Reflecting to Learn
At the end of every week my students pulled out their iPads and they wrote. They opened up blogs that they created, designed and personalized, and they shared their stories. They wrote about what they learned that day or that week; they shared thoughts about the lessons or topics; they added images to support their thoughts; they responded to specific questions about what they were learning and they shared overall thoughts. This recurring assignment appeared in our LMS, but it was part of our class culture. We were learning together through this regular process of writing and reflecting.
Telling the story of our learning is a powerful means of processing and sharing that learning. Students construct meaning and apply prior knowledge to their new learning during this process of reflection (Costa). This process helps students to see the significance in what they’re doing, process what went well and what needs to change; and pause to think critically about the content (Alrubail). It’s Google-proof.
We may be well aware of the benefits of reflection, putting that into practice can be something different. Which tool do I use? How often do I have the students do this? How do I assess this process? These are very real questions that need to be considered before you start the process.
The habit of reflecting is what brings about that metacognitive process, so regular practice is key. The means depends on you, your practice, your available resources and your class culture. Paper and pencil are of course an option. That wasn’t an option for me because I wanted students to be able to include images and audio (plus I didn’t want to carry them), but that was my class. Blog and Vlogs are are popular options. Google Sites, Weebly, Edublogs are all good resources for that. Flipgrid is newer on the playing field and provides a platform for students to really exercise their voice. Padlet has added a number of new features to allow students to draw, video, take pictures, add audio and type directly into Padlet. Google Docs or Slides are additional possibilities, too. What tools works best for you? Which tools fits best in your classroom culture?
What do you have students write and reflect on? What questions do I ask? What stories should they tell? Here are some resources to help:
How do I evaluate these pieces? Here are some rubric examples to help you get started:
Are You Future Ready?
Future Ready is an effort intended to bring about digital learning opportunities designed to prepare students for college, career and citizenship. It provides a framework, resources, training and support. Districts that sign the Future Ready pledge "commit to foster and lead a culture of digital learning in their districts" (Dept. of Education). Academy School District 20 is one of those districts.
What does this mean for the classroom teacher? Much of what happens in this effort is behind the scenes in support of our students and the learning experience. To support districts committed to this effort, Future Ready Schools has a created number of programs:
At the heart of Future Ready Schools is a Framework. The framework consists of 7 gears focused around Personalized Student Learning:
At Pine Creek High School we've already taken a number of steps down this road. We have improved our infrastructure; we have established common planning for much of our staff; we have a path to determine if digital resources ensure our student's data privacy; we are developing assessment literacy and digital leaders; our professional learning weaves together our site plan with department needs; and, we are working though our assessment process and honors project. We're already taking great steps forward to be Future Ready and we're just beginning!
When Digital Is The Right Choice
Recently I visited a math classroom where Jeff was trying a new digital tool that Keisha had shown him. The tool is specific to math, but the demonstration of learning was something everyone could benefit from watching.
Jeff set up a lesson that began with guided practice and continued with challenge problems. The tool allowed students to move at their own pace, but also allowed him to insert hold points to keep students from going too far ahead. Students were graphing equations, testing what would happen if a variable changed, seeing what their equation looked like, comparing what the graph should look like against their equation and vice versa, and more! Jeff was able to monitor class progress as a whole in addition to looking at individual student work.
How did this tool deepen student understanding? The ability that students had to walk through the learning process and test various results provided students the opportunity to test their learning and see the "what if" answer. Students were engaged in a learning tool that empowered them to take their learning to the a different level that they owned.
Students could test their work and see immediate results. They were challenged in their thinking. Individual students who needed a modified assignment could proceed at their own pace without feeling like they were falling behind. Jeff had individual contact with everyone in his class and had the ability to check in on students who might not have otherwise asked for help. Students were not only engaged, but empowered to try additional possibilities that would have been very labor intensive on paper and wouldn't have had immediate feedback.
We have so many tools in our toolboxes these days: text, paper, kinesthetic, visual, audio, digital. What's important is choosing the right tool for the learning outcome. In this lesson, the digital tool was able to provide a deeper, more empowering learning experience for the students. It was fun to watch!
One of my favorite parts of planning my lessons and reflecting on them was reviewing my students exit tickets, what I called “Ziel des Tages,” or goal of the day. Before my students raced out the door to meet their friends or get out of the parking lot as fast as possible, they completed one these, it was our routine. Each day I posed specific questions to reflect on our lesson and goals. In addition to those questions, I included a place for students to tell me what else they’d like to know and anything else they’d like to share. This closure routine created a lasting impression on the students, provided me with invaluable feedback and gave students a safe place to use their voice.
What was this routine? How did I collect their feedback? Initially this was a paper process, but when I became part of our 1:1 iPad pilot program, I switched to a digital format. I chose Google Forms, because it provided me feedback in a spreadsheet which I could manipulate to focus on whatever data point I wanted. I linked the form to a QR code which I printed on card stock. Each seating group had a container that housed various manipulatives for class. The QR code was included in that container on a ring of cards, one QR code card for each class. As part of our closing routine, students would scan the QR code which led to their exit ticket. Because I wanted to track their learning and engagement over time, students responded to the same questions each day. While I used Google Forms for this, Microsoft Forms would also work in a very similar fashion.
Google Forms and Microsoft Forms aren’t the only tools available to use for lesson closure. Padlet and Flipgrid are also some of my favorite tools for gathering student feedback. While I specifically used Google Forms for end of class reflection and feedback, end of lesson feedback can be done during the period or for homework.
There are many digital and paper tools that can be used for closure activities. Here are some of my favorite digital feedback tools:
I am a Technology Integration and LMS Specialist by title, but lifelong learner in practice. An Apple Teacher, Google Certified Educator and Microsoft Innovative Educator, my goal is to assist educators in investigating and exploring resources to embed in their instruction. I also hope to be a part of their journey toward an innovative and transformative practice that empowers learners and strengthens their own craftsmanship. I spends my free time with my family, my dogs and a good cup of coffee.