Teaching & Learning

Snapshot vs. Photo Album

Should we take a snapshot (ePortfolio) or Photo Album (Collaborative Learning System) of student learning. We think the ongoing capturing of learning over time - the photo album - is the clear choice.

In the realm of education, the assessment of student progress and learning has evolved significantly over the years. Traditionally, assessment has often been limited to snapshots in time—single assessments that provide a brief glimpse into a student's knowledge and abilities at a specific moment. However, the development of collaborative learning systems, such as gotFeedback, offers a more comprehensive and dynamic approach akin to building a photo album rather than taking a one-time snapshot.

Just as a photo album collects and displays a collection of memories, a collaborative learning system like gotFeedback aims to capture and document a student's learning journey over time. By leveraging technology and collaborative tools, this innovative approach allows educators and students to actively engage in the learning process while receiving ongoing feedback and support.

"Teachers play a vital role in this collaborative learning process. Rather than merely grading a final product or a one-time assessment, they become facilitators and mentors, guiding students through their learning experiences."

One of the key advantages of a collaborative learning system is that it encourages continuous learning and growth. Rather than relying on a single assessment or e-portfolio that offers a static view of a student's abilities, a photo album-style approach allows for the accumulation of evidence and milestones of progress. Through regular interactions with teachers and peers, students can receive feedback and guidance, adapting and refining their skills as they go along.

In a collaborative learning system, students can actively participate in their own learning process, becoming co-creators of knowledge rather than passive recipients. By engaging in discussions, collaborative projects, and sharing their work with others, students gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter and develop essential skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication. The ongoing feedback from teachers and peers helps students identify areas for improvement and build upon their strengths, fostering a growth mindset and a sense of ownership over their learning journey.

Teachers also play a vital role in this collaborative learning process. Rather than merely grading a final product or a one-time assessment, they become facilitators and mentors, guiding students through their learning experiences. Teachers can provide timely feedback, scaffold learning activities, and address misconceptions as they arise. This active involvement enables educators to identify individual student needs and tailor their instruction accordingly, promoting personalized learning and growth for each student.

Another advantage of a collaborative learning system is its capacity to foster a sense of community and connection among learners. By engaging in collaborative projects and interacting with peers, students develop social skills, empathy, and a deeper understanding of diverse perspectives. The photo album-like approach allows for the creation of shared experiences, shared knowledge, and shared memories—a collective learning journey that enhances the educational experience and promotes a supportive learning environment.

Furthermore, the documentation of learning over time in a collaborative learning system provides valuable insights for both students and educators. Students can reflect on their progress, recognize their achievements, and set goals for future growth. Educators can analyze patterns and trends, identifying areas where additional support or instructional adjustments may be necessary. This continuous monitoring and feedback loop ensure that learning is dynamic, responsive, and focused on individual student needs.

While e-portfolios have been used as a means of capturing student work and growth, they often fall short in terms of collaboration and ongoing feedback. E-portfolios typically provide a static snapshot of a student's abilities at a particular point in time, limiting the scope for real-time interaction and support. In contrast, a collaborative learning system offers a dynamic and participatory experience, akin to building a rich and evolving photo album that captures the growth and development of learners.

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Mike Rutherford is the founder and CEO of gotFeedback. He lives in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He has been a teacher, instructional technology coach, school district EdTech director, founder of the K12 group at Blackboard, Vice President of Business Development at Just ASK Publications & Professional Development, all before returning to the classroom as a 6th grade humanities teacher at International School Bangkok in Thailand where he built version 1 of gotFeedback in his classroom. You can follow Mike and gotFeedback at @mikerford and @growthovertime on Twitter.

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