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In the Hands of the Students: Document Cameras

In further developing 21st Century classrooms and learners, it's vital that we move beyond using technology to enhance teacher-led instruction, but rather as tools to assist student-led discovery. In the Hands of the Students will be an ongoing series that explores the benefits that occur when students interact and engage with the technology already found in our classrooms and schools.

This week we take a look at Document Cameras.

A few years back I was lucky enough to participate in a critical thinking workshop hosted by Garfield Gini-Newman (if you ever have the chance to work with him, grab it!). Of the many insightful lessons imparted on me, one that has persisted is his concept of the Feedback Triangle. It's an interesting twist on the traditional peer feedback model.

As the name suggests, the Feedback Triangle involves three people:

  • Person #1: presents their work for feedback to Person #2.
  • Person #2: provides feedback to Person #1 based on an existing set of criteria for the task.
  • Person #3: provides feedback to Person #2 based on a set of criteria for providing effective feedback.

I have tried the above in my class where everyone is working simultaneously in groups of three. This has proven to be a successful method for engaging the students in peer feedback. What I noticed when walking around the classroom were all the meaningful teachable moments that arose during these feedback sessions, but experienced only by those three students in that particular group. So I modified the system slightly into what I now call Shared Assessment.

We're all familiar with the gradual release of responsibility as a model of instruction, but it's an equally valuable model for providing feedback and assessment in general.

Here's where the Document Camera comes into play!

  • Person #1: presents their work for feedback to Person #2 via the Document Camera, allowing the whole class to view the work sample.
  • Table groups discuss the effectiveness of the work as per the given criteria, and I am free to make assessment records of my own.
  • Person #2: provides feedback to Person #1 based on an existing set of criteria for the task.
  • Person #3: provides feedback to Person #2 based on a set of criteria for providing effective feedback.
  • Person #1 now revises their work based on agreed upon next steps via the Document Camera for all to see.

What I have noticed is that those students not directly involved in the triangle, but watching the entire process are that much more precise and accurate when assessing their own work following the Shared Assessment session. Accordingly, after two or three cycles of Shared Assessment, I invite all students to take the time to revise their own work based on what they've observed with shared revisions.

The result is a noticeable improvement in student achievement and a considerable increase in student engagement! In addition, by having students make judgments based on criteria, we are promoting and embedding critical thinking into the task.

If you're thinking that this might be of value in your class, give it a go! At the very least, you're putting the Document Camera in the hands of the students rather than using it as a glorified overhead projector.

For anyone interested, the criteria we use in our class for providing feedback to one another is available below.

Feedback is effective when it is:

  • constructive (provides one strength and one next step)
  • meaningful
  • concise
  • respectful





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