Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Snapchat Stories

I'm at my first CONNECT conference this week, in beautiful Niagara Falls!

Typically at conferences, I track some of my learning through Twitter (follow #CanConnectEd this week for some AWESOME learning!). But for this conference, I wanted to try something different.

So I'm trying out Snapchat stories as a way of capturing what I'm seeing and learning. 

Follow along!


I like that in the end, you get a running chronological story of what you see throughout the day. I like that you can caption images as you go, and though I haven't drawn on the images (or added stickers!), I like the idea of being able to do that quickly, too.

I appreciate the speed at which I can snap a photo, caption it, and get it published. And even though a normal snapchat will disappear soon after it is viewed, posts in Snapchat stories stick around for 24 hours before self-deleting.


But I don't like that it's not widely interactive - no one can see my stories unless they follow me, and you can't connect with others as easily as you can with a hashtag. And you can only have one story on the go at a time... I went for a hike yesterday and wanted to share some pictures, but didn't want to tack them into the conference story. It would have been nice to be able to make a separate story.

For the long term...

At the end of the day, I can save the entire story to my phone and then export the video. Here are my stories so far!

Note: upon uploading and viewing the videos here on the blog, I realized they are all blurry! Is there a way to fix this? They're not this blurry in the original story... :)

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

End Result?

In the end, I'm not sure that I would use Snapchat stories again to track conference learning. I really liked the speed of snapping and captioning, but I missed the networking and connecting that often comes along with sharing on Twitter or Instagram through a hashtag.

With only a few edu-peeps following me on Snapchat, too, I'm not sure it was worth "sharing" this way, either. It might have been better to just snap pictures right into an app like Evernote.

Why did I try this? We often talk about bringing the learning to where the learners are. With so many students on Snapchat, is it worth considering delivering content to them through this media? Is it feasible to have students document their learning through snaps?

Have you tried Snapchat stories before? Do you have any advice? :) What way of keeping track of what you see at conferences do you prefer? Have you tried using Snapchat with your students?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tracking Observations & Conversations

In many of the collaborative inquiry projects I'm working on this year, the teams are choosing to focus on student communication. In some cases, we are looking at how a student can best communicate what they have learned. 

Traditionally, this takes place on a unit test (or other culminating activity), supported by a number of smaller assessments leading up to the test, such as quizzes, worksheets, projects, etc.

However, these are all product-based. How can we, in math, move away from assessing primarily through products, and more through conversation and observation?

This is a scary concept for many high school math teachers, who are so used to assessing products. It's easy enough for teachers to observe, or to have a conversation, but whereas you track a level/mark on a product (16/23 on a test, say) that you see directly on that assessment paper, how do you track what you see off-paper?

As I think about being back in the classroom, this is something I want to improve upon. Instead of chalking it all up to my "professional judgement," I'd like to be able to track what I see and hear, and offer that as a record of student learning.

But I have no idea how to start that tracking. The newness of it (to me), and the openness of it, makes the process feel overwhelming. A lot of math teachers are in the same boat.

So who better to ask about tracking observations and conversations than the experts - Kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers! Where so much of the learning is done without textbooks, worksheets, and tests, these teachers are the pros in recording what they see.

I did a quick poll of K/1 teachers on Twitter of how they track the learning that happens in their classrooms (click here to see the Storify archive of the conversation), and here are some of their responses:


Some teachers are using paper checklists, created in advance, highlighting the look-fors and the learning goals the students will be working to complete. They can be stored in a binder, always within reach in the classroom for when learning is observed or when the teacher and student engage in conversation.

Amy (@Teach_Laidlaw) shared an amazing post detailing her checklist process. You can find it here:

Photos & Video

Aviva (@avivaloca) is the QUEEN of documenting her students' learning through captioned photos and video. She and her teaching partner collect them and review them throughout the day, using them to not only assess the students, but also to plan future activities.

Brigitte (@BrigitteDupont0) has a busy French classroom with lots always on the go - she uses pictures and video too. She also keeps everything in Google Drive for easy access.

Stickies & Colour-Coding

I think Marcie (@MarcieLew) is one of the most organized people I know. Her tracking method of choice is stickies and colour-coding for at-a-glance overviews of how her students are doing. She can then walk around the classroom with a clipboard and stickies, observing and conferencing throughout the lesson.

Google Forms

Amanda (@amandakmalo) creates online versions of checklists using Google Forms. There would be a drop down list for the student's name, another list for the subject, and then an open answer for comments and quotes. 

Not only could Amanda fill in the forms on a tablet as she was going around the classroom, but the ECE and prep teachers also had access to the form to record what they observed. With a running record of comments for each student, it made report card writing much easier, as well as learning stories.


Geeta (@geetaranikumar) also recorded her observations digitally, but through Evernote, which includes the capability of attaching images and audio files to a "note." Geeta also mentioned that she could add tags to the pages/notes for easy reference and sorting later. 

I'm so grateful to my PLN for sharing their practices with me. I'm a big fan of the paper checklists, but I'm leaning toward the convenience of the digital record keeping. How do you keep track of observations and conversations in your classroom?