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Student Led Conferences: Sick and Tired of Blogs & Reflection?

SLC

Our students just finished a second round of Student Led Conferences (SLC) this school year (one in Semester 1 and another in Semester 2).

SLCs are a formal opportunity for students to present to their parents about the state of their learning. The students’ advisor (a teacher responsible for a specific group of students during the school year) serves as a facilitator to prompt and guide the students if needed, but is a silent presence as the students share their learning with their parents. SLCs are not a time to talk about grades, student behavior, but about learning habits, process, improvements and goals.

Although there was emphasis placed on an ongoing documentation of each subject area as learning and reflection happened throughout the school year, a significant amount of time was dedicated to prepare for the SLCs

Preparation for Student Led Conferences

Each subject area had to be represented with at least one blog post. Each SLC blog post was to contain a title, an artifact, a reflection and be properly labeled.

slc-post-components

Min Kyung’s Blog

SLC-example

SLC-example2

Karin’s Blog

SLC-example3

Juan Carlos’Blog

SLC-example4

 

SLC-example5

 

Ji Won’s Blog

SLC-example6

Using the documentation posted to their blogfolios (process and showcase items), they select posts and artifacts that best demonstrated improvement or mastery of a learning target. Students connected their learning to specific school identified Core Values.

The slides below were shared with students to guide them through the process of preparing for the SLC.

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 Student Led Conference

Students and parents gathered with the advisor for up to 30 minutes in a classroom setting. The student’s blog site was projected to the screen and students used the artifacts as a trigger to talk about their learning. They spoke about their challenges, successes and areas of growth in relationship to the Core Values. Parents were encouraged to ask clarifying questions at any time. To wrap the SLC up, students spoke about the learning that occurred by going though the process of preparing for the conference and their learning goals for the last quarter.

Notes and Reflections

There was a loud rumbling noise among students in the days that lead up to the SLC.

Comments such as the ones below were expressed by many:

  • “We are tired of writing reflections”
  • “I am sick of having to write a blog post in EVERY SINGLE CLASS!”
  •  ”Why do I have to do this?”
  • “I am writing what my teachers want to hear, but not really what I think.”

I seriously started to doubt the approach to support Blogging Beyond One Classroom. Was it inevitable, if students were expected to “learn, reflect, share”for all their classes  (from Math, Humanities, Science to Orchestra to Physical Education), that they were going to burn out? Could the “exponential explosion” of reflective blog posts  clumped together in the immediate days before the SLC be blamed for it?

reflective school culture

Was “too much of a good thing”…. well simply too much?

  • Did we need to be more selective with WHAT types of reflections we asked students to make their learning visible? (Not every assignment, project or activity needs to be documented and reflected on?)
  • Did we need to adjust our language to not bunch everything under an umbrella of “Please write a reflection on your blog”.
  • I am reminded that “It’s one thing for us as teachers to articulate the kinds of thinking we are seeking to promote; it is another for students to develop a greater awareness of the significant role that thinking plays in cultivating their own understanding.” ( Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhard, Mark Curch and Karen Morrison). Do we need to double our efforts in helping students develop that awareness and continue to give them the why behind maintaining a blog (learning, reflecting and sharing as part of an overall process)?
  • Did we need to change/alter/modify the routine of adding the reflection as a separate piece, tagged on the end of a assignment, project or activity?

Despite the fact that students openly did not seem to “enjoy” the process  of  blogging and reflecting as it was happening in the days before the SLC (among my advisory students), it was unanimous (again informal survey from among my advisory students) that the process of reflecting, thinking about one’s learning and going back to re-read/watch/look at previous posts and artifacts  to identify areas of growth HAS helped and they are glad to have gone through the process.  Students also recognized and articulated in their SLC specific learning opportunities and teaching methods from many of their classes that inspired and supported them in their learning process.

