Thinking back to my own schooling experiences, I can’t remember ever being asked to become a curator of my own learning. In asking my colleagues to reflect on this same idea, most of them could not recall having to do this either. Responsibility for learning was never really a public affair for us growing up. Rather, our knowledge and accomplishments were showcased through the completion of tests, projects, research papers, and homework – all great ways to assess understanding of a students learning, but not very powerful in allowing students to reflect on their learning nor understanding how to present themselves responsibly within the public domain.
Since working at an Expeditionary Learning School for the last 3 years of my teaching career, I have come to realize just how important being able to post to a public audience is to the learning of my students. As a part of our school philosophy, we coach every student starting in grade 6 on how to showcase their learning journey through the curating of a digital portfolio. Being a part of a public school, we do not have the ability to let students have their own public domain such as the schools that I read about in Audrey Watter’s post, “The Web We Need to Give Students.” so the public aspect to our students’ portfolios isn’t quite as extensive as those found in this article. Like the article mentioned, they too have the ability to include text, images, video, and audio recordings to personalize their journey. To quote the article, “[these] opportunities [allow students] to express themselves in a variety of ways beyond the traditional pen-and-paper test or essay. After engaging with this article further, I realize that our system definitely has room for improvement when it comes to coaching students on digital story-telling. Oftentimes, I as a teacher get so caught up in figuring out how to coach students to post responsibly that I forget to relax on certain criteria and allow students some freedom in how to design their own website or make their own decisions for what to include in it. One particular sentence in the article resonated with me and forced me to confront this particular downfall with our system.
“Schools routinely caution students about the things they post on social media, and the tenor of this conversation — particularly as translated by the media — is often tinged with fears that students will be seen “doing bad things” or “saying bad things” that will haunt them forever.”
The teachers and I at my school are at times guilty of harboring this fear and allowing it to drive our digital citizenship talks. At times, it also puts a damper on students’ creativity within their portfolios. Further reflecting about this, I am wondering what my team and I could do better to allow students to express their learning while still helping them to understand “how to think through the data trails they’re leaving behind?”
This reading also forced me to confront how I ask students to showcase their proficiency in my math classroom and realize that I could do more to reach out to different learning style through digital story-telling. What if my students kept a digital portfolio instead of a notebook? What if instead of traditional notes, they created their own mathematical archives and domains through video and visuals? What if students created their own versions of tests and quizzes via blogs and held each other accountable for the learning on a public domain? It looks like I have a lot of re-thinking to do as a result of engaging with this reading.