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The Hands of Time: Taking Control with Time Logs

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By Camille Mortimore, PhD, Chief Learning Officer

Ever feel like managing time is all you do? There is never enough of it - some tasks just gobble time - it mysteriously slips away, and it feels like you need 8-days-a-week to get it all done. And given this state of affairs, you are prompted to worry about how will you ever help students use their time effectively?

I still feel this way sometimes, but over the years, doing project-based learning with my students has proven to me that time can be either foe or friend. We can let time just happen to us or we can choose to harness time to our advantage. Time Logs have helped me have a more-friendly relationship with time, and I bet they can do the same for you.

Logging time is an opportunity for students to take charge — of their time and of their learning. As educators, we know “time on task” matters and we know that the quality of the time spent is directly related to the how deep and lasting the learning will be…which is, after all, what we care most about. A few years ago I decided to get intentional about this. I began asking myself how my students were spending their time…and I began monitoring it. Then I got really serious about my students’ agency over their learning and I began expecting them to ask, “Really, how am I using my time?” On rote tasks, on recall, on Who, What, Where, When, Why? How often am I analyzing cause and effect? Or predicting? Am I going to higher thinking levels like comparing, revising, critiquing? In what ways have I used design thinking skills? What have I created and why does it matter?

Asking students to reflect on how they used their time paid off in a new kind of reflection for them, one that impacted what they choose to do next in their learning. It impacted how they thought about themselves as learners, as producers, as actors and contributors.

The Time Logs my students created were part of their Learning Logs. A Learning Log is a kind of journal that provides evidence of the student’s learning and skills growth, in the student’s own voice. Quality learning logs move beyond what has been completed into what has been learned, what the challenges were, and why the learning mattered.

Learning logs, including time logs, are one of the keys to making student-centered, deeper learning, “messy” methods like PBL make sense for all the stakeholders: students, teachers, parents, administrators, and the community. Logs document learning events and processes so their connection and coherence become evident. As students reflect and make sense of their own learning experiences, their learning and time logs make sense of the process for readers as well as for listeners as students become clear articulators of their work and growth at exhibitions of learning.

Students logs are a kind of evidence-of-learning. They create a story that is both compelling and convincing documentation of what happened. Bill Tolley, writer and a New York Times Teacher Who Makes a Difference, makes this case. “Learning logs begin a conversation on documenting and data-tracking the messiness we embrace in student-centered classrooms and provide concrete evidence of learning informed by practice, reflection, and the learner’s voice.” You can check out Bill’s article with useful links in Record Learning Effectively: Make a Better Learning Log. Education Week Teacher, January 13, 2016.

Foundry Time Logs are all about intentionally reflecting on learning, on the amount of time spent learning, but more importantly, about the quality of the learning experience and its impact on both the learner and the context. Foundry’s fully configurable forms ask students to reflect on varied learning experiences, such as projects, independent reading, research, service, and activities. Pre-designed questions focus reflection on areas of learning impact. Questions like:

  • How much time did you work?

  • What did you learn? How did you grow?

  • What new skills did you develop?

  • What were your challenges?

  • How could you have used time more effectively?

  • What will you do differently next time?

  • How do you feel about the learning process?

  • In what ways does your learning or product, or success or failure matter?

  • What new areas of learning occur for you because of this work?

Here are examples of these reflection questions, ready for active use by students every day. Time Logs in Foundry track both what happened and push new learning forward.

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This Independent Reading Log is formative assessment for a student-designed project, Books to Movies. The student chose the topic, the books, and reflected on what mattered.

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The time logged was 2.5 hours, but more crucially, the insight gained will support the student’s goals to become a teacher and to be part of building a caring, sustainable community. Note the active voice of both the teacher and the student in sharing their thinking about the learning process. This is just the kind of reflection and mentoring we all want to support for the good of our students and communities! Happy time logging!