As students develop through the school year, they develop and refine their skills and practice by setting new goals, creating action plans and engaging with actionable items as a means to work towards achieving their goals while reflecting throughout the process. An eportfolio is one way of documenting and reflecting on a student’s learning journey in a meaningful and authentic way. It serves as a place for students to highlight and reflect on pieces of selected work, which can be shared with parents, teachers and peers. The structure of e-portfolios can vary depending on the age of students, goals of the school and individual choice.
Questions to Consider
When beginning the process towards implementing e-portfolios, teachers and administrators should reflect on a number of questions prior to rolling them out.
What is the Purpose of an e-Portfolio?
Defining the goal of the e-portfolio is key for all of the stakeholders. Some e-portfolios may be more focused on the process of learning (snapshots of learning throughout the experience), product focused (finished pieces of work) or even a combination of both. Some schools may focus more on only studentselected pieces or they may mandate teacherselected pieces or, again, somewhere along the continuum. To summarise one approach a school might take, an e-portfolio may be a process journal to reflect on the journey of learning through studentselected pieces of work with reflections, with input and guidance from their teachers.
What Will It Look Like?
What e-portfolios look like in schools depends on a variety of factors varying from device type, platform choice and age level. The experience of creating e-portfolios is very different for students who have a laptop or an iPad.
There a number of different platforms available to create student e-portfolios. Whether using Easy Blogger Jr, Seesaw, Managebac or Google Sites, it is important for schools to consider their existing systems and how the implementation of e-portfolios may work within these systems.
One concern schools often have with the development of e-portfolios is that they must be consistent throughout the school: if one year group uses one application, all must use the same. While this is true to a certain extent, it is more appropriate to ensure that the choice of platform is appropriate for the age of the students. This could mean that it may be better for younger students to use iPads and a blogging application using pictures, videos and audio reflections, while junior students transition to a more sophisticated platform to incorporate a wider range of multimedia selections, written reflections and a more comprehensive scope of all learning of subjects, concepts and skills. Regardless of what a school uses to create its e-portfolios, it is most important that it works for the needs of the learning community.
Who has Ownership of the e-Portfolio?
It is key to define ownership as it implicates the buyin and enthusiasm towards developing the e-portfolio. Ideally, the owner of the e-portfolio is the student. The e-portfolio is created by the student for the purpose of reflecting, goal setting and sharing his learning with others. While others (parents, teachers, peers, administration) are all stakeholders in the eportfolio process and support the student through the process, the student should have ultimate control over what, when and how his learning is demonstrated to his audience.
Who is the Audience?
Identifying who will see and interact with the e-portfolios further creates a defined purpose for students. The e-portfolios should be a source of information to inform teaching practice. It is beneficial for teachers to confer with their students and their e-portfolio to gain greater insight into their work and reflection. This also allows for coaching of students on the refinement of their goals and planning for next steps.
Students may share their portfolio with other students in class and across year groups. This promotes sharing of learning both vertically and horizontally. Peer assessment/feedback is an important part of the process, allowing students to learn how to give and receive constructive feedback from others, while learning from the work of others.
Students connect their learning with home by sharing with family members and making connections beyond the classroom. Parents can review the portfolio with their child at the end of each unit and discuss their learning and growth over the course of the unit. Many platforms allow parents to subscribe to updates where they receive instant feedback when new entries are added, further adding to timely conversations to connect the learning. Parents should engage with the opportunity to ignite discussion with their child and comment on their work.
How Will It Work?
The logistics of implementation can often make or break the success of any new implementation process. Having a discussion with teachers about how to facilitate implementation in the classroom invites teachers to explore strategies with one another. How many devices do you have? Will this be a once a week task or ongoing as appropriate when students want to add? What requirements do you have for students with their reflections? How will you monitor student progress, entries and conferring? How much time a week do you need to allocate with your planning? All of these questions help to foresee potential areas that would break the flow of implementation. By visualising the plan in advance, teachers are able to plan for successful implementation.
What are the Roles of the Various Stakeholders?
As a school, identifying the stakeholders and their role allows for each stakeholder to have a greater understanding of how they can positively impact the process of e-portfolio implementation and reflections. Once the stakeholders and their role have been identified, actionable items of how they may achieve their role helps to develop transparency amongst stakeholders.
The role of the student may be to create and maintain an e-portfolio throughout the academic year as a way to reflect on his learning and share his growth. By unpacking this role, the student will have a better understanding of how to select pieces, how many pieces should be included throughout the reflection process (as a minimum), how he should reflect and how he will share with others.
There should be role clarity for all teachers who support the student with their e-portfolio: the homeroom teacher, the single subject teacher, the English as a second language teacher, educational support teaching assistants and learning support teachers. Each of these roles play a crucial part in the overall student experience. Where appropriate, the role of the education technology coach should be outlined in how they will support both teachers and students as they navigate the digital portfolio process to ensure implementation does not fully fall on either the homeroom teacher or the education technology coach. Rather, support should be shared by all.
