10 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning

9 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning10 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning

In schools, the use of e-portfolios is increasing as a way to enable learning, as well as a means to measure it. See Admissions Revolution (80 colleges and universities move towards use of online portfolios). There are a variety of types and purposes of e-portfolios including workspace, showcase, academic, employment, etc. This post focuses primarily on the blog as student workspace – designed as a tool to accelerate learning at any age, as well as to build capacity for being globally competitive beyond schooling. How might e-portfolios increase learning?

1) Writing – Does the importance of writing need to be explained or defended? It’s connection and value to learning is self-evident. Blogs and online journals (via e-portfolios) are a fantastic platform for encouraging and facilitating writing for learners. Whether one is expressing ideas, posing questions, or making arguments, here are more than a dozen reasons why writing is vitally important to learning.

2) Storytelling – More than just a mode of writing, storytelling precedes writing in the history of humanity. Storytelling is a powerful connector of people. Oral stories and parables are incredibly effective modes of communicating very complex ideas in a form that is accessible to the common learner. Today, exciting possibilities exist with digital storytelling, while the classic archetypes of storytelling remain as relevant as ever. Let’s teach both to our students!

9 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning 3) Meta-cognition – It goes by many names. Thinking about thinking. Reflecting on learning. Self-regulation. The monitoring and control of thought. The gift that keeps giving. Despite its importance in the learning process, it is not well practiced in today’s classrooms. How can e-portfolios be used to build these muscles? Teachers can supply prompts for reflection. Students can capture their reflections in writing, in voice memo, on video, on podcast, through art, etc. All of these are ripe candidates for e-portfolio demonstrations. See these K-8 meta-cognitive strategies.

The ability to learn is not a fixed quantity (read Dweck’s ‘Mindset’). Members of our team have modeled meta-cognition through the reconfiguring of physical space, as well as the emotional environment as key elements of teaching and learning.

If we are to teach students that a growth mindset is not only possible, but desirable, then we must first embody and exemplify a growth mindset as educators. If we expect students to reflect and curate their learning, should we not also be practitioners ourselves? This is why the blog you are now reading exists.

4) Multi-media Technology – We often read about the mistakes educators make when using (or not using) technology. With e-portfolios, there is an opportunity for students (and teachers) to learn a variety of valuable skills including embedding presentations, video creation, graphic creation, font and style choice, podcasts, stop-motion video, voice memos, google hangouts – with screen capture, 3D printing, etc. What specific technologies should students be learning in schools? Why do these technologies need to be learned? How frequently does this list change as technology advances? Is it a futile effort and is time wasted learning technologies that will be obsolete in a few years? Is it more about the mindsets that are required and developed by the pursuit of learning new technologies?

5) Feedback – Here is a skill that was not formally taught when I was in school. And what a mistake it is that we don’t teach how to give and receive feedback intentionally! I highly recommend ‘Thanks for the Feedback’ for anyone interested in learning about the 3 types of feedback and how every human needs them, yet they are often as cross-purposes. With e-portfolios, students can receive feedback on their demonstrations of learning from teachers, peers, parents, and external experts. Students can learn how to deliver feedback by providing it to one another in the form of comments, uploaded directly to the e-portfolio.

9 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning 6) Assessment of Learning – If your goal is to expand the ways in which you measure student learning beyond numerical, quantitative grades, you should take a good, long look at e-portfolios. They provide a qualitative, longitudinal measure. Students can post a writing sample from September next to one written in November and we should be able to visibly see the progression of learning. If we don’t, then the measure is still helpful because it tells us where the student stands in relation to learning outcomes. E-portfolios can be the perfect platform for displaying digital badges earned for demonstrating specific knowledge, skills, or transfer of skills. Badging is yet another fantastic measure of learning that can accomplish the same, if not much more, than a numerical grade.

