The Day 2 #EduroChallenge as we start school is all about getting excited about learning. There are moments when I’m not excited about learning until I’m in the learning process…and then once that happens I’m all in. Take learning how to ski for example. I didn’t want to learn to ski. I mean I wanted to ski but I didn’t want to have to go through the learning process. But once I was on the hill and learning I was all in.

Sometimes the “Getting Excited” part doesn’t come at the beginning of the journey. Some times you have to be in the journey in order to be excited. The video above is just a little something I made a couple years ago skiing while I was learning how to use my Go Pro camera. Now that was exciting…..for me…not so much for my wife. 🙂

When we say “excited about learning” when is that moment for you when something challenging becomes something exciting?

You know the four Cs right? I mean everyone is talking about them. The four Cs that are going to change education in the 21st century? They are amazing! Do a Google Image Search for 21st Century Skills and you get a beautiful display of the four Cs. Great colors, wonderful wording and multiple ways to explain:




Critical Thinking

I look at this list from the lens of a 4th grade teacher, a tech coach, a consultant or a substitute teacher and I can’t help but think…really? This is new? There is nothing new in this list that educators haven’t been teaching and focused on for years. Don’t get me started on these being “21st century skills,” a phrase I gave up over 7 years ago. So why do these things keep coming up?

As I work with schools and educators, we do focus on these four Cs. They aren’t new…but in a way they actually are new. How we view them is new, what they mean is new. In 2016 these four Cs have a different meaning.

Communication: Teaching to communicate the way the world communicates

Not sure if you have noticed, but we no longer write letters to each other. We write Facebook updates, Facebook messages. We write emails…lots of them actually. We write LinkedIn updates, Tweets, Snaps, and Grams. I’m not saying it’s right…I’m saying this is how the world, both socially and in the business world, communicate. So where are we teaching this in schools? Where are we teaching:

Yes…communication isn’t new to education but how we communicate has changed. Are we teaching these new forms of communication? Where do they belong in our curriculum? At what level should we start and how do we assess these new forms of communication? Those are the questions we should be trying to answer in 2016.

Collaboration: Across space and time

Collaboration isn’t new. I remember doing group projects in elementary school in the 80’s. We collaborated on projects, on worksheets, on reading and science projects. Collaboration….getting along, working with others…has always been a part of education. So why is this a “21st century skill”?

In 2016 collaboration means across space and time. How are your students collaborating across periods in the school day (2nd period and 6 period working on a project together)? How are they collaborating across schools in your district or across schools in your state/country/continent/world?

I think about this every time one of my friends that work for Amazon talks about getting up at 3am to be on a conference call with India, China, Singapore, name-your-country. Or every time I have to get up early or stay up late for an Eduro, COETAIL, or Learning2 meeting. Collaborating across space and time is how the world works today. It’s how business gets done. I was talking about this with a gentleman sitting next to me on the plane today who instantly went to understanding cultures. How his company was doing business in France and failing until they started looking at the culture of France and accepting that they have a different way of operating. Once his company accepted and embraced the culture, it became much more successful. Collaborating with other students in your class in so 1990’s. We need to start creating ways for students to collaborate across space and time.

Creativity: To a global audience

It’s one thing to create something for your teacher or even a presentation for your class where everyone knows who you are. It’s something completely different to create something for an audience that you don’t know. Whether that is a YouTube video, an update on a Wikipedia page or a comment on an Amazon book review. Have you ever noticed how students try a little harder, do a little better, when their creations go beyond the classroom? In 2016 when we talk about creativity we do not mean creating something for a closed audience but rather we’re talking about creating something for a global audience. We’re also not talking about just “putting something out there” but rather finding a community that will appreciate the creation that the students worked so hard to produce. Create a google map of the Oregon Trail? Share it with your local community or local government. Create a recipe? Share it with one of a number of recipe sites on the Internet today and see how others rate it and improve on it.

It’s not just about “putting stuff out there” but rather creating content that has a purpose, has an audience, has a community.

Critical Thinking: Creating Problem Finders

When we talk about critical thinking skills we usually talk about problem-solving skills. We want students to be good problem solvers. I’m not saying that’s a bad goal. But time and time again I’ve been told that what we really need is Problem Finders. That’s a different skill…that’s a different type of critical thinking. We need to be able to find the problems that need to be solved.

