Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/b9wcMV
This year, I’ve spent a good deal of time coaching students and teachers to make learning visible within and beyond their classrooms. This may sound easy, but it isn’t. There’s a difference between displaying student work and capturing the actual moves that deepened understanding or improved performance. Those who strive to make learning visible appreciate how messy and overwhelming this work can be.
These habits of documentation ensure greater success:
- Begin by determining what learning will be made visible and why. Start simply. Strive to capture one thing that matters a great deal.
- Decide which documentation processes and tools will best enable you to capture specific kinds of learning. Posing a powerful prompt might illicit compelling responses. Does it make sense to capture them during conferences using audio recording tools, or should learners write their responses in their reflective journals? How much time should learners devote to this? What will you do with the evidence once you’ve captured it? Consider what fits your needs.
- The tools that you choose must be readily available and easy to use. After all, you can’t compromise the quality of the learning experience in order to make it visible or complete the work of documentation. Rifling through cabinets to locate a camera or struggling to replace dead batteries mid-lesson will only serve to derail your efforts. Before you begin, power up your chosen tools and place them at the ready.
Apps like Super Note are dynamic and easy to use:
I’ve discovered that despite my best efforts, it’s often hard to predict when powerful learning will make itself visible. It makes sense to prepare to capture the unexpected, and this is why I rely on my cell phone heavily for documentation purposes. It’s always on hand, it provides dynamic documentation options, and it’s unobtrusive, slipping into and out of my pocket relatively unnoticed. My phone is also powered up with apps that support instruction, and Super Note is one of my favorites.
Photo Credit: clearskyapps.com/portfolio/super-note
Super Note is a productivity app that can help students and teachers make learning visible. Users may capture photos of work samples while audio recording reflections relevant to the learning that occurred. Recordings may be paused, resumed, and amended at any time. Annotations are captured using the notes feature, and when documentation is complete, users are able to transfer these notes using email or Dropbox.
Use one of these approaches to take Super Note for a test drive:
- Prior to resuming work on a challenging task, invite learners to reflect on the dilemmas they’ve confronted so far and how they’ve overcome them. As they return to work, drop in on each of them, take a photo of the work itself, and use the audio feature to record these reflections. Use what you learn to inform your feedback as well as future instruction.
- Invite students to capture evidence of their own learning by taking a picture of a move they’re able to make now that they weren’t able to make a month ago. Encourage them to use the notes feature or the audio recording feature to explain their learning and how it happened.
- Encourage learners to audio record your lessons as they make their own notes within the app. Study the alignment between your lesson and their interpretation of it. Invite them to do the same. Mind the gap. Discuss if it matters and if so, how.
- Interview learners about their problem solving approaches and processes, using Super Note to record each individual statement one after another. Invite them to listen to the entire recording while noting similarities and differences.
- Use the photo feature to shoot photos of student work. Ask learners to review the collection, zooming in to identify critical details and trends. Challenge them to use what they discover to form hunches about what was learned, how, and why.
Are you a Super Note user? Willing to share other approaches with readers who are interested in making learning visible? Extend this conversation by dropping your ideas in the comments.
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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.