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/
As an Education Technology Coach, I support a lot of my students in making films using iMovie. iMovie comes with a set bunch of songs, sounds and jingles that can be used within the film. However, after a few films, students seem to continue to choose the same song, making it a little bit repetitive as a teacher.
One of my favourite resources is Free Music Archive. It has thousands of songs that can be legally downloaded and are Creative Commons licensed. Students can search songs by artists and genres but also by mood to help the music best fit the theme of the film. This also allows me the opportunity to teach students how to properly credit the artists of the songs at the end of their films.
Available at: http://freemusicarchive.org/
Sometimes I throw my kids a challenge that might seem a little unreasonable.
"Let me show you how to build a Google Site from a blank template. I've got about 10 minutes to show you some things you need to know or might want to try. Then you have 30 minutes to design - that's it."
But that's exactly what we did today.
I pre-made the 4 google sites that students would be working on today. (1 for each group of 4 students) and shared it with all group members as owners. I had done it the night before and had been getting emails ever since it hit the students' inbox as they were excited to get started. The sites were simple, boring and if my students had anything to do with it, about to be transformed to look nothing like that ever again.
After showing my students this site, I showed them my professional site I had just created a few weeks prior. This was done to give them a sample of what they would be doing without showing them an exact site they could replicate about ecosystems. They had seen it before as I had asked them for their feedback on it, but this time it was good for them to see a before and after type demonstration. In addition, I find my students like to see that I have done or am doing the same thing they are as it helps to remove the divide between teacher vs. student.
The first thing I suggested the students did was to choose 2-3 colours as their theme for their site. It was important that the students thought about the content that would be put on their course, colours that complemented each other and represented the group as they wanted to be seen. One group was very specific in asking for a site to match colours and I provided them with https://color.adobe.com and http://paletton.com as reference points. I even had one group create a colour swatch with their 3 colours in an image with the hex#'s as a reference point for the entire team and utilised them to customise other fonts later. Most groups chose colours that worked well together.
From there it was time to make the site look better than it did. Most teams split in half to conquer site design/layout and creating the header in pairs.
The header was an important part of the site for the students as it would be on their site no matter where they were on their site. There were lots of options for creating headers - Google Drawing, Pages, Canvas, but most went to the internet to find an initial image that inspired them. This was in and of itself an important lesson in how to search. After searching for an image, I suggested to students they selected 'Search Tools' and then 'Usage Rights' where they could select images that were 'labelled for reuse with modification'.
After students had selected their image and saved it to their desktop, they could open it in Preview and adjust the size from the Tools drop-down menu. We did our best to resize the image into an appropriate header size. Some additional features at this point such as text.
Then it was off to https://pixlr.com/ to use Pixlr Express. As we are a Google Apps For Edu school, we chose to go to our Drive, select new, connect more, connect more apps and choose to connect Pixlr Express to our drive. From there, students had the option to make adjustments, add text, stickers, overlays and effects to create a header that suited their particular taste. Here are a few they came up with. Most teams tried quite a variety of options and ideas before settling on the headers you see here.
These were easy to insert as a header and we also removed the logo from the site design.
The other team members were in charge of the look of the rest of the page, while still communicating with their team as a whole to create a cohesive project. The students had to make a number of tabs for their different lessons/ levels within their courses. They could choose from a horizontal navigation or a sidebar navigation. It was unanimous that the horizontal navigation was the preferred choice by the student.
Once the header and tabs were in place, the students could just really begin to play around with the overall design. I showed my students how to manage the site using themes, colours and fonts. Many became fascinated in ways they could change the hover colours, spacing and shape of the tabs, colours of different sections and adding images.
There was a lot of engaging discussions going on along the way such as debating colour choices, the alignment of tabs, and if the picture of a puppy as a header was the best choice of the unit. As I walked around and also met with groups to check in on their progress, it was wonderful to just be able to respond with a question and allow the students to think about their designs. Sometimes they made smart decisions when they reflected on the question asked and sometimes they made design choices I disagreed with. But in the end, the work was their own. Never telling them no you can't do that, but rather allowing them to rethink their choices in design allowed them to collaborate more to come up with a final product they were proud of.
Honestly, I was amazed. Less than 30 minutes and this kind of design work was produced as a collaborative team of 4 with all students engaged and eager to do more. Can't wait to see what they do once they start putting some content into their sites soon.