The value of digital work samples…

A Teaching Aside

So my wife pointed out an amazing tool that is going to help me have a much better relationship with my students’ parents! The tool is a new app called Scannable from Evernote. It lets me scan each of my student’s assignments each day so I have a digital copy and can send originals home with the kids.

Why are parents excited?

I think this is a huge breakthrough because I have to date not been able to get a hold of a scanner for my classroom to digitally scan each piece of paper generated in my classroom. Because I do not have a scanner and I have a limited photocopy budget that will almost assuredly expire before the end of the year anyway, I have been filing each student’s work in a filing cabinet. I have been communicating each student’s progress in a back and forth book, emails, and texts to each parent. But I have not been able to send the students’ work home.

After I downloaded Scannable, I scanned all of the assignments that I had previously filed away. I then took the assignments, organized them, put them in a large envelope and mailed them to each student’s parents. What excites me is that now each and every parent now knows on a day to day basis the progress of their child. They also get to actually have their child bring their work home, just like normal kids! Parents now get to see that their child is actually quite good at spelling. They get to see that their child is starting to understand how to add or subtract with regrouping. They are learning their times tables, etc. It gives mom and dad something to truly be proud of at the end of each school day.

More importantly, the parents are ecstatic that their kids now get to (have to) bring their homework home to mom and dad. It seems a small thing, but actually it is very important because it is one fewer difference between my students and their general-education peers. And every similarity between my class and every other class in school is always a good thing.

Why am I excited?

On my end, I no longer have to hold on to paper work samples, I have digital work samples. This means I can generate sample data across time to guide my lesson planning and to help parents understand why I favor one method of teaching over another for their child. Having the data/work samples in digital format is also helpful because it is easy to archive, all I have to do is burn a CD or DVD and slip it into each student’s IEP folder. As such, I can provide a full year’s worth of data rather than just a series of + and – on a data collection sheet. Having all of these data will hopefully help future teachers (and even me if I have the same student next year) better plan out a curriculum map for each student based on data rather than having to go by intuition.

It is also much easier for me to not get overwhelmed by the paperwork when I have to spend 10-15 seconds per sheet of paper to scan rather than a lot more than that to file away (generally on the order of 30-45 seconds). I can score an assignment, mark on each assignment whether the student required a partial prompt, no prompting, or was entirely independent, photograph it, and send it home.

Moving into the future, I plan to make some sort of digital portfolio for each of my students with their work samples so they can see their own progress over time. I think if I am able to show each student how much better they are at academic skills later in the year compared to earlier they will gain confidence. I also hope that in this way I can help curb some of the anxiety my students suffer when they start math because they feel they cannot do it, even though they can. I want to provide them some proof that they can, and have already done so.


If anyone has any good ideas, please let me know in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “The value of digital work samples…

    1. Thanks! I have concerns with using Three Ring as they intend since some parents are rather persnickety about what can and cannot be uploaded (even to secure servers). But I put it on my phone and I’ll give it a whirl.

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