Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Notebooking Unleashed

Chisholm Trail Middle School and Prairie View Elementary School share a lot more than just a parking lot. Both campuses are brimming with innovative and creative professionals, continually seeking opportunities to transform student learning.  Mrs. Branstetter, fifth grade ELA teacher at Prairie View, Mrs. Bush, eighth grade ELA teacher from Chisholm, and Mrs. Thompson, eighth grade ELA teacher at Chisholm decided to think outside the box this year! All three teachers have been exploring options for students to digitally record and organize writing assignments completed in class.   Teachers hoped to provide a way for students to collect work so they could easily revisit content throughout the year, independently seeking feedback and monitoring their own progress.
Often times, the most common barrier teachers face when implementing more opportunities for feedback and progress monitoring is management.  Teachers are left wondering… How do I provide adequate feedback to all my students?  With 100+ students, how can I access all these stacks of journals anytime, anyplace?  How can I ensure it’s timely?  All of these questions bring up valid points.  In the article, 7 Keys to Effective Feedback, Grant Wiggins utilizes the research of John Hattie to develop the essentials of providing feedback.  Wiggins states feedback should be actionable, user-friendly, timely, ongoing, and consistent.  He also encourages educators to “work overtime to figure out ways to ensure that students get more timely feedback and opportunities to use it while the attempt and effects are still fresh in their minds.”  He goes on to say, “Before you say that this is impossible, remember… technology is one powerful tool.”  

These 3 teachers did just what Wiggins suggested, working overtime and turning to technology to find a solution!  The answer they had been searching for was interactive digital notebooks.  While maintaining a paper journal in class remains a priority, when appropriate, students also utilize a digital notebook for assignments where interactive feedback would be beneficial.  

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Through the use of Google Sites, students are able to upload writing assignments and organize them in a fashion that’s easy to follow.  This process allows students to share their work easily with their teacher, classmates, and even parents.  By publishing their notebook, students can even reach an audience outside the walls of their classroom.  Imagine the implications of this for a student applying for a job, internship, or even college scholarship.  All of their work is at their fingertips and only a click away from sharing with the world.  With the potential for such a large audience at play, Northwest ISD has recommendations in place for students with regards to keeping their personal information private.  Classroom teachers have also explored ways for students to maintain utmost privacy on personal documents, such as progress monitoring.  For example, when students in Mrs. Branstetter’s class upload their grade monitoring document to their site, they will enable the “share” settings for only their teacher to be able to see.  When visitors click on this part of their site, they will receive a message that they do not have access to this individual document.  It’s the best of both worlds!    

Click the pictures below to enlarge the images and see a glimpse of a student notebook. In this example, the assignments from Unit 1 have been collected and organized on one page. The second image shows the section reserved for student Cornell Notes.

Looking ahead, these teachers see limitless possibilities for student success using this digital format.  As teachers attempting to prepare their students for a transition to the next level of school, either Middle School or High School, teachers are considering the potential of sharing these notebooks with teachers from the feeder campus students will attend.  At the end of the school year, students could give their soon to be teachers, a glimpse of what they have accomplished, prior to embarking on their next level in school.  Teachers would have a window into the classrooms of the previous year.  The vertical alignment this would allow for is priceless. With a little research and a lot of hard work, these teachers transformed an often mundane task into a dynamic learning experience for their students'.

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