What about giving students a mathematical equation that has a mistake in it. Their job….find the mistake (problem finder) and then solve it correctly (problem solver). Where is the bug in the code, or a bug in the production line, maybe it’s a problem with a science experiment. Whatever it is….how are you creating opportunities for students to be problem finders not just problem solvers?

The “C” word of education:

The C word that doesn’t make the list and probably is at the root of a lot of things we’re talking about these days in education is the word CONTROL. It’s a nasty word that many educators struggle with. When we talk about giving up control in the classroom we do not mean giving up structure. If you are going to give the control of the learning over to the students it means you need more structure in place not less. Routines need to be in place, timing needs to be clearly delineated, and a system needs to exist so that students can have control of the learning. Giving over control of the learning to students does not mean less prep-time, less work for the teacher…..at the beginning it actually means more work as teachers learn a new way of structuring their classroom around student interest, student questions and take on a new role as a facilitator and coach of learning.

The four C’s are not new…they are different. We need to come to a new understanding of what these mean in 2016 and beyond. I’m sorry to break the news to you, but your grandkids are not going to write you letters, they are going to Skype or Facetime you. Your next employee might not work in the same room as you, and your next project might have you focused on finding the problem and then handing it off to someone else to solve. Your next job opportunity might come through a LinkedIn connection or via something that you published publically. This is how work gets done in 2016. This is how we need to start defining the four C’s for our students.

What has becoming somewhat of a tradition….ok…it’s really just my geek side coming out (yes this would imply I have another side….not sure what that is though), I sat down on Thursday last week to watch the Google I/O conference. For years now I have watched the Google I/O conference as well as the Apple’s WWDC (coming June 8th) for no other reason (or so I tell myself) than to fill in teachers at my school what was announced and how it might impact them. When living and working in China and Thailand this meant staying up until 2am or so to watch it live and write an email that would be in every teachers inbox by the next morning. Now living in Seattle it means a cup of coffee, four devices and watching it on my TV.

flickr photo shared by pestoverde under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license
flickr photo shared by pestoverde under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

It also means I no longer work in a school or have teachers to send this to…so you get my thoughts this year. Basically a brain dump of things I’m thinking after watching Google layout the next year and beyond of the future of technology.

Education was at the front of this year’s talk. I say that every year of course because I hear and see things through an educational lens. For example, Google’s new Photos app (Android, iOS) had nothing to do with education…or they just made it even easier for students to take pictures, create movies, stories and share those photos with their classmates and teacher. A common photo app on both Android and iOS devices with unlimited upload and storage space for all the photos and video you want to take. Yes…this can and will impact some classrooms.

“Please take out your phones and record via videos and photos your experiment today please. One person in your group needs to be the recorder for the experiment and I expect to see written notes along with video and image evidence of what happened.”

Google Expeditions

One of the biggest educational announcements was the release of Google Expedition. A virtual reality toolkit for educators being released, I’m going to guess, in time for next school year. Using Google Cardboard and any Smartphone (again both Android and iOS) you turn every classroom into a 3D immersive experience. This is very early stages but if you think 2 or 3 years down the road what this means for classrooms it could be very powerful.

“OK class….please get out your cardboard and we’re going to go live to Martin Luther King Jr. speech today. Group A  you will be viewing it from the back of the crowd. Group B I’ve put you in the middle of the crowd and Group C you are towards the front. I would like your group to experience the speech from these different perspectives and then discuss how your view and angle of the speech impacted you and notice the people around you within Cardboard. How did it impact them?”

What if we can “be there”. Instead of saying “Oh…you had to be there to see it, or to feel it” can we get one step closer of actually being there?

Google Sidestepping Universities

However, the announcement that has me still thinking and still blowing my mind is the announcement Google made about teaming up with Udacity to offer an Android Developer Nanodegree. Udacity has been rolling out these Nanodegrees for awhile now and this latest announcement from Google just adds to what could be a real movement in higher education.

The “NanoDegree” offering a narrow set of skills that can be clearly applied to a job, providing learners with a bite-size chunk of knowledge and an immediate motivation to acquire it. (NYTimes, 2014)

nanodegreesThat motivation being both AT&T and now Google are backing these degrees saying they will consider graduates of these degrees as being qualified for hiring within their companies. So instead of going to University and having to take all those classes you don’t want to take or you know don’t really point you in the direction you want to go, you get a Nanodegree instead. $200 a month for 8 months or so? Basically I get a degree for $1600? That’s a lot less than any public University where I live.

