By Mike Boon, Year 5&6 teacher, Carew Peel Forest School
Towards the end of last year I mused over the nature of teacher reporting to parents.
My thesis (ooohhh, fancy word!) was based around the extremely stagnant nature of reports. That is, because we are only reporting to parents every half year, most of the time what we are putting in our reports is already out of date. Often by many months.
My end-of-year post was inspired by this tweet from Miss D:
Q3: How might we make reporting better? Don't judge ideas yet. Just brain storm! #edchatNZquestion #edchatNZ pic.twitter.com/1uACoutIUM— Danielle Myburgh (@MissDtheTeacher) November 27, 2014
My post was also inspired by my son's kindergarten and their regular posts on his Educa profile. Anyone with preschool children at an early childhood centre using Educa will know how fabulous it is when you read another story on how your child is learning on their own and with others.
If you have ever seen the work being done by students at Point England School in Auckland you will be well aware of their use blogging to record their learning. I was first shown these at a professional learning day back in the April holidays. I was at a breakout showing how Blogger could be used to record teacher registration evidence. As the breakout progressed, my brain-musings began to increase. How could I use this in my class to record the learning of my students? What would the role of the students be in recording their own learning? How could I be involved in recording and reporting on their learning?
After musing on this for a few months and deciding, as a class, on going down the Google Apps / Hapara route, I made the decision to go with Blogger and to use it to report to parents in a similar way as my son's kindy was reported on his learning (he is now at school and doing very nicely).
Blogger allows the students or me to post while parents, or anyone for that matter (brothers, sisters, grand-parents, overseas relatives etc), are able to to sign up to follow the blog. Every time there is a post, they get an email alert. Alternatively people can subscribe via their RSS reader. Readers can also comment on the blog post.
ASIDE: What's in a learning story?
How I've structured my learning stories is very similar to how my son's former kindy did.
- Outline what was observed.
- Point out what learning was happening.
- Suggest next steps for my teaching.
- Link the learning back to our school curriculum.
- Tag the post with the learning area (reading, writing, maths, pe etc) so it is easy to find later on.
My son’s former kindy had the goal of completing one learning story per student per month. I am trying to keep to this. However, at the time of writing, some students had more than two last term, while others had one, or none at all.
I am in my very early stages of this form of reporting to parents; it's only been going for a term! I do, however, feel rather enthused by the whole thing. What it's done is made me really hunt out the authentic learning moments my students are having. Now there’s such a thing as Mr. Boon running across the room to get his phone, taking pictures of learning, and then fiddling about on the phone while assuring students, “it’s ok everyone! I’m just emailing myself!!”
As @mrs_hyde pointed out after reading the link...
@boonman The example of June's 5/10 moment - is that on all of her group's blogs? Thinking about work load - worthwhile, but sustainable? — Annemarie Hyde (@mrs_hyde) July 30, 2015
As I mentioned above, some students have missed a learning story last term, so her point about sustainability is valid. It really is about making sure you are prepared. You also need to be looking at group & collaborative work and seeking opportunities to report on collaborative learning moments. This way you reduce the need to write two learning stories for each student. 46 different blog posts for the whole term - 1 every two days - unsustainable.
Mr Devil’s Advocate would say, “but Boon, aren’t these meant to be individualised to each student?”
Having the same blog post, albeit slightly edited, for different students is exactly what we do when we’re writing our more traditional 6-monthly reports. Because students in, say, your Stage 5 maths group would have been learning the same bits, you end up using the same report comments. Yes, you may edit them slightly, but essentially they are the same because, as a teacher, you don’t want to be doubling up on the workload.
So far there have been a few technical issues, but on the whole the parents who filled out my Google Form reported that it was a nice idea. It’s also been pleasing to see some parents engaged in their child’s blog with comments. I am interested to see what the blogs look like by the end of next year once students have been posting on them for 18 months.
I fully believe we have to turn reporting to parents into something as simple as a facebook post. This way parents are far likelier to engage with their children’s learning. Although Blogger doesn’t quite offer me the ease of tweeting a photo or liking a post, it does go part of the way to fulfilling my goal of bringing reporting to parents into the 21st century.
Happy Connected Educators Month!
Mr B.PS: You’ll be pleased to know I’ve already started on the 23 traditional reports due at the end of November.