7) Choice & Ownership – When designed properly, students can pursue their own topics of interest and curiosity through e-portfolios. They can share their learning with others. E-portfolios allow students a much greater audience for their learning which in turn generates a stronger sense of ownership and urgency. We all want to ‘be seen’ – acknowledged and appreciated by others. Students should have the freedom to add their own demonstrations, in addition to being assigned demonstrations by teachers. It is not an ‘either or’ proposition. Students should ‘have permission’ to customize the look of their e-portfolios and include demos that may not be related to school.

8) Digital Citizenship – As the author of one’s own blog, website, or e-portfolio, students learn the importance of ethical decision making and wise choices. See the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship as food for thought.

9) Graphic Organizer(s) – There is no shortage of graphic organizers available online. Can teachers use e-portfolio assignments as advance organizers? How might this increase the mastery and measurement of specific learning outcomes in a school? How might graphic organizers be used with e-portfolios to introduce new concepts? Or to formatively assess student learning via entry, transfer, and exit tickets?

9 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning10) Communications/Branding – At least one school I know has explicitly written into their mission statement the goal to prepare students to be globally competitive and engaged citizen leaders, though I assume a lot of schools would say they aspire to do the same. In the age of the internet and marketing, being savvy with one’s web presence, branding, and social media strategy seems like an important set of skills to begin ‘baking in’ early in our students formal educational journey. Experience curating one’s own e-portfolio can position students much further along than their global competitors. Conversely, it can leave them at a great disadvantage if these skills and mindsets are missing.

What other ways do you see e-portfolios can increase learning?

For more on e-portfolios, read these posts and resources.

Take the 7/47 Challenge!

A few weeks ago at our annual Honors Assembly, a challenge was issued to the entire Mount Vernon community including students, parents, and teachers across Preschool through Grade 12. The challenge has 3 parts and takes place during the season of Lent beginning March 5 and ending April 20. Lent is 40 days, but including weekends, it is 47…

1) Live out the 7 Checkpoints (Andy Stanley) for 47 days.

2) Take a break (fast) from social media. *

3) Read the 4 Gospels.

SevenCheckpoints2 SevenCheckpoints1

* Fasting is traditionally associated with food and water, though you can fast from almost anything. An important point to be made is that social media (like food and water) is a great thing. Food and water (like social media or anything else) can be misused. Giving up social media for this challenge is not a commentary on the value of social media. I am an active user and advocate for social media. I believe it is worthy of being sacrificed for a period of time for the purpose of spiritual growth. I hope you’ll dare to take the 7/47 Challenge along with us!

Support our FCA by purchasing a 7/47 Challenge bracelet for $2 and let it serve as a daily reminder of your commitment to taking the challenge!

Navigating Middle School Waters: Partnering with Parents

Every day (no exaggeration), I am informed about a posting, screenshot, or conversation happening online or outside of school involving students. They are usually either mean-spirited or pertain to content inappropriate for kids. I do not seek these out. They always find their way to me. They sadden me. I try to find new ways to help students, parents, and teachers steer clear from them.

Our school has several proactive elements that I believe help to address these behaviors and hopefully provide a positive model for students to follow. A few of these include…

Parent University
External experts host seminars and forums with parents about social media and other adolescent issues (topics include: social media, social cruelty, eating disorders, substance abuse, anxiety, etc.)

Chapel & Christian Education Small Groups
Every week students are taught Christian values and encouraged to ask questions related to topics found in the 7 Checkpoints curriculum including making wise decisions, healthy friendships, moral boundaries, spiritual disciplines, authentic faith, and serving others first.

Ethical Decision Maker Mindset
The Mount Vernon Mindsets are central to every classroom and learning outcome in our curriculum. After reading Tony Wagner’s ‘Global Achievement Gap’ and viewing three different educational documentaries, our stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, board members) collaborated and adopted six mindsets (solution seeker, ethical decision maker, collaborator, communicator, creative thinker, and innovator).

Specifically, our teachers work to infuse the mindsets with the learning outcomes (standards). They are not separate. It is not ‘either or,’ but rather ‘both and.’

