September 10, 2011

Of course, you can listen to music during class

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A remarkable turn of events occurred at my school recently, providing another excellent opportunity for coaching the autonomy and intrinsic motivation that is critical to the success of a Results Only Learning Environment. YouTube was made available to students. (Hopefully, it wasn't an accident.)

On this incredible day, I just happened to have my students in a computer lab, so we could work on our classroom web site. Throughout the day, the buzz about YouTube's availability had spread through the hallways, and it didn't take long for my students to discover this uncanny miracle.

As my 8th graders worked on their private web sites, creating new pages and links where they would place reading plans, novel reflections, projects and more, a student nervously asked if he could pull up a music video and play it in the background, underneath his classroom web site, while he worked. Every student within earshot craned his or her neck and waited silently, eager to hear my response.

"Of course, you can," I nodded, shrugging off what the students perceived to be a crazy request.

I told him in a voice that all students could hear that I was interested in the results. "I need you to watch the video I created for today's lesson and to create two pages with accompanying links on your home page. Can you do this, while listening to music?" He promised me he could.

Moments later, half of the class was locating music videos on YouTube, clicking play, then lowering the YouTube pages to their desktops, so our classroom site could be the focus of their attention.

The day couldn't have gone better, as all students completed the objectives, while shaking their heads and tapping their fingers to the beat.

With only a few minutes left, as they returned their headphones to me, I explained that YouTube had previously been blocked to students, because many administrators and teachers don't trust students to make good decisions. "In a results-only classroom," I emphasized, "autonomy is king. If you can accomplish a task, why shouldn't you be able to do it comfortably? Just remember the responsibility that comes with this kind of freedom."

The message was clear, and I never saw so many smiles in one class in my career.