This year, as we wind to a close around here from the student side of things, amid all of the chaos of the crescendo that is the end of a school year, all I want to think about is transparency.
I don't usually get parent phone calls in this position, but when I do, it's almost exciting in a sick sort of way. The best are when there is a little time to prepare, as in when someone from one of the schools passes me a heads up so that I can prepare some resources.
The few calls I have received as of late all point to one of the most puzzling problems we have: (to quote) "I don't see anything coming home. I have no idea what is going on in the classroom." Our teachers are excellent and among the hardest working I have ever been around, but why was I hearing about this so frequently?
Puzzling? Extremely, and here is why.
Look at this example, and this one, and this one. There are teachers who are leveraging the power of their students to produce evidence and examples of what is occurring in the classroom if not on daily basis, at least a weekly one. This idea, of course, did not arise with the Google's purchase of Blogger, but rather has been around forever; however, as our children rise out the elementary school and leave the trappings of the elementary classroom behind, the practice of the "Friday Folder" appeals less and less to them. The neatly typed and clip-arted newsletter just isn't making it to the refrigerator in 6th grade.
Use the technology to increase transparency. These four organizations, long considered bastions of rigid secrecy and privacy, are far more likely to divulge information about what is going on within their walls than a good percentage of classrooms around the country. Why? I think we should be proud of what is going on in our classrooms and schools, and we should invite discussion and dialogue into them around student work.
Going one step further, the rebirth of the student portfolio has me intrigued within this format. Teachers who have worked with their students to create a blog often run into one big problem: what do you do at the end of the year when those students no longer are yours, yet they still have an account in your class blog? Does their work permanently reside with you? Several schools around the world are using platforms like Moodle, Wordpress MU,Google Apps for your Domain, or even local server tools available through the Mac OS X server (opens in new tab) to house student work in a manner that it follows them through the course of the years within a district or school. Let's promote that! Let's talk about having easy access for students, and parents, to student work as it's in progress. How many conversations have you seen occur on-line between students who would never speak to each other in class? Will the same be said for parents and children who cannot relate to one another well in person? Will their on-line interaction over their published work help them relate to one another at the personal level?
Perhaps I am taking it too far, but there is merit here, and I am actively looking for examples of how schools are doing this type of work. Please add yours!