Tag Archive | online spaces

Rambling On About ePortfolios Again

I’ve been pondering what needs to be done to create long-lasting ePortfolios for my class. They are in Primary 6 at the moment, and I need to be realistic and assume that the chances are that their Primary 7 teacher won’t  be as involved as I am with their individual blogs – or any ePortfolio set-up.

Last session, while on secondment, I spent a few afternoons with some Primary 6 stage children and set up wikispaces for them. I wanted to gauge how appropriate they would be if used as an ePortfolio.  

Jaimey was very keen to keep hers going, and continued to add bits and pieces to it in Primary 7, but with no teacher input, her interest is waning. The ideal scenario (for me, anyway!) would be that there was an Authority-wide strategy in place to promote the advantages of  creating ePortfolios and that appropriate CPD opportunities were made available … ‘blue sky’ thinking 🙂

The image on here links to Jaimey’s wiki.

But other issues need to be taken into consideration when planning to build ePortfolios. I initially chose wikispaces because the service is free and I liked the way that they looked (I’m referring to the sidebar menus).

However, when I first investigeted ePortfolio Portability and Longevity Issues  on here, David Gilmour  commented:

“Another aspect to this, which cropped up this week for us with the demise of Bubbleshare.com, is the longevity of Web 2.0 services. Inevitably there’s an element of risk in using these free services, and we’ve accepted that. For the schools involved, we’ve had a lot of useful learning – and fun – from it. The slideshows will vanish from the sites, but they’ve probably served their purpose and copies of the original images will still be on disk in the schools.

With portfolios that are needed long-term, though, we’ll need to be careful to take such risks into account.”

I understand what David means and I envy the eduBuzz blogs set up. But, as we don’t have something like this in place in my own Local Authority, I thought that wikispaces , a great ‘web 2.0 service’ (can I still use that phrase?) seemed like a good alternative.

This session, however, I’ve set up Glow Blogs for all the children in my class, and I have been pleasantly surprised at their enthusiasm so far. Until recently, I thought that the best idea to build ePortfolios was to create a link from their blog to a wikispace with a set-up similar to the one above. But I’ve since thought about creating a ‘Sticky’ post with links to other areas in their blogs where they can record achievements, etc. New blog posts can then continue to be published as normal below the ‘Sticky’. The idea is that their Glow Blog becomes a ‘one-stop-shop’ where they can update with reflective posts, but have an area to formally record successes (although there will still be links to a wiki, where some children have enjoyed updating stories over a period of time. Have a look at the joint effort by Brooke, Natasha and Eilidh ).

I created a Trial Blog and set it up with the relevant sections. The Sticky post shown in the image links to  HERE where I’ve set up areas for them to record achievements until they leave Primary School. The idea is that they create links to High School stages (and beyond?)

I exported the information from the Trial Blog as an extended RSS file and imported into the children’s blogs. I had a bit of a dilemma as to whether or not to open up the links from the ‘Sticky’ post in a new window. I worried that if I didn’t do that then visitors to the blogs who were not used to such online spaces (parents?) might get lost and not be able to find their way back to the homepage. After seeking advice on twitter, though, I decided that the best solution was to open the links in the same window and add a  ‘Back to my Home Page’ link on the sidebar.

The class can choose from 3 link designs –  all they have to do is copy the html code into a text widget. I’ve saved the code into a word document, but they need to change the link from the trial blog to their own.

I’m sure they’ll manage 🙂 

In this example the link will go to Declan’s homepage, even though the original image is stored in the Trial Blog. 

<a href=”https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/fa/cpsdeclanw/2010/11/16/welcome-to-my-eportfolio/”><img src=”https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/fa/carronshoretrial/files/2010/11/home-button-1-150×150.jpg” title=”blog home” /></a>

Here’s the three choices.

Thanks again to David Gilmour  for his patience when explaining how to do this!

The sidebar pages widget transfers with all the correct information and the links go directly to pages on the children’s blogs, but the actual posts links still transfer back to the Trial Blog. I’ve remedied this by creating a couple of class ‘experts’, who then teach others how to fix the problem. This is still on-going ….. but if anyone knows of an easier solution, please get in touch.



