Tuesday, April 26, 2011

e-Portfolios





I have spent some of my holiday reading and researching around e-Portfolios. I know our school has a vision of moving forward into this being an integral part of our communication with parents as well as it being (first and foremost) a way for our learners to reflect and review their own learning.

The risk, as always, is attempting to 'leap in' to any new thing and by diving into unchartered territory, we risk making a complete botch up of it! If there has been no quality integration and 'phasing in' of the portfolios, with step-by-step teaching and reviewing, then we are sure to have a sub-standard system in place or a great new idea that simply fades. If we want some less confident teachers in any school to embrace change, then the only way to have that happen is to model it well and have some of the keenest people trialling it, making errors, changing what they do, passing on their expertise with others and then assisting in the full school-wide integration of it.

So, what is the best way to start? Getting children blogging reflectively is a great first step. Junior children can take a photo (or have their photo taken) and can record a voice-thread as a response to their learning. From the ground up, there has to be maximum teacher input and drive initially which gradually fades as the children become more confident and drive their own reflections. As a facilitator, we have to be prepared to have top notch questioning about learning and this means that having a learning circle at the end of the day, where children reflect on their new learning, tricky parts of their learning and future learning, is one simple way to kick start reflection. We can fall into the trap of having lots of pretty posters with prompts all around the room, but the children respond best to the spoken word - the posters are just a wall cover to most of our learners. Investing in their learning means that we must have relevant and deep learning conversations which are just a natural part of our day.

And that, in my very opinion, is the humble beginnings of e-Portfolios. Starting the reflections from the simplest point and building on it. We can purchase fancy e-Portfolio programmes eventually but the reality is that we must have the foundations of reflection in place, including the language around learning and the ability to discuss next learning steps in all of the core areas. If we set this in place well, then the 'way' to record and store this information is actually the simplest part.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this, it's something I've been thinking about a lot recently. I want the children to have their own space online to share and reflect - so many ways to do this. One class blog with entries tagged by students' names? Individual blogs, and is this feasible with Year 4's? Each child having a page on the class wiki? Giving each child their own wiki with pages for each content area?

    And then managing privacy around students' reflections and my comments and assessment information, balanced against the potential for learning of feedback from the wider community. So many questions, possibilities and ideas!

    But you're right - being over-ambitious at the start might defeat the purpose, and children do need to be taught how to articulate their reflections on learning, and this is a slow process. We can't underestimate our role as models in this.

    Keep us posted on your progress!

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  2. I have a year 3 & 4 class Craig and they are doing great with a wiki page each as well as having blog buddies - we use any spare time to post short reflective blogs and these are the snippets I posted above (some examples). We are also doing a reflection circle at the end of most days which is also working really well. Start small and build strong foundations I say! Kimberley, e-Learning2011

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  3. Great thoughts on e-portfolios. I agree with you about the students need to be taught to and I think a huge focus needs to be on the action to improve. So often the kids reflect and then end up making the same mistakes time and time again.

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