Day 103 (of 188) eportfolio update (thanks to @tracysherlock )
Last night, an article by the Vancouver Sun Education reporter @tracysherlock got my twitter, text and email alerts buzzing!
It was a very positive ‘opening of the doors’ to show that eportfolios are emerging more and more than just a ‘thing some are doing’. Much like televisions, microwaves, computers and tablets – they are not a “fad” – they are a methodology to communicate student learning – wording from the ‘new’ BC EdPlan that changes from the previous “reporting student achievement”.
It’s also been something near and dear to our learning community as we started to pilot using eportfolios instead of report cards last year. Its risk-taking; anxiety inducing; based on formative assessment values (AFL); all elements that are important to our learners and teachers. Our shift has included a lot more mindful reflection on our learning opportunities (more personalized, not one worksheet fits all) and what is valuable to share in a timely manner.
But it sure wasn’t a “just because” shift. As a learning community we had many discussions about considering ‘not using letter grades’ or moving to a ‘better report card’. We had/have/still are reading a lot – stories from other school districts; learnings from assessment gurus; and thinking about how to “communicate learning”.
Why now? The technology and educational thinkings both have come into alignment. Making a shift to any difficult “communication/reportcard” is difficult and takes time – even after a year, we are still learning and experimenting with different elements to enhance the experience of the teacher, parent and student. But now the technology has become “easy” – the platform we are using is FreshGrade – an app styled eportfolio service that understands the unique challenges of British Columbia because they are based in BC – and their children are in BC Schools. Connected to Club Penguin, a social program that I used as a grade 4 classroom teacher to teach social media before it was bought by Disney, the focus of both platforms has been clear: easy and relevant.
I have always enjoyed using portfolios to share my students work through Student Led conferences – but usually using keynote/powerpoint and using those methodologies for students to, twice a year, share what their daily learning kinda looks like. Now the online portfolios enable up to daily portfolio reviews. But now it’s so much easier. This was key for my staff to be willing to be risk-takers and try it out: a clean app focus that allows for nearly instant use:
It also allows us to show that the learning inside of classrooms is much more than the paper representation that typically was the only thing that would make it home for parents to see…if it got out of the backpacks…
But literally – open, select the methodology, click, add a comment (or wait till later, asynchronous assessment) select the student/s that connect to the learning sample….and that’s it.
It also has a gradebook & unit/lesson planning so that ‘tasks’ can be connected directly to learning outcomes, not connected simply to a ‘worksheet’ that may or may not fully demonstrate an intended learning outcome. I’m not a sales person for the company, but I have no hesitation explaining why our school is using it – it met the needs of our educators so they can focus on the learning – not worried about what they have to put onto a report card.
So….it’s been a success because we aren’t worried about the technology – glitches that have been found have been identified and worked on quickly as it went through ‘beta’ testing – and the comment I really appreciated hearing: what we see today is the worst it will ever look – it improves each day. We still reflect on what we are doing and why – it is an ongoing discussion as we seek ways to make it “better” work for our diverse classrooms. But it is a discussion prompt focused around learning opportunities and how to communicate them, not about having enough tasks to “show” learning.
But I don’t worry about the discussions – I trust the process that has our entire learning community thinking and acting on “what is best for our learners”. And part of that is how much I appreciate the opportunity to be able to see the individual learning journeys of my students – in my classroom and throughout my school. On a traditional report card, I would have many students ‘get’ a C- or F because they are reading ‘below grade expectations’ but able to use age-appropriate reading strategies, but not being able to highlight the reading gains that can be made in a given year. Now we can show (literally) a student reading a passage at various times in the year – and students who have this as a key focus can see their growth – and hear it as well. Each students unique learning journey is able to be archived, communicated and shared.
We are able to use photos, videos, audios, pdfs, powerpoints, etc to show students learning. One of the challenges is becoming “how much is too much”. But students talents are able to be shared. Right away. And issues can be seen right away, not several weeks after the learning took (or didn’t take) place.
As a teacher and principal, I have created and edited many report cards – I have never had such a clear image of the learning journey of my students as I have today. Has it always been “easy” – no, but nothing worthwhile ever is…I believe it has definitely been worth it.
But I do have some advice:
1. Get permission up front. Do not do this ‘in secret’ – there needs to be discussions between classrooms, principals office, and district board office. This is not a time to ‘ask for forgiveness later’.
2. Be prepared to make some mistakes. It’s new. There is always an implementation dip. Embrace the chaos.
3. You’re not alone. Network. I have connected with many inspiring eportfolio educators who have helped fire me up! (you know who you are – but a special shoutout to @MauiMickey & @tracyacramer ) find a support PLN and ask questions, debate and expect that each answer will create a dozen more questions!
4. Prepare to face some critiques. Report cards have been in existence for over a century. It takes time to get ready for a paradigm shift.
5. Read. Ken O’Connor, Tom Schimmer, Douglas Reeves, #sblchat – there are so many great researchers and assessment experts. Don’t shift if you think it’s a shiny new toy. It isn’t. It is work. It makes your brain hurt sometimes. It is communicating student learning – it can be very uncomfortable to be ‘first’ in your learning community. Trust the process.
More will be added.