Last week my math students wrote in their math journals about their experience in math class so far. Their entries were fascinating and many students documented their learning that took place since the beginning of the school year. Some students drew pictures and wrote lengthy paragraphs indicating skills learned. At the end of the class the journals were put back in their designated place in the classroom. I looked over the journals and made comments. Afterwards, I starting to think about what happens to these types of journals after they’re sent home at the end of the year.
What happens after a student receives back their classwork? The work is often presented in a number of ways: hanging up the assignment, placing it on bulletin boards, showcasing it around the school, or sending it home for refrigerator placement. I’m not sure what happens after the assignment heads home. Optimistically, I assume that they’re kept forever, but most likely the assignment moves towards a recycling bin at some point.
I’m finding that the work that students complete is becoming increasingly digital. Regardless of how the work is created, it’s often captured and presented in a digital form. Student work that’s completed and presented digitally lives on. Not only does it live on, but it can be seen by people outside of the school, state, or even nation. For example, students might use base-ten blocks to show their understanding of how to add numbers together. The end product, although it may be a physical representation, has an opportunity to be captured digitally and communicated to stakeholders. Some school districts are finding that they can help showcase student understanding through digital means.
I’ve found that some of these same school districts have moved towards a student e-portfolio model. This is much more prevalent at the middle and high school level, but exists in small pockets at the elementary level. In some cases, students have access to their own e-portfolio and they submit their work digitally. Over the past couple of years I’ve seen elementary teachers use Weebly, Google, Seesaw, and Showbie to have students submit their work digitally. In turn, student receive feedback and document their learning experiences in the process.
A few teachers in my school are currently using Seesaw to have students’ submit their assignments. Teachers need to approve the submissions and parents are notified that items are located in their child’s portfolio. Teachers and parents can provide feedback to the students. Students can even take that feedback and resubmit their projects as needed.
Silicon Valley has also paid close attention to how this is playing out. Learning management systems (LMS) are starting to become more of the norm as students and teachers become more familiar with how they work. As districts become more familiar with LMS, questions about student privacy and data collection should be addressed. Having an online student portfolio gives teachers, students, and parents opportunities to be transparent in communicating what’s happening in class. This type of student work evidence goes far beyond a classroom newsletter. Being able to submit assignments and receive feedback digitally encourages learning beyond the school walls. Submitting projects digitally also allows teachers to give feedback a bit differently. Instead of writing feedback on papers, teachers can record comments verbally or record a brief video with examples. Although I prefer to give feedback 1:1 in person, giving feedback digitally has its advantages. Ideally, the student e-portfolio would follow the student throughout a school district.
Back to my students’ math journals … so the next day I had students submit their work to their e-portfolios. Through this action, students were taking their physical work and making a digital copy. Parents were able to immediately check out their child’s work and make comments. Some parents made comments, while others just view the work. I’m not looking for interaction on everything submitted, but I feel like having that opportunity to communicate and the transparency involved is important. It also can help initiate the “how was school” talk that happens when children come home from school. Through the years the physical journals may stay intact, but the digital copy will always be accessible. Having access to past entries can help students see the growth that they’ve experienced during their journey.
How do your students document their learning journey?