This post has been a bit of a ramble, but I’ll finish with a reminder to myself of what I believe an ePortfolio to be. I don’t think something like this could be built in a hurry anyway 🙂

Back to Basics

1. What is an ePortfolio?:

  • It’s a collection of student work that tells the story of the student’s efforts, progress, or achievements 

2. What should they look like?

  • There should be evidence of self-reflection

3. What’s the teacher’s role?

  • They need to plan carefully to provide clearly defined criteria 
  • Effective feedback should be given to students, to encourage them to observe their own learning journey

4. What about the pupils?

  • Comments should go beyond “I think I did OK” or ” I think I have more to learn.”
  • Pupils should be monitoring their own learning so that they can adjust what they do when they perceive they are not understanding.

Pondering Our Online Spaces


In my previous post I revisited my Chartered Teacher dissertation where I’d mentioned research by Stern (2007) who found that in her study, the main audience for young people’s blogs were the authors themselves and that they were self reflecting as they tested out different versions of their current and possible identities. She also found that they were continually testing out other audiences too, and that they were hungry for peer approval.

The Primary Six children in my class certainly value getting comments on their blog posts. For the first few months, it was common for every post to end with a, “Please leave comments!” plea, and I’d occasionally ask my twitter followers to oblige them 🙂 The children were undaunted by this … until Andrew received a comment from Dairmid , a 9 year old:

Hi Andrew, I Am Nine too and i play football on saturday but for a diffrent club ,maybr we could become freinds and date a playday

In class the next day, Andrew told me that he’d received a suspicious comment. He was worried that it was from an adult pretending to be a 9 year old. I was able to reassure him that it was from Catriona’s son – we’d had a discussion about it on twitter and she’d mentioned that Dairmid had left the comment 🙂

 I found this interesting, though, as three years ago it was the adult comments that were more difficult for my class to accept as this quote from my dissertation shows:

“The third adult comment resulted in much excitement. The children were unexpectedly bewildered by it, and had difficulty coming to terms with how the blogs were discovered by this teacher. Although all the children were aware of search engines, and had personal experience of using them, they still could not quite grasp how this visitor had stumbled upon one of their blogs. Visiting children, on the other hand, did not surprise them at all”

I’ve set up our Glow blogs so that I’m able to track who is commenting on the children’s blogs, and recently I’ve become aware that the majority of the comments are coming from the children themselves as the image here shows.

Other changes are taking place as well, though, because I’ve noticed that the class are now beginning to reflect on each others’ posts. They’ve begun writing about a ‘competition for the best post of the week’. Jade’s example of this can be seen here – more of these types of  ‘lets look at what others are writing’ posts are continuing to make an appearance.

I was worried that the children’s motivation to blog would begin to wane if I couldn’t provide an audience for them, but it seems that they’re happy enough to have their peers as their audience when it comes to comments – maybe Stern was right 🙂

 Stern (2007) also mentioned the importance young people attach to personalising their online spaces, and how they prepare them with careful attention to detail.

It might be significant that the change to a more class community feel to our blogs coincides with the fact that I’ve allowed (and shown) the children how to customise their Glow Blog Header image. As usual, a few ‘experts’ are emerging and they are helping others to upload images successfully. Three Header images that I like are ones that mirror the children’s interests.

Jade loves her pets.

Charlotte is really into frogs!

Jennifer is adamant that she is the biggest fan of Rubber Ducks ever 🙂

Last night I began with the intention of writing about three topics, and even uploaded some images to help guide me through the post. Unfortunately, I’ve only managed one of the topics because I keep getting sidelined by what’s happening on the blogs. Here are the three topics – one down, two to go …

  • Audience   (managed that!)

