Here at Inquire & Inspire we pride ourselves on recognizing and exploring the impact of innovative and cutting-edge technology within the classroom. Every once and while, a technological breakthrough of such massive scope occurs, that when integrated within the classroom it creates a dynamic and profound shift in the learning experience itself.

Let me introduce to you… the sticky note.  The name itself gives away quite a bit. These notes are indeed sticky, but fortunately only on the rear and only at the top of this one side. And if you choose to, notes may indeed be written on these small miracles of science and technology. But that is simply scratching the surface of the sticky note’s true potential.

Of the many features found with sticky notes perhaps one of the most beneficial is its portability. Anywhere students go, sticky notes can go too! Unlike that iPad with 10% battery charge left, you're not dependent on power outlets and charging cables! So if students are walking around the room conversing with others, or moving from one small group to another, or perhaps gathered at the front of the room for a whole class discussion, their thinking can be captured on sticky notes. At a later time, students can consolidate their thinking by combining various sticky notes on pieces of paper - no need to copy and paste, or embed/insert documents within documents!


Sticky notes facilitate meaningful and authentic collaboration, all without the use of complex cloud-based systems! Students can rephrase, extend, challenge, and question each other’s thinking, and then document this process on a co-created sticky note. Consider how sticky notes can turn classroom models, criteria, and other anchor charts into interactive, collaborative learning experiences. Groups can engage in discussions about a particular artifact and then make their shared thinking visible by attaching a co-developed response on a sticky note (here it becomes clear as to why the Design and Engineering Team behind sticky notes chose to include the adhesive strip on the back of this most remarkable technology).  We create anchor charts to anchor student thinking to exemplars, criteria and other supportive resources in the classroom. Sticky notes provide a means for students to develop ownership over these materials, and consequently deepen the effectiveness of this connection.

At any point during a lesson or task, a check for understanding can provide valuable insight and formative assessment data to further inform upon and direct instruction. Fortunately, sticky notes are quite compatible with this practice. When used in conjunction with a specialized stylus (perhaps a pencil?), student thinking can be captured in a moment’s notice. In the example below, students demonstrated previously acquired knowledge with various mathematical operations in an introductory lesson on solving equations.

Sticky notes have a built in historical archiving mechanism; they stick to stuff. You may need to further support this system by supplementing the adhesiveness of the sticky note with a small piece of scotch tape, an affordable and effective upgrade. This will facilitate meaningful documentation of the evolution of student thinking over time.


IMG_0789.JPGWhen documenting growth, sticky notes do not necessarily need to be used to capture effective thinking and achievement. Rather, they can be used to record misguided thinking and mistakes. There is great value in identifying mistakes and then recognizing in them opportunities for new learning. Capture these moments with sticky notes, and revisit them following new learning and achievement as evidence of student success. Avoid using the UNDO feature (an eraser) and celebrate mistakes as opportunities for growth!

Thinking is, most often, a hidden process, yet one critical to the successful development of deep understanding. When teachers make their own thinking visible by modeling and explicitly thinking out loud, they support this process in students. However, is this enough to meet the needs of everyone in the class? Perhaps not. When students make their own thinking visible, opportunities arise for immediate, descriptive feedback. Furthermore, student thinking made visible provides insight into the thinking skills and strategies students are using to develop their understanding. These skills and strategies are often used unintentionally or outside of student awareness. Using sticky notes to make thinking visible may help bring these thinking processes to the forefront of students’ awareness. Much like anchor charts, sticky notes can used as visual cues so that, for example, a student can see how to use a thinking skill such as comparing and contrasting to support judgments. When we explicitly identify and label such thinking skills and strategies, we make them more accessible for students to use.

Considering the sticky note’s gradual learning curve and immense variety of applications, you may be ready to integrate this robust technology into your practice. Perhaps you already are. We’d love to hear from you on how you are using sticky notes to support and promote student success @inquireinspire #visiblethinking

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