Documenting Learning: Do We Need Traditional Reports?

Edna at What Ed Said, I’m writing back to you. Edna wrote a piece recently that hit home right away. Titled Instant Communication and Twice-Yearly Report Cards, she wrote about the need for traditional report cards. As someone in the middle of one of those twice-yearly reports, I couldn’t agree with Edna more. Shouldn’t we re-evaluate the need for these reports?

As has been the case for as long as I can remember, reports  come home to parents twice/three times a year. When I was younger, I got grades, A-D. Luckily, I always managed As or Bs and didn’t feel like a total failure as I would have if I had received a D.

Now, in my PYP school, we write twice-yearly reports with narratives and a continuum of learning. As far as reports, they’re decent. I don’t mind writing, so the narrative comes easily to me. I know others struggle. I write about 60 narratives and mark students on a scale from LP (limited progress) to Ex (Exceeding). The reports come out electronically and parents read them online. Definitely advancements to a traditional system. I do imbibe a lot of tea and dark chocolate during reports, so not the most healthy, but I can handle it.

However, as Ed said, our reporting system is still a traditional system with a few tweaks. It’s not an overhaul. In this day of technology and formative assessment, I completely agree with Edna. Do we need them? Could we educate parents enough so that they don’t need them either? What about schools? Colleges? Universities?

There’s a lot of trickle down effect that would need to be addressed, but I advocate for finding other ways to document learning.

Edna mentioned a Facebook feed where she sees her grandson in pre-school. There is so much we can do to keep parents informed all the time. Here’s a beginning list:

  • Video documentation of learning. I was talking to a colleague yesterday who has been using  Youtube Capture to document her 1st graders learning. Using the iPad, she captures their daily moments, and parents have a running record of their students’ thinking and progress. Here’s an example. She has many more on her fantastic class blog. Parents can also subscribe to the Youtube channel.
  • I’ve been trying out fotobabble recently as have many at our school. Fotobabble uses a static picture, and students record on top of that. I first saw a fotobabble from my daughter in MS. It was for PE, and she needed to explain her understanding of basketball tactics. Since then, I’ve used it with my students to record their reflections, their math understanding, their reading comprehension of main ideas and details. Here’s an example, reflecting on skills used during a project for How the World Works
  • Of course, there are blogs from teachers and students, electronic portfolios, as Edna mentions.
  • Doodlecast Pro is pretty cool. It’s another iPad app. where you can draw and talk through a presentation.
  • Some classes are using Instagram accounts with their students and Twitter feeds.

These are all technological solutions, so yes, technology needs to be in place. I think it’s getting there in a lot of the world. Are we using it to our advantage? To students’ advantage?

Of course, offline, there is plenty you can do as well by sending home work, reflections, even photos.

I put the call out there as well, Edna: Do we need our traditional reports anymore in this age of instant communication? Can we try to at least have a conversation about it?


2 thoughts on “Documenting Learning: Do We Need Traditional Reports?

  1. Pingback: Flare communication and double p.a. repute cards8230 What Ed Aforementioned |

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