As part of the sharing phase of the process, parents and peers become stakeholders. Parents need to be taught how to engage and interact with digital work, as it may not be a familiar concept or area of comfort. Providing parents with the educational tools to engage with the portfolio and engage in conversations with their child allows for deeper reflections and conversations with their child. Similarly, peers need to understand how to construct their peer feedback to be meaningful and effective without being critical. This is a life skill that can support students beyond the portfolio.
Finally, a shared understanding of the technical aspects of the portfolios needs to be decided. If present, it will likely be the IT department. However, where these departments do not exist at a school level, it may fall to the homeroom teacher or an administrator. To reduce frustrations, the responsibility of creating the templates and deploying them to students, as well as technical problem solving, need to have a stakeholder identified for this role.
What Opportunities are there for Reflection?
As students contribute work to their digital portfolio, they have the opportunity to reflect on any of their work samples, noticing their strengths and areas of growth. They may reflect on how they have demonstrated the learner profile attributes, attitudes and transdisciplinary skills through the selected work samples and their actions at school. Students may reflect on how they have developed throughout the year, as well as between years.
Age-appropriate reflection strategies are key to developing successful reflections. Younger students may wish to reflect through audio, videos, photographs and limited written text, whereas older students may focus on written reflection more. By allowing for choice in how reflections are documented, individual needs shine through with student reflections.
Focusing on the Importance of Students
Regardless of how the school or the teacher defines these questions, the focus of the eportfolio should always come back to the students, their learning experiences and growth. The digital portfolio demonstrates a snapshot of a student’s learning over the course of the year and time within a school. As students progress through the year groups, the portfolio evolves with them, allowing for further reflections between years and not just within a year level. When the e-portfolio is designed with students and their learning as central to the process, e-portfolios can add valuable reflection, documented evidence of learning and a platform for sharing growth, challenges and successes of students as a means of supporting their continual learning journey.
*Originally published on Education Technology Solutions at: educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/2016/10/document-learning-journey-digital-portfolios/
Web 2.0 & Social Media in Lessons
As we aim to broaden our students knowledge of the world, connections and communication becomes more important. Teaching through Web 2.0 allows students to communicate with others, instead of just a one directionally path with no authentic audience input (Hew & Cheung, 2012, p.48). Collaborative approaches to learning are key to helping students construct knowledge together.
In my classroom, I have used a number of Web 2.0 and social media tools to support learning:
Edmodo is like Facebook for education but fits the needs of my students who are under age 13 (age requirement of Facebook). It can be used a general discussion board to ask questions and share resources both during the school day and after hours. As a teacher, I can post polls and also reward students with badges for their efforts. It also provides a great platform for some important digital citizenship conversations such as appropriate online communication, what to reveal about yourself, the difference between professional and personal communication, who to connect with, avatars and profiles and online image.
Available at: https://www.edmodo.com
Skype is often an under used resource. Skype allows you to make video calls to another around the world. Last year, our class did a number of Mystery Skype calls with other classrooms to develop our geography and problem solving skills. We also sang Chinese songs with another school for Chinese New Year, wrote poems together and played math games against other classes.
Available at: http://www.skype.com/
In Year 4, students create cultural blogs to explore their identities. As an international school, the students can find this task challenges with many being third-culture children. The blogs allows them the experiences of writing different posts to explore aspects of their identities and follow the journeys of their classmates and interacting with each other through the commenting features.
Available from: www.blogger.com
e-Portfolios (Google Sites)
All students at our school have e-Portfolios from K1- Year 6. This is a great way for students to reflect on their learning and select pieces of work they wish to share. Students share these portfolios with parents, teachers and other students. Together it opens the lines of communication in person and through the comments. It really helps students to know we are all working to help them grow and learning with constructive feedback and encouragement.
Available at: https://www.google.com/sites/overview.html
As a teacher, I use Twitter to connect globally with other educators. It is a great way to have short discussions while also getting ideas and resources. With the options of both private and public messages, I can easily communicate with the many educators I have met online.
Available at: https://www.twitter.com
Here are 2 articles related to introducing social media to your classroom in the Primary school:
Introducing Social Media to Elementary Students
A Guidebook for Social Media in the Classroom
Hew, K.F. & Cheung, W.S. (2012). Use of Web 2.0 Technologies in K-12 and Higher Education: The Search for Evidence-based Practice, Educational Research Review. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2012.08.001
Like any behaviours that teachers want to instill in their students, the expectations for behaviours need to be laid out at the beginning of the year. Within the first week of school, students engage in a lesson about the acceptable use policy. They are then expected to take a copy home, sign it and review it with their parents before returning it. All students in the Primary school begin with this routine. From there, it is easy to reference back to as the students begin to do activities. Teachers must be fully versed in the acceptable use policy as well and hold their students to this standard. Our acceptable use policy is quite thorough for students and focuses on the following topics: respectful, responsibility, care for devices, privacy, accessing appropriate information, referencing, discipline and social media (Chatsworth, 2015).
