To reflect on one’s practice is only one step in continuous professional development. Without this step, however, teachers cannot improve their performance; they do not know what to improve without considering what happened in the past. One of the best ways to reflect is to write, so here are a few resources I can suggest to teachers who want – and need – to think and write about what they are doing in the classroom.
The first resource set might be the one most teachers would think of – a Moleskine journal and a writing instrument. Writing out thoughts after the day has ended, or during prep, helps a teacher to release the bad and celebrate the good. We cannot always remember what happened during a class even a day later, so some teachers like to write in a journal as soon as possible after a class has ended. Having a journal close at hand is a great idea for those teachers.
Another handwritten option that spans traditional and 21st century technology is the Livescribe pen and notebook. The combination allows the user to store handwritten notes and then upload those notes to a computer at a later time. With additional software, the user can convert those handwritten notes to text. The user can record pencasts using the pen, too, and upload them to a computer. An alternative to the Livescribe is the Logipen, which does not require special paper to record handwritten notes. The Logipen cannot do voice recordings, however.
What if you are a teacher who worries about privacy, however? Having a journal lying around, even in a drawer, might be disconcerting for some teachers. I am one of those teachers. For those like me, I suggest the following resources.
Google Docs is a good solution for those teachers who want a secure journal. As long as others do not have access to your computer and your Gmail account, you can rest assured that your thoughts are safe. The other benefit to using Google Docs is that your journal is available to you everywhere you are. You can access the journal at work, at home, and on your mobile device. You may prefer other cloud document processing services, such as Zoho or Microsoft Office 365, which are both good.
If you are a teacher that likes to record thoughts verbally, might I recommend Evernote? Evernote allows the user to record clips in a note – 25MB for users with free accounts and 50MB for premium users. This translates into 2 hours for free-account users and 4 hours for premium users. If you like to record notes, you can use this resource to your heart’s content. You can record notes using your smartphone or a computer with a microphone. Later you can transcribe your notes on a secure computer at home so you can review them months down the road. Again, you can access your Evernote account at work, at home, and on your mobile device. Since my smartphone never leaves my side, I’m not concerned about anyone listening to my thoughts surreptitiously.
In this post, I have shared my preferences for one of the most important tasks of my profession – reflection. Pick a method, any method, and start writing! You – and your students – will be very glad you did.