Now I could go on and on about where I think this is going and the future of nanodegrees. What I really want to focus on is what do students need in order to complete one of these degrees?

If we go to the “Prerequisites and Requirements” section for the new Android Developers degree. We see a list of prerequisites including some background knowledge you’ll need in Java and other programs. All of which can be found on Udacity’s website of course. But the one that caught my eye was this one:

Dedication and Mindset

In addition to 1-2 years of prior programming experience and intermediate technical skills, students are expected to demonstrate the following characteristics:

Resourcefulness: Ability to search for and find solutions in documentation, backed by the belief that all problems in code are discoverable;

Grit: Ability to work through challenges and persevere when code breaks and tests fail.

Growth Mindset: Belief that intelligence is NOT a fixed entity, and can be boosted by hard work in the process of learning and practice.

Let’s make these just a bit less techie for a second:

Resourcefulness: Ability to search for and find solutions in documentation, backed by the belief that finding problems is just as important as solving them.

Grit: Ability to work through challenges and persevere when things don’t go as expected and failure is seen as leading to solutions.

Growth Mindset: Belief that intelligence is NOT a fixed entity, and can be boosted by hard work in the process of learning and practice.

Are we making sure that students that graduate from high schools all around the world this month are leaving with this Mindset? I hope so….because this mindset will get you farther in life than any degree no matter how major or nano it might be.

So Wednesday’s blog post about iPads has created a bit of a conversation. Not only on the blog but on Twitter as well. I have even had schools asking me to review what they are doing and give my opinion.

Now…let’s be clear, any program that puts devices in every hand of every student is a great program. My hope is we can get to a place by 2015 (or sooner) where this stops being a conversation because it just is. It’s just about past time for a device to replace paper and pencil at a substitution level and then build from there.

At the same time what a connected device does (any device connected to the Internet), is change the learning landscape. If you implement a 1:1 program and the classroom doesn’t change, then the device sits at a substitution level and never reaches its full potential as a learning device. When you introduce a connected device in the classroom, learning changes…it has to…..otherwise why have it?

Lynn University tweeted me earilier this week:


So I went and read through the article they sent me.

There are some good quotes in the article:

“The price point will probably force schools to provide the devices to students, as the cost of hard copy textbooks go up and the cost of technology goes down,” said Chris Boniforti, chief information officer for Lynn “You’re better off giving every student tablets than buying all these books that will be obsolete in two or three years.”

National studies have shown that the cost of textbooks has risen more than three times the rate of inflation during the past 35 years. A 2011 study from the U.S. PIRG, a consumer advocacy group, found that 70 percent of students at 13 colleges surveyed admitted to not buying at least one of their required textbooks.

You can read it for yourself and what I think the article is hinting at is that the iPad isn’t replacing textbooks, it allows students a whole new way to access information. It also provides, what I hope, is professors a way to use the Internet and the wealth of fresh and up to date information to create their own “textbook” for their classes.

Connected devices don’t replace textbooks…they destory them. The last thing I want my students to do is to have a connected device and then have a traditional textbook on it. The Internet is full of resources that allow educators and students alike to create new learning opportunites that go way beyond what a textbook ever could offer.

This should be a given with any 1:1 program. Connected devices supersede textbooks…OK….then what?

That’s the question I want to know…what happens after we have replaced the textbook?

These devices don’t just replace textbooks they take learning to a whole new level of thinking, searching, creating, and organizing that we just could not do before we gave them to students.

If at any time you could take the device away from students and learning and outcomes could still be met then we haven’t pushed far enough. Look again at the SAMR model and take it straight from the founder’s website:

Redefinition: Technology allows for new tasks, previously inconceivable. 

That’s what we should want for these devices and our students. Sure they are going to substitute a lot of tasks…but that shouldn’t be our aim. Our aim should be to redefine the learning experience and do things that would be inconceivable if the technology was taken away. To do this it means starting from the bottom and creating new learning tasks. Only then do we really reach the full potential of what these devices can do.

In our COETAIL program the final project for graduates is to reach for this redefinintion level. Not all make it but they try..and it’s hard…there are a lot of things in your way. Here are two examples of what I believe redefinintion looks like. Take the technology away from these two units/classrooms and you can not replace the learning with something else…you would actually lose learning and engagement.

So….what I want to know is how often do you, your teachers, your school or your district reach for redefinition? That’s the question I like to ask…that’s what I like to push towards, and that’s what I strive for every time I present. The worse that can happen is that you fail…and that my friends is what they call learning.

