Young people love sharing their photos through social media outlets such as Facebook and Tumblr. Why not transfer that interest to the academic setting?
Having middle grades students showcase their academic work in online galleries provides them an opportunity to create and share something permanent during a transitory time in their lives. I maintain an evolving and growing online collection of my math students’ work, including original fractal creations, graphs from target-oriented graphing software, and digitally created color tessellations.
I invite you to visit our galleries at http://www.hw.com/academics/Departments/
Intrigued? Here are a few tips to get started creating your own online student academic galleries.
Find something you and your students genuinely wish to exhibit and share with others. I was fascinated for years with my students’ personalized fractal creations before I finally decided to exhibit them online. Deciding on “gallery worthy” projects can help define and clarify what you are most proud of about your students’ work.
Think of your academic discipline as an opportunity for students to create something. The creation process does not have to be artistic. Any extended project might be a good candidate for a gallery. For example, a math teacher might wish to collect and exhibit exemplary student solutions to non-routine problems to emphasize how there can be more than one way to solve a problem.
Think Long Term
When I started my online student fractal gallery I had already been collecting student work for years. I knew I wanted the online gallery to have a sense of permanence to it—ideally something that will live on my school’s website indefinitely.
I organize the work as a permanent collection, classifying and grouping the fractals not by school year or math class, but by common themes like Food Fractals, Nature Fractals, Furry Fractals, Scary Fractals, and so on. Further, I allow students plenty of time to pursue their creations as extended projects.
My students know up front that not everyone makes it into the online gallery, which is reserved for the most original and creative work. Striving for a gallery-worthy creation is a goal that motivates students toward genuine accomplishment. Emphasis on praise and enjoyment, rather than competition and assessment, helps keep the efforts positive and fun.
Collecting student work digitally helps the gallery-creation process. I started the gallery by having my students copy and paste screen captures of their work onto a Word document and then e-mail me the documents as an attachment. There are, however, a growing number of online options for students and teachers to share work electronically, such as Moodle (www.moodle.org) and Canvas (www.instructure.com).
Connect with a Webmaster
I showcase student work on our school’s website, so I asked my school’s webmaster to enable a gallery site on our academic department page. With password-enabled access, I can create new galleries and upload images to these galleries as easy as one might do with any social media.
Exhibit and Share
I regularly share the gallery with my students and their parents. Seeing past work on projects over the course of several years helps my students feel like their work is part of a bigger effort and inspires many of them to reach higher.
Darin Beigie is a middle school math teacher at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, California, and author of the book Mathematical Reasoning Middle School Supplement (The Critical Thinking Co., 2011). E-mail: email@example.com
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