Making Digital Artifacts Work: Part 1

This is the first post in a series about making digital artifacts of student learning work for you as a teacher.  In this series we will discuss the types of digital artifacts we collect, how we manage them, and what to do with all of those great pieces of evidence of student learning.

A student shares important elements of their book club book using a digital tool
A student shares important elements of their book club book using a digital tool

What is a digital artifact?

Digital artifacts can be photos, notes, student projects, blog posts, Tweets and just about anything that students create using digital tools.  They comprise a mixture of student created and teacher documented artifacts of learning over the course of the year.

Digital artifacts are great supplements, in some cases replacements, to traditional artifacts that we collect in the classroom because they add elements that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to capture.  For example, teachers often collect student notebooks to read through writing, gather evidence about skills learned and applied, and check on the sheer volume of work that kids are doing.  Digital artifacts can add student voice and reflection to this.

Instead of attempting to confer with every kid we can capture their voices and thinking through the use of technology tools.  We can ask kids to create reflection presentations or portfolios of digital work using screen shots and simple apps like Keynote, SonicPics, or iMovie.  Essentially digital artifacts give us more information than we have ever had about our learners.

We capture snapshots of kids at work and use these to make our record keeping rich and reflective.
We capture snapshots of kids at work and use these to make our record keeping rich and reflective.

How do I begin collecting digital artifacts?

I like to the start the year with something simple like capturing photos of students at work and a few notes about the photo in my Evernote account.  A notebook for each student holds these notes, snippets of conversations, and other work samples over the course of the year.  This is a tool for me to learn more about my kids and to use for reflection when planning.

Figure 5.11
This anchor chart appears in our new book Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the the K-5 Classroom

With students it’s important to discuss what archiving is. We give kids examples of the types of work they might want to collect over time.  We discuss how each of these items can be used for reflection on ourselves as learners.  We also make time for this process, reminding students at the end of a lesson to capture a snapshot of learning from the day or to tag a post with a special tag like “learning” or “archive” so that they can easily find it later.  At the end of a unit or quarter we set aside time to review these artifacts, reflect on learning and growth, set goals, and share with peers and parents.

What types of digital artifacts are the most important to collect?

Although going digital as a teacher has its benefits I believe that the most important artifacts are those that students have created.  These might be video diaries/blogs of students sharing learning, short projects or work samples, specific blog posts, exit tickets, or other student created work.

A student prepares images for an audio reflection on reading strategies.
A student prepares images for an audio reflection on reading strategies.

We encourage students to collect a variety of samples across subject areas and those that best showcase their growth as a learner.  Times when they can pinpoint how, when, and why  they met goals and showed growth.

We empower kids by giving them the ownership over their learning and reflection process through these digital artifacts and set up structures to help students catapult themselves to success.  These structures include student checklists, goal setting sheets, and conferences.

A student shares a screenshot demonstrating their ability to model and use numbers to solve a math problem. This image is saved for reflection at the end of the unit.
A student shares a screenshot demonstrating their ability to model and use numbers to solve a math problem. This image is saved for reflection at the end of the unit.

Check back on Friday for our next post in this series on managing student digital artifacts.  We’ll talk about how to handle all of the new work that you have available to you.

2 thoughts on “Making Digital Artifacts Work: Part 1”

  1. We are moving along slowly with integrating technology into our classrooms. We have three 6th grade classrooms piloting chrome books. This blog hit my inbox at just the right moment as I was thinking and preparing for a meeting with these teachers! I hope you guys give ideas that relate to the PC world and not only the Mac. 🙂 I just pre-ordered your book. So exciting!!!

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