  • Assessment (via Glow Blog Posts)

  • ePortfolios (development update)

I hope I find the time to write up the other two topics before I get waylaid again 🙂

Blogs, Wikis and Emergent Writers

 I mentioned in my previous post that I was surprised at the unexpected lengthy pieces of writing on the children’s Glow blogs and wikis. I’ve been using the same strategy that I adopted previously when I carried out a case study for my Chartered Teacher studies –  my dissertation  has the details, and I’ve had a closer look to see if I can come up with a formula (I’ve looked at some of the professional reading that helped to convey my thoughts at the time).  

Three ingredients jump out:

1. Content  – The freedom to choose

  • Lafferty (2004): “To develop an online community requires a more student-centred approach with the tutor transforming into a facilitator from ’sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side.” 
  •  Marsh (2007) proposed that by enabling children to create blogs based on their own interest, valuable learning opportunities might be developed
  • Buckingham (2008) argues that through using the new media, young people are learning primarily by means of discovery, experimentation, and play, rather than by following external instructions and directions
  • Stern (2007) also found that in the absence of audible or visual cues, young people often feel less inhibited, a sensation heightened by the experience of crafting messages in front of a computer screen, frequently in the privacy of their own room or other personal space. She claims that authors possess more control over the impressions they give than they do in offline spaces, since they make all the decisions about what to reveal, omit, embellish, or underplay. 
  • Wenger states that the school is not the privileged locus of learning. It is not a self-contained, closed world in which students acquire knowledge to be applied outside, but a part of a broader learning system. The class is not the primary learning event. It is life itself that is the main learning event. 

 2. Comments –  Creating a sense of audience

  • Stern (2007) argues that the main audience for their blogs was the authors themselves and that they were self reflecting as they tested out different versions of their current and possible identities. She also maintains, however, that they were continually testing out other audiences too, and that they were hungry for peer approval
  • Davis and merchant (2006) believe that the perception of an actual or imagined audience prompts us to think about what we wish to show ……… an audience to whom one is presenting a particular narrative of the self

3. Sharing – New posts shared offline (in class), tends to influence other – sometimes typically reluctant – writers to add posts to their own blogs .

  • Godwin-Jones (2003) explains that blogs and wikis offer powerful opportunities for online collaboration for learners. He states that the encouragement of peer to peer networking and buddy learning is central to a constructivist learning approach,
  • Dissertation quote – Sharing the stories that the children wrote on their wikis provided ideal opportunities for formal learning to occur.  The stories were  written at home, usually in instalments. It is clear that the children often went home and improved parts of their stories after having heard them read aloud in class.  
  • Owen et al, 2006  believe that there is significant potential for the development of new approaches to education. There are changes in our understanding of practices of creativity and innovation – from the idea of the isolated individual ‘genius’ to the concept of ‘communities of practice’, where reflection and feedback are important collaborative processes.

But there’s a fourth ingredient that came in to play during  the case study period and that was the importance of ‘Role Models’. At the time I was interested in gender differences and I noted that my class were very aware that some of the  The AllStars girl bloggers seemed very skilled writers. This encouraged the girls in my own class to improve the quality and quantity of their posts. The boys, on the other hand, had no such role models. The AllStars teacher Kim P contacted me at the time because she was aware of the same gender differences:

  •  “Girls seem more word oriented evidenced by their blogging stories, commentaries etc; whereas boys tend to prefer visual (and less text oriented) ways of expressing themselves. Maybe boys prefer to talk and show how to use an application, rather than using application for personal reasons.”


 This time around the gender balance has changed, though. It’s the boys who tend to write more on their blogs and wikis – and the Role Models are in our own class 🙂

  • Andrew enjoys writing blog posts. His wiki story is looking fantastic, too.
  • Kian started this story as a blog post and it’s now 6000 words long. He’s been continuing it on a Word document and it’s being saved on a memory stick until it’s finished (we’ve had a lot of discussions about copyright and I suspect he’s protecting the idea until it’s published). 
  • Jack has been writing a hilarious story on his wiki. It shocked me at first, but I can’t wait to read more. What do you think? Jack’s Story

Now more reluctant writers are beginning to add lengthy posts. Four stand out for me:

  • Sean wrote a great account of his first experience at a  football match. I don’t think he’d have been this inspired in class. It’s here 
  • I’m impressed that Ryan was motivated to write this post in his own time.
  • Dylan’s post made me smile and I want to know more about his knowledge of Falkirk Bus Routes.
  • Lewis is very proud of his post about his holiday to Aviemore

 More to follow about the girls’ writing 🙂

Glow Blogs and ePortfolios?

