15+ Tools for Student Voice

In episode 28 of the Educational Duct Tape PodcastMike Mohammad joined me for a chit-chat.  One of the topics that we discussed was student voice.  I posed the question, “How can educators provide opportunities for student voice?

Mike promptly made the distinction between student voice and student choice.  While both are powerful things to leverage in the classroom, they are very different (though we often lump them together, as Mike pointed out).

I think that educators’ definitions for the term student voice are inconsistent – some seem to believe that it simply means
– hearing each student’s answer or thinking
– while others believe that it means empowering the students to have a voice in some (or all!) aspects of their education.

Mike made it clear in his response that he subscribes to the 2nd “definition” of student voice.  His response fits with the description that Edutopia usesstudent voice involves letting “students’ input and expertise … help shape their classroom, their school, and ultimately their own learning and growth.”

I definitely believe that that is the type of student voice that we want to strive for.  In a recent #EduDuctTape chat, educators shared their favorite tool for empowering student voice.  It’s important to note that simply using the tool doesn’t provide opportunity for or empowerment of student voice.  It’s all about how you use it.

Here are some of their responses:

1. Flipgrid

Flipgrid is a fantastic tool for hearing from each student! Students can respond with a video–with or without their face showing–and can leverage lots of creative tools to personalize their video and message.  Check out the Educators’ Guide to Flipgrid here.

2. Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark gives students the chance to create visually appealing videos, pages or posts of their own using Adobe’s templates and easy-to-use tool.  If the important part is the student’s voice (rather than the product itself), it can be a great way for students to quickly make an impressive product in which they express themself.

3. PearDeck

PearDeck is a highly flexible tool that is great for lesson delivery, formative assessment and student feedback.  In the podcast episode, Mike talked about the types of questions that he asks his students to hear their voice about how his instructional design is or is not supporting their learning… and what he can do differently.  Check out the educator guide, which Mike co-wrote, here.

4. Google Forms

Google offers an easy way to develop a survey, assessment or form with Google Forms.  They are easy to create and, as Craig points out below, can be anonymous, allowing students to respond freely.  They can also ask the students for their name and/or email address if the teacher prefers to be able to follow up with the students.

5. Padlet

Padlet is a great tool for organizing, curating, collaborating or communicating.  For these reasons, it’s also a great tool for empowering student voice!

6. Nearpod

Nearpod, like Pear Deck above, is a great tool for delivering lessons, gathering feedback and performing live formative assessments.  It also has some features that Pear Deck does not, including the Collaborate Board.  Collaborate Boards are a lot like Padlet walls (above), but have the added benefit of being nested inside of a Nearpod lesson or activity.

7. Seesaw

At its core, Seesaw is a digital portfolio tool, but it actually provides opportunity for so much more!  Their website says: “student portfolios, formative insights and family communication all in one place,” but even that doesn’t completely capture all that is possible with this tool.  Regardless, since students are able to express themselves and communicate with teachers & parents through this tool, it certainly can empower student voice.

8. WeVideo

If you’re looking for a video creation tool for students to use on Chromebooks, WeVideo is almost certainly the option that you’ll end up selecting.  And, since students can create just about anything with WeVideo, it’s a great place for them to share their voice, too!

9. BookCreator

BookCreator offers a fantastically easy-to-use eBook creation tool.  What a great way for students to organize and communicate their thoughts!

10. DoInk

If your students use iPads, DoInk is a great video-creation (and expression!) tool!

Pam also mentions Discovery Education – it’s a great tool as well!

11. Synth

Synth is a relatively new tool that, as their website says, enables the creation of “Podcasts in bytes.”  What they are implying by that phrase is that you can record and share short (bytes) segments of audio (podcast).  The maximum length is 256 seconds.  It offers a great way for anyone to start sharing their voice and dipping their toes in the water of podcasting, but can also be used for students communicating with their teachers, peers or family.  One great feature about Synth is the “walled garden” for students under the age of 16 – their “podcasts” can only be found or listened to by their teachers, parents or people that they share with directly (i.e., classmates).

12. Screencastify

Screencastify is one of a handful of great screencasting tools that work on Chromebooks and other computers.  While I recommend Screencastify, other teachers also love Loom, Screencast-o-matic and Nimbus Capture.  Any of them could be used to empower student voice.

13. YouTube Channels

One way to organize and curate a lot of video content is student YouTube Channels.  If your students have gSuite (Google) for Education accounts they likely already have access to creating a YouTube account.  While YouTube can present a slippery slope, users do have the ability to set their videos as “unlisted” so that they can’t be found by anyone outside of their intended audience (i.e., teacher, parent, etc.).  Also, if we hope to help our students become good digital citizens in the “real world” it makes sense to expose them to these tools and teach them how to use them appropriately.

14. Google Slides

Need a simple tool for hearing your students’ voice? In #2 up above, Heather mentions Google Slides.  There certainly is no reason that you can’t use familiar tools like Slides or Docs to empower student voice.

15. Analog!

You can certainly do it without technology!  Here are a few “unplugged” options.

Published by

Jake Miller

Jake is a Google for Education Certified Trainer and is the Lead Technology Integration Specialist for Brady Middle School in Ohio's Orange City Schools. In the past he taught STEM, Science & Math in Stow-Munroe Falls, Ohio, where he was also a leader in the district's Technology Leadership Team and a co-advisor for the middle school's STEM Club. He has been an educator since 2003. His Bachelor's Degree is in middle-level education (math/science) from the University of Akron and his Master's Degree is in Instructional Technology from Kent State University. He has enjoyed providing more than 100 professional development opportunities at conferences and school districts across the state of Ohio. He is very involved in Twitter (@JakeMillerTech) and provides regular pointers for educators with his #GAFETip tweets.