Student Voice and School Design




"When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful." ~ Malala Yousafzai


I was doing a bit of organizing and cleaning of my files last night when I came across a report that I had written in 2008 when I was a learning technologies coordinator. In late 2007, upon the request of my superintendent, I organized and ran a Student Voices Forum on Technology with the purpose of gathering input from some of our high school students on the current state of technology in schools and more importantly what they thought school needed in order to help them learn.

We invited 2 students from each high school to participate in a variety of activities with no teacher or adult support other than 6 learning technologies coordinators to guide and facilitate the conversations. The students did a masterful job of articulating their thoughts and ideas for us. However, it was the culminating activity that provided senior administration with the necessary information to create a strategic plan for ICT in the district. Students were asked to use some chart paper to create a visual of what their "ideal school" would look like and what elements were important for them to have at their disposal. Remember this was 2007. Can you guess what they thought was the number 1 item for all schools to have? Wireless acces so that they could bring their own devices to school. Of course when you ask students for their input you must act on it. So our district moved to implementing a wireless strategy for every school in our district. But what was even more interesting after reading my final report and the notes that I used to create the report were some of the other ideas that were not as popular. Looking back they were very interesting and forward thinking.

Here are some of the ideas that didn't make the report that the students thought should be incorporated in an "ideal school":

  • higher end computers for multi-media work
  • large windows and skylights for natural light
  • large open spaces with couches, chairs and tables
  • private multi-media rooms for video and audio work
  • outdoor spaces that students could work in 
  • desks and chairs in classrooms that could adjust and be moved easily
  • designated areas in the school for students to create and display original art

There isn't one idea in the list that I can argue against. In my opinion these are all ideas that could certainly be incorporated into any school design. I wish I would have kept the drawings and descriptions the students created, or at least captured them digitally. They would have been great add to this post. It just goes to show you that when presented with the opportunity, students can provide valuable insight into what works in schools and what doesn't. 

I can think of a few ideas that I would love to have in a school design, but I'd love to hear what you think. 



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