SOLE's Impact On Students

When I do presentations about SOLE, I spend a lot of time talking about the teachers. I talk about how easy the app is to use, the great lesson plan it creates, how simple it is, how it can improve their classroom culture, etc etc etc. I do this intentionally-- I know how hard teachers work, and I would never want them to use something that would make their lives harder. But if we’re being really honest, SOLE is all about the students.
The premise of SOLE is that students control their own learning-- that they learn how to self-direct, self-manage, and collaborate without a teacher holding their hand. It can be scary, for both the teacher and the student, but being overly comfortable never created dramatic change. And it can be a dramatic change. 

Students who are bright but bored get to really push themselves. Students that struggle with traditional classrooms get a chance to try out something new. Students that always work alone get the experience of working with others (a very necessary skill nowadays, and one I wish I had practiced more when I was younger). Students that try to get away with the bare minimum often become fascinated with a question and experience self-motivation. Students adapt, and they flex, and they adopt a thousand new skills that I hadn’t even anticipated. It’s really quite something to watch. 

I watched a student who had sat slouched in the back become a leader when he got to research a comic book hero. I watched quiet students argue loudly about whether or not to drop the atomic bomb. I watched students create a presentation where they didn’t talk at all, and watch their classmates applaud their creativity. I watched my classroom develop into a totally different environment-- one where students supported each other, where they worked together, where they weren’t terrified of failure. And that doesn’t even speak to the dramatic increase in their research, presentation, and collaborative skills.

Not every SOLE runs perfectly. Not every day in education is easy. But after seeing the effect of SOLE on my classroom, I can’t help but try and convince every teacher I know to give it a shot. It didn’t solve every problem I ever had-- it wasn’t a magic pill that made every student perfectly behaved 24/7, or made my homework turn-in rate 100%; But when students are engaged and excited to work, it certainly makes both the teacher and the student’s experience a whole lot better, and SOLEs helped make that a reality in my classroom. 

Erika Howard 



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