My middle school colleagues, especially Mike Kaufman and I, recently decided to revamp student-led conferences (again!). This quarter, we introduced technology and changed the overall focus of the meeting.
Our school became fully BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) this year so we decided to have the students showcase their growing proficiency in academic technology by involving their devices. So, rather than showing paper report cards or hardcopies of work samples, students delivered a Google Presentation containing things like:
- Photos of their home workspace
- A photo of the inside of their locker
- A graph of their grades throughout the year
- Photos/screen captures of work samples
- Photos/screen captures of their agenda/Google Calendar pages
- Videos and other multimedia products they created
- Screen captures of their Google work folders and the contents
I even encouraged students to customize the presentation template and really make it reflect who they are. For instance, students included images of their highlights of the year (pics with friends, etc.).
The other change we made was to the overall focus of the parent-student meeting. Rather than focusing solely on results (grades, work), we put the emphasis on process. So, work samples and grades listed above had to be accompanied by in-depth reflections. For instance, the presentation challenged students to reflect and discuss the following:
- What preparation do you undergo before starting a particular assignment?
- How did you arrive at particular conclusions?
- Describe a time when you got stuck or were unsure how to proceed. What did you do?
- Outline your test-preparation strategies.
- If you could do it again, what would you do differently? Why?
- What are you most proud of? Why?
And, because the students I teach are in 8th grade, I included questions about the challenges ahead, such as Do you feel ready for High School? Or, What are you most nervous about?
Our conferences became a truly collaborative event as we invited colleagues from other disciplines to come in and talk to the students about particular presentation sections. For instance, when developing the graphs outlining their grades throughout the year, we invited math teacher Tim Kennedy in to show students how to use Google Sheets to organize the data and produce the graphs.
We tend to revise our conference process every year (and often during the school year). The changes drive some people crazy, but I remind my colleagues that the objective is to create a useful and effective experience for parents and students.
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