flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

I recently wrote a reflection about different examples of hands on learning that I have been a part of lately. Although there was no question as to whether these different situations involved learning, what seemed missing was a means of effectively elaborating upon the intricacies of the various lessons and activities.

Take the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Program for example. Students engage in a range of activities, including exploring how to care for a garden, developing an awareness of seasons and learning the different skills used when cooking food. This is done while working in groups of six. The usual practise of reflection involves students (not groups) answering a series of set questions each session relating to the focus on the session, either while the food was cooking or as the various materials were being packed up by support staff.Now this was useful to help fill out the time and provide a point of summative assessment, but often meant that the questions used were one-size fits all and did not necessarily capture what may have happened while learning. For example, one week I worked with a group to cook a stir-fry. Each member shared the jobs, taking in turn cutting vegetables or cooking the food. What stood out to me though was how some members took initiative and helped out others. Sharing their prior knowledge and understanding to help other members in the group. Although the questions at the end may have touched on this, it was not necessarily the focus.  One answer to this dilemma is to incorporate more formative assessment through the act of documentation.

One of the key values of Reggio Emilia, documentation involves learners engaging with artefacts relating to their learning. These artefacts can be in any form. Maybe a conversation recorded, a piece of incomplete work or a video capturing learning in action. It can be easy to dismiss the idea of documentation as just a portfolio of work, collected together. The purpose though is not necessarily to summarise products and projects, but rather develop a deeper understanding and provide a narrative. The focus is not to represent a ‘final’ piece of work, but rather a snapshot of learning to focus on. This inquiry may involve questioning what has been done, reflecting on the process and critiquing the product. As Mara Krechevsky, Melissa Rivard, Ben Mardell, Daniel Wilson suggest in Visible Learners,

Documentation supports the social principle of learning by communicating the importance of the experiences captured, the knowledge gained, and those who participated.

An obvious means of supporting this process is through the use of technology.The most common technology used is the digital camera to capture moments. Gary Stager provides an extensive list of possibilities when it comes to photography and documentation. One of the problems though with just using a digital camera is that it is difficult to view the content using the device, meaning that it needs to be uploaded elsewhere.One solution to this dilemma is to use a mobile devices that not only allows you to capture content, but organise it as well. An iPad works really well for this. Beyond the means of capturing learning in a number of ways, it is portable. By allocating an iPad to each group provides a means for different people to capture significant moments as they arise and then use a range applications to organise it. Some options include:

  • Book Creator: A simple application for collecting different artefacts in one place on the go, whether it be images, video or audio. In addition to this, users can add text to provide further context which can be useful when looking back at a later point.
  • Adobe Voice and Slate: Similar to Book Creator, Adobe Voice and Slate allows users to present information in one place. Both have their limitations, but also provide a useful constraint which can help focus the act of documentation. Usually used more reflective, rather than on the go.
  • Google Apps: Whether it be SlidesDocs or Keep, each offer a simple way of capturing content and are available on iOS. They provide the means to share with different members. Google Photos can also be used to simply share videos and images. An alternative to this is Evernote.
  • Seesaw: A cross between a blog and an learning management system, Seesaw provides the means to capture learning in any form. Like spaces such as Edmodo, you can create groups and classes. However, what is different is that even with just one iPad in a classroom you can quickly allocate artefacts to different students. You can also share iBooks created with Book Creator or Adobe Voice videos, as well as continue to develop the conversation further afterwards. An alternative to the various intricacies of Seesaw is having a class blog organised around tags and categories.

So what about instead of students working individually writing their responses they instead got together and considered the various documentation colaboratively? Making their thinking visible. Looking back in order to look forward? As Mara Krechevsky, Melissa Rivard, Ben Mardell and Daniel Wilson assert,

Learners are in groups all the time while they are in school but not all these groups are learning groups. In learning groups, members are engaged in solving problems, creating products, and making meaning; students and adults learn from one another by encountering new perspectives, strategies, and ways of thinking. Members of learning groups also learn with one another by modifying, extending, clarifying, and enriching their own ideas and the ideas of others.

In the end, I don’t think that this is isolated. The same could be said for all of learning. So what about you, how do you celebrate process of learning, whether it be camps, cooking or coding? As always, comments welcome.


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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

For so long Adobe has been known for its focus on design, but with the move into the mobile world, they have also become just as much about creativity within constraint. Dr. Tim Kitchen recently visited Brookside to support students and staff in exploring various possibilities. Some of the Adobe products that he shared were:

Presenter Video Express: Similar to Office Mix, Video Express provides the means for creating videos for flipped learning. Once you have developed a presentation and then recorded your voice over the top, you can easily toggle between the different options to focus on the text or video at various stages.

Voice and Slate: There is a reason that these two applications share the same blog. In many ways these two iPad applications are related. Whether it be the look and feel of the interface or the ability to easily source Creative Commons content from online. The difference is that Voice allows for the creation of videos (something I have discussed before), while Slate provides a means for designing a slick webpage in seconds.

Character Animator: A part of the latest release of After Effects, Character Animator shows a glimpse of the future. This new tool allows you to control animated characters with a computer webcam using your own facial expressions, voice and keyboard triggers. Animations which may have taken hours in the past can now be completed in minutes.

Shape, Sketch and Mix: This collection of mobile applications provides the means to capture, draw and edit. I particularly like the possibility of capturing physical creations and editing them to then share using something like Book Creator. Although it may seem frustrating to have multiple applications, the reality is that in splitting them up, you are better able to better utilise the limited processing power associated with mobile devices.

Pro: Pro is one of those applications that many people have on their computer, but do not necessarily know what it can do. Beyond editing, combining and locking PDF files, Pro provides the means for quickly and easily combining different files in the creation of a portfolio.

Premiere Clip: Similar to iMovie in the ability to capture and edit video. Where it differs are the various filters and settings. Another useful feature is the ability to work across devices using Creative Cloud. By making a class account, you could easily collaborate in the creation of a shared video.

Although there is always a wow factor on a day like this, with the challenge being to work out where the additions to the digital toolbox might fit within the wider context of things. Although many of the applications are free, some require a subscription. While they are all connected via the Creative Cloud and usually require an Adobe ID to use. Although not hard to do, it is just another consideration.

So what about you, how are you using digital devices to enable creativity? As always, I would love to know. Please share in the comments.


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