Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Breaking News

I'll never forget the day I came home with my report card.

Mum was always waiting for me and no amount of excuses could overcome the black and white on that page.

One year I borrowed a black biro and changed the 'C's' to 'A's' on the school bus home. I still feel like there's a part of me looking over my shoulder waiting to be nabbed for that one, but there you go, I've confessed, I can relax!

So when the time comes to write report cards in school, I'm always aware of that feeling of dread that can rise in the stomachs of children, usually the ones who have nothing to fear, the ones that do don't seem to mind so much!

But really, if a report card tells pupils or parents things that they don't already know ("What? I'm terrible at Maths?!") then surely the school, and us as teachers are doing something wrong.

Also, if the report card is just a mushy set of generally positive fuzzy remarks, then is it really a valuable document?

So what should the report card be, if anything?

Well, in an ideal world, reporting to students and parents is an ongoing dialogue. We share progress informally in emails, chats at the school gate and informal meetings after school. We also open our doors to parents setting up formal interviews with staff to discuss specific areas of concern.
Students are involved in the process, feeding back comments on their learning via formal and informal reflections on their progress and target setting the steps they should be taking next, all of which is documented and often shared publicly on websites and blogs to celebrate achievement.

So, a report card?

This year I have been tossing these thoughts about in my head and have developed a new format for my reports to take account of the 1:1 iPad environment in which my students learn, but also to try and deal with some of the concerns above.

I wanted the document to share the life of that student whilst they were in school with the parents. I wanted somehow to use the document to open the walls of the student's experience whilst in school to parents and family and let them experience something of what the year has meant.

I also wanted the document to relate the successes and challenges each student has faced over the year as related to national guidelines and targets and make them accessible to parents.

Lastly, I wanted the students to have a voice in the report, able to give their own views and opinions.
So, I decided to use iBooks Author and create a digital report for each child. I printed a pdf copy so each student had a paper copy to take home but also published each report to the student's device.

I included photo galleries, taken from the class blog and work submitted via email from students, video reflections from the class 'reflection booth' and a video comment from me at the end, as well as tables showing progress and descriptions of experiences students have had over the year.

They went home yesterday.

I have received a number of excited texts and emails from parents.

Here's one that just came in:

'...Oh my goodness. I've just had a look at the reports. They look spectacular. An awesome first..'

But they must have taken ages surely?

Yup, they did. Possibly too long to do in the same way again unless I find ways of minimising the workflow. Perhaps creating the skeleton template at the beginning of the year and having the students work on their own report over the year? I'll need to think about that.

But one thing's for sure. At least this year, my report card meant something.


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