Sunday, November 3, 2013

Making Thinking Visible

Photo Credit: Eileen Delhi via Compfight c 

One of the greatest benefits I've seen with increased access to technology is how well it allows my students to make their thinking visible.  Now I don't want to imply that student thinking can't be made visible with out technology because that simply isn't true. But technology has made it easier for my students to document their learning, and for me to access this documentation. Let me explain how.

My class is made up of diverse learners with unique and individual needs.  I don't think my class is any different then any other class in terms of diversity of learner needs. As much us we are all alike, we are all very different too. I do my best to meet their individual  needs by providing them with choice as often as I can.  I have written about how I do that  here, here, here, and here. But providing so much choice means that I am not collecting the same assignments from each child in my class, nor am I expecting everyone one to show their learning in the same way.  But I still need to see that they are learning, and I still need to be able to share this learning with their parents.  This is where technology really helps to make thinking visible.

Technology is allowing my students to add voice to their work.  My students often take pictures of their pen and paper writing, and then add voice to their work through a variety of different iPad apps.  Here's a sample of one student reading his non digital writing.  This work was shared on this student's blog for both me, his family, and the world to see.

This was made by using the iPad Camera and adding voice with the Draw and Tell App

Other students have gone a step further by sharing their writing, talking about what they are proud of and setting a goal to work on for next time.  This is all done independently but it's so helpful for me to be able to access.

This was made using the iPad camera, and the Tellagami app

In math my students often record themselves talking about what they know.  They then add those recordings to their individual blogs.  Sometimes there are errors in their thinking because they do not understand the concept they are explaining.  This is great formative assessment as it helps me better understand what they are having trouble with.  Typically in discussion with each individual student we decide to keep the work on their blog, but to make the post private so the world doesn't have to hear their errors.  We talk about how important it is to have a  sample of where their thinking is at that moment  time as a reference place to how far they go. Even when the thinking isn't correct it's important to make it visible.

Adding voice to non digital work is an easy way to make thinking visible, and using technology to do it  allows it to be done even when I'm not around to hear it.  

Many of my students also choose to create work with digital tools.  They do this by accessing open ended creative apps so share what they know.  Some of their favourite go to apps include the iPad Camera, Draw and Tell, Educreations,  Pic Collage, and iMovie.  They also share information through two book making apps Book Creator and My Story and the presentation app Haiku Deck.  They have many options to make their thinking possible.  When ever they can they add voice to their digital work.  They use  Draw and Tell, Educreations, Explain Everything, Voice Record Pro, and to add voice to work. There are many other fabulous voice recording apps that you may want to explore as well.  Children choose different tools for different reasons. Just like adults they don't all like to use the same tool to document learning.  Access to technology has given them more tools to choose from.   

Here are two different math examples. While both examples are sharing the same mathematical concept, each student has chosen a very different way to make their thinking visible.  You should notice that they have used different digital tools to make this thinking visible.

This was made using the iPad camera and the PicCollage App
This was made independently using the iPad Camera, skitch, Draw and Tell, and iMovie

If you check out my students' individual blogs from this year or last year  you will see they have many different ways to make their thinking visible to the world.   What tools do your students use most often to make their thinking visible?


  1. Great post, Karen. You are really utilizing technology in a way that students can show their thinking and be creative at the same time! I was selected to be on the "apps selection" team for our district, so you will be definitely hearing from me. I love how you are allowing your students to choose which app works best for them. Do you have the freedom to download any apps that you feel would work in your class or do you have to have district approval first?

    1. Thanks Louise. I have a fair bit of freedom with the apps I have on the iPads I have access to and the reality is as much as there are a lot of great specific apps that do a variety of things we tend to stick to a small few. Having said that I can quickly add an app that meets a specific student's need as necessary. As for providing you any assistance when you take on your new and exciting roll please don't hesitate to ask. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Karen