Empowering Learners Through Choice

In my current class, “Teaching, Learning, and Assessment I”, we have been working in professional learning communities to look through the ISTE Student Standards in order to create inquiry questions. We used the QUEST model in order to process our learning. The QUEST model refers to the process of questioning, understanding, educating, solving, and teaching. The first standard we worked with was Standard 1 – Empowered Learner. 

Empowered Learner
Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.

1a – Students articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes. 

1b – Students build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process.

1c – Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.

1d – Students understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies. 

We were prompted to think of the following question in reference to the Empowered Learner standard, “How can students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences?” After reading through the standards, I came up with my inquiry question…

“How can we empower students in their learning by encouraging them to represent competencies using their choice of format?”.

I began by researching tags like educational empowerment, student empowerment, technology in classrooms, and technology empowerment. I found an article written by John W. Saye, “Technology and educational empowerment: Students’ perspectives” and started there. 

This article is a look into the students’ perspective of the role of technology in classrooms rather than the data that is represented from student achievement on state tests, etc. Saye compares the perspectives of “accidental tourists” to “voyageur” teachers to their students when asked what the most basic goal of technology use is in school based learning. Most teachers felt that technology was a tool of easability and control over their class while the minority hinted towards empowerment potentials while their respective students agreed with their primary teachers’ beliefs. Saye talks about the cultural role in the students’ ideas of technology as following status quo. 

Saye’s text helped open my eyes to the biases that teachers can impart on their students concerning the usefulness and underlying purpose/possibility of technology use in the classroom. Although Saye wrote this article in the 90s, I believe that its intent reigns true today; we must be the ones to believe in the ability of choice in our classrooms regarding technology and its potential for student empowerment if we ever hope for our students to embrace technological choice. We must be the “voyageurs”.

At this point, I came to realize (with the help of my PLC members), that even if we are to give our students the chance to make a choice for the format of competency representation, they may not be enticed to take that opportunity if their educators do not share the same beliefs about the purpose of technology. In order to help address potential biases in the classrooms regarding educational technologies, I chose to create a survey for educators and students to take. 

Educator survey link: https://forms.gle/R7tkxdcRGwJ4Sihi6

After understanding the potential biases that educators have concerning technology, we will be able to correlate that information with students’ feelings about the purpose of tech. 

The next step is to shift the norms in the classroom from students producing a specific and assigned task to demonstrate their understanding of a concept or standard, to encouraging the choice of the format in which students can represent their conceptual understanding. This begins with scaffolding. Students need to not only be aware of different apps they can use, but be familiar with the way to interact with those apps. Some examples of programs (thanks to Mumsley Musings over at: http://mumleymusings.com/ for the great suggestions) that students could use for their assessments are:

  • Kidblog (https://kidblog.org/home/)
    An online blogging site safe for students to express and represent their learning for a small fee (appx. $43 for a year long membership).
  • Flipgrid (https://info.flipgrid.com/
    A free social sharing website that students of any age can record and create presentations to share and interact with others.
  • Scratch (https://scratch.mit.edu/)
    A free program that enables students to create online games and animations that are easily shareable.
  • Google Jamboard (https://jamboard.google.com/)
    A free app via Google Drive that anyone with a g-mail account has access too, that students can create presentations with ease.
  • Google Sheets (https://docs.google.com/presentation/)
    Similar to Jamboard, students can create presentations for free.

After helping guide students through different programs that they can use to represent their learning, you are set to go! 

“Empowering learning environments give students choices in their learning so that they can solve felt problems and construct personal meaning in ways that make them more competent, independent decision-makers in the future.”

– Saye, 1995

Through choice, students are able to use their personal strengths to represent their learning. In this way, it encourages students to be more invested in their own learning and educational success. We can empower our students to take control of their learning by allowing them to choose the format that vibes with their learning to express their understanding.



Bates, A. W. (n.d.). Fundamental change in education. Teaching in a digital age. Retrieved from https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/part/chapter-1-fundamental-change-in-education/

Saye, J. W. (1997). Technology and educational empowerment: Students’ perspectives. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 45(2), 5-25. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.spu.edu/10.1007/BF02299522


  • Kaelynn

    I appreciated that instead of jumping right to answering your initial question of how to empower students by giving them choice in demonstrating their learning, your research took you in a different direction as you talked about how preconceived notions about technology (for both teachers and students) can hinder student empowerment right out the gate. We all bring different levels of experience to the table when it comes to technology, but what a loss if both teachers and students fail to understand how transformative and helpful technology can be in our classrooms. So I liked that you first encouraged teachers to be self-reflective about how they view technology’s role in their classrooms and learn more about how their students perceive technology with those two surveys. I also thought it was great how you ended your blog post with suggestions on different platforms students can use to express their understanding- this allows teachers some practical ideas on how to start giving students more choice today.

  • Doug

    Sarah, your point about the biases that we as teachers can inadvertently impart to our students is a poignant one. I think we have to keep this in mind and remember how important our own beliefs as educators are when transferring ideas and knowledge to others. Belief is such a powerful thing. I agree that if we hope for our students to take advantage of the opportunities that we offer than we must lead by example. Great points!

  • Jan White

    I like the idea of the surveys, Sarah. I did one:)
    As well as teacher biases, I think there is a parent bias as well. I have noticed a wide range of ‘technology tolerance’ from parents; from those who do not want their children to be ‘distracted’ by technology at school to those who are demanding that teachers use more.

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