Wednesday, May 11, 2011

iReflect - Photo Booth as a Learning Mirror

This term I have made a point of providing space in the timetable for the children to reflect on their learning.  I doubt that many people would deny the importance, for anyone, of taking a step back and thinking about what you have learned, how you have learned, what goals you have achieved (or not) and why. 

The typical day in the classroom can pass by with such speed that it is easy as a learner, and as a teacher, to get to the final bell and wonder how you got there. And then the next day it all starts again. It’s no wonder so many parents complain that finding out about their child’s day is like getting blood out of a stone!
All of us value physical reflection. Could you live without a mirror? Or the odd shop window reflection here and there? Clearly some value it more than others (!!). A mirror gives us feedback about ourselves, and we act to make adjustments in order to improve our appearance. So important is this to us that we will often seek out our reflection throughout the day, even just for a glance - it’s a kind of plumb-line I suppose, to stop us veering too far off track (hat hair!!).
Yet reflection on learning is not something that necessarily comes as naturally, especially for children. Writing reflective statements in a journal, or below their maths work before going to lunch can be quite burdensome - more burdensome than the maths itself for some!  
Because of this I have started using Photo Booth as a tool to capture the students’ reflections. The nature of recording oneself with a webcam seems to integrate the physical concept of reflection with the inner processes that are occurring. I allow about 10 minutes towards the end of the day to look back over what we have learned and discussed, (including the social learning that occurs the playground). They can jot down a few ideas if they like, before finding a quiet place in the room to record their thoughts.

When we started this some students didn’t really know how they should speak or what they should say. To help with this I have given them some reflection tools, to prompt their thinking. The Stepping Stones cards from The Learning Project are ideal for this kind of thing. I love the quote on their website: 

Trying to learn without reflecting and reviewing is like trying to fill a bath without putting the plug in!

We also have a Reflection Circle on the mat at the end of the day, where five or six children can share something they’ve learned, something they didn’t know when they woke up, or something they can do better now, or perhaps a goal for the next day. This doesn’t take up much time, and I believe is worth the investment. It models and normalises the reflective process and is a nice way to end the day.
What tools for reflection do you use in your classroom? Does your timetable prioritise reflection in some way? Please leave your comments below!

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