Blogs as Web-Based Portfolios Part 4

(Part 4 of 4 on a series of blog posts to be made into a free PDF. Your feedback, ideas and thoughts are critical! Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3)

Making your WBP an Open Platform for Learning
The two major benefits of having a Web-Based Portfolio are:

1) They are accessible from any Internet enabled device
2) The ability to share knowledge and information with a wider audience

It is point number 2 that I feel WBP holds the most impact on students and their learning. When students have an audience that extends beyond the walls of their classroom something happens. Their writing, their content, their creations become important. Time and time again I have had teachers from 4th grade through 12th grade come to me and talk about how their student’s writing changes (always for the better) when they have an audience beyond the walls of their classroom.

I believe there is a mental shift in all of us when we know that this post/product, is going to be read, watched, or listened to by others. We do better work, we try harder, and we want it to be good. By giving student a space, allowing them to own it, and encouraging them to share their knowledge within it, we receive better work from our students. Students produce exactly what we require them to produce. If we require them to produce content that is potentially viewable by billions of people that is exactly the content we get.

If you are not going to make your WBP open to the public then there really is no point to create WBP in the first place. The public part is what makes WBP so powerful. It’s what allows a 5th grade student to teach other 5th grade student about variables, or an 8th grade student to teach other middle school students around the world about Internet privacy. When we allow students to openly reflect we never know what connections will be made or where it might take those students. It feels good, no matter how old you are, to know that someone else is reading your writing. WBP give authentic power to students to create content not only for the purpose of school but also for the purpose of self worth, and self motivation.

Conclusion
In the end I believe that giving students a web-based container that they control, that they have ownership of, creates for a powerful Web-Based Portfolio solution. There are many ways and many places that these container can be housed, but allowing students to take control of their own content and their own learning is the first step. Trusting in them, and teaching them to be positive contributors to society, and to create content worth reading is what we try to do in education everyday. Creating a system that allows students to reflect over grades, years, schools, and time in an open way can only have positive outcomes when it comes to learning. WBP do not come without work. It will mean time shifting that 3 weeks before conference you spend on putting together a portfolio to committed time ever week both at home and at school to create a portfolio that truly reflects student learning. A container that can house not only the best work, but the work that needs the most reflection. What excites me most about WBP is that by moving to a student-centered student controlled approach we create meaningful learning opportunities both online and off and allow students to reflect and learn not only with the 20 or 30 students in their class, but with the billions of people around the world that, like them, are hungry for knowledge. Blogs as Web-Based Portfolios are a great way to allow students to share their knowledge and learning with the world.

7 Comments

  1. Hi, Jeff. Good stuff in all 4 WBP posts. I’m with you on it. We used Ning.com for e-portfolios here as it combined the blog function for posting e-portfolio artifacts and reflections, as well as offering the Forum threaded discussion board, and other features of social networking sites (photo and video posts)–all in a “walled-garden” as a private Ning. Our school is a little overboard on Internet privacy issues (especially posting student pictures online, student names, etc.), so we had to remain private. But, the ability for all the students in a class, as well as a number of mentor and grade level teachers, to be the audience for student e-portfolio posts did accomplish some of what you wrote about above–the ability to share knowledge with a wider audience. You’re still using the WordPress blog engine hosted locally as your WBP vehicle, correct? I’m debating on whether to move to WordPress from Ning for two reasons: 1. Ning’s new pricing scheme (which may or may not be free for educators–remains to be seen); 2. The 13 year old age limit on Ning use (means we should not use it with students under 8th grade). If I were to look for a wiki option (like WetPaint), would I run into the same 13 year old age limit issue? Do you have some other suggestions? As always, I do appreciate your ideas and feedback.
    thanks
    Jim

    • Thanks Jim. Ning.com is a great way to go especially if you have your whole school there. I think with their recent changes we’re going to see a few schools like yours that will look to do a self-hosting solution. We are using WordPressMU (multi-user…same as wordpress.com and edublogs.com) at this time. WordPress 3.0 will be released soon with some great upgrades. If you are looking into a self-hosting solution I would highly recommend WordPress. If you want to keep that social-networking feel to the site I would also highly recommend Buddypress which is a plugin that sits on top of WordPress and turns the site into an amazing social-networking with forums, friends, and a bunch of other social-networking goodies. Personally I think it’s the best self-hosting solution out there that gives you so much flexibility……and of course open-sources. :)

  2. I love the idea of a web based portfolio and actually have to create one for a class that I am taking. What a timely topic.

    I am excited about incorporating this idea into my class. I think my students will be genuinely excited about the possibilities. I am a Business teacher, but would like to work with teachers in other disciplines on school wide criteria for students to do this.

  3. Hi Jeff! Letting the students create their own blogging account to reflect on their works is actually enhancing their learning. They are very excited about blogging and they are more into it. Majority of my students are using tumblr accounts though. What do you think of the account? Is it advisable to use it?

    • The more I play with Tumblr the more I like it. Easy, straight forward and a lot of options that will allows student to customize the look and feel of their blog. Not a bad choice for a container.

  4. Hi, Jeff, what do you think about Google+? I like the circle idea about Google+ with which students can create circles for different subjects and separate their school life from their personal life?

    • I think there is potential with Google+ we’ll see how it goes moving forward. If they bring it into Google Edu Apps we’ll have a fun play with it.

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