Should We Be Engaging or Empowering Students?

One of the themes that I’ve spent the past few days wrestling with is the difference between engaging and empowering our students. It’s a theme that Scott Glass and David Jakes touched on early in their Saturday Morning #educon session and it’s caught legs in Twitter — starting more conversations than pretty much every strand dropped in the stream over the weekend.

Here’s my initial thinking, expressed in note form:

(click to view/download #agencymatters on Flickr here)

(click to view/download Engaging or Empowering on Flickr here)

So what do YOU think?  Are engaging students and empowering students fundamentally different and yet equally important?  Does one naturally precede the other?  Can you be empowered without being engaged?  Is engaging learners a short term goal and empowering students a long term goal?

Do phrases like ” we need to engage our students” and “the first step towards motivating kids is building buy in” hint at dysfunctional power relationship between students and teachers?  Are they just further evidence of our reluctance to give students the chance to own their own learning?  When we see engaging students as our ultimate goal, are we somehow suggesting that teachers are the only ones that can determine topics worth exploring?

I guess the reason this conversation is rumbling through my head is that I’ve always used “engaging” and “empowering” interchangeably in my head — but I’m starting to think that they aren’t as synonymous as I thought they were.

#agencymatters #wordsdotoo

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