Our learning space is full of whiteboards and one of my colleagues commented that I use them all the time. It’s true that I do often use the boards to share my thinking, but what I’m encouraging my students to do is use it as a means of sharing their thinking.
Google, Communitech, and Apple all have made it a priority to have wall space available to their employees to brainstorm, collaborate, and just plain think. It’s curious to me that when you think of a classroom, that the writing on the boards should be the teacher’s. I want my students to be sharing their thinking as you never know who is going to read what’s up there and then add something that deepens the learning.
In thinking about the learning process, the potential for deeper thinking is present in the brainstorming phase. By having students share their thinking in a very visual way, it opens the door to furthwr discussion with me and their peers. Of course technology also provides a space for this, but sometimes the low tech methods can be more appealing as students are working face to face rather than through a screen.
It also gives me the opportunity to see the beginning of the process and have a conversation about where the thinking is going. I have been reflecting and am quite concerned with the common practice of only giving feedback at the end of a task. Our role as teachers is changing and feedback during the process is vital for deep critical thinking as the process is where the learning happens. If our feedback is only at the end, we are doing a disservice to our students.
The other benefit is that it works for observational data for assessment. I often take photos of the visual thinking on the boards and take note of the students involved. It helps me to have a more complete picture of my students and their abilities, but in a non-threatening and relaxed environment.
I’m only at the beginning of my own research into this, but when you can take photos such as the ones below, it’s a practice that deserves more consideration.