Over the last year we’ve been fixing up the condo we purchased in Seattle. As we’ve been doing the remodel we find ourselves doing research on such things as kitchen faucets. Who knew there were 1000s of different faucets and not only are there 1000s of different faucets, we have access to all of them.

So on a Saturday morning my wife and I sit on the couch and start at opposite ends of the Internet and narrowing down the options.

In a world of endless resources how do you find the perfect resource? How do you find the perfect faucet?

You rely on others to help you out.

I’m not sure how many faucet reviews I read, how many rating systems I learned on different websites, but I do know without all those reviews, without people taking the time to write about their purchases our job of picking the perfect faucet would have easily doubled.

Are we teaching students to make choices in a world where choices are endless?

There’s a skill to all of this, and part of it is making a decision based on the best data you can find and have at your disposal. Are we teaching students to find and evaluate data? Are we teaching them to read reviews ranging from 5 stars to 1 stars and make a judgement call a product, or a piece of information?

I’ve watched people struggle with this world of endless choice and in the end I’ve watched people get so overwhelmed by all the information that they just pick one and hope for the best.

We need to be teaching our students how to evaluate not only information, but information about products and services as well and how to use that information to make an informed decision.

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

The Purpose

The purpose of this PDF is to help schools looking at adopting Web Based Portfolios (WBP) as a form of assessment with students over a period of time. By adopting a web-based platform as a container in which to house portfolio content, schools give students a web-based vehicle with endless possibilities to create, collaborate and communicate their learning to the world.

All-In-One Assessment Vehicle

Web Based Portfolios have been gaining ground in recent years as the skills needed to create digital content have become less complex. Remember the days when a digital portfolio meant courses in Dreamweaver or some other programing language? Those days are behind us as the tools of the web have taken over and simplified things to a point where a true Web Based Portfolio is possible.

In the past, schools, teachers and even students had to decide what their portfolio was going to reflect. Was it going to be a portfolio that showed assessment for learning or assessment of learning? The decision had to be made because in a paper-based world you just did not have enough space to physically hold all of the content to show both. In fact, in a paper-based world many teachers and schools started out envisioning their portfolios as a way to reflect on assessment for learning. In many cases, due to physical requirements in holding the amount of paper it took to show the learning process, many teachers and students ended up creating portfolios that showed assessment of learning. When a choice has to be made because of limited space to keep a rough draft or a final copy students will keep the final copy, and so will teachers.

WBPs if nothing else, solve this age old portfolio issue. With the cost of servers and web storage continuing to drop, creating endless storage space for students to show the learning process and allowing teachers to assess for learning is cheap and getting less expensive every day.

When students have endless space, a WBP not only shows assessment for learning, but also assessment of learning. We now have a vehicle that has the space to allow students and teachers to have the best of both worlds all in one place and the ability to track learning over great lengths of time.

Learning Over Time

The biggest issue a WBP solves is an issue that, up until now, we could not even talk about because we did not have a vehicle that allowed us to even have the discussion.

When we talk about assessing learning over time, or tracking learning over time, historically schools have done a good job of tracking assessment for learning year by year. Students come into 3rd grade, keep a portfolio of their work, and at the end of that year take their work home with them. The next year they come back as 4th graders and repeat the process all over again.

Education never had a system that allowed educators to look at learning year after year other than maybe a few teacher picked samples to go into a student cumulative folder. Of course these cumulative folders are better at giving us a snapshot and focus on assessment of learning not for learning in the long run.

With a WBP that belongs to the student, controlled by the student, created by the student, education now has a vehicle that can extend beyond space and time of a school year. Once a student creates a WBP and owns that space, the assessment for learning over a long period of time becomes natural. Students have one spot, with unlimited space to create, gather, and reflect on their own learning.

Think of the possibilities as a 7th grade teacher if you had students who were in your school system for four years and were able to look back at how they progressed as a reader. Students would have the ability to reflect on their growth as a mathematician from 3rd grade to 7th grade. The power of reflecting on one’s own learning across grade levels not just within them is something that until WBP, was a difficult if not an impossible task. I can imagine a day when a senior in high school has a body of knowledge all in one place that is his or her learning journey. Think of the wealth of information that would be contained within that portfolio. Think of the wealth of knowledge for the school to be able to track learners over time looking at a particular student as a learner.

This would never be possible in a paper-based world. The amount of information, knowledge, and understanding that would be in that one portfolio would not be able to be stored in a paper-based world…now think of all the students in your school or district. The paper-based world can not compete.

