2,295 Sources of Qualitative Learning Data

I was astonished. 2,295 was the total. It was 2016 and I had just calculated the total number of qualitative learning data that I had to manage as a classroom teacher. I consider myself fairly technical and organized but it took me so long to find things which I now realized was because I was drowning in data. 

Now, to be clear, the data that I am talking about was not my students test scores or grades. My school’s student information system took care of that data. The data I am talking about is the important, daily learning generated by my students and included the following:

Handwritten rough drafts Notes from informal conversations with students Teacher and Peer Feedback
Student self reflections Informal checks for understaning Google Docs/Microsoft Word files
FlipGrid videos Student created podcasts Presentations (videos also the slide decks) including Pear Deck
Parlay discussions/Jamboard Jams Emails Summarizers used at the nef of class about the day's learning
Test Quizzes Homework
Goal setting documents Assessment tools like continuums and roadmaps

The above shows 17 sources of data regularly generated from/for each of my students. I had 135 students. Multiply those two and the total is 2,295 sources. My experience is the daily experience of the classroom teacher; trying to manage all the disparate sources of data that are generated by students throughout the day, week or month. Teachers understand how important these qualitative data sources are as they show the complexity of learning for each of our students and show their growth over time which for some was well beyond the grade level expectations and for others was below.

This rich learning data was individual to each student, helped me understand where students were in the moment, where I needed to take them and it told the story of my students’ learning. As important as that data is for teachers, how are we supposed to capture and manage all it especially when our current systems aren’t designed for this?

I was so troubled by this conundrum but my students just kept generating. They generated work through email, Google Docs/Slides/Sheets and the entire Microsoft Office Suite. They used NoRedInk, Khan Academy, TedTalks, Newsela, Kahoot, YouTube videos and my school’s Learning Management System (LMS).  The students were creating learning evidence on their phones, their laptops, on paper, with art, on the whiteboard, on post it notes, conversing with one another, conversing with me, self reflecting and the list goes on and on. It was wonderful because it showed the students learning in real time but it was overwhelming to manage.

I could not possibly capture and manage all of that learning data, but I thought…what if I had a platform that could capture a lot of it and, most importantly, it was a platform that the students and teachers co-created to communicate about their learning. Instead of using teacher-led platforms like the LMS, what if I could partner with the students to capture this rich learning data, put it in a longitudinal timeline, showing the students different iterations of their learning and growth and make it easily searchable like Google? What if I created a platform where students were at the center and helped manage their learning and growth?

So I set out a pretty wide search. The LMS was completely teacher-led and focused on the entire class – not individual students. However, the LMS does a great job of providing content and organizing assignments. I was looking for something that helped after the the initial learning activity occurred.  I couldn’t find anything designed with the students at the center and as co-creators. So, to make a long story short. I built one using business tools while teaching 6th grade English Language Arts and Social Studies. I refined it over a few years. I eventually left the classroom, ditched the business tools and built gotLearning version 2 from scratch – both a web version and mobile apps. With students as partners in capturing and communicating about their learning I now can manage all 2,295 sources of qualitative data to more robustly tell the story of their learning – and so can you. 

 

If you want to learn more do not hesitate to visit our main webpage or contact us

Classroom Platforms – CLS vs. LMS vs. SIS

In the education sector, we are seeing the increased interest and broader implementation of competency-based learning, personalized learning, standards-based grading, teaching soft-skills and building student agency among other things. Twenty months into the pandemic schools are forced to reflect on some of their long held practices that were upended due to virtual learning and to devise ways to partner with students and their families in more student focused ways than ever before. 

While these student-focused methods are shifting our educational approaches, we are trying to implement these shifts with tools that were designed for more typical, teacher focused school structures. Take for instance the Learning Management System (LMS). SoftArc was the first to arrive in K12 education in 1990, followed at a wider scale by Blackboard in 1999 (note: I started the K12 group at Blackboard.) Currently, the K12 market is dominated by PowerSchool’s Schoology, Instructure’s Canvas and Moodle. Each of these is true to the LMS name – managing a classroom using the traditional teacher/class/student design. The LMS is a great tool for a teacher to share class information online. However, education is much more than sharing content with students.

John Hattie in his book Visible Learning states:

“The act of teaching reaches its epitome of success after the lesson has been structured, after the content has been delivered, and after the classroom has been organized. The art of teaching, and its major successes, relate to ‘what happens next’”.

The LMS focuses on structuring the lesson, organizing the online classroom and delivering content, but what go-to platform do we have for the most important part of learning “what happens next?” We have so much data generated from our classrooms; it’s like the wild west. No platform exists (until now) to help teachers and students navigate the “what happens next?”.

Consider this scenario, a teacher shares an assignment in their LMS, a student generates a rough draft in google docs, they conduct peer discussions in Parlay while editing in their google docs. The teacher then asks the students to reflect on their thinking in FlipGrid and submit their final work in an online portfolio. Take that scenario and layer on the typical teacher load of 100-125 students and you can see how hard it is to manage so many disparate sources of data. 

