True E-Folios for students

A couple days ago I shared how the 1st grade here at ISB is creating Portfolio’s for students using iPhoto. They are simple Quicktime movies that kids can start and stop with their parents as they talk about their learning.

This is a great solution for teachers in primary grades who have a digital camera in their room with them to document learning throughout the school year.

But what about true E-Portfolios that students create and reflect upon themselves? Last year as Shanghai American School we started with a vision of every middle school student having a blog as a e-folio to reflect and share their learning with teachers, parents, and in the end…the world.

Of course I left and taking my place to carry on the vision is the one and only Amanda DeCardy. As a math teacher Amanda was one of the first middle school teachers to play with the idea and later on go 100% e-folio via the blogs last year. This year as one of the Educational Technology Integrationalist for SAS she has made that vision a reality with every 6th – 8th grader having a blog as their portfolio.

It’s an easy concept once you understand how blogs work. Create a category for each subject…students collect digital documents via, mp3, images, uploads, etc. throughout the year reflecting on there learning. When it comes time for the Student-Led Conferences (SLC) students can go back through their year’s reflections pick the ones they want to share with their parents and simple add it to the Student-Led Conference Category.

Without Daniel knowing it (I randomly clicked on a student blog) I’ve used his blog as an example. I’ve shown here how the categories look on his site. As a parent you can follow your child’s learning through the school year and know what you are going to be talking about at the SLC. Feel free to browse Daniel’s site (I’m sure he’d appreciate it) to get a feel for how this works. Use the categories as your navigation and take a tour of Daniel’s learning.

Thinking long turn this blog continues to grow each year. Daniel continues to add his thinking, his reflections, his documentation of learning. As his content grows he’s able to not only reflect on what he’s learning now, but go back in history on his own blog and link to that prior knowledge and thinking from years past.

Why a blog? It’s simple and in chronological order….right or wrong that’s how are schools are set up and over the years you would be able to see the growth of the student.

Why Public? I’ve had teachers talk to me about having students reflect in a public space. One which I think is even more powerful than a private space, but others feel students reflecting openly can be dangerous. I find it to be a very rewarding learning experience personally, that’s what blogging is and students seem to take to it (not all but most). It’s teaching how to reflect, how to be honest and understanding that part of the learning process is reflection. Is there risk? Sure…there always is when you publish something, but I feel the risk is minimal to the benefits students, and educators for that matter get in return. Anyone that blogs knows what I’m talking about.

Long term advantages:

By using a blog or a common open system and adopting it school wide really allows the power of this type of portfolio publishing to show. When Daniel is in 11th grade and he’s appling to univeristies think about the depth of knowledge he has to pull from. The link he can share with universities, and what universities can find out about Daniel. It will be 5 years before Daniel graduates and we do not know what universities will be looking for or what applications will look at at that time, but I can’t help but think that this kind of website of learning, or reflection won’t help Daniel in some way.

There’s a lot that must go into this and I know that Amanda has worked hard this year getting all teachers and students to a place that this just what happens at Shanghai American School. The amount of PD for teachers and the amount of training for students in understanding what this means I’m sure has taken much of her time this year. But in the end these students will be better for it and that’s what we’re all about!