Like most of the teachers in North America, I’ve recently been through another round of report cards and parent/teacher/student conferences. I’ve had a classroom blog for several years, but this year I am making more of an effort to use each student’s blog as an online portfolio, with examples of the students’ work from all subject areas.
As part of the process, each student looked at their blog with me and chose three “articles” that they felt represented their best work and wished to share with their parents. We had recently made recordings with Vocaroo of each child reading a book that they had practiced to share, so that was a popular choice. Aside from that choice the students, without exception, chose to show articles that contained images and proceeded to tell their parents (with my support) what they had done well in creating the image in terms of their use of colour, space, details, shapes etc. I don’t think this is just because they do not yet write well–actually some of them do write well for this point in the school year.
This further reinforced my conviction that my students are more visually oriented every year. They come to me with five or six years of viewing TV, video, games and various online sites behind them. Their brain is wired to view images. I’m glad that my province has included viewing as one of the six strands of our language arts curriculum. In fact, we are supposed to be giving viewing the same amount of teaching time as we do reading and writing, the traditional text-based mediums.
What does this mean for me as a teacher who is helping them to create an online portfolio of their work? Certainly I need to give them lots of opportunities to express themselves through visual means (representing, another great strand of our language arts curriculum). Students learn uniquely through the creation of digital media. I’m also more convinced than ever of my need to systematically teach them the age-appropriate strategies they need to become effective viewers and contributors in this digital age.