Can you hear the learner’s voice?

Do conventional report cards give parents a true description of a child’s learning? If not, what would improve them?

This was the driving question behind yesterday’s #edchat conversation. I assume that ‘conventional report cards’ vary in different educational contexts around the globe. And I’m sure they have much in common in the attempt to reduce the exciting, messy, complex process of learning to something tiny and uniform that fits into an envelope.

Can you hear the learner’s voice in your reports?

It never ceases to amaze me how many people think that teachers can ’cause learning without the student’s help,’ as Dylan William says in this great little clip about metacognition. 

The most telling part of my school’s reports is the student reflection. It reveals a great deal, not just about the learner but  about how the learning takes place…

Some snippets from our current Year 5 and 6 report reflections:

Compare these, which focus on ‘work’ and ‘results’…

‘I worked really hard… and in the end it all paid off because I got an A.’

‘I have improved immensely in spelling. I got 41 out of 50 however, I still think there is room for improvement.’

‘In maths I don’t think I am living up to my potential, as I am not getting the results I would have liked to.’

‘I think I need to work on listening to instructions more carefully.’

… to these, which focus on learning…

‘This year I have extended my knowledge, matured and have shown that I can overcome anything if I really focus and concentrate on all the obstacles that are in the way of my destination – succeeding and doing my utmost. I think that I am a curious and open minded learner. ‘

‘In Inquiry, I’m like someone running and picking up speed and momentum. Last year, finding a big question was so baffling but now it’s simple. These last three inquiries have been so absorbing, I have been like a sponge waiting for more knowledge to absorb into my brain.’

‘Throughout primary school you do units of inquiry. At the beginning of this semester, I thought that I was locating facts and presenting them. In this semester, I have learned not just facts but deeper understandings and meanings. I have also improved my creativity in linking ideas in units of inquiry’.

‘I have learnt many skills about writing speeches and how they are not just a read-out narrative, how to raise my voice when talking about something important, speak in a different tone or to move my hands in certain way to get people’s attention. I still think I need to improve on my writing skills and how to convert thoughts into words and get them on the paper.’

Can you hear the learner’s voice?

Related post: 10 ways to encourage student reflection

Why was You Tube invented?

What Ed and Linda said... A collaborative post about teaching media literacy.

Media literacy is the ability to analyse, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms.

This is the central idea behind our latest unit of inquiry in Year 5. It’s a new unit and some of the teachers are still feeling their way, as it’s an area in which their 11-year-old students might be slightly more comfortable than they are.

By the end of the unit we hope students (and teachers) will understand…

  • what literacy means today (more than reading and writing!)
  • that media literacy is the ability to access, analyse, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms.
  • that there is always a message, sometimes obvious sometimes hidden.
  • that we  are influenced in many ways which we might not even be aware of.
  • the need to critically analyse and evaluate the messages in different media forms.
  • that we need to be responsible in creating content that others can see.
  • that we can get our own message across creatively.
  • that there are consequences to the messages we create.
  • that we should always be aware of the digital footprint we are creating.
  • that being informed can empower us.

The teachers designed a great provocation to tune students in. As well as class teachers, all the specialists were involved – ICT, library, art and music. We wanted to start the students thinking by bombarding them with an array of different kinds of media. The classrooms and our adjacent Learning Resource Centre were set up with laptop computers, interactive whiteboards, iPods and iPads. Included were videos, advertisements (video and still), excerpts from TV shows, music videos, books, QR codes, artwork, websites, text messages, blogs, cartoons, newspapers, magazines and emails.

The kids had to go to a range of types of media, which were colour coded to make sure they visited a few in each category. In pairs they discussed and made notes on what they saw, and what it made them think. Lots of excited chat – ‘Why is this all here?’

Back in their classrooms students reflected on what had made an impression on them, and why.

How did the provocation make you feel?

  • Overwhelmed because of the quantity and the variety of things. (Julian and Bailey)
  • Excited about the new information. (Jared and Benji)
  • Surprised how educational all the info was. (Jamie and Ethan)
  • Complex, confused but amazed (Taya)
  • Mixed emotions because there were so many messages going around (Jade and Lexi)
  • Interested as everything was different and interesting in its own way. (Chloe)
  • Fascinated by so many facts (Joel and Izzy.)
  • Appreciative because we see and use so many different forms of communication. (Alyshia)

The Year 5 team met yesterday, a few weeks into the unit, to discuss how the learning is unfolding and what direction it might take next. We looked at some of the students’ questions to assess where their understandings and interests currently lie. We were quite taken with this one:

Why was You Tube invented? (Mia)

It will be interesting to have the students unpack that particular question further. It should provide a stimulus for some wonderful thinking and discussion. What is the purpose of You Tube? How is it used? How has it evolved? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Why is it blocked in some places?

A year ago You Tube was unblocked in our school for the first time. Our students quickly became not only consumers but creators, learning to upload their own videos and embed them in class blogs. How exciting to move from consuming to creating and now to to analysing.

Would you like to participate in their inquiry? What’s your opinion? Why was YouTube invented?