Empowering Students


School is a place for learning but not exclusively. Learning outside school for that matter may even be superior, that is more engaging, motivating, appealing, and in many respects more realistic. Provided of course that the learning environment offered is in some way in gear with the learner, linked to their learning interests. Some learning environments have that potential.  Take the museum for example and how it has changed into places of learning. The times are over when you walked in small groups with a friendly, but overly talkative guide alongside walls hanging full with stuff you did not know you cared about. Visits to a museum nowadays have become interactive and most of all active (1) . For instance: You could redraw a painting hanging in front of you in your sketch book so you can remember and connect to it. Or do a puzzle game walking through the museum rooms to find certain key points that will help you to apprehend a topic better. No hissing commands to be silent, instead you can even take part in discussion groups set up around a piece of art and position yourself against the stuff they show you. Nothing dull and dreary here. What is so engaging in such a learning environment is the open world you step into, at least that is how it manifest itself.. It could very well be the essence of learning empowerment: you are discovering what “ it”  (i.e., content that is offered) means to you.

For those not convinced a recent article on learning in open environments with the use of mobile phones might be illustrative. Students received action instructions through their cell phones tracking their achievements while performing tasks given at certain locations in the museum. They received real time feedback on how they were doing and what to do next.  This way of teaching and learning offered them real joy in learning, while being active, and learning in their own way.

Tell me about it, you might think. Nothing new here. Lots of new opportunities rooted in new technologies are now entering the school (2). Yes, indeed, some of them are incorporated in school learning slowly but the key issue is: are they empowering the student?, or put differently; is it changing the way school is doing their business of learning. And then the scene is a bit bleaker. New (tech) opportunities are added (sometimes) but not really changing school’s business  in favor of open environments of learning. Opening up the school seems far away still.


Guang Chen, Youlong Xin, & Nian-Shing Chen (2017). Informal learning in science museum: development and evaluation of a mobile exhibit label system with iBeacon technology. In  Educational Technology Research and Development June 2017, Volume 65, Issue 3, pp 719–741



1. http://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/trippack/

  1. https://www.nmc.org/blog/future-open-learning-environments/
  2. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/empowering/?story=learningtools&ocid=learningtools_o_edge_null_null_usa_null_null



Got stuck? Ask help!


Maddening devices computers can be. Or help desks, or trying to explain your complaint to a service desk. Anger management is called for in these situations. But who will deploy them in awkward and stressful situations? The study cited gives some background on what works and what not.
The answer to deal with anger has mainly to do with self-regulation (1), it seems. Luckily the study gives some handles on what to do: arranging your environment (but who can?); monitoring your motivation (“I will get through”), and having a learning orientation (by saying “this is really an interesting situation”). In anger management the study found no gender effects looking at online group work. Apparently face to face interactions matter in this respect. Cultural differences in setting (by comparing US and Chinese students) did take an effect. Comments made by your peers (even online) had a considerable corrective effect.
But what if you got stuck?; which often triggers anger and despair. The study gives a captivating and worrying outcome: in order not to jeopardize peer relationships Chinese students did not seek help or call for information from their peers. If that is true and when we relativize the Cultural we are dealing with the nasty occurrence of being stuck, and not being able to bootstrap ourselves using self-regulation strategies. It means that you are at a dead end. Call for help would be the adequate coping strategy (2) but it needs courage to do so. Let’s realize: Group work (online or in vivo) is flourishing in schools but what if you fall behind in the group you are working with? And who monitors (silent) help seeking requests? (3). I would say: Teacher know your students.

Emotion management in online group work reported by Chinese students, by Jianzhong Xu • Jianxia Du • Xitao Fan ; Published by Springer in : Education Technology Research Development (2014) 62:795–819 ; DOI 10.1007/s11423-014-9359-0
Published online: 16 October 2014; Copyright: Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2014


1: http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=search.displayRecord&uid=2001-01625-013
2: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/dev/50/5/1350/
3 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959475210000563