SLCs are an opportunity for:

  • Authentic opportunity to showcase skills in information literacy (organizing, categorizing and archiving of information created and published)
  • Building blocks of a positive digital footprint (How do we support and guide our students to positive online publishing? What does it mean to be “googlable?” How do we not only build, but also maintain a positive digital footprint?) 
  • Digital citizen issues come to surface (What is shared? Why should we share? Observance of copyright. How do we keep ourselves safe? )
  • Evidence of using technology to demonstrate learning (Technology is not only about Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or video games. “Digital natives might be wizards in using technology in other domains, but need guidance for using it for learning)
  • Resource or non-academic subjects are given time in conference and equally contribute to the students’ learning profile
  • Advisors have a chance to step outside of their own classrooms and learn about their colleagues’ work

As compared to first semester’s SLC:

  • Overall blog quality has improved (communication through a variety of media forms, logistics of inserting & embedding different media, beginning of hyperlinked writing, advantages of writing  in digital spaces became evident)
  • As blogfolios are continued being  maintained, it is possible to track learning over time
  • The connections to the Core Values seemed much more natural and not an add-on
  • Student (oral and visual) presentation skills were practiced  in a supportive environment
  • Students and parents focused less on academic grades and more on learning habits and process
  • SLC served and supported parent education in terms of modern skills, literacies and learning pedagogies

Juan Carlos‘ Blog:

“I used to think my learning was accomplished by simple things such as paying attention , doing my work and taking it seriously but now I know that learning has more than those things , you need to be reflective , critical thinker and also a communicator. You need to apply all the core values to able to learn in an effective way.”

Kari’s Blog

“In which of the core values did you show the most progress or growth?  What makes you say that? 
I am getting better at communication.  I am learning more Portuguese and improving with my blog and other technologies.  This is very important in terms of communication.  Balanced says that you can communicate in multiple languages.  Improving in Portuguese means that I can communicate more to people who do not speak English.  Also, I am getting better at using my blog which is another form of communication.  People can come on and see my work and how I use my Blog.”

“I used to think my learning was mostly about critical thinking, but now I think my learning is more about being reflective.  Sometimes you cannot really grasp what you have learned unless you reflect on what you have done.  This is an important part of learning and changing your learning habits and becoming better at something.  If you just do something once and then never again, you don’t really learn anything .  Reflection makes you rethink again and understand better. “

Now what?

Where do we go from here? My hope is to continue:

Where are you in your journey of student digital portfolios/blogfolios? How do you prepare, run and learn from Student Led Conferences?  Contribute to the exchange of ideas, thoughts, experiences, doubts, failures and successes? We are all pioneers. No one has done this for years and is an expert. We are all learning along the way. Let’s help each other. Leave a comment or connect on Twitter, but don’t keep your observations and perspectives on the topic to yourself.

Visible Thinking in Math- Part 1

The conversation about visible thinking in Math started with one of our teachers at Graded, The American School of São Paulo, Adam Hancock, wanting to know how he could incorporate having students’ use their blogfolios in Math class. It seemed natural to have students write for Humanities (Language Arts and Social Studies), but writing did not seem part of what Middle School Math was about.

How could “blogging” go beyond taking a digital image of a Math problem on paper or a quiz and writing about  ”how the student felt about solving the problem or passing the test?”or ask themselves what they could have done better?

One of the first steps was to bring more “language” into the Math classroom. In a Skype call with Heidi Hayes Jacobs, she said that Math should be taught more like a foreign language.

photo 2

Students need to know vocabulary words and become fluent in “speaking Math”, in order to be able to communicate their thoughts and ideas.

photo 1

Videos and screencasts are great tools to articulate, visualize and then share ones’ thinking when working to solve a Math problem. Below is a video of Adam, modeling solving a mathematical equation.

Google Glass- Math Equation from langwitches on Vimeo.

Making Mathematical Thinking visible had the following purpose for Adam in his classes:

1. give students a truly differentiated math experience and expose them to a wide variety of math concepts.

2. encourage self directed learning and allow them to demonstrate their understanding in a way of their choosing.

