Recently, I’ve been reading about ePortfolios … e-portfolios …. and even Eportfolios (not sure which one to use!) Anyway, when I first heard the term I looked it up and immediately thought that the concept would be great to use when giving children their own online space. I’ve been introducing teachers here to class blogging … but after a time, they tend to ask me how they can give the children their own space. I can understand this – it’s exactly what led me to giving the children in my own class a page in a class wiki – then eventually their own wiki, and their own blog. The next question I’m asked is always…. ‘So – how should the pupils use the space?’ After more than two years of giving children their own online spaces, you’d think I’d have been able to answer that question straight away – but I always hesitate. I’ll attempt to reflect here on why that was.
The first attempt at giving the children an on-line space was via a page on a class wiki. There were four wikis, actually – one for each type of writing. The children either wrote class work directly on to the wiki or, if they didn’t have the typing skills, they would put on a short section of whatever they had hand written. They also had a space on our topic wiki, and they learned how to upload pictures, slideshares, videos, etc. There were even maths group problem solving spaces where they wrote about on what they’d been doing in class …. and early attempts at making group podcasts to say how they’d solved some maths problems. At some point the children were given their own blogs where they wrote about school related items.
With my next class, I began to allow the children more freedom over how they used their on-line spaces. To begin with, I’m not sure they knew what to do with this freedom …. this quote from Anna’s blog will demonstrate what I mean:
‘Well a couple of days ago me and courtney were pestering Mrs Vass and asking her about blogs and stuff and me and courtney were a bit stuck about what we could write on our blogs.So Mrs Vass made it very clear to me anyway that a blog is like an online diary and i found it intresting because everyone in my class thinks a blog is only for school stuff and its not its like courtney has been writing about Dundee.Anyway i just wanted to make it clear that a blog is not only for school stuff so thanks Mrs Vass for telling me that! ‘
What happened after that was just great! The children began to use their blogs for reflection – what they wanted to do when they were older, worries – and hopes – for High School, thoughts about family life, hobbies, etc. etc. They were also keen for the blog posts to be read out to their classmates, and this led to inspiring others to go home and write their own post. I’ve written a few blog posts in the past about the positive impact of giving the children more ownership over their blogs.
The children also began to use their wikis for writing imaginative stories. The quality of writing on their wikis was far superior to the writing they were producing in jotters during class time. Again, I’ve blogged about the great teaching opportunities that arose from sharing these stories on the whiteboard ….. not to mention important lessons that were learned about copyright issues 😉
So why the hesitation in recommending that other class teachers leave children to their own devices?
Well, on reflection, it may have worked so successfully for me because the children were actually very well aware of the fact that their use of their online spaces was going to be used in the case study I was writing up for my Chartered Teacher course. Because I was going to be quoting them in my write up, permissions had to be granted by everyone involved. They were also aware that I was blogging about the whole journey, and a couple of them even left comments on my blog.
I’m not sure what would happen if children were just handed these spaces and told to ‘get on with it’ …. would it turn out to be no more that a bebo or myspace type of thing?? ….. not that I think that would be totally wrong, either – but that’s another story 🙂 What I’ve been lookng for, is something in between simply using the space for classwork and a kind of ‘laissez faire’ policy.
Could a type of ePortfolio be the answer – and if so, what form would that take? I’ve been reading a bit about ePortfolios and here are some thoughts so far ….. wee snippets taken from literature I’ve visited (apologies that there’s no direct link to original sources)
What is an ePortfolio:
- In general, an ePortfolio is a purposeful collection of information and digital artifacts that demonstrates development or evidences learning outcomes, skills or competencies.
- A collection of student work that tells the story of the student’s efforts, progress, or achievements
What should they look like?
- They should be purposeful. Without purpose, an ePortfolio is just a folder of student work
- The student work included in the portfolio should be that which best tells the story they want to tell – so they need to justify their choice of content.
- There should be evidence of student self-reflection
What’s the teacher’s role?
- They will only have the desired effects if planned for carefully
- There needs to be clearly defined criteria to allow students to paint a picture of their efforts, growth, and achievement
- Effective feedback should be given to students, to encourage them to observe their own learning journey
- Assessment techniques should improve achievement and not just monitor it
- Assessments should align with what is considered important outcomes in order to communicate the right message to students and others about what is valued
What about the pupils?
- Students need to see samples of good self-reflection so that thoughts and comments go beyond “I think I did OK” or ” I think I have more to learn.”
- Criteria should identify what is most valued by students and teachers alike
- Pupils should be monitoring their own learning so that they can adjust what they do when they perceive they are not understanding.
Well there it is! My new recommendation for next session when teachers ask about giving children their own online space.
Blogs or wikis?? I’ll suggest wikis – I have recollections of the primary 7’s not liking the fact that their blog posts seem to disappear (archived). Also, on a wiki, the menus at the side and the discussion facility facility on blogs just seem to lend themselves more to the purpose?
Wow! Writing this post has been a learning journey for me ……. and it’s only thrown up more questions that I want to find anwers to ….. time to hit the publish button 🙂