Making Digital Artifacts Work: Part 2

This is the second 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.  You can read the first post in this series here.

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A student uses Pic Collage to share their top ten favorite books with classmates and Twitter buddies.

What do I do with all of these digital work samples!?!?!

Unless you are an organizational wizard you probably already have some stacks of papers collecting in a basket or on a table somewhere.  It’s only September!  Digital artifacts are fantastic but what can we do when we have an inbox full of video responses to view instead of a stack of written responses to read?  Digital artifacts can and will often take more time to review, especially at the beginning when you are thoughtfully thinking through how you want to integrate them.  However, you don’t have to give up all of your time to devote to these artifacts.

  1. Impose time limits: Students can and will record a five to ten minute video if you let them.  Teaching kids how to create a media response is key.  We model for them, demonstrate how to plan (or not in some cases) and show how we are mindful of time. In the example below we see a student’s third attempt at creating a short and to the point video that captured her most essential questions from a short video the class had watched.  The process of limiting herself forced her to narrow her thinking to the most essential pieces to share with the teacher and class.  Additional questions were kept in her notebook and revisited when time allowed.
  1. Reflect on the task: If students are struggling with time limits we sit back and reflect on the task that we’ve asked them to complete.  What did we hope to accomplish?  What did we hope that students would learn or demonstrate?  I’ve left more than one class session thinking “that should have been done in 20 minutes, why did it take 50 and some kids still need more time?”  There is a time and a place for using technology as a reflective tool.  As you learn more about how and why you want to use these strategies reflect, reflect, reflect.  What opportunities provide the most information for you and benefit to students.
  2. Spot Check: Lucy Calkins once said that if she was able to sit down and read everything that her students wrote then they weren’t writing enough.  I will confess.  I do not always look at every single video, every single time.  There are situations in which we might spot check the class for overall understanding or focus in on a core group of students who we identified as possibly needing more support during a conference or lesson.  Yes you want to try and look at as much student work as possible, but you also have to be realistic.
  3. Engage Students in Self & Peer-Reflection: We teach students self reflection skills and partner feedback skills to help support kids when we can’t always be present.  This feedback is an essential part of the learning cycle as they work with and support each other on everything from giving effective video book talks to math strategies used in a screencast.

    A student uses a photo annotating app to self-reflect using a checklist the class brainstormed together on the whiteboard.
    A student uses a photo annotating app to self-reflect using a checklist the class brainstormed together on the whiteboard.

We all know teaching is a balancing act.  Hopefully, at the end of the day, we can find a system that works well for us and our students.  Remember, kids need to own the learning.  So teaching them to take on part of these responsibilities is both effective for you and them!

Check back next week for our next post in this series.  Three ideas for digital artifacts you can try tomorrow!

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