WBPs not only solve some of our biggest frustrations as educators but they create new opportunities that we haven’t even thought of tapping into yet.

Student Ownership and Conferences

A critical shift in moving to a WBP system is the notion that students own the portfolio. This, I believe, is a huge shift in the way we view portfolios. For many educators this will be a scary step. When students own their own learning, when they are able to reflect on their own learning, have some choice on what their portfolio looks like, acts like, and when they are able to update it anytime and anywhere, the control of the content shifts from the teacher to the student.

Otherwise known as student-centered learning, students become the true drivers of the content that is put within their WBP. The WBP reflects who they are as a learner. With the guidance of the teacher, students make choices on what learning artifacts deserve more attention than others and find ways to make those artifacts stand out (assessment of learning). In this way you have assessment of learning embedded within, surrounded by assessment for learning, which creates a learning assessment ecosystem that is rich with data, content, and reflections.

Many portfolio initiatives in schools stem from Student-Led Conferences. The Student-Led Conference, or conference format in which the student and student learning is the center of the conference, have gained momentum in the last decade and usually include a portfolio of learning.

As an elementary teacher I know the drill: Conferences are fast approaching and you realize you haven’t had the students working on their p
ortfolios for the upcoming conferences. You drop everything, and for two weeks focus strictly on creating portfolios. 3 reading examples with reflections, 2 writing pieces with reflections, 2 math papers, a spelling test, a piece of art, and the list goes on.

Portfolios are created for conferences, not necessarily to truly reflect student learning. WBPs allow content to easily be collected throughout the school year. Students might take a picture of their work, or something that represents their work, and put it in their portfolio. They might reflect on ten assignments, create and embed two videos, record themselves reading twice and write a reflection about it and upload all of it to their WBP.

Come conference time, the student creates a new category or tag called “conference 2010”. They then categorize or tag the content they want to show at the conference and are able to choose from a wealth of information-anything they want to show. They might in fact, show a sample of writing from 5th grade and one from 7th grade, demonstrating to their parents how they have grown as a writer over time. Or they may choose an audio recording of themselves reading as a 3rd grader not pronoucing their Rs correctly and then in 7th grade reading with emotion and having a great laugh about how far they have come and what they have worked on as a reader over time.

When we separate the WBP from the conference, it becomes a true vehicle of assessment for learning. With a WBP, educators can think about learning over time, in ways never before possible. We can find ways for students to deeply reflect on their own learning and allow students to truly own their learning. WBPs not only solve many of the issues that paper-based portfolios had, they create whole new assessment and reflection opportunities educators have only dreamed of.

I know it sounds like such a stupid question….and maybe content has always trumped actual learning but I continue to find myself in conversations that end with:

“I’d love to do so much more, but we have to cover all this content and I just don’t have time.”

Why is that? Why is content…which is now available anywhere and everywhere still what we feel like we have to do as teachers. I hate to say it but I think I got out of the classroom just in the nick of time. I would be considered a horrible teacher today. We use to go off on tangents in my classroom that could last for weeks. Somebody would bring something up and we’d run with it asking questions, answering questions and find ourselves in a whole other place be the time we were done. Off topic? Yes. Fun? Absolutely! Did we learn anything? More than I could have imagined!

But it seems today at all grade levels we’re so focused on covering content for this test, or by that date, that learning…..real true deep learning gets skipped over. Personally I find that very depressing.

Yes….I’m afraid I’d be a bad teacher today. I’d be the person who’d close their door so that nobody else could see that I wasn’t “on task” and yet my students would be among the most connected in the school. Our learning would revolve around what my school is calling it’s Definition of Learning:

Our learners develop knowledge, skills, and attitudes by connecting prior learning to new experiences.  The most significant learning generates increased understanding and can be seen in our expanded capacities to analyze, synthesize, reflect, apply and communicate our new learnings in a variety of situations.  At ISB, we recognize learning as a life-long adventure.

I could almost garuntee we wouldn’t cover the “curriculum” but we’d learn a lot about a lot of things and have a heck of a lot of fun figuring it all out together.

As I wrap up my time here at the International School of Brussels I can’t help but think about the students that get an opportunity to go to such an amazing school.

