A couple of weeks ago, an educator that I truly admire and love learning with/from, Royan Lee, asked me to write a guest blog post as part of his #MyWorkFlow series. I loved Royan’s questions and had a lot of fun answering them. This post gave me an opportunity to reflect on what I do and why I do it, and looking now at other posts in the #MyWorkFlow series, it’s interesting to compare the similarities and differences between so many of us.
After Royan published and tweeted out the post this morning, Diana Hong sent me a tweet that made me realize the need for an FDK addendum to the post.
Diana is not the first person that’s asked me this question, and when talking about “work flow,” maybe it’s time to address this question in more detail.
Here is what I do.
- I carry my iPad with me everywhere. This makes it easy for me to take a photograph and write down what children are saying and doing.
- I use the Pic Collage For Kids app most often, as I can take a photograph and annotate right in the app. I used to use Pic Collage, but I like how the kids version doesn’t have all of the advertisements and has more child-safe stickers and backgrounds included. Then I don’t have to worry as much about the app content when I’m trying to make a Pic Collage with the students.
- I sit down (and/or squat) to document the learning right away with the children. This can be a challenge. Sometimes another child calls me over. Sometimes there’s a problem, and I need to stand up, go and help solve it, and then come back to finish my documentation. But if I sit down, I can still see everyone else, but the children are a little less drawn to me. It’s less likely that more children will run over and talk to me, so I can stay focused on the task at hand. It’s kind of like the idea of out of sight, out of mind (or maybe we’re just continuing to work on Piaget’s object permanence. 🙂 )
- I aim for 2-3 minutes of focused attention with a group. Yes, it would be great to sit for longer with students, and sometimes this happens, but usually it’s hard to just stay with a couple of children for longer than about 3 minutes. Instead I try to make the most out of my time with them. I observe what’s happening. I try to record what children are saying and doing. And, if the opportunity presents itself, I strive for a mini-lesson, often connected to Language or Math. Then I circle back to see the children again during the day, to either extend the learning from before or focus on a different area.
- We don’t have “maximum numbers” for any area in the classroom, and my partner usually has a large group of children working with her. Our students love connections with adults. They gravitate towards them. We’ve used this knowledge to help meet more student needs in the classroom. My partner usually sits down at the one large table in our room, and other children join her there. When she’s working with a large group of children, there are less other children spread around the classroom, which makes it easier for me to spend some quality time observing and talking with these other students.
- I have an amazing partner. We both document learning, and then I can tweet out everything. This allows me to share more documentation without doing double the work. Often, this leads to some great discussions afterwards, as we can talk about similarities and differences between our observations, and plan next steps accordingly.
- I make use of video documentation. If discussions are happening at a fast pace or there are a lot of children involved, it’s hard to write everything down, so sometimes videos work better. Then I can focus on just watching and listening, which usually helps with my questions. I am forever working on asking better questions.
- If one iPad is good, two is better! 🙂 While I always have one iPad with me, it’s not abnormal for me to carry more than one around, or go and grab an extra one if needed. Then I can upload a video on one iPad, when recording a video or creating a Pic Collage on another one. This requires some multi-tasking that works better with practise.
- I make use of Instagram. While I love Pic Collage For Kids because I can take multiple pictures and add in multiple text boxes at the same time, sometimes I just want one photograph with a more detailed written component. Twitter limits me to 140 characters, and this is rarely enough. With Instagram though, I can write a paragraph of text with a single photograph, and I can cross-post it to Twitter. It’s like the best of both worlds!
- I have the Full-Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program document memorized (or at least I have all of the big ideas and major topic areas committed to memory). This allows me to easily add the curriculum connections to the Pic Collages, tweets, and/or Instagram posts without having to look back for the wording. With Pic Collage, I usually use a different colour to make these curriculum links stand out, so for interested parents, administrators, and/or colleagues, they can easily see the “why” behind what we’ve done.
- Some children also document. We have a number of students that really enjoy documenting their learning, and they’re beginning to use Pic Collage For Kids to do so. A couple have also used Explain Everything. This provides the very important child perspective in our daily tweets.
- I don’t worry about perfection. If you listen to our videos, you’ll often hear a child scream my name in the middle of one or even come to me with a question, and you may even hear me say, “Just a minute.” I teach Kindergarten. Interruptions are almost a given, but I’ve stopped worrying if they’re overheard in a video recording. The learning is captured too, and that’s what’s important. And there’s always the option of editing out a problem …
- Sometimes I document more than others. Every day is different. Sometimes there are additional challenges that make documentation harder. In that case, I might document less … or at least share less online. There are also times of the day that are harder. When my partner goes for her lunch and I’m alone, I can’t document as much as I can when she’s there, so I don’t worry about that. I know that I’ll see the learning at another time during the day or maybe even on a different day.
- I rely on my good memory. Thank goodness my memory has always been a strength of mine. This is especially valuable when I’m outside with the children, and I may not have a chance to record as much as I’d like. I remember snippets of what students say, and I take photographs to trigger my memory. Then I take about five minutes as soon as I come inside (always on my lunchtime) to write everything down.
- Tweets don’t have to happen at the minute when the learning does. I do like to tweet things out as soon as possible, so that I don’t forget to do so over the course of the day. That said, sometimes the classroom is a busy place, and I can’t tweet out the Pic Collages and videos as I take them. I just make sure to open the videos in tabs on the Internet browser, so that I can share the links whenever I get a moment. I then usually spend about 5 minutes at the beginning of a nutrition break or on my prep sharing anything that I didn’t get a chance to share earlier.
- I limit my words. Usually most of my thinking and learning is captured in the photographs (Pic Collages or Instagram posts) or in the videos. I then keep my tweets short, and this makes them easier to send out quickly. If I’m alone when I send them out, I also use Siri, as I can type a lot faster with my voice (even though I type fairly quickly with my hands 🙂 ).
As I write this post, I realize just how many layers there are to this system of mine, but it is a system that allows me to usually document a lot of learning as well as share a lot with others (parents, administrators, and fellow educators). It’s also quite a productive system that doesn’t take as long as it appears in this post.
How do you document student learning and share it with others? I’d love to know different documentation systems that could even make me more productive in my work flow.