What Exactly Have I Documented?

When does too much documentation become too much documentation?

Houston, I think I may have a problem with my documentation practices - in that, I think I'm documenting TOO MUCH.

I have successfully filled up the memory of three of our school's iPads - I am constantly going back over pictures and either deleting them or uploading them to the cloud.

Collections of photos currently on iPads, 1, 2 and 3. A problem you say.....nnnaaaaah....ok maybe.

What am I doing wrong?

Do I wonder too much?

At this point, I don't really know our learners at all and here are just a few things that I'm wondering:

  • What do the students KNOW?
  • How are they feeling about making?
  • What piques their interests?
  • Do they prefer one form over another? Are they able to make sense about what they are making?
  • Do they have the vocabulary to describe their thinking about what they are making?
  • What questions do they have?
  • How can we build upon, extend and apply their knowledge in different contexts?

The Making Learning Visible Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education produces several documents to help beginning through the different processes of documentation. They state we should begin with a focussed question in order to limit data collection and sharpen analysis. But in my case, I don't see how I can refine my questions? I need to know all of these things in order to be prospective about what we should put into our makerspace! Or, could I refine these questions in direct relation to what we are exploring that day? Or, should I only focus on a few questions per day? Surely I can't answer ALL of these questions in one sitting anyways! (What a smorgasbord that would be!)

Perhaps, another one of my problems is that I'm trying to document the learning done with every class that comes through the learning commons - and that would total .... um.... 20 classes? Ok, it's becoming a bit clearer now.

Maybe I don't need to extensively document similar learning experiences done by all of the classes at each grade level, but take a sampling of a few to help guide my process. But... I am often worried that if I don't document each class, that I'm not being open to the experience and will miss learning.

Should I shift the focus to sometimes taking notes as well? Or, is this something that I will develop over time? I'm sure as I get to know the learners over the course of the year - I won't feel the need to document every little thing....right? Really, can documentation be like black pairs of pants? You can never have enough?

I think in this case, though I can. I won't be able to wear all these pair of pants - something has got to change.