I had the pleasure of sitting last night and reflecting on my time here as I watched my first American Football game in over 8 years. I’m proud to say that ISB beat SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) and the hamburgers grilled up by the head of school (Link to his new blog) were fantastic. For a moment I felt like I could have been in any small town in the heart of American enjoying Friday night football. As I sat there in the crisp fall air the memories of my own high school days of Friday night football games came back. Sports were the reason I went to school, they were the only reason why I tried to pass classes. You had to have a 2.0 GPA in order to play and, well, lets just say I did pull at least that…..most the time. Motivation to do well comes from many different sources for kids. For some it’s sports, for others it might be band or theater, and yet for others it’s school itself that motivates them to do well. But understanding that each student is unique in what they are passionate about and what motivates them to do well is what every school, teacher, educator should strive to become.

ISB is a unique school internationally. While most large international schools have rigorous entrance exams ISB-Brussels has taken a different approach…..one of inclusion.

As their Impressions brochure states:

1500 students, ages 2 1/2 to 19, from 70 countries. Each with his or her own learning style, skills, interests, passions, personality,hopes and dreams, 1500 students, 1500 ways of being intelligent.

My favorite conversations of the week revolved around this idea that every student is unique and with that we need to find unique ways to reach each one of them. ISB is a 1:1 school from 3rd-12th grade. Two years ago they took the plunge, with little to no known research backing 1:1 laptops programs in the elementary school. But it doesn’t take long to get a feeling that at this school it’s students that matter. That if there is a way that putting a laptop in the hands of every child might help….then they were going to do what was best for kids. Research or no research they had a gut feeling that computers at all levels could help students learn.

Many conversations revolved around the whole child and the whole class. Not every student is a reader, not every student is engaged by technology, and that’s OK. How can we put the tools in the hands of teachers and give them the opportunity to use them where and when appropriate.

It’s what many of us have been saying for years. That the technology is just a tool that can lead to learning, when you have as many computers as pencils in your classroom it makes it easy to choose the right tool for the lesson. My message to the people that attended my sessions was start with the learning outcomes and see where it all fits. Where do you write with a pencil, where do you watch a video, where do you interact with digital media, where do you create content for the world, and how do you meet the needs of each of your students?

You could feel a culture within the school (mostly around the heated passionate discussions in some of my sessions) that ISB is not a school that is going to find research and then react…..instead they are out there creating the research themselves. They’ve been 1:1 in the elementary school for two years now and are starting to collect some data around learning. What I love is that their first round of student tablets are about ready to be replaced and the school is asking itself what’s next? Are tables the best tool? Is there something better? Where do we go from here?

When you are a school, as the slideshow says above, believes in innovation, innovation, innovation, it means celebrating your successes and learning from your failures. The school is not perfect, they know that, and in this day in age we all feel like we have a lot to learn and that we will never be able to learn it all. That’s a mindset I believe many people feel with the pace of change today. As some point we need to stop trying to learn it all and learn how to learn what we need when we need it. In my session on Digital Literacy we only made it through 3 of the 10 slides I had. The conversation was intense and passionate, as we tried to answer the questions:

What is the role of a teacher is today?

How is technology changing that role?

What does it mean to be literate and how do we teach that in all subjects to students?

It was a great session (I thought anyway) that allowed people to share what they felt it meant to be a teacher, something I think we do not get enough time to discuss within our schools.

At the end of the day if you are a school that believes in innovation, innovation, innovation and that through being innovative you can reach each child and give them “multiple opportunities to success” then you are a school on your way to truly changing the world.

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!

Today I’ve been working with the first grade team preparing to created their e-portfolios for the kids.

http://www.elizabethannedesigns.com/living/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/iphoto_icon.jpgWe started off the year talking about how we could organize the photos and movies that would be taken over the year so that when it came to this stage of the process it would be as quick and easy as possible. With 30 days of school left the last thing teachers want is to spend their time learning a new skill.

So here’s what we’re doing:

1. In August we set up an Album in iPhoto for each student
2. As teachers and assistants took pictures and videos they put them into each students album
3. In iPhoto we then created a slide show
4. File – Export – Slideshow – Medium size

That’s it……cute little e-portfolio for 1st grade students of pictures and videos throughout their year of learning.

It took longer for the videos to render (about 15 minutes) then it did to do the whole rest of the process.

The key to the whole thing is starting in August with a plan of how to keep track and organize the photos and movies.

iPhoto makes this easy. As soon as a teacher connects their camera to the laptop iPhoto pops up and teachers could quickly drag the right photo into each students album.

Just another way of using pictures and media to record learning.