Transforming the teacher-student relationship with digital technology
Human beings are shaped, for better or worse, by their teachers. A passionate teacher will profoundly impact a child in positive ways, and a careless teacher can cause a child to check out of the learning process for good. For every student who loves school, there’s another one who can’t stand it, and a lot of this has to do with the student’s level of comfort in the classroom. Before teachers can cultivate their students’ minds, they first need to establish a comfortable relationship with them. The teacher student relationship doesn’t get as much consideration as test scores and grades, but it’s one of the most important aspects of education.
As psychologists Sara Rimm-Kaufman and Lia Sandilos explain in their article “Improving Students’ Relationships with Teachers to Provide Essential Supports for Learning,” “those students who have close, positive and supportive relationships with their teachers will attain higher levels of achievement than those students with more conflict in their relationships.” An article published by California State University, Northridge entitled “The Positive Teacher Student Relationship” echoes this point with just one sentence: “Having established a positive relationship with students will encourage students to seek education and be enthusiastic to be in school.
There’s no denying that every student deserves a great teacher, but this is especially true for students who don’t always have equal access to a quality education. In their study “Implementing a teacher–student relationship program in a high-poverty urban school: Effects on social, emotional, and academic adjustment and lessons learned,“ Christopher Murray and Kimber Malmgren explain that students in low-income families can benefit from a healthy teacher student relationship because of the risks associated with poverty. These risks range from high dropout rates to lower rates of college applications to low self-esteem. If positive teacher student relationships are developed in these communities, students are more likely to overcome these risks.
A strong teacher student relationship won’t save every student, but it can help. Before we comprehend how teachers can strengthen the teacher student relationship, however, we must first come to terms with the limitations of the traditional classroom and why it doesn’t always maintain healthy teacher student relationships.
The Limitations of the Traditional Classroom
Teachers are concerned about the rise of education technology and the potential impact it will have on the classroom. They’ve all seen the same science fiction movies, and they’re afraid that machines will take over the classroom and render their presence obsolete. This is why there’s so much resistance to even the smallest changes in education—teachers worry that these changes will negatively impact their careers.
Underlying all of these concerns, however, is an unfounded assumption that business as usual is fine, and the teacher student relationship doesn’t need to be fixed. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The traditional classroom is incredibly flawed. From ineffective lectures to uninteresting textbooks, students are disengaged from the traditional classroom and everything that it represents. Yes, we can blame the standardized tests and the same-old stale assignments, but we also have to look at the teacher student relationship itself.
Change is difficult and teachers may have trouble adapting at first, but the traditional classroom alternative is unsustainable. The teacher student relationship in the traditional classroom counters everything that students want. Here are the three main reasons why it doesn’t work:
- Students crave a more open learning environment, and the traditional classroom reinforces the teacher’s totalitarian presence as the one in control.
- Students long for a collaborative classroom environment, and the traditional classroom prioritizes the lecture through which the teacher regurgitates key concepts to a group of bored students.
- Students wish for an inclusive classroom in which everyone has a voice, and the traditional classroom inevitably lets certain students fall through the cracks.
To improve the teacher student relationship, teachers can embrace digital technology and design a state-of-the-art digital classroom. With LiveTiles Mosaic, teachers can create a digital classroom without any coding experience. By simply dragging and dropping the many pre-configured Office 365 apps and cloud-based services, teachers will instantly improve the teacher student relationship with an engaging learning space.
As the screen show below demonstrates, teachers can personalize the digital classroom to suit their students’ specific needs. More than an intranet, the digital classroom functions as a new learning experience for students. The digital classroom is mobile-friendly, which means that students can bring it with them wherever they go and log in with their smartphones, tablets or other personal devices. Available for free to any K-12 class with an Office 365 tenant, Mosaic is bound to enhance the teacher student relationship.
A More Transparent Teacher Student Relationship
No relationship survives without transparency, and this is especially true with the teacher student relationship. If students do not trust and respect their teachers, they won’t succeed in the classroom.
One way to improve the teacher student relationship is to make it more transparent. Teachers can use the Mosaic tool to add Yammer to the digital classroom. As the screen shot below shows, this creates a communication network through which the teacher and students can share ideas and insights long after the bell rings.