 At the beginning of this school session, I set up Glow Blogs for my class and wondered if they could form part of an ePortfolio. Our Glow Blogs have been up and running for less than four weeks, so they’re a wee bit away from being ePortfolios yet 🙂

I talked a bit about them during  TeachMeet at this years Scottish Learning Festival last night, and today I’ve been pondering how the (9/10 year old) children have been ‘settling in’ and getting to know their new online spaces. Tonight I took a quick whirlwind tour of the blogs so that I could get some sort of overview of what’s happened so far.

 These are just some of the significant learning experiences to date:

Establishing the Purpose (a couple of first posts – setting the scene for their blogs?)

  • Hi people of earth. This is my first ever blog entry. I am going to use this blog to tell you all about what I do inside and out of school. Please comment!!!
  • Hello mighty world ( that’s full of random people watching me on my blog ). Watch and see what happen’s because im full of good ideas.

Learning about Copyright (a difficult concept, but lots of class discussion about it seems to have paid off)

  • I got all this information out my book Horrible Histories The Savage Stone Age but put it in my own words.
  • My friend Kian sits beside me at class.I am going to tell you some of his ideas.WARNING:The fowlowing section of writing is COPYRIGHT as it is Kians.
  • Earlier today Anna+Robyn used the DJ Earworm song Like OMG Baby. So i just went to DJ earworms site and lokked and looked and looked but nothing so i commented and asked if we could use it with all music credit going to him but he need’s to E-mail back so im waiting!!!

Becoming Familiar with Blog Layout (wondering what happened to the post he’d written just previously?)

  • My first AR reading book was by David Orme …. Look up to see the 2nd book I read.And by up I mean on the compuuter not the roof or sky!

Awareness of Audience (asking for comments – or just ‘talking’ to a perceived audience)

  • So far I have had LOADS of comments on my blog! I would like to thank all the people who left comments. If you see a post and you think of something that describes it or something to improve it don’t hesitate to comment
  • I dont have alot of comments so plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz leave comments
  • Okay we did max in the middle today but i cant tell you about it because it’s Alisdairs turn on the computer so ill update you laterz!!! BTW Alisdair is my little brother

Blog as Vehicle for Communicating  Difficult Thoughts (Lewis doesn’t usually share information in class and mentioned quietly that he wanted this post to be shared with his peers)

  • I have a gran called Ann and she was in strathcarron hospice with cancer and she had alot of medicine. She was in strathcarron hospice for four weeks but at the weekend she died on saturday night. Her funeral is on thursday and I was sad when she died and I am going to miss her very much.

I’ve included my Prezi presentation from last night here …. thanks to Fearghal for his help with the setting up (I nearly mucked up!). Thanks, too, to all the other ‘behind the scenes’ people who made it …. despite my stressful state …the best TeachMeet experience for me so far. I came away with loads of ideas to investigate further.


Glow Blogs Update .. Take 2

It’s  been couple of weeks since I issued the class with their Glow Blog  usenames and passwords (actually it was a phased programme, so some have only had theirs for a week). In that short space of time there has been a lot of activity. I’ve  been surprised by the way some of the boys have taken to their blogs. Andrew and Kian have written some great posts – and Jack’s ‘Hello Mighty World’ post really made me smile 🙂

The reason that I’m surprised at the way that the boys in the class have taken to the blogs, is because my research from a couple of years ago pointed to the fact that the girls were much more reflective and the boys preferred to upload pics, etc. This is not the case with this particular class. The girls are the ones who are keen to express themselves via slideshows, etc. The dissertation was a Case Study, though, and only looked at my (then) P7 class. Although at the time, KimP  commented that she had found a similar trend with her own class

“…….The Vokis and Animotos are visual – like the prevalence of pictures on the boys blogs. I’ve noticed that the boys in my class also are really good at making topic related vokis and animotos.
In my experience, girls use these applications in a different way – more about how they see themselves, or want to see themselves; as opposed to the boys filling these applications with topic specific pictures and content.

