Voice and Choice

My teammates and I facilitate a session called Designing Instruction in the Digital Age, and as I updated my work this summer, I found it interesting how all of my "favorite instructional worlds" kept colliding.

Three summers ago, one version of this session was called Flipped Learning. The next summer, the session became Blended Instruction. We now take the foundations of the new pillars and add bits of thinking from differentiated instruction to create the current iteration of this session. Bottom line: it's all about voice and choice. (I know, that's almost a buzzword, but it's certainly my focus now!)

Here's what we say about voice:
Student voice includes creating content to demonstrate their learning and sharing their voice with others through discussions, backchannels and possibly social media.
Our definition of choice:
Student choice means students choose how they learn something, how they demonstrate their learning and, possibly, what they learn.
Here's one slide from the presentation, and I use exactly the same wording whenever I discuss differentiated instruction.
What choice to students have in choice of content, process, product, environment?
from Courageous Edventures, Jennie Magiera

In The New Pillars of Modern Teaching, the first pillar is design. Dr. Allen describes the four elements of powerful learning design as time, place, medium, and socialness. We want to provide voice and choice as we're designing instruction (or helping our students design their own learning experiences.)

In the professional learning sessions I facilitate, I feel like I'm doing a decent job with the choice part of the workshop or training. I provide a variety of mediums for participants to access the content. I typically allow time for educators time to pick-and-choose articles, tools, or resources to explore. For the voice part, I'm looking for additional ideas. We usually have a backchannel for the session, and we encourage participants to share their reflections using a common hashtag...but what else? What kind of voice and choice do educators need for their own professional learning?

I plan to ask these questions in upcoming sessions, and I hope I'll receive some audio clips to create a small podcast about this content. If you would like to try out the Anchor and record a message (that might be included here!) the instructions are below:
  • Download the Anchor app.
  • Search for Kathryn Laster.
  • Click on the episode and “send a message.”
  • Respond to any of the questions: What does voice or choice mean to you? What kind of voice and choice do educators need for their own professional learning? How do you provide voice and choice in your own classrooms? Include your name and role, and then share your ideas. (You have 1 minute.)
  • Type your name as the title and send.

Thinking a lot about voice and choice, and my journey of differentiated instruction, the new pillars, and now designing instruction in the digital age.
Always learning...


A bit of voice and choice...

I update this blog sporadically, at best, and I know I never wake up in the middle of the night excited to write a blog post. This morning, I started brainstorming a bit and I thought that adding a little bit of audio might motivate me to become unstuck about my blogging.

I was working on an upcoming session about podcasting, and I wanted to try the Anchor app. The website declares, "It's the easiest way to start a podcast. Ever." I knew other educators used Anchor for their podcasts, so I wanted to include this tool in my session. I decided as a model, I could try Anchor for this blog post.

In our sessions, we share the importance of providing voice and choice: to allow students to access the content or to share their work through audio, video, or text or a variety of mediums. We provide a plethora of sources and allow participants time to explore the readings and tools of their choice. That's what led me to wonder: is there a way I can add a little bit of choice on this blog? Would this choice in platform help me become unstuck with my blogging efforts?

It took me a little bit of time to create a logo for Anchor, and it's not great, but if I wanted to create audio connected to my blog, at least I already had a name and colors. Since my colleagues and I already create our Digital Learning Radio podcast, I was at least somewhat familiar with the other podcast requirements.

We'll see how this works and how often I include a little bit of audio on the posts...but for now, this idea inspired me to jump out of bed on a summer Saturday morning. I'm a little less stuck now, and I am motivated to try something new, to explore new tools, and to share content in new ways.

Thanks for listening!