Reflections from the Road – Student Voice

I had the privilege of attending 3 conferences in the past month.  The first was the Idaho Educational Technology Association conference (IETA18) in Boise, ID on Feb 5-7; the second was the Northwest Council of Computer Education conference (NCCE18) in Seattle, WA Feb 15-16; the third was AcceleratEd/IntegratEd by OETC in Portland, OR Feb 21-23.  All three were well planned with engaging sessions.  Three major themes stuck with me after attending these great events. 1.  Adults need to model when (and when not) to use technology instead of trying to prevent students from using them.  2.  Students should be using technology to create content rather than just consuming all the time.  3.  We need to leverage technology to amplify our student voices because those who are doing the talking are doing the learning.

I have always been a huge proponent of students having voice and choice in their learning. I am also passionate about academic conversations in classrooms.  Technology can amplify both.  It is important that students have time to talk about what they are learning – to grapple with new content.  Students can only do that through “talking” about it – with other students.  We need to structure that time (using things like sentence stems; talking chips..etc) to ensure that all students participate – even those who are reluctant.  The goal is to teach students how to have a discussion, practice using content-specific vocabulary, and to ask questions that will deepen their understanding.

I am not a proponent of using

My #sketchnote of @hmarrs24 session at

technology for technology’s sake – the technology must have a purpose – the learning objective comes first.  When it comes to academic conversations, technology can help give a voice to those students who wouldn’t normally speak up.  In addition, it broadens the audience for students.  Here are a few of the tools that I learned, or re-learned about in the last month.


  1. Flipgrid:  If you have not tried out this tool, you are missing out!  Teachers can get a free account with Flipgrid one.  This allows you to have one grid, but within the grid, you can have multiple topics.  There are numerous ways you can use Flipgrid with your students!  The basic idea is that students record a video response to a question you pose.  Teachers are using this tool in multiple ways to amplify their students’ voices – both inside the classroom AND to connect with others outside their classroom/school/district.  Heather had her students record book reviews, and then reached out to her PLN on Twitter to find other 3rd grade classrooms that would like to add to the reviews.   She also connected with a HS in another state for her students, and high school students, to share with each other about kindness.  This month Flipgrid is holding a “March Madness” appsmashing “tournament.”  Teachers from all over are sharing how they utilize Flipgrid.  Check it out here: Flipgrid AppSmash Madness.
  2. BookCreator:  Book Creator is a great app for students to create content.  Students become better writers by writing.  I know that many classrooms have “journaling” time for students – feeback for that is the key to improvement; however, I am not a proponent of feedback for EVERY entry.  With Book Creator, you can have students choose a piece each week that for which they would like feedback…perhaps they choose a piece they feel is their “best” or that they feel was a “struggle.”  Students can snap a picture of that writing, and add to Book Creator for the feedback.  Book Creator used to be just an iOS app, but now there is a Google Chrome version as well.  Utilizing this allows students to create a “portfolio” or living journal of what they see as important to their learning.

I could go on for awhile with other ways that technology can help amplify student voice in the classroom; however, I think many of the ideas will also get covered in my next post – Students as Creators.  I don’t know who said it first, but I truly believe that the one doing most of the talking in classrooms are the one doing the learning.  Who is doing the learning in your classroom?



Janet Avery has been an educator for 26+ years. She is currently the Jerome School District Curriculum Director and has been a Middle School Principal, Assistant Principal, and Secondary English Teacher. Janet has lived and worked in many places around the country, but Idaho has always been her home. She believes that every child deserves the best teacher facilitating their learning; and, every teacher deserves the best teacher teaching next to them! Known to many as @averyteach on Twitter, Janet is the moderator of #IDedchat (a weekly Twitter chat) and is a co-founder of #edcampidaho. Janet lives to fulfill her purpose of helping others live IN to their potential - to see their aspirations become reality. Do you "know your why"?