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Want to know what students think? This librarian asked them!

By Diana Fingal 6/10/2014 Topics: Learning spaces

Shannon McClintock Miller is passionate about giving students a voice and urging adults to listen to those voices. Last fall, Miller, who is the district teacher librarian and technology integrationist at Van Meter Community School in Iowa, set out to listen to youth voices on a grand scale. She created a survey designed to get at what young people want from school and from the adults who work in them. She blogged about the survey and shared it to her vast PLN on Twitter. And she received hundreds of responses, including some from students as far away as Hong Kong and Australia.

The results of that survey was the impetus for her K12 Online preconference keynote, which she co-presented in October alongside fourth grader Meridan Boyd. "We can make a difference and transform education by asking our students to share what they want from us," Miller said.

In her keynote, she reveals 10 categories of student yearnings and how her school community sets out to meet them:

  1. Let us be connected. Allow students to connect with peers using social media, video conferencing and mobile technologies.
  2. Let us collaborate. Let students gather in groups to solve problems, share stories and, yes, play.
  3. Let us create. Allow them to use whatever materials they like — from paper to green screens and virtual worlds — to create and find meaning.
  4. Let us have experiences. Be it photography, poetry, a virtual book club or gaming, offer entryways for students to discover their passions. Look beyond the school and enlist people in your community and even further afield to find expertise and resources.
  5. Let us teach. Don't just flip your classroom, turn it on its head. Get out the video camera and let your students share what they've learned with their peers, their parents and even their teachers.
  6. Let us have access. Access is not just about letting students use school devices. Grant students access to tools, internet and resources, such as ebooks and databases, and let them use their personal devices.
  7. Let us create our space. Create a student-friendly environment — even if it's messy and loud — and extend your classroom or library into the halls and outside the building.
  8. Let us have choices. Some students like to sit on the floor, and others might prefer a rocking chair. Give students free rein to choose their environment, study style and passion.
  9. Let us make a difference. Inspire them to do things outside of school to help others. 
  10. Let us have a voice. Let them feel like they have a say in their learning. "Whether it's listening to them, lifting them up or letting them create and collaborate, let them have a voice," Miller said.