Wednesday, 20 March 2013

A Snapshot of Information

Do you let students take pictures of notes, students taking pictures of notes
Edvolution. (2013). "So True...".
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Today in Grade 8 Social Studies we did a Jigsaw activity where students, in small groups, researched about different social classes found in Ancient Greece. Once completed, students wrote their findings on the board and verbally presented about their specific social class (wealthy citizen, middle class woman, slave, etc). What resulted was six different sets of information on various social classes that students were responsible for having in order to utilize, in more depth, in the next class. Once all of the information was on the board and students were writing down their own copies one student raised his hand and asked, "Can I just take a picture of this instead of having to write it all out?"

I paused for a minute because I hadn't had anyone ask me that before but I replied, "Sure, I would be okay with that." The student, and those around him were taken aback and I heard comments like, "That's awesome!" and "You're the first teacher who would let us do that!". This lead to a quick chat about how they were still responsible for organizing their information and keeping it with them, whether it was in a hard paper copy or in a digital format through their device but I did allow them to take a photograph of the notes if they wanted to. Overall, I had about half the class decide to take a photograph while the other half opted to write out a hard copy, despite also having access to devices they could use.

     I left the class feeling apprehensive at first. If none of their other teachers allow this, why did I? The purpose of the lesson, however, was for students to become familiar with the different social structures in Ancient Greece, NOT practice taking notes. Did students become familiar with the different social structures in Ancient Greece? Yes, my students spent the better part of the class researching on a specific class structure, summarizing their findings, and presenting their information to their peers. The remaining class time was spent listening to the other groups presentations about their findings and learning about class structures that differed from the one they focused on. Is this learning lost by taking a photo of the notes rather than writing them out by hand? I don't think so.

     If you remember back to the first day I was with my students, almost half of them self-identified as being an auditory learner while the other half self-identified as being a linguistic learner. Coincidentally  this almost perfectly matches how many students chose to take photographs and how many chose to write their notes out. Furthermore, when we completed our que-card "About Me" surveys, more than half identified that the amount of notes is the main thing they DISLIKE about studying Social Studies. If this is the case, why would I force it when they can easily have the information through another platform?

    I asked this question on Twitter and here were some of the responses I received:

     What are your thoughts? Do you / would you let your students take pictures of the notes instead of writing them out? Would your opinion change from class to class or during certain situations? Let me know your thoughts!


  1. Hey, Kirsten, I saw your first tweet, and was going to answer "why not?", then I saw your post and I think you handled this very well. It confirms what I tell everyone - you are an awesome, thoughtful teacher - if I was still a Principal, I would hire you in an instant! I wish we were still in classes to discuss this scenario.

    1. Thank you Mr. Nantais! I know that I definitely would not have been allowed to take pictures of notes when I was in public school but I think that if they are still engaging with the information before and after, it doesn't matter whether their notes are hard copy or digital. The interaction with the information shouldn't be coming from them simply writing it down, it should be through meaningful discussions and applications before and after. Maybe we will have to discuss it in the future when I do my M.Ed!


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