3. make their learning process visible and allow students to reflect on their growth and learning in the process of solving the problem, by using the KWHL routine (What do I know? What do I want to know? How will I find out? What have I learned?)

KWHLAQ2

KWHL-Mary

KWHL by Mary

Prezi by Isabella

More student blog posts:

The process of making mathematical thinking visible, as well as the artifacts’ quality, was hopeful, awkward, “messy” and challenging…

Adam and my observations:

  • Students were working in different areas of math, and most of them had to learn something new, and tie it to what they already know in order to explain their problem.
  • It is not a natural skill for students to be able to “speak” Math. There is a need to expose and encourage students to use mathematical language to communicate.
  • The ability of being able to articulate and make a thinking process visible is a skill we need to support our students in becoming fluent in. It was challenging for students to think about and articulate their learning value instead the production value of their artifact.
  • Some students focused in their reflection on documenting the steps of what they did as they were solving the problem, not on the necessary thinking that was involved. Some students don’t/didn’t see the reason why they should be reflecting on their learning in Math.
  • It seemed unnatural to ask students to write a reflective blog post tagged on the end. It seems artificial and one more thing to do as an add-on, versus reflection as part of the learning process. Option of breaking the reflection process into different blog posts along the way, which later on can be linked to each other to demonstrate the process path.
  • When students are given a lot of freedom to demonstrate their understanding, a lot of them need structure and some clear guidelines or else the product does not turn out very well. This may improve with practice and more opportunities for them to work independently.
  •  Many students didn’t fully follow the KWHL routine, and only posted an explanation to their problem.  In some cases the explanations were wrong. In many cases, they didn’t actually post the KWHL page, and so they lost sight of “the point”.  Maybe because this was a new process, a lot of students produced “the bare minimum “. Generally speaking, students who are conscientious and engaged did well and produced meaningful blog posts. If they did the KWHL process correctly, they documented what they didn’t know before they began researching their problem, and then demonstrated what they learned in the process.
  • There is a sense among many students that this is actually ‘more work’ than just taking a test, and therefore it is harder.

These observations are helping us continue to strive for meaningful activities and strategies that support student learning. I am often reminded of Vicki Davis’ blog post, Fail Foward, Move Foward. The word “fail” has a connotation in education, that has to change, along the paradigm shift of how we learn best and differently. In the spirit of Failure is Mandatory in the Culture of Innovation, we are celebrating these “failures” and seeing them as challenges to continue to talk, think, rethink, repeat, throw out, tweak and re-imagine…

fail

Quote seen in Tweet during #asbunplugged

I am excited to see how we will continue to make thinking visible in Math and help students write /blog about their thinking strategies in order to become fluent in the language of Math. A big thank you goes out to Adam for  learning along side!
Stay tuned for Part 2 in Visible Thinking in Math…

How to Cite Images on Your Blog

copyrighted

When using Copyrighted work with written permission from owner…

citation-arrowUsed with permission from “name” , URL link to original source and or owner online presence.

Ex. Used with permission from Silvia Tolisano http://langwitches.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/google-glass-recording-225×225.jpg

creative-commons

When using images licensed under Creative Commons…

citation-arrowImage licensed under Creative Commons by “name or username “. Link to original source.

Ex. Image licensed under Creative Commons by langwitches- http://langwitches.org/blog/2014/02/13/google-glass-recording-at-schools/

public_domain

When using an image falling under Public Domain, you are not required to cite the creator/owner of the work. A teacher or student wanting to model awareness for Public Domain might want to choose to include.

citation-arrowImage from Public Domain by “name”. Link to original source.

 

fair_use

When using images claiming Fair Use, you have to give full credit to original creator , with name  as well as link to original source (ex. Book or website)

citation-arrowImage used, claiming Fair Use. “Full Name”- and source of original work.

 

Click to enlarge poster.

citing-images-onblog-tolisano

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citing-images-thumb

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