We are in the eighth month of our journey into student electronic portfolios and have covered a lot of ground. We started with a big idea and have been continuously refining it to build not just a space, but an experience that helps students learn more about themselves over time, while informing teachers and parents in meaningful and authentic ways. Most importantly, our conversation and efforts are spiraling up to refocus on pedagogical implications of capturing and extending student learning.
We have accomplished our goals for the first iteration of My Learning, developing confidence in the use of the technology and building processes that begin to integrate reflection into learning experiences. As all deep learning does, our journey has generated a thousand more questions which we have started to investigate and build upon. One of the questions we’ve asked ourselves is: Does having the space (portfolio) and participating in various reflective experiences (process) necessarily lead one to self-awareness? Maybe. However, we’ve decided that an intentional pedagogical approach is critical to making the portfolios more than another digital storage space.
There is a lot that could be said about the development in each of the portfolio categories. I will write more specifically in upcoming posts. For now, I will summarize our status to date:
Students and teachers are comfortable with Evernote. We’ve decided to postpone the “public” blogging portion for this version of My Learning. Instead we will introduce parents to the portfolios with a year-end reflection in Evernote created by students with links to learning experiences that support their thoughts.
Teachers are building reflection time into learning. Students that are utilizing iPads to capture learning experiences primarily use photos and audio recording. There are challenges to getting files such as presentations, movies, and podcasts into Evernote via the iPad. Teachers have adapted by utilizing the Macs in our Idea Lab for archiving those types of student projects. General reflection prompts are being built into learning experiences and we are piloting a student-friendly reflection methodology.
Archive quality is variable. Many teachers and young students are still more comfortable reflecting on paper and then photographing for portfolios. We are working toward replacing traditional paper and pen reflection processes, where appropriate, with ones that are more engaging, revealing, and archivable. Some of our teachers have started using Explain Everything for formative assessments and to capture student thinking.
Our focus was on the student when we began developing the portfolio process, and their interests have kept us centered throughout. After taking the necessary steps to be sure this process supports the needs of students and teachers, it feels like we have made it back to the conversation of learning and teaching, but at an elevated level. The process and information gathered are stretching us to think about our practices and roles in new ways. I envision a continuing upward spiral as we evolve and make increasingly better use of this process.
To be intentional in our development of student self-awareness, we have started to consider a “curriculum” that would structure the development of awareness skills and offer some qualitative measures of outcomes. Among the tools being tested is a planning template to help teachers identify opportunities for embedding reflection throughout the curriculum. The template outlines the three awareness categories (Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, and Self-Reflection) and related topics so teacher teams can more easily identify appropriate areas in the curriculum for archiving and reflecting.
Again, I will address each of these topics individually with examples of our outcomes in the near future. Thanks for any feedback and suggestions you have to share.