Big Questions/Lenses Introduced: • Are we asking/expecting students to figuratively rent their education from us? • Or, are we giving students the power to create and thereby own their education with us? • And finally, when students have ownership, are they then more authentically engaged?

  2. Modified Consultancy Protocol: Throughout the room, chart paper will display various questions of practice.
    • What does student engagement look like in your classroom/school? • What does student engagement sound like in your classroom/school? • How do you measure student engagement in your classroom/school? • What are some examples of student ownership in your classroom/school? Or are there none? • What helps students become more engaged/invested in their learning?

Conversational Practice

Round 1: Participants will walk around and stick their answer on each chart paper. (Yellow Post-It) Round 2: Review other responses & ask a probing or clarifying question on each chart paper. (Pink Post-It) Round 3: Participants review and respond to Round 2 questions on each chart paper. (Blue Post-It)

Each group will quickly review and report on the findings, questions and thoughts of one of the chart paper discussions.

  1. Video Facilitators will show a video of student ownership (empowerment) in planning English classes and student engagement while teaching various science lessons. • Any clarifying questions about the student engagement or ownership (empowerment) from the video? • Analyze what we saw — how does it match our definitions? How is it different? What does it have in common with your personal experiences? What is different? What can we measure? • From that analysis, any extension questions or insights or adaptations?

  2. Group Work & Discussion Time: • How can I extend my best practices for student engagement or student ownership (empowerment) in the classroom? • What can I take back to my classroom? School? Or even District?

  3. Wrap-up and reflection.

Final Comments: For last three years, educators from Hudson High School of Learning Technologies have been coming to EduCon, and the chance to share best practices and discuss ideas and concepts has really impacted our own practices. We always come home feeling revived and excited, brimming with new ideas. The opportunity to facilitate a discussion on an issue for which we have passion and to gather the wisdom of other like-minded educators is what motivated this particular proposal. In past conferences, we have been asked to explore our own best practices and reflect on our ideas of what it means to engage students with any particular material. We would be honored to share with EduCon population in a continuing practice of professional generosity what we have adapted from prior discussions and continue to evolve as a larger community.

Presenter Profiles

Jennifer Gunn
Jennifer Gunn
Hudson High School of Learning Technologies


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