On January 31, I shared with several teachers about the possibilities of using Evernote to document student learning in literacy. Led by Amber Garbe (@ReadattheEDGE), this group of reading teachers have a growth mindset. They did not get frustrated when the technology did not always work for them. I enjoyed learning with these teachers. The purpose of this post is to summarize our learning.
Do you ever feel stuck when using technology? So many possibilities, when you just want to accomplish one thing? The story Stuck by Oliver Jeffers nicely describes this sense of frustration. The main character throws everything he can at a problem (kite stuck in a tree) when he should have focused on the problem itself instead of the tools.
Evernote is one tool that can address our need to better document learning when conferring with readers and writers. (A rationale for this technology is recorded in this Voicethread.)
The point I made is we need to allow the students to take control of their learning. This can be accomplished by being a learner as opposed to a teacher when guiding students to become readers and writers. Our learning takes place when we are close to the source (the student). Evernote can help a teacher measure student learning with tools that help them see and hear what the students know and are able to do. They are not just a reading level.
Much of this information comes from Knowing Literacy by Peter Johnston (1997). Although it was published fifteen years ago, this resource feels like it was written yesterday. He states that as assessments become more standardized and distanced from the student, the less trust and ownership there is between the student and teacher. This graphic is a visual I developed to better understand this assessment relationship.
Once we established why there is a need to use tools such as Evernote, it was time to discuss how. Instead of telling participants, I showed a video of one of my teachers actually using an iPad to capture student learning and inform her instruction. (This is when technology failed me. The video was choppy and we didn't get to watch it all. Even if it had worked properly, it would not be shown here to protect the privacy of the student.) As we watched, I encouraged teachers to notice how the teacher:
Embedded assessment within her instruction;
Acted as a learner rather than a teacher;
Asked questions on what the student did right as well as what needs improvement;
Focused on strengths; and
Showed understanding that literacy is not always linear.
At this point we dug into Evernote. After everyone got registered, we built mock notebooks and notes. From there I shared some different ways teachers could document their students' learning. Here were a few suggestions:
In the beginning of the year, ask students questions about their reading and writing habits. Record the conversation. Later in the year, review the audio from this interview with the student and facilitate a new one to promote reflection and growth. You can find a good interview template in Janet Allen's Yellow Brick Roads.
Personal Learning Goals
Students could use the check boxes in Evernote to list what they would like to accomplish for the quarter, semester or year. Donalyn Miller's goal for her students from The Book Whisperer of forty books from a variety of genres would be a good example. When they reach a goal, they can check off the box (and set a new goal).
Although a teacher could also house students' quantitative data such as running records in a note, it's important to also develop a story of each reader's progress throughout the year. This can be one note with just a running narrative of their current reality, where they need to go, and how to get there. One incentive for using Evernote is the ability to share information with colleagues and parents. What will be most useful for them?
A teacher could feasibly contain a gallery of a student's writing within one note. Giving each image of their writing a quick title along with a few comments would be all that it would require. The rest of the work should be handed over to the student, in the form of looking at their own work while the teacher asks, “What are you doing well?” and “What would you like to work on?”
We ended our session with each teacher sharing one takeaway from the night's session. The word that seemed to be heard the most was “possibilities”.
What other ways do you or could you use Evernote to confer with readers and writers? Please share in the comments.