Education is not a one-way street. It implies joint efforts from both teachers and students to reach the desired outcomes. Moreover, the process of teaching and learning needs to be anchored in real life to ensure students’ ability to apply what they learn successfully.

One of the latest teaching approaches focuses on giving students opportunities to take greater degrees of agency over their learning process. This makes students more responsible for their evolution and increases their motivation and engagement.

Students feel they are at the center of the learning experience. From the position of the protagonist, they can affect the course of events during their self-development journey.


Read more: Using adaptive learning to personalize learning experiences


Foster student agency with these online tools

With the widespread use of Internet tools and resources, embracing such an approach has never been easier. Next, I’ll share some tools I’ve used successfully with my students.

Ted-Ed lessons

Students enjoy lessons better and retain information easier when the content is provided in video format. On the Ted-Ed platform, you can find an immense pool of resources on every domain you can think of in a fun, animated, and concise way that will keep your students engaged. Each lesson includes a video, follow-up questions, resources for further investigation on the subject, and, most importantly, features to customize your online lessons.

You can even teach asynchronously by having students connect to it through their accounts, solve the required tasks, and automatically receive notifications of their work.


Read more: Adopting the asynchronous mindset for better online learning


In my class, students became teachers for an hour. They had to choose a lesson from the platform on a subject they enjoyed and teach it to their classmates. I took the role of the assistant and helped prepare the warm-up and follow-up activities. In the middle part of the lesson, we watched the video, and they answered the questions provided by the platform. They could adapt these questions as they pleased. Students took complete control of their learning process by teaching their peers.

This, in turn, generated more positive outcomes than even I couldn’t have anticipated. I had hoped to make my students feel more involved due to the decisive role they would have, but this experience had many beneficial results over four years of applying this in class:

  • Responsibility: students became more responsible because they had to plan the lesson down to every detail and make sure they had everything they needed;
  • Engagement: students were supportive of their peers and actively participated in the activities designed by the teacher-student;
  • A sense of community: students felt part of a team and shared a stronger bond based on consideration, support, and cooperation;
  • Creativity: students had the chance to showcase their creativity by using their imagination to create unforgettable learning experiences that resonated with their peers;
  • Empathy: throughout the whole experience, students showed empathy for their peers and considered their feelings which made them more involved, supportive, and understanding as each lesson unraveled. Everyone realized what tremendous work lies behind creating a lesson, and it made them respect the teaching process more.

Read more: Transforming our schools through empathy


Nearpod

I used this at first as an add-on to Google Slides, but I soon discovered the platform with its various tools to help create entertaining lessons and already made lessons provided by their library.

When school moved online, I needed to find a feasible alternative to the Ted-Ed lessons that I had offline to apply to the remote teaching scenario. Nearpod lets you create lessons to involve all your students at once and interact with the content in a fun and engaging way.

Tools such as pop-up questions during videos, games matching pairs, virtual field trips, 3D images, polls, etc., turn every lesson into an enjoyable experience. Paired with Ted-Ed lessons, Nearpod helped my students resume their roles as active learners and take ownership of their learning process even though the setting had changed.


Read more: 5 Reasons why active learning classrooms are the future of HE


This new challenge has proven beneficial since my digitally savvy students can apply even more their technology-related knowledge.

Class tools

Online or offline lessons can become more fun with the tools provided by Class Tools. Have a student control them, and you have a new way to foster student agency. You can use the Random Name Picker, Quiz Generator, Image Reveal Tool, Random Group Generator, or Countdown Timer.

Get your students involved!

Students often complain that teachers don’t understand their needs and that the lessons are not engaging enough to increase their motivation to learn. By letting students take the lead, you will witness mind-blowing results. They become a real part of the teaching and learning process and not just a target of it.

Students are actively involved in every step of the lesson when they choose the topic, create activities, explain the information, support interactions, and provide feedback. This approach brings positive individual and collective results.


Read more: Giving students a V.O.I.C.E. in your classroom


All in all

Regardless of the tools we use as teachers, as long as we foster student agency, we give them the best lesson: anything in life requires complete dedication and engagement if we want it to be a success. They can only achieve this if they take responsibility for their actions, and what better way to start doing so than while learning?

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