Making thinking visible

I started the year knowing that I wanted to spend more time helping students to be more visible about their thinking process.  Why?

  • I think we spend too much time evaluating products and not enough time evaluating processes
  • Learning to express yourself is such an important skill
  • Dissecting your own process will make patterns/habits visible and we can honour those that work and work on those that don’t
  • Creating an archive of processes means we’ll have a whole bank of ideas to jump off for future projects
  • This kind of documentation is a huge component in making inquiry questions richer/deeper

So then I thought can we combine this reflective practice with the authenticity of an online audience?  Could we insert some Vygotzky here and make reflective practice social?  I had the opportunity to take these questions to the next level when I was asked to join a group of other secondary teachers and we were given time release to collaborate and later share our findings.

With my grade 12 media arts students, I asked if each of them would make an individual blog and suggested WordPress or Blogger as the tool. I asked them to blog twice a week.  I gave them 9 required topics for the semester, a whack of suggested topics, and ample time in class to do it.  I had varying degrees of responses.

I was surprised that the students didn’t leap all over this.  Here are my students, in grade 12 media arts, the culminating year, the last semester of grade 12 and they were shy!!  I thought this would be their legacy, their swan song as they’re leaving high school forever (ever ever – insert echo).

I was also surprised how disadvantaged students who are already challenged by literacy had a hard time with this.  You have to understand that my classroom is filled with technology and cool art stuff so there are countless mediums to express with….but the basic interface, and maybe fear of expression were stumbling blocks that for 3 of 24 of the students, they could never quite get over.  I also found it a huge advantage to have public spaces and private spaces.  We had public blogs but a private wikispace where students could discuss academically, and where I posted all my content.  Our final research project was to explore a media artist and create a wikipage for our artist in a visual way based on common guiding questions.  We also used Twitter to encourage communication.  Their final exam is coming up and it will be entirely reflective as well.  I’m prepared to do it all inside GoogleDocs and to accept their responses electronically, but I’ll also have a ream of foolscap and printout copies in case the wireless is dodgy.

Questions I still have:

  • Why does appearing vulnerable prevent us from sharing our creative process and learning?
  • What can we do to foster trust in our face-to-face environments and online environments?
  • How can we get past the idea that only ‘experts’ have a valuable voice?


Leave a Comment

  1. Vulnerability is hard to overcome.

    Consider having ‘critical friends’ – one or two people with whom a student can build trust over the school year.

    After sharing work with critical friends, confidence improves. They then may be ready for a small group share.

    I’ve also done a “speed-dating’ type share where students share for a few minutes then rotate.

    I think some of the hesitancy comes because students believe ‘sharing’ means standing in front of a large group.


    1. Thanks for your ideas, Janet. These are great suggestions. I’m teaching grade 12 English online next year and I’m wondering if I can replicate your speed-dating idea there. Developing trust is so important, isn’t it? In asking the question, I was also thinking of how I can get the staff in my school to more comfortably share their successes and failures. Do you think your ideas would work with this group too?


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