I’m currently reading through A Guide to Documenting Learning: Making Thinking Visible, Meaningful, Shareable and Amplified by Silvia Tolisano and Janet Hale.
This is a practical book that asks the questions,
What is learning? How do we look for, capture, reflect on, and share learning to foster meaningful and active engagement?
There are lots of useful teachings, resources, and scenarios no matter what age group you work with or what educational setting you’re in.
Thinking About Sharing And Amplifying
One chapter that I found particularly interesting was about documenting learning with sharing and amplifying in mind.
We know there are now a plethora of ways that students can share their learning online. While I still don’t feel like this is common enough, thankfully, more and more schools are embracing online sharing whether it’s via blogging, digital portfolios, videos, podcasts, G Suite tools, the list goes on.
One concept that I don’t think receives enough attention is the amplification of learning.
Students might write a blog post, publish a podcast, or create any sort of digital work but then what?
Perhaps we sometimes see pressing the ‘publish’ button as the final step in the learning documentation process. Of course, it’s not.
Who is reading, viewing, or connecting with that shared learning? Who is reinforcing or challenging learning? Who is providing additional viewpoints, new perspectives, or useful feedback?
Just because something is online, doesn’t mean it has an audience.
A Useful Framework
Silvia and Janet have provided a helpful framework in their book that demonstrates degrees of amplification.
- Sharing with oneself
- Sharing face to face
- Sharing strategically online
- Sharing globally
I see this as a useful reminder of what’s possible, rather than a continuum where you have to be at the end to be successful. All four areas offer some benefits.
Let’s take a look at these four degrees of amplification…
Sharing With Oneself
Sharing with yourself involves a slight degree of amplification.
This act of capturing your own thinking can force you to think deeper and make connections. You sometimes realise you don’t understand something as well as you thought when you’re trying to clearly explain your thoughts or learning.
This stage naturally connects to the next forms of amplification.
Sharing Face to Face
While having a low degree of amplification, the act of sharing with others face to face can help to stretch your thinking, whether you’re a teacher or a student.
It can really help you consider new perspectives, especially if you open yourself up to interacting with people who are different to you.
Comments, clarifications, resistance, and questions posed by those listening add a dimension that could not happen if talking only to yourself.
Face to face sharing can take many different forms, such as:
- Arranged meetings (e.g. students meet at a cafe)
- Informal meetings (e.g. teachers share at lunch in the staff room)
- Digital interactions (e.g. Skype or Google Hangouts).
I think the key here is to really put effort into finding people who might have different viewpoints. We all know ‘birds of a feather flock together’. It can feel uncomfortable to reach beyond your ‘flock’. However, deep learning and growth aren’t always comfortable.
Sharing Strategically Online
When learners share online, the degree of amplification increases. However, this doesn’t occur without effort and needs to be strategic. Educators can really assist here by connecting their students with interested audiences and experts.
There are so many ways you can do this. I feel like having a professional learning network (PLN) and online presence yourself as an educator is so important. You don’t need to have thousands of people in your network either. It’s about quality over quantity.
You can then use social media to share student work and invite an audience. Reciprocation and helping other students and teachers with this is also part of the equation.
There are many ways students can amplify their learning too, even if they’re in primary school. For example, they could comment on a blog and share their link. Of course, this comment wouldn’t look like,
“Hello, please visit my blog post”.
A more worthwhile approach involves showing a genuine interest in what the author is blogging about, adding your own thoughts, and inviting the community to visit your own online work.
Read more about this in Comments For Kids Still Count: Teaching and Promoting Quality Commenting.
This is the ultimate form of amplification. Sharing globally certainly takes more effort but the rewards can be more powerful.
When educators and students are interacting with a global audience, new realms of understandings are opened up. This includes things like appreciating very different perspectives and understanding your own cultural bias.
Like sharing online, having a PLN can really help here to find those connections.
Want to learn more about finding global connections? These posts might help:
A Few Questions To Ponder
Are you sharing yourself?
From the Documenting Leaning book, I was reminded of Jackie Gerstein’s great blog.
Jackie has said something that I really resonate with,
I believe it is the responsibility of every educator in this era of learning to share . . . resources, ideas, success, challenges, ahas, student insights, anything education related.
Sharing takes on many forms. Educators can talk to colleagues, write blogs, tweet, present at conferences – both virtually and face to face, talk to the media, and/or create a media product – video, podcast, photo essay – and post online.
What is holding you back from sharing?
In the Documenting Learning book, the authors list a number of valid reasons why teachers are reluctant to share or amplify the learning of their students or themselves.
These include lack of time or technology. Self-confidence can also be a limiting factor — worrying about bragging, judgement, or not feeling worthy enough etc.
Personally, I too have these worries! I go through stages of sharing a lot and then not sharing much. Maybe this is okay. I don’t think you have to be constantly sharing everything to help yourself, your students, and others. Strategic curation is important too.
In the book, Janet and Silvia suggest that the best strategy for overcoming these barriers to sharing and amplifying is to just begin. They also suggest you consider prioritising your time.
Additionally, Janet and Silvia promote a cultural shift,
The more administrators and teachers, as learning leaders, are willing to model risk-taking, sharing and highlighting learning successes, failures, and confusions by making them visible, the more students will feel comfortable, supported, and encouraged to do the same.
I would extend this quote to say the more teachers and leaders are willing the share, the more comfortable and encouraged other teachers will feel as well.
Is it safe to share online?
Understandably, there is a lot of fear around publishing online. We need to be very mindful of being safe online while also using online interactions as an authentic way to teach and learn about digital citizenship. With opportunities comes responsibilities.
As I mentioned in my post on digital footprints and online reputations, young people need guidance navigating their online world, just like their offline world.
I created this visual to demonstrate some of the classroom discussions you can have about what you should be publishing online.
Deciding what work and information should be public and what should remain private is a critical skill we really need to guide our students on. Digital abstinence is not the answer.
Want to read more about publishing online and online safety?
These posts I’ve created for this blog and The Edublogger might help:
As Silvia and Janet say,
Amplifying learning often brings unexpected and memorable surprises.
I have found this has certainly been the case over the years. Just a few examples that come to mind include,
- When my students received comments from famous authors like Mem Fox and Michael Salmon.
- When students’ interest in dinosaurs led to a Skype session with an expert at the National Dinosaur Museum.
- When a local radio station found our class/student blogs and asked our grade two students to write content for their station blog.
- When a student had a conversation with Jacqueline Harvey — an author whose books she was really enjoying.
This post only touches on the surface of amplification. For further reading on this topic, be sure to check out A Guide to Documenting Learning.