When you change the way that teaching/learning happens in a classroom or a school, you quickly discover that additional changes are needed to support it. We have been in the process of learning ALL of those things that are affected by changing the classroom model. At Anastasis Academy, we are largely paperless. Our students still write with paper pencil, create posters and projects, but much of their work is done in Evernote, iMovie, Stop Motion HD, Pages, Keynote, and Notes on their iPads. When you take away worksheets, traditional quizzes and tests from the classroom, there isn’t a whole lot to send home as a “Friday folder.”
As teachers, we were pretty comfortable with not having a Friday folder. We were seeing all of the incredible evidences of learning that the students were creating. The problem: parents aren’t always seeing those same evidences. Either the parents aren’t sure where to look, kids are feeling tight lipped or blogs aren’t subscribed to properly or read regularly. We were hearing often from parents, ‘I know that they are progressing, I know that amazing things are happening, but I’m not quite sure how to prove it to myself. I’m not sure where to look.’ Because we also don’t give homework, parents can’t use that as a gauge of what kids are doing in the classroom. So, we needed a solution. One day while @Matthewquigley and I were rehashing and wracking our brains for the best way to do this without taxing our teachers to the point of burnout, @Matthewquigley had a stroke of pure genius. “What if we did something like a podcast Friday folder?”
The more we thought about it, the more we liked audio as a solution. @Matthewquigley and I can walk into a classroom at any given moment and ask students and teachers what they are observing/inferring/learning/noticing and they can give you a great answer. It is easy to talk about students and to tell those great stories about a student that often get forgotten before parent-teacher conferences. It is equally easy to talk about the work you are doing in class, when you are still in class where one project isn’t lost among the plethora of activities and learning that happened in the day/week.
We went full steam ahead with this idea. First, I looked at audio recording apps for the teacher iPads. I wanted something that would be easy to use, give us the ability to categorize, easily sync over wifi, and email the audio recording to parents and admin. The clear winner was Voxie Pro. It was simple enough to do everything we needed, without too many extra bells and whistles to distract.
Here is what we did:
Length- 30 seconds to 1:30 per student
Frequency- every other week
Purpose: to help communicate the progress that students are making, to collect an audio body of evidence that helps tell the story of student growth, to aid in the building of the digital portfolio.
Teacher should include: what has been observed, noticed, inferred
Topics: Social/emotional, spiritual, academic
Student should include: Something they are proud of, want to share and where parent can find it in pictures, Evernote, iMovie, the interwebs, etc.
Student could read a few sentences to show progress in skills, explain Bible verse they discussed that week, re-tell a story, explain a new concept, etc.
What I noticed/observed/inferred:
A project/blog post/discussion that I want to share/am proud of: _________________________
My parents can learn more about it here:________________________________________
The first wave of these audio emails went out today. They turned out great! Parents know exactly what is happening in the classroom as it pertains to their child and kids are sharing work that they are proud of and reminding themselves (and mom and dad) where they can find it. Not only do parents have a great bi-weekly update specific to their child, they have a timeline of learning and progress at the end of the year. Imagine the implication of starting a program like this in kindergarten, and following the student all the way through middle school. You would have a week-by-week of what was learned, what strengths and weaknesses were exhibited, but also have that precious student voice throughout the years.
What I like about the audio Friday folder, is the ability to say more about a child than a worksheet with a star at the top can. With the audio, you can communicate things about the development of a child. Their progress in math when they struggled and struggled, but stuck with it to the end. Their empathy for other students when they notice another student who is lonely in the lunch room and get up and invite their friends to sit with that student. Their maturation as they handle a conflict with another student appropriately. I especially love that students can highlight a project(s) that they are particularly proud of and help mom and dad find it. That is a dinner conversation starter! With any luck, we will forever banish the “what did you do at school today?” question. In it’s place, “I’m really proud of you for sticking with that math when it was so difficult, what was it that you were working on? How did you finally solve it?”