Friday, December 13, 2013

Lots of Birds ~ One Stone

It's clear to me that I am not blogging as much as I should. That said, I blog to share relevant, reflective thoughts.  Quality vs. Quantity Discussion, I guess, which leads me into the purpose behind today's post.

The more I get into schools and work with professional development teams, it appears educators are asking for more substance to integration of tech tools than "playing with" the latest and greatest version of whatever's coming next...that said, have you gotten your Google Glass yet?  

Specifically, I've been ask to demonstrate and exemplify more connectedness between student learning objectives (SLOs) and tech integration. Explain THE WHY. Even more specifically, especially at the middle and high school levels, they ask about the marriage of student e-folios and the crosswalk of standards covered by implementing them...and notwithstanding, the power of both in today's ever-changing, highly demanding educational climate. 

What are student e-folios? 

Photo Credit:
Imagine taking all the crates of student portfolios from the back shelf in your room and housing them all on your laptop. Yes, just like that. I can see the trees already regrowing in the forest! These portfolios hold the keys to students' educational pasts. They exemplify the growth students make throughout their educational journeys. Portfolios can be to catalyst of doors opening to them as they venture into worlds beyond our K-12 walls. What goes into these sacred folders of artifacts is critical...and 100% in students' charge.  I taught 8th grade English; my students had writing portfolios. Now imagine them being able to house everything from art materpieces, science explorations, history research and physical fitness accomplishments (just to name a few) in one digital space. Wow! 

Your e-Folio Garage

It's never been about the tools for me. It's always been about what is my learning objective? What do I want kids to be able to accomplish here?  And, WHY am I doing this? Tech tools are like all the tools sitting out in your garage. We all have preferences. My husband swears by DeWalt and Craftsman. I prefer ergonomic, female-friendly brands.  Tech tools are no different. Give kids choice.

For teaching students how to build e-folios, try some of these:  Google Sites, Weebly, Blogger or Wix. By no means an exhaustive list, but it's a start. And, here's a thought: learn from your students. Maybe they have a favorite website creation tool to share with you!

Lots of Birds ~ One Stone

Now, when students collaborate, communicate and connect in a digital space, they are reaching more standards than you may think. One bonus of e-folios: they are creating purposeful, real-world connections with authentic audiences. Let's take a look:
Created by: Kaye Henrickson, 2013
By unpacking the Common Core State Standards in ELA, the NETS*S, and Teacher Standards (in Wisconsin districts, both Danielson and Stronge Models are used). That's a lot of birds bagged with one engaging, student-centered learning activity that travels across ALL disciplines. Talk about collaboration, higher-end thinking skills and purposeful instruction - powerful stuff!

Getting Started

So, you want to incorporate student e-folios in your class, or perhaps go the route of the folks I've been working with and implement it school-wide, beginning in 6th, 8th or 9th grade...depending your district's mission and strategic instructional goals? Here's a basic laundry list of what you need to get started with student e-folios:
  1. Define the purpose of the portfolio (Learning? Showcase? Assessment?) What is this portfolio suppose to demonstrate? Answer that WHY...
  2. Keep a Learning Journal. What are you learning?
  3. Collect digital documents [artifacts] (or convert into digital format through digital cameras, scanners or digital audio/video tools)
  4. Use tools like Google Docs to upload and convert artifacts, including WORD, PPTs, PDFs, images
  5. Select specific documents to meet the goals identified in step 1. (Sometimes in selecting the documents, the goals emerge!)

There's a multitude of student e-folio examples out on the Internet after which to model your own student e-folios. The level of sophistication is completely your decision.

What to Include (SideNote: I use Google Sites when I conduct professional development trainings on this - mere preference point)

  • Introduction and Table of Contents
    • Set up your Structure
    • Goals of your Portfolio
    • Contact Information, Social Media
    • Recent Updates to your Site
  • Artifacts
    • Attachments
    • Links
      • Google Docs, Presentations, Spreadsheets
      • Web 2.0 (Glog, Prezi, Voki)
    • Videos
  • Reflections
    • Google Forms or Docs
    • Announcements page (blog-like, invites critical conversations with authentic audiences)

Bottom Line

Student e-folios can be a powerful learning tool. Through the reflective nature of e-folios, students are forced into those higher-order critical thinking skills while showcasing the best and brightest of their educational works. I don't know about you, but from an educator hell bent on showcasing kids' best efforts, it doesn't get much more purposeful or powerful than this. Give me a shout if I can share any more resources with you about creating student folios.
Image Credit: Mystic Arts, LLC

Write On!

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