Friday, June 24, 2016

Let's Recap App: a Powerful Incubator of Reflection

      During the Arkansas Association of Instructional Media conference this spring, I heard from Joyce Valenza, one of my library heroes. One of the ideas that has stuck with me from her presentations was the need to publicize the library program with more than just usage statistics.  She proposed that including student feedback in library reports could deepen students learning through reflection and provide powerful documentation about the impacts of the library program on their learning.

Recently, while I was discussing authentic reflections with one of my colleagues, Justin Hart, he mentioned an app called (Let's) Recap. Mr. Hart joked that he would keep mentioning it until one of his colleagues went out and tried it.  I took him up on his offer and try it out with my student library aides this spring.  

Let's Recap is available on the Apple Store or it can be accessed on a computer. (  Students can access the app either with their email, or by entering a class pin.  For my students, I had them enter a pin.

     For this experiment, I wrote up a few reflective questions for my student library aides to answer about what they had learned working in the library this year. Initially, I gave them the option to either write down their answers and submit them or complete a video reflection using Let’s Recap.  I anticipated that some student aides would volunteer to share their reflective thoughts on camera using the Recap app.  I was wrong.  Instead, every student submitted written responses to the reflective questions.

Since the written responses were limited and lacked depth, the next day I rethought this reflection activity, and decided to give them another opportunity.  I rewrote some of the questions and required students to complete their reflection on their learning using the Recap app.

I was pleasantly surprised by not only the amount of feedback students' Recap presentations provided, but by the depth of their reflective thoughts.  Some aides focused on the skills they had learned working in the library this year such as shelving books, time management, or ways they had built their customer service skills.  Other described the activities they had done such as working on Genius Hour projects in the Maker Lab, or the coding they did of Finch Robots and to build video games.

One student's reflection was particularly poignant.  This student was one of the more shy student aides this year.  Their reflection focused less on activities, or skills that were developed, and more on how they had grown as a person through working in the library.  In the Recap reflection, they described how they had "learned how to talk with people" and "be more social" working in the library this year.

Some things I liked about the Let's Recap app:
  1. Ease of use-it is not difficult to set up reflection opportunities using the app or to review student responses.
  2. It provides more authentic feedback opportunities since students are talking out their thoughts.  This proved more effective for some students.  For others, the lack of structure provided through oral explanation led to more of a "stream of consciousness" approach.
  3. Some students shared about class learning and skills they developed, while others shared about personal growth.
  4. Students were in some cases more frank and honest when they talked out their reflections compared to when they reflected on paper.
     5. Let’s Recap is free and works as an iPad app, or on computers.

As I look forward to the 2016-17 school year, I will definitely be including Let’s Recap as one of the apps that will be shared through the Digital Diner technology trainings I offer for my staff.  It will be one of the first apps I share this fall. It is a great, easy to use reflective tool that can powerfully display students' reflections on their learning.

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