Sharing a stick of gum is far from scary. Giving something you have to another person is an act that demonstrates empathy and compassion, even if it is just a stick of gum. Sharing is very important in our lives, and it helps to create a true sense of community. We share because it makes us feel good. There are differences in sharing a stick of gum, though and allowing students to share the ideas and work they produce. Sharing opportunities in the classroom should go much deeper than allowing a fellow student to use a red crayon, or giving up a pudding cup at lunch. In fact, learning through sharing shouldn’t feel good. It should be a little scary.

Sharing isn’t always about giving. Sometimes it is about taking a risk. Sharing as an opportunity for learning is really about flipping the script on the traditional thoughts about what it means to share. If I give something to another person and expect nothing in return, I am sharing. However, in order to learn a student needs to get something in return. They need feedback. Students should be sharing their work with other students, but not out of kindness. If the sharing process ends with the giving, students are not learning. Sharing in the classroom means having an expectation of receiving another person’s praise and criticism about an idea or work that is uniquely you. That is the scary part. 

Putting ideas into public space is not always easy, but those situations provide the greatest opportunity for growth. Students need to be taking risks by sharing their original work, and we need to teach them about the process of feedback and idea development. Having your students work on projects that will only be seen by the students in their class or by the teacher will not provide the motivation or feedback necessary that will result in the most meaningful experience. Individuals that can seek feedback from others through sharing, and then have the skill to improve their ideas will be the most successful in whatever path they choose. So, how do we provide these types of opportunities? How do you get your kids to take that leap and share it with the world?

Students should provide feedback to peers

Before students can jump in the pool, it’s a good idea to have them dip their toes in the water. Reacting to feedback and using it in a constructive way is a learned skill. Sharing with an authentic audience is powerful, but working with their peers is a great place to start building confidence and courage. One key to making feedback an opportunity for learning is it to make sure the students understand and maintain a specific framework for the feedback. Assessment for Learning has some great examples of activities that can be used in various situations. If you want the students to be able to use feedback, it needs to be delivered in a consistent manner. Find a couple of activities that are effective for your classroom and stick with them throughout the year. Students will get better at giving and using the feedback loop as a way to improve their ideas. Once they get good at the process, they are ready to hear what others have to say.

Create authentic moments for students to SHARE their learning

Authenticity is really a driver behind the motivation to share. If we can give our kids the opportunity to share real ideas that can have real consequences on the world around them, the investment in the improvement process becomes much deeper. Modern technology allows teachers to connect with people and groups outside of the classroom much more easily than ever before. Connect students with real organizations and people that need problems solved. If you give students a chance to be a part of a real solution, they will have a desire to make their ideas better through feedback. Communication through programs like Skype or Google Hangouts allows conversations and ideas to be shared. Then, using tools like YouTube, Google Sites, or blogs, students can present their ideas to the world and hear what others have to say about their viewpoint. Sharing to a world outside the classroom puts a much finer point on what their voice can add to the community.