When you scroll through your camera roll on your smartphone, you’ll find the big celebratory ‘moments’ in your life last year, the vacation shots that took your breath away, the screen captures of ideas or writing that you didn’t want to forget. You easily and quickly share these moments electronically with your friends and family, or in person if you’re telling a story or recalling a text.
Last week I was reminded again how valuable a simple photo can be. An Apple Educator was sharing his ideas, beliefs and tools to support assessment. I learned a new meaning for a familiar term: assets. When I think of assets, I think of those investments and items that we own that reflect value or our monetary worth. He used ‘assets’ to name the collection of documented artefacts of learning that a student owns: anything that shows a students’ learning that can be captured, collected and shared in some way. I’ve been pondering that word ever since.
Do I consider the documentation of learning as an asset? What implications would that have for my practice? When is a photo an asset?
Across our sessions, our team seeks to make our thinking visible in a variety of ways. We were intentional about documenting some of the learning at our last Journeys into Literacy. As a means of gauging the impact of our professional learning series, we invited participants to engage in a photo elicitation technique (as described by my supervisor in this blog post) Each person chose an image and then recorded thoughts on how that image was a metaphor for his/her own journey as a reader this year. Each participant shared their image and story while a recorder captured the thinking in writing. Everyone could have taken a picture with their iPad or smartphone to capture their images and notes as documentation of their reflection. Unfortunately, I realized too late that I had not specifically asked everyone to do this! While I have some photos, I regret not having a photo of every participant’s image and thinking as currently my team is in the process of analysing that data. The artefacts we did collect have become a valuable resource as we find common trends and authentic expressions of learning: profound moments of sharing that speak to a variety of themes around memories, struggles, persistence and renewal. I only wish we had a photograph of every person’s photo elicitation sheet, not just the thoughts captured by the person writing down another’s thoughts. It’s a bit like the telephone game where the further you get from the original message, the less likely it reflects the real story.
These unique opportunities to grab a snapshot act as windows into thinking to inform our practice in response to what we see/hear, whether in sessions or classrooms. Documentation of learning, in our case the process of taking a picture of our photo elicitation, has served two purposes. Just like in the classroom, we intended to give voice to participants’ reflections of their learning. But as we continue to analyse these artefacts, we are realizing that we too are learning important information about ourselves and our work next year. In this way, documentation is not only reflective for teachers but prospective as our team feeds forward that learning. What an asset!
Imagine documenting an inquiry, a course of study, a whole year, through images! What evidence of progress might jump off the screen? Further, when is a photo an asset…a curated record of your thinking that is invested into your ‘learning’ account?
We actively post images to our twitter, facebook and instagram accounts as teens and adults. I imagine students would also benefit from collecting, curating and celebrating the assets of their learning not only with their teacher, but their peers and the public.
When is the last time you came back from vacation and said, “I wish I hadn’t taken so many photos?”
How might we all benefit from regarding learning artefacts like photos as assets?
What more valuable asset do we own than our thinking and learning?