There are three specific indicators for the EDM mindset…
* Exhibits integrity, honesty, empathy, fairness, and respect
* Demonstrates personal, social, and civic responsibility
* Develops understanding of emerging ethical issues regarding new technologies

We have a dedicated, full-time counselor who meets with students and communicates with parents to help them resolve conflicts and concerns that arise throughout the course of middle school life. She is available and resourceful with a wealth of experience in dealing with a wide range of issues.

Our teachers and Dean of Students have a positive philosophy of discipline that assumes the best and seeks to advocate for students, yet also draws clear boundaries and consequences around behaviors that are inappropriate and unacceptable. It empowers teachers to handle discipline at a local level, yet also supports them when behavior requires administrative intervention.

Also, we have an Honor Code and a set of written expectations for student conduct in our Student Handbook.

Filters and Security
Our IT Team has up-to-date security features related to internet access and we frequently engage students about what it means to be responsible digital citizens not only in technology course, but throughout each classroom.

Despite all of these wonderful initiatives and resources, it should come as no surprise that middle school and high school students are going to make unwise choices and get into trouble from time to time. That’s part of the reason why they are in school – to learn, grow, and mature into responsible adults. It is our job, partnering with parents, to help make sure they learn these valuable lessons, hopefully while the consequences are still small. While school can offer a lot, we must partner with parents. If you were to ask me what are a few things I wish parents knew/did…

What are some “Do’s” for Parents?

1. Monitor your child’s online activity.
– Strike a balance between freedom and responsibility.
– Make them turn in cell phones at night.
– Have a common area computer that is always in sight.

2. Stay informed about latest, trendy apps/websites, etc.
– Perhaps consider outlawing certain apps that have zero constructive value (ex: Ask.fm)
Article 1 about Ask.fm (new site, same old bullying)
Article 2 about Ask.fm (advertisers are boycotting)
– I’m really not a fan of Ask.fm, can you tell?

3. Talk openly to the parents of your child’s friends/classmates.

4. Take screenshots of inappropriate postings and share them directly with the parents of the offending student. Don’t spread it around everywhere else.

5. Talk to your child. Frequently. Let them know you are aware and in touch (and take necessary steps to be aware and in touch).

6. Take advantage of what your school is offering and reinforce it. Schools and parents are partners working together. If the School is teaching about digital citizenship or 7 Checkpoints, how can you discuss and instill those same ideas at home?


#16 Thoughts on Digital Citizenship

Students have the power to make decisions in the realm of social media where the consequences can stick around for a long time. Educators must model and instruct the proper use of these tools. Parents should closely monitor their student’s activity while the student gradually earns trust by their consistent actions. All three stakeholders should discuss and agree on guardrails that allow students to utilize the latest technology while simultaneously maintaining responsible digital citizenship. Not an easy task.

1. Be informed and involved with your student’s social media life. They know more than you do in this realm. How will you guard against being green? Trust and verify. Spend time and talk with your children.

2. Partner with educators. Read the resources they share with you. Share resources with them. Participate in offerings such as Parent University where external experts are brought in to discuss specific topics such as social media.

1. Commit to being a responsible digital citizen. Be trustworthy in all that you do. Online and offline.

2. Make wise choices. Learn this skill at an early age and it will take you far in life. I recommend reading Andy Stanley’s book Principal of the Path and The Best Question Ever.

Professional Educators…
1. Engage the students daily about what digital citizenship means and how to practice it. Infuse lessons on digital citizenship into your regularly scheduled programming. Be intentional.

2. Be the best in your field. Seek out new and innovative technologies to use in the classroom that will prepare students to be globally competitive. Seek out how to develop responsible digital citizens. Lead future leaders.

3. Partner with parents. Equip them. Share with them. Work together for the good of the students.

Here are some excellent resources to get started…
Cybraryman’s Resources

Why Digital Citizenship Must Be Taught in Schools

Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship

6 Must Read Posts on the Importance of Teaching Digital Citizenship

Teaching Integrity in an Age of Cynicism

Search Twitter using hashtag #digcit
What resources have you found to be helpful regarding digital citizenship?