Five ways to capture growth in a remote learning setting

Tips for using Spaces to stay connected from a distance
Molly McCracken
August 13, 2020

Student working on an iPad across from his father who is on a laptop

There are many fears and worries about remote learning and a new school year, but we need to move forward.

How do we maintain the momentum of the learning, growth, and student engagement when we can't meet face-to-face?

Remote learning may be a short-term reality or a long-term commitment, but either way, we need the tools to support students' growth.

Fortunately, a digital portfolio can help.

Using Spaces for remote learning

Spaces can serve to both capture learning and engage students to reflect on that learning from home and at a distance.

Here are our top five ways you can use portfolios to make the most of this strange school year with your students.  We’ve added in “how-to” tips for your Spaces account, but several of these ideas will work with other tools too!

1. Create an outlet for students to reflect on this time in their lives

We can all benefit from stopping and reflecting on the events we’re living through from right now.

Your students are aware of what’s going on, but you can help them flex their critical thinking and social emotional skills by encouraging reflection.

What to do in your Spaces account:

  • Have students keep a daily journal of what they’re learning and exploring. You can encourage multiple media types: writing, recording audio or videos, creating art, and taking photos to name a few)
  • Ask students daily reflection questions to reflect on their feelings, emotions, and fears during this time (Bonus: You can link these responses back to SEL outcomes)
  • Record your own audio or video lessons and upload them directly to the platform asking students to respond in the same format

 

2. Create a class community

Not only do students miss out on learning during remote learning, they also miss out on valuable social time with their peers and teachers. And as we’ve all learned, social distancing can be really lonely for students.

Many of our virtual learning tools can feel a bit cold. The teacher sends videos, readings, and activities to students, students complete then send back. The energy that comes from class discussion, peer feedback, and the shared experience of learning together is much harder to capture virtually.

Spaces is more than a digital portfolio tool, it can also serve as a virtual community for you and your students.

What to do in your Spaces account:

While your class is ‘private’ by default, you can adjust your settings so students can see each other’s responses, uploads, and even comment on each other’s additions.

Screenshot of Product View where you can change student view settings

Read this article for step-by-step instructions on how to change your settings.

Once students join your class, they’ll have a space to share their passion projects, reflections, or simply post what they’re reading and watching for the benefit of their peers.

Unlike a social media group, your Spaces class is just you and your students without ads or distractions.

Create your account and check it out.

 

3. Give students a way to show their work

Right now, you can’t be there to see how students work through math problems or come up with their essay thesis.

But, you can still have them “show” how they got there.

The ASCD has some great resources on metacognition as well. Craig Simmons from Atlanta Public Schools provides a number of tips that all translate well to the remote classroom.

Likewise, Professor Sam Rhodes suggests how mathematics students can flex their metacognitive muscles by creating a) problem-solving journals and b) videos where they work through their thought process.

What to do in your Spaces account:

  • Create a daily or weekly “challenge” and ask students to talk through how they solve it with a video or audio recording
  • Ask students to build “KWL charts” at the start of a new project to categorize what they know, what they want to know, and at the end of the unit, what they learned
  • Check out “How to use digital portfolios to promote metacognition in your classroom” for more portfolio-focused activities that apply to any subject area

4. Host students’ capstone projects

Capstone projects can be a great way to wrap up the school year and give students an opportunity for closure and reflection on what they’ve learned in your class.

In fact, earlier this week, the American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten suggested that teachers consider capstone projects as an alternative to their typical assessments amid COVID-19 closures.

What to do within your Spaces account:

Once you’ve invited your students to Spaces, have them leverage their feed to share their capstone project.

  • Each post can be an ‘artifact’ contributing to the greater whole, or;
  • Each post can represent progress towards one final complete assignment

In either case, each student’s feed will be a body of work unique to them. You can help them refine their work and recognize their learning on each post through feedback and reflection prompts.

5. Monitor progress and growth from far away

Whether or not school is disrupted, digital portfolios are intended to show growth and progress. When you can’t see or hear from your students, this becomes a particularly challenging task.

Fortunately, technology can help.

Start by building habits.

Get your students building the habit of capturing and reflecting on their daily learnings, especially if this wasn’t a traditional part of your class. Not sure where to start? Here are 45+ reflection questions from We are Teachers.

Some days will be harder than others.

We have to be flexible in how we define learning: Give students the chance to turn everyday activities, Youtube videos, social media trends, and lessons from their parents into what they learn that day.

What to do within your Spaces account:

  • Ask students to start creating daily reports on their learning in the media format they’re most comfortable. Students can record a daily video, write up a blog post, take a photo
  • Get students to tell ‘progress stories’ on their assignments or projects by updating the draft or practice exam, or taking photographic evidence of any physical or paper assignments
  • Give feedback periodically through comments on Spaces and through video conferences with students
  • Over time, you can conduct formative assessments by looking back through all of the collected evidence!
Molly McCracken

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