Report Card Jargon and Teacher/Parent communication

Even though I was already on maternity leave 2 months before our first report cards (note that a ‘progress’ report was issued in November) were sent home I graded and wrote comments for my students based on the first part of the year and gave those marks/comments to the teacher who replaced me who could then use them as a baseline for her own assessments.

Last June was my first experience with writing report cards in Ontario and I was struck with how jargony we can get as teachers. In Ontario, Jargonese is mandated by the government who guides teachers in the language that is used on report cards in an effort to maintain consistency across schools and school boards. The idea is a good one – when a child moves from one school to another it is helpful if we can understand where the child is coming from so we can most effectively (and quickly) help him or her. The problem is that not only are the comments filled with educational jargon that parents need help with decoding (and to be honest, some teachers need help with getting what they really mean at times as well!) but the creation of the comments, as well as the process of inputting them into the report card system, is laborious to say the least.

In Quebec (at least at the secondary level. I haven’t taught at the elementary level in Quebec since before new report cards have been used) we were at the opposite pole – instead of teacher-written lengthy comments filled with jargon we could only use canned comments like satisfactory or absence hinders progress.

In both cases the effectiveness of parent/teacher communication is, er, limited, don’t you think? If reporting is meant to be a way of communicating with parents then what can we really say about teacher-parent communication? And if we want to argue that it isn’t… then why are we still using report cards? I’ve always found that the most effective form of communication between families and teachers is through conversation. And many teachers DO talk to parents on a regular basis so that everyone is on the same page.

I don’t know. It all seems to be extra work for the teacher when we could better spend our time planning, reflecting, thinking about active engagement with students. There’s GOT to be a better way!

What do you think?

A colleague pointed me towards this Xtranormal video on the ‘effectiveness’ of Report Card lingo for communicating with parents.

Why do we put so many layers between teachers and parents? sigh…

Digitally native? What about humanly native?

If you’ve read some of my older posts regarding the notion of ‘digital literacy’ or, gasp, ‘digital literacies‘ you may have an inkling as to where my mind may go when it reads the trendy, robot evoking, term ‘digital native’. It goes along the same path as Deven Black’s did in Where Are All the Digital Natives?

Note: this post was edited in 2019 to replace an image with this YouTube video.

Digital Natives. I imagine little robots with faces on computer screens gathered in a classroom, little beings educators have created in order to justify their own love of technology, and with the uncanny result of (sometimes) stripping learners of their humanness as labeling often does.

Personally, I’ve had enough of this talk of ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital literacies’ and ‘essential 21st century skills’ (I’ve had enough for a couple of years, even!). Lately and instead, I find myself rereading and remembering the words of Haim Ginott, Nel Noddings, and others and try to focus on curriculum within a framework of care and kindness as I teach my students both with and without technological tools, as I work with colleagues with different skill sets and comfort levels regarding technological tools as well.

What does learning in a techy world look like in your classroom?

I can’t think of a different way to put it. For some reason I hate the phrases ‘learning with technology, learning with tech, technology based learning, even learning in a techy world’ and any other statement that puts an emphasis on the technology, as if it is something different from the tools of learning to begin with. In mine, it isn’t something added on but it’s pretty much the functioning of the class, tools that we have come used to using as we learn. I wrote about this one day last year, when I was late to class and the kids knew to hit up the blog and began doing their work – some at their tables, some in a quiet area so they could do video responses on their laptops, some alone, some talking together.

[Aha. laptops. We were very fortunate. We had a private donor give us 10 000 $ last year, a good sum of which was used to buy mini-laptops. (this leads to a whole other story about the validity of conversations on tech integration when we know there are many, many schools, students who have no tech to integrate into their learning across not only the world but North America as well.)]

That kind of integration did not happen over night. That scene happened about a month into the school year. It was a result of daily lessons on different ways to respond to query (conversation, video response, written response…), on how to read a blog entry (the whole thing, not just skimming through and then asking – so what do we do?), and on how to work independently. Oh, and I had taught English to the same group of students the previous year as well.

What does learning look like in your classroom? Do you use techy tools? Is it any different than any other kind of student-directed learning, just using different tools?

Thanks for your help: learning more about tech (digital storytelling) in secondary classrooms

I’ve received quite a bit of response from my plea for help in organizing a workshop I’ve been asked to give on integrating technology into secondary classrooms (2 workshops, one in English one in French) – Thank you :)

I’ll be using Teaching is a Verb – Enseigner, C’est Agir to share information with the workshop participants. The workshops will mainly be centred around digital storytelling in the content areas – I figured this was the easiest way to address the task I was given, “Can you put together a workshop on integrating technology in the High School Language Arts, History, and Science classes? Oh, and can you do a second one for French teachers? Thanks.”

At this point I have a whole slew of online resources to offer the teachers and to help organize my thoughts on the matter. I found a great Firefox add-on called Send Tab URLs that helped me to make a list of the resources I’ve collected so far.

