Collaboration and Documentation on Virtual Learning Platforms in an Early Years Progressive and Innovative School

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Collaboration and Documentation on Virtual Learning Platforms in an Early Years Progressive and Innovative School

The context

The school has a strong focus on personalized, holistic and agency driven learning. Unique in its context, it encourages students to innovate through experiences and challenges curated by their collaborators. These experiences and challenges are constructed in the environment / space set up and through provocations. The school prides itself as being innovative and thus functions as an unconventional school.

The disruption caused by COVID-19 led to the school shifting fully online. With the reopening of schools, students were given the choice of either proceeding with virtual learning or returning to face-to-face learning. Seventy percent of students are now face-to- face and 30% are fully online. At this time, the school is not engaging in blending learning, however, each collaborator is expected to cater to both students who choose to physically come to school and those who are continuing solely online.

The Challenge

After visiting the school and observing the students in their new, safe set-up. The Designer of Transformational Experiences and part of the leadership team expressed several tensions they are experiencing with virtual learning and the new set-up for face-to-face learning. Amongst the most pressing challenges is the lack of collaboration and compromise in documenting student learning within a virtual platform.

According to the leadership team, online platforms are not the easiest to utilize when designing for an innovative and progressive school like this. Students are young and the online session is short which compromises choice and agency that are hallmarks of the school’s pedagogy and philosophy. The students that are solely virtual are missing on the social connection and collaboration element. The school is currently investigating various collaborative platforms that can solve this issue.

Additionally, Collaborators (teacher role) count on the physical observations as a major part of documentation of learning. Documentation focuses heavily on the process rather than the product. With this forced focus on documenting the product as a result of the limitation of virtual learning, the Designer of Transformational Experiences says, “quality and richness of documenting suffers”. To problem solve, staff are thinking of innovative ways to incorporate parents in the documentation process in order to gather more fruitful insight on the child’s learning.

Possible solutions

In terms of the leadership team’s first concern of finding a collaborative platform, one that allows students to collaborate on a tool like Paint, Kami, a “digital classroom app built to transform any existing document into an interactive learning experience” (Kami, 2020), is a good option. The reason Kami is an ideal solution is because it is not a learning management system but a simple tool that can be plugged into any existing Learning Management System such as Google or Canvas therefore making it easier for collaborators and parents to access and interact with. Similar to the features in Paint, Kami allows collaborators to upload images or blank pages that students can collaborate on simultaneously. This allows students to work with their peers as they would face-to-face using shape, text and drawing tools.

Additionally, similar to how collaborators intentionally curate the classrooms and spaces in the school to provoke questions and interests, collaborators can do the same via Kami. Collaborators can create a page and set it up as they would a classroom including embedding videos, links, images, etc. Given that this school currently uses Zoom as their virtual platform, Kami links can be embedded in the chat box. Kami tools can be used as part of a Zoom session or students can engage with it asynchronously. Similarly, Kami activity links can be embedded into chat boxes in other platforms like MS Teams and GoTo Meetings.

The leadership team’s second tension is with documenting student learning. Documentation occurs at stages of the process prior to completion; this is the main form of data collection that collaborators engage in to build their insight into each unique student. When referring specifically to those who are engaging with online learning only, one way to engage the parents is to ask them to take images and videos of their children at different stages of the process.

These videos can be shared via google drive or drop box and ultimately it will be up to the collaborator to interpret that piece of documentation and further annotate their observation on the child’s process. Additionally, Google Drive and Dropbox are fairly simple tools to use and can be accessed via smartphone or computer making it easy for parents to engage with.

Kami. “Your Digital Classroom Hero.” Kami, 2020, www.kamiapp.com/.

Method of research: engaging and experimenting with various online tools - reading reviews – watching demo tutorials - assessing most appropriate tool – gaining some background knowledge on documenting via (Seitz, 2008)


Nayla Al-Thani

Associate Trainer
Education Development Institute