It has become quite a running joke with my year 5/6 students that I am obsessed with posters- or ‘anchor charts’ in our classroom. For months I have continued to brush off their comments, believing what I have always been told…that students need these visual displays that have ‘captured their learning’…that I was creating a ‘print rich’ classroom environment that gives my students (and visitors to the room) a clear image of our classroom culture and what we are currently learning about. I had often been told by casual replacement teachers that they were appreciative of the (many) charts as they found it easy to pick up and teach if I was absent. I was commended by other staff, with many often coming in to take pictures for their own ideas. I loved the colours and maybe became a little too obsessed about which textas and paper I would use…only the best would do. A simple Google or Pinterest search delivers hundreds of brightly coloured, aesthetic charts teachers have proudly uploaded to the internet.
One day some students asked to share with the class an iMovie they had worked on in their free time, I was more than happy to allow them to excitedly share their finished product.
And this is what we saw-
Could they have made their point any more clear? I have always given my students ownership over our classroom, they choose where the tables and chairs go and we don’t have assigned seats, so why was it so hard for me to take on board what they were telling me for so long?
As educators in the 21st Century we go on and on about digital, online learning, calling our students digital natives…yet I wonder if the look of our classrooms illustrates this? We constantly get our students to present their work using digital means, we prepare and deliver lessons that require the use of a vast range of technology, we use mobile devices in and out of the classroom without question…yet we still get told it is ‘best practice’ to use paper and textas to ‘capture learning’. I’m confused.
I think the reason I kept putting it off and ignoring their comments was because I didn’t have a solution, it was all well and good to write these charts up on an interactive whiteboard but then they get hidden in the computer away from student eyes. What happens when they needed to refer to them?
A few months ago my school signed up for Google Apps for Education and in the last few months we have started using it with students in years five and six. Towards the end of last term I was able to visit Rich Lambert and some of his staff at Kalinda Primary School in Victoria to learn about what their school was doing with Google Apps. I was really intrigued with the way that their year 5/6 students and their teachers were using Google Sites. As a result I thought I would give it a try and set up a site for my students to use in the classroom to upload their work and create a way to encourage more collaboration within the classroom. As soon as I began I remembered the iMovie.
This was my solution…get rid of the clutter in the room and create a class Google Site that documents what we are doing in the classroom and is a good point of reference for students when they need it. They all have their own accounts and we have enough devices in the classroom for them to access it when needed. This also allows them to access things at home for assistance with homework or to share their learning with their parents. I love that using Google sites also allows me to upload lesson resources I have used like videos, pictures and web links, creating a nice package. Students are also able to upload their work to the site that corresponds to the learning intention and digital ‘anchor chart’. Lately my students have also been adding their reflections to the comments section as well, creating a neat package from beginning to end of the learning process- much more powerful than a poster on a wall or hanging from some string.
I am not saying I am never going to make an anchor chart again and if I taught very young students or didn’t have access to enough devices in the classroom I wouldn’t be writing this post. But I will and we do, so for now this is my solution. I am listening to my students because I want them to love our classroom, to feel welcomed and give them a say in how they learn.