Teachers are setting up systems in online drives, storing videos in online video systems, storing data in instructional sites (like NoRedInk, Khan Academy, Algebra Nation), and this doesn’t even include the student constructed, non-digital work. Yet, we haven’t had one place to capture this important work, nor have we organized it according to the student and the duration of their experience (over the year or many years). We need one place to capture/link to this qualitative learning data that tells the story of a student’s learning and it needs to be focused around the student. Enter the Collaborative Learning System (CLS). 

The important and missing element from a teacher’s EdTech arsenal is the ability to capture the back and forth conversations about learning between a student and their teacher. Educators know these conversations are where so much learning occurs and as John Hattie states – “what happens next” is what matters. By having the right tools to personalize learning for each student a teacher can not only meet their needs but show growth over time using qualitative learning evidence. We designed the Collaborative Learning System (CLS) out of necessity and implemented in the classroom to capture this qualitative data. This platform makes it easy for both the student and teacher to add, communicate and revise work all the while incorporating self, peer and teacher feedback and reflection. Through the CLS, students are partners in co-creating their learning story and showing growth all while developing student agency.

We designed the CLS to be built around how a school pedagogically operates. Foremost, we put students at the center with a focus on the qualitative data that tells the story of learning overtime. Secondly, we designed it around how contemporary schools and classrooms operate including the partnerships with the special educators, instructional coaches, teaching assistants, emerging language learning educators, counselors, psychologists, school administrators, parents, etc. We designed gotLearning’s CLS to ensure the particular nuances of these roles are addressed. For instance, a special education teacher may be a co-teacher in one class, teach multiple self-contained classes of their own and also need to support students in other classes. We have designed a way for the special educators to manage their student support under those different structures in partnership with other team members and with a focus on students. School administrators, as the instructional leaders, need to quickly understand how students are doing beyond attendance or grades. Our CLS allows administrators and specialists to see the student level qualitative learning data in real time across their entire school. The CLS supports a whole child approach allowing easy collaboration and support, student by student. 

We also knew that the CLS needed to integrate with education systems world wide. It is purpose built for the contemporary classroom focusing on the student but designed to be  flexible. Our CLS is technology agnostic allowing teachers and students to use the technologies that they already know. Content agnostic allowing teachers and students to choose their own illustrative content. And process agnostic allowing users to organize and communicate how they want to communicate. Finally, there is a platform designed with students truly at the center, allowing them to partner in their learning, easily communicate with others and demonstrate growth overtime. 

If you want to learn more do not hesitate to visit our main webpage or contact us.

The Collaborative Learning System: Telling the Story of Learning

gotLearning announces the first Collaborative Learning System (CLS) that is a purpose-built platform for schools that focuses on the most fundamental elements of student learning – feedback and growth over time. gotLearning’s CLS is structured around the learning conversation and captures the back and forth dialogue between students, teachers and peers about their learning. The learning conversations structure focuses on the qualitative evidence from the student’s own work and mirrors what happens every day in classrooms around the world. 

gotLearning was born in the classroom to meet specific pedagogical needs. The importance and amount of qualitative data available to today’s teachers and students is enormous. Teachers world wide know that the daily conversations about learning, the daily work produced and the feedback provided is where the learning occurs. Both the students and teacher now have one place to share student work, give/receive feedback, make revisions all in the service of supporting and demonstrating the student’s growth over time. 

The CLS allows teachers and students to hold the many and varied sources of qualitative data all in one place. Before our CLS, teachers had to design their own systems for managing the daily sources of learning evidence and spent a lot of time searching in student notebooks, online folders, video sharing services, EdTech apps as well as many communication platforms to locate and review the qualitative student learning data. No longer do teachers or students need to search for where the learning evidence or feedback is located because the CLS provides a tool for teachers and students to capture and manage this crucially important learning process. 

For Students
The gotLearning CLS provides one place for students to capture and communicate about their learning journey empowering students to influence their own path to mastery. gotLearning’s unconstrained conversation tool provides students voice and choice regarding how to communicate their learning empowering students as partners in the process. 

For Teachers
gotLearning enables teachers to easily monitor student progress, provide direct and targeted feedback and make course corrections as needed. A teacher can get a sense of their class as a whole in order to make broad adjustments or to see the experiences of their individual students to provide personalized feedback. Additionally, teachers can see how their students are doing in other classes to seek patterns of performance in order to more holistically support students and their learning. 

For Educational Specialists
Using gotLearning’s Collaborative Learning System, educational specialists are able to develop their own classes in addition to seeing how the individual students they are supporting are doing across all of their classes. Educational Specialists can easily examine the qualitative feedback and learning evidence from all of the teachers for each student they support.

For School Administrators
A school administrator can easily monitor student progress across their whole school as well as examine and/or participate in learning conversations with any of their students They can also follow individual students that may need a little extra attention when needed. 

Professional Conversations
Another key element of gotLearning are the professional conversations. Using the same toolset that is used for students and teachers to communicate – professional conversations captures feedback and learning evidence between the teachers, educational specialists and school administrators. These conversations can be through one on one discussions, small group discussions or even the entire school. Professional conversations are perfect for professional learning networks (PLNs) or Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).