Another important aspect of teaching students about digital citizenship is actually modelling it as a teacher. It is extremely frustrating as a education technology coach when teachers ask me how to do things that are illegal, not aligned with our acceptable use policy or incorrectly. If teachers do not model how to be a good digital citizen, how can we expect our students to? As teachers, we should be showing students how to engage appropriately with emails, citing our work and referencing images in presentations. We need to be leading the way when our students turn to use for the standard. One way I have done this is set up an email writing programme in the past where students email me each week and I respond with an email. From this, students understand the format of an email, appropriate email communication all while building their written communication skills and rapport with the teacher.
Digital citizenship should be embedded into the curriculum and not taught in isolation. Students need to make meaning of it by connecting it to real life experiences inside and outside of the classroom. The Year 6 students are currently doing their puberty unit and learning about body image. This also translate into their online image and how they see themselves. The teachers and students are having conversations about the impact of media and social media on their views of themselves and the images they also share. They are also discussing how to communicate appropriately on social media platforms. These topics are completely integrated, giving students context for the topics.
There are also those times when teachable moments arise. Perhaps someone posts something inappropriately online or you see another student properly reference images. These are great conversations to have in the moment even though they weren't planned. When questions come up from students about something online, you shouldn't shy away from it but rather support the student's inquiry and help build their digital citizenship schema.
One of the other things as an educator I need to be cognizant about is that educating a child is a partnership between the school and home. This is why we also need to educate our parent community. When I was a homeroom teacher, I made sure that my class parents were informed regularly about what we were doing in our classroom, the technologies we were using and conversation starters they could have with their children. As an education technology coach, I work with members of our leadership team to develop and conduct parent sessions related to their child's technology use. We also have an open door policy for parents to drop in and ask questions whenever they need to.
Educating our students to become good digital citizens is not an easy task and not a task that can be accomplished in a year. It requires the whole school to approach digital citizenship as the way of moving forward. Currently our school is looking to build a digital citizenship curriculum that is integrated into various units from kindergarten to Year 13. Together with a whole school approach, we can work to support and model good digital etiquette for our students to follow.
Chatsworth International School. (2015). Acceptable Use Policy - Chatsworth Group of Schools [internal document].
Technology in the classroom has changed substantially over time. Once upon a time, computers were not affordable for the average school to have in each classroom. The computer took up a good chunk of space in the room and had limited functionality. Nowadays, many schools have computers in every classroom, some enough for every student or a BYOD programme adopted so that technology can be integrated on a daily basis.
As a teacher that uses technology on a daily basis to enhance the education experience, it is hard to imagine it being challenging for teachers to find educational uses for computers when they were first being introduced into the classroom (Bigum, 2012, p. 18). For me, trying to find the best way to transform technology for education is something I enjoy doing. I like trying to find new ways to use the tools I have to make learning different and engaging for students. Back when computers were first being introduced this may have been more of a struggle with dedicated teachers still trying to lead the way.
I love being able to introduce new technologies into my classroom. Often I just show my students and just let them explore it. They will often be able to grasp how to use the tool faster and better than I would be able to show them if I was to lead a directed lesson. Because my students are now proficient with a number of technology tools, it is easy for them to transfer their knowledge between technology tools until it is 'domesticated' as part of the class (Bigum, 2012, p. 22).
As an Education Technology Coach, I am often approached by teachers wanting to buy the 'new big thing'. For me, it is important that our school doesn't just jump on board with purchasing things to 'keep up with the Jones'. Rather, take the time to trial it, see what the pros and cons are before purchasing and rolling out to the whole school. This helps to slow the cycle. It is important to note how a new piece of technology will change the experience of what already exists with a focus on how is it going to improve teaching and learning (Bigum, 2012, p.26).
I believe technology is enhancing the way I teach in my classroom. From a productivity and organisational standpoint, I find myself feeling that technology has supported me in developing these areas. From a teaching standpoint, I have access to resources and information that I would not be able to access without technology. I can engage my students by showing them other parts of the world giving them first hand references instead of just a text to read. Students can also access information easily, share and connect with other students. My students are able to collaborate in school and from home on assignments using a variety of technology tools and resources. Having had access to so much technology for educational purposes, I would find it challenging to move to a system that did not embrace technology. Technology has allowed me to better my teaching practice so that my students have the best possible learning experience.
Bigum, C. (2012). Schools and Computers: Tales of a Digital Romance. Transformative Approaches to New Technologies and Student Diversity in Futures Oriented Classrooms. L. Rowan and C. Bigum, Springer Netherlands: 15-28.