Yammer is an internal social network for the classroom. Teachers can use it to post important announcements and clarify any confusion of the school day. Students can use it to ask questions or share relevant course-related content. This makes the teacher student relationship more transparent because teachers will be available to students on a regular basis.
Of course, teachers can create boundaries, and they shouldn’t be expected to respond to Yammer posts 24/7. For example, teachers can let students know that they aren’t available after 8 PM during the school week. Whatever the restrictions are, teachers can still maintain transparency by making the boundaries clear to students at the beginning of the school year.
In addition, teachers can upload assignments to the digital classroom, including grading criteria, in order to avoid any confusion. This way, students will know what’s expected of them from the very beginning, and teachers won’t have to waste class time repeating the same instructions.
The point of the digital classroom is to make the teacher student relationship more transparent so that students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. Students want an open learning environment in which they can express their autonomy, and the digital classroom can facilitate this.
A More Collaborative Teacher Student Relationship
Students don’t want to feel as if their contributions are not valued in class. They want to be part of an interactive community. A number of education experts have shown that traditional lectures fail to engage students, and that collaborative in-class group exercises are more effective. This is why many teachers are utilizing the flipped classroom model, which turns traditional lectures into homework assignments and devotes class time to discussion.
To improve the teacher student relationship, teachers can make the classroom a more collaborative working environment. Rather than lecture students, for example, teachers can facilitate engaging discussions. Instead of designing lesson plans alone, teachers can ask students to offer their input. These small shifts in practice and procedure involve students in the learning process.
How can teachers do this, you may ask? With Mosaic, teachers can add collaborative tools like OneNote to the digital classroom, as the screen shot below shows.
Let’s say, for example, that teachers want to involve students in the classroom design. They can have students come up with ideas for a lesson plan on OneNote and share these ideas in the digital classroom for everyone to see. After enough people present their ideas, the teacher can combine them into a complete lesson plan and credit the students for their involvement. Students will respect the teacher for valuing their contributions, and they’ll be more inclined to learn because their ideas will have been implemented into the lesson plan.
A little collaboration goes a long way in transforming the teacher student relationship. The traditional model in which the teacher was the center of the classroom and the students simply had to do whatever the teacher said—regardless of educational effectiveness—no longer applies. Today, students want to be actively involved in all stages of the learning process, and don’t want to feel as if they have no control over their education.
A More Humane Teacher Student Relationship
Despite the concerns that teachers have about digital technology, the digital classroom actually makes the teacher student relationship more humane. That’s right—the robot takeover isn’t happening to education. Instead, technology brings teachers and students closer together so that teachers can effectively do their jobs.
It’s virtually impossible for teachers to interact with every single student in class. Even if teachers abandoned the lecture, they still wouldn’t be able to realistically check in with every student in the class during a lively discussion or interactive group project. There just isn’t enough time in the day.
This means that some confused students won’t get a chance to have their questions answered by the teacher. Those students who are struggling will fall behind since teachers likely won’t know how they’re doing until after a major test or assignment.
Teachers can overcome these communication barriers with the digital classroom. The aforementioned Yammer, for example, allows teachers to tend to those students who are struggling the most, and ensures that students who didn’t get a chance to participate—or are too timid to participate—can share their important ideas online. In the digital classroom, every student can express themselves and feel as If their contributions matter. This strengthens student engagement and enhances the teacher student relationship.
If there’s one key takeaway about the digital classroom, it’s that it humanizes the learning experience. It may seem counterintuitive, but digital technology strengthens the teacher student relationship by placing a greater emphasis on the students. Yes, some of these interactions will take place online, but there’s more of an opportunity for teachers to interact one-on-one with students, and to draw on personalized learning techniques to improve those students who struggle the most.
The teacher student relationship is essential to the educational success of students, and it needs to be strengthened. The traditional classroom does not always maintain this relationship since some students are inevitably left out and left behind. To solve this problem, teachers can engage students with a user-friendly digital classroom. The digital classroom democratizes education and empowers students. Rather than teach at passive students, teachers can guide active students through the learning process.