So, I’ve been thinking about digital portfolios for years. In my last two years teaching 5th grade, my students each had a wiki with a page for each major subject, and I tried to build in time to reflect on work after each unit or so. Great, but it was a project that stayed in my grade.
Fast forward a few years. In my new administrative position, I’ve been
talking to anyone who will listen mentioning digital portfolios here and there, and the idea has gotten some traction. Over the summer I went to a two-day workshop by the EdTechTeacher group in Cambridge devoted to digital portfolios with a multi-division team from my school. There were 6 of us in total, teaching 4th-12th grades. What a gift to have the support and time to do this as a group!
I went with some fairly strong ideas as to what I believed we should do for our school. I felt, and continue to feel, that our version of this portfolio will be more about self-reflection (a la the portfolio assessment of old) and student voice than a showcase for very polished work. (When the expectation is that this work is “ready for publication” I think there is a strong temptation for the work to be overly corrected or edited by teachers.) My vision stresses authentic student commentary on progress and areas for improvement. My vision was a little fuzzy on some of the details of what platform to use, how to make this work at various age levels, and how to get more people on board. That’s where the workshop came in handy.
Attending the workshop with my school group meant that we were our own think tank. We all heard the same information. We all talked about how this new learning would and could help us understand more deeply the possibilities and the rational behind our portfolio project. Each of us thought about what this might look like in his or her own classroom, subject area, grade level. This kind of dedicated time to think, talk, eat, talk about other stuff, come back and have at it again the next day is what going to workshops allows teachers to do. The value of that time and the extra space never ceases to amaze me.
The workshop also gave me new ideas about formats for reflection. It does concern me that we are creating another way/time/place that will prioritize written expression. We’ve got plenty of those in school already. Learning about some quick ways to incorporate audio into reflection was a good reminder that the bigger goal is communication of ideas and does not necessitate writing. This was a big take away for many members of the group. However the biggest take away in terms of moving this idea forward was creating a group who has bought into the idea, has some extra information, and can speak up for our project.
Win, win, win.