There are a few examples of teaching and student practice among these links so far. I’d love to find more! The more I can show my teachers the better. The teachers who will be participating are already interested in the topic so theory will be kept to a bare minimum, though I’ll be able to direct anyone who is interested to the blog I am creating for any theory they want (I love theory :)

What they want is to see what it looks like in a classroom. I can show them final products, I can show them where to go to find different applications, but what I need to show them is what it looks like. If anyone has any resources for that, I’ll love you forever :)

From Send Tab URLs (38 links)

– The View From Here: Teaching the New Writing – Book

– Confessions of an Aca/Fan: Archives: How New Media is Transforming Storytelling: A New Video Series

– How to create …. – Digital Storytelling – Resources for assignments at University of Wollongong Library

– Secondary Cycle Two

– Technology Tools

– ecole

– Tutoriel pour crĂ©er un montage vidĂ©o avec Windows Movie Maker – TIC@le: TIC, langues et formation des enseignant(e)s

– Inuktic

– Carrefour Ă©ducation

– Voicethread – FrankTechCamp2010

– Web 2.0 @ School – DigitalStorytelling

– CogDogRoo – 50 Ways

– USTREAM, You’re On. Free LIVE VIDEO Streaming, Online Broadcasts. Create webcasts, video chat, stream videos on the Internet. Live streaming videos, TV shows

– Your Brain on Computers – Studying the Brain Off the Grid, Professors Find Clarity –

– Professional blog |

– Digital_storytelling_Kirsty_McGeoch_IATEFL_2009.pdf (application/pdf Object)

– Center for Digital Storytelling

– Technology integration

– What motivates us to do good?

– » Teacher Resources

– Aberth Digital Storytelling — digital storytelling, participatory media and easing access to mass media for public expression

– Seven things to Avoid when making a digital story

– YouTube – spmath’s Channel

– What does exemplary technology infused Math instruction look like? (Middle & High School) | Welcome to NCS-Tech!

– Alternative Assessment with VoiceThread

– Google Forms for Assessment, Evaluation, and Reflection

– Technology

– VoiceThread as a Digital Portfolio « TeachingSagittarian

– Lightning Bug – Storyboarding

– The Digital Narrative – Find your story

– N°482 – Le Web 2.0 et l’Ă©cole – Le Cercle de Recherche et d’Action PĂ©dagogiques et les Cahiers pĂ©dagogiques

– Free Technology for Teachers: 140 New Things Being Tried In Classrooms This Fall

– Free Technology for Teachers: Free Downloads

– Edmodo | Secure Social Learning Network for Teachers and Students

– Storytelling — It’s News!

– digitalstorytelling – home

– digitalstoryca’s Bookmarks on Delicious

– monarchlibrary – digitalstorytelling

Calling for help in high school tech workshop development in English and en français

I will be facilitating two workshops, essentially identical though different ;) , on integrating technology into secondary school classrooms. Specifically Language Arts, History, and Science.

When it comes to workshops, teachers want practical ideas that they can use in their classrooms so I will be organizing the workshops by practice first and then filling the theory in as we go, as it is needed.

Oh, they are identical but different because one is for English secondary teachers, one for French.

Ideas I have so far:

Digital Storytelling as the basis for integrating tech not only in the language classrooms but in the other classrooms as well

Demonstrating examples using:

Here are the workshop descriptions:

Technology as part of the learning process: Specific activities that integrate technology in the Secondary classroom.

In this workshop we will explore specific ways to integrate technology into Secondary Language Arts, History, and Science classrooms. It used to be that technology was an add on, something extra that many of us believed we did not have time for given the reality of rigorous curriculum and time constraints. Now, technology use is part of the curriculum, part of the learning process. We will look at specific ideas that can be used in the classroom – digital storytelling, blogging, voicethread, video, and other collaborative or individual activities – and how they are related to curricular competencies.

The material we cover, as well as ideas for further exploration, will be added to the website Teaching is a Verb – Enseigner, C’est Agir. The website is set up as a blog and I welcome your comments and questions as they can help me to design a workshop that best addresses your needs.


La technologie et le processus d’apprentissage: des activitĂ©s spĂ©cifiques qui appuient l’intĂ©gration de technologie dans la salle de classe secondaire

Il Ă©tait une fois que la technologie en salle de classe Ă©tait une activitĂ© supplĂ©mentaire, quelque chose qu’on faisait si on avait le temps après le ‘vrai travail’ du curriculum. Maintenant, la technologie fait partie du curriculum, du processus de l’apprentissage. Durant cet atelier je vais vous prĂ©senter des activitĂ©s spĂ©cifiques que vous pouvez utiliser dans vos salles de classes – le rĂ©cit numĂ©rique, des blogs, VoiceThread, vidĂ©o, et d’autres activitĂ©s de collaboration et non – et comment ces activitĂ©s sont liĂ©es aux compĂ©tences du curriculum.

Le contenu de l’atelier, en plus que des idĂ©es pour l’exploration supplĂ©mentaire, sera affichĂ© au site web Enseigner, C’est Agir – Teaching is a Verb. En fait, ce site web est un blog alors je vous invite Ă  me laisser vos commentaires ou vos questions, car ils pourraient m’aider Ă  crĂ©er un atelier qui rĂ©pondra plus prĂ©cisĂ©ment a vos besoins actuels.

Any ideas for me? Things you think are must haves? Things I should avoid?