Note: Full document also available here.
Background and Rationale:
This is an initial proposal for HS students at Escuela Campo Alegre to maintain four-year online portfolios of their learning.
I’ve been inspired by conversations the tech teachers have had here, and small programs we’ve developed, around the idea of students’ building a positive online presence. We would like our students to have something to show to college admissions committees, of course, but we also want them to use online tools to create a space where they can practice good digital citizenship, connecting positively with others, and creating a positive (and true!) online persona.
Beyond just a scrapbook of their best work, a digital portfolio can be a place for students to demonstrate learning process and growth, to connect to other learners, and to make ties across disciplines.
I propose to phase in the portfolios, starting with grades 9 and 10 in the first year, and then adding a new group for the next two years. IB diploma students already have a lot on their plate, but portfolios are part of the program in Art and several other disciplines, and reflection is a piece of all their work, including the sciences. It would not take much extra work to ask students to curate selections and add them to a personal portfolio.
Management and Skill-Teaching:
The HS at ECA has a tech teacher with a free period for integration. The tech teacher sees every 9th grade student in their first year, and can build initial portfolios with each student that year. The basic technical skills are within reach of every student. Our school uses Google Apps for Education, so all students would have access to an ecak12.com blog. (I suggest using Blogger as a platform, rather than Sites. The blogger format allows for easy tagging and category-creation, and it shows time well, a key element of a growth portfolio.)
In the first year, in each discipline, students would be responsible for adding one entry per semester, per class. Each entry would have one artifact-plus-reflection.
Possible entries by discipline:
- Literature: Creative writing; literary analysis; sound files from oral commentary
- Social Studies: Powerpoint presentations; movies; written analysis
- Science: Lab data and conclusions; photos and movies of procedures;
- Art: photos of paintings and sculptures
- Theater: scripts; set designs; timing sheets for theater tech
- Music: recordings of performances
In the first year, we would ask students to comment on others’ portfolios at their grade level. In subsequent years, we would extend to other schools, with the help of our network of international teachers. (A natural connection might be with the schools in our athletic networks, CAISSA and VANAS.)
Safety: Venezuela is not a safe country. Students need to take care with personal identifying information. Kids should not be googleable through their portfolios. This is tricky, as we want students to practice good digital citizenship, but they also must be safe.
Workload: Faculty might be concerned that portfolios will add significantly to their workload. In the first year, at least, we should limit the number of expected entries, and explain to faculty that students should post work that they are already doing in class. Also, because the goal of a growth-oriented portfolio is to show development of time, students do not need to post only polished, high-level artifacts.
We would need to reserve time during staff PD for working with teachers to develop guidelines for what to post, and how to build reflections. But ideally, portfolio entries would be student-driven, so that students choose what to include. Entries would be tied to the work in class–there is no additional work for classroom teachers, except for assuring that each student posts one entry per semester. (We would also have to work as a staff to develop appropriate assessment guidelines: how do we hold students accountable for their posting?)
Assessment: We need to develop an accountability and assessment system for portfolios. The simplest version is to ask teachers in each discipline to add one post per semester to their gradebook, but a more authentic approach would be to ask students to lead semester conferences by describing their portfolio work. There are a number of rubrics available for assessing portfolios, online and off-. This is a bigger task, but students in our MS already do this. It might take time to get the HS up to speed. (Student-led conferences is another big initiative! It might not be easy or advisable to develop portfolios and conferences at the same time.)
If the HS decides to use online portfolios in some form, we would need to create policies and clear expectations for students and for teachers. Fortunately, many other schools use online portfolios, and we could build on their experience. We should also have exemplar portfolios–perhaps by teachers modeling their own learning?–available for students.