Documentation in the Digital Age

When coming from intermediate, junior and even primary grades into kindergarten, one really has to check what their expectation of “work” means. As teachers, we’re so used to children being able to express themselves through writing that it is easy to imagine what you’re going to grade. The kindergarten program, though … you need to get really creative. Giving a test? A project? Not really a thing in kindergarten.

My expectations for assessment have gone out the window since arriving in the kindergarten program. Anecdotal evidence has become my thing. Everything that the kids do is accompanied by my notes on what they did. But what can that look like in kindergarten?

Well, last year, it culminated in a lot of paper notes. I made quick and easy charts and wrote everything that the kids were saying. My teaching partner and I would sit down together at the end of the day and compare notes, and discuss what the kids had been learning about. By February, though, I had discovered that that was probably not the most effective use of the talents that I have, which is that I’m pretty techy – I began experimenting with a variety of apps (and really loved Sesame Snap), but hadn’t really gotten it down by June. So when I got a new kindergarten classroom this year, and found out that I was going to be running it all by myself, without an early childhood educator, I had to buckle down and rethink the way that I look at documentation.

I had to start by thinking: what is the most effective way that I can document? To really come down to that, though, I considered a few thing: first of all, I’m not exactly a quick writer, and found that I was struggling to really to quote the students directly because I couldn’t keep up with how quickly they spoke; second of all, my school board is moving towards using Google Apps for Education, and I wanted to join in on the fun; I also needed to find the quickest and most effective way to organize all of this documentation in a way that would make it easy for me to not only find it, but reflect on it and share it with parents; and finally, I’m pretty technically inclined, so why not use that to my advantage?

So now, I use Google apps for all of my documentation needs. With everything based in Google Drive, I made several folders to help me organize my space. Every student has a folder with their name on it, and in that folder, I store all of the pictures and videos that I take of the kids. I realized pretty quickly that that wasn’t enough, though – I would still need binders to put the physical work that they make, right? But I thought of an app that I had, called Evernote Scannable. I had been using it somewhat effectively for a little bit, and thought that it would be perfect for scanning the work that the students produced. Low and behold, once I began doing that and adding it to the student folder, the individual folders began looking more like the portfolios that I was looking for. The added bonus? These apps are all available on iPad and iPhone, so as long as I am signed in to my Google account, I can easily upload all of this documentation directly to whichever folder I need, and that way, I can organize easily as I go along. The added bonus is that that folder is completely private and can only be seen by me, so I decided to share it with parents so that they could see what their child was doing in our classroom. Each parent was given a QR code with a link directly to their child’s folder. Nobody can see this folder except for me and the parent that has the specific link (and anyone they may choose to share it with). It’s private, and easy? Sign me up.

But what about all of the anecdotal evidence that I’ve been amassing? I need to write, and there has to be an easy way to do that, too. So, I began experimenting with Google Forms.

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 2.15.57 PM
What my Google Form looks like.

The form that I created asks me for a Student Name, the Learning Area that I observed, and then has room for general comments. In those general comments, I write down what I’ve observed. Any quotes that I get from the students, I collect. And because it’s a website link, I can access it from my computer, from my iPhone or from my iPad.

My favourite part about the data that I collect from the form that I created is that it generates into a Google Sheet, which is a spreadsheet. It makes it so easy to organize my data the way that I need it, and I can change it at will depending on what value that I need to look through at that moment. It’s incredibly easy. If I need to, I can print it out, and have the data in hardcopy, organized in any way that I would like it.

Between the two, it’s coming along quite well. I’ve created a portfolio for the digital age, and it’s all accessible in one place. Best part? It’s with me all the time, as long as I have a device that connects to the internet! If I’m at a conference and want to talk about a sample of work from a student, all I have to do is pull it up on my device as choice.

Is it perfect? Not quite. I do have some things I haven’t quite figured out. For example, I wanted very much to be able to have just one form for both semesters, but I thought that the data might be too much, and how would I know what I had already reported on? So I created a new form for the second semester. Also, simply uploading pictures to the Drive folder doesn’t mean that the picture is named – I need to go back and conference with the students to name those documents, so that I can easily call back to what their creation was. But as I figure out the tricks of the trade, I’ll share with you, and maybe, we can come up with even more ways to document our anecdotals effectively.

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