…..PS Girls seem more word oriented evidenced by their blogging stories, commentaries etc; whereas boys tend to prefer visual (and less text oriented) ways of expressing themselves. Maybe boys prefer to talk and show how to use an application, rather than using application for personal reasons. Don’t know? Not sure”

Including slideshows in their Glow blog posts is proving a bit of a challenge as only certain sites can be embedded in to Glow Blogs. I had originally hoped to get round this by using Photostory3 (now available on all our school computers) and uploading these to Vimeo, but, although I can access Vimeo in school, I can’t log in to upload anything (and the children can’t access it at all when logged in to the computers). After a LOT of experimenting, however, I’ve managed to find some sites that do work and I’ll show these to the class tomorrow via a trial blog I set up. I’ve also just noticed that some of the girls have already found a way to include slideshows – but I suspect that they’ll soon use up the 100mb storage limit if they continue to do this (I’ll also need to disappoint them by pointing out that they can’t use pop music on their slideshows unles they’re sure the have permisson – I have explained about images, but didn’t think we were ready for the music just yet!)

What hasn’t changed, though, is the delight when comments are received. ‘Audience’ is clearly a very important part of their blogging. We’ve had to be careful to log out before leaving comments on posts, however, because surnames automatically appear (I could solve this by changing each of their Glow profile pages, but I just don’t have the time!)

Keeping track of the blogs is relatively easy as I use Google Reader, but I’ve noticed that if you visit the Local Authority Glow blog, then the most recently active blogs move to the top of the list.

Up until now, the class have been ‘getting to know’ their online spaces and just learning about how they work. Last week, I introduced them to linking to each others’ blogs or to any online webpage, and next I plan to explain the benefit of tagging their posts. I plan to let them grow organically as, if they’re going to withstand the test of time (and to eventually become part of an ePortfolio), the children need to feel ownership of the spaces. I was surprised, therefore, when they came up with the suggestion of using them as a learning log for their class project. Andrew blogged about this – and has already had feedback from his new PLN 🙂

“Hi again! Today at school Mrs V gave us all a Learning Log. A learning log is when you get given something to find out about. It can be anything from finding out about food to finding out about magnetism. Most of the time you get a week to do it. We were lucky though because you normally have  to do it in a big jotter but we got to do ours on our blogs! Since our topic is on Australia my learning log is about Sydney! If any of the AllStars check out my blog could you please leave comments telling me a bit about Sydney! So heres my learning log…”

But I think that the biggest advantage of having given the children their own blogs, is the difference it has already made to the classroom climate … and the insight I’ve had to the children’s interests and personalities after having only been with them for such a short time. More on this to follow ….

My ePortfolio Experiment Begins

Well, I’ve been back in class for eight whole days now (five of those with the children) and it’s been a busy time! I’m with a Primary 6 stage class and one of my goals in coming back to class was to try to set up an ePortfolio for each child. I’d been playing around with the idea whilst on secondment and couldn’t wait to try out the concept ‘for real’ and this post is hopefully going to help me to learn from what’s happened so far  …… it’s been a rocky ride at times 🙂

During my secondment, I had the opportunity to work with a small group of children for a few afternoons and I helped them set up an ePortfolio (of sorts). Jaimey’s can be seen here . I decided on wikis over blogs, because I liked the idea that the children could put menus in the sidebar and have things neatly compartmentalised. I’d used wikis in the past with children, but mainly to allow them with a place to experiment with writing stories . I’d also previously provided children in my classes with individual blogs but wasn’t convinced that they were the best means available for the purpose – I’ve actually moved my thinking on and now see a place for both, but I’ll save that another post 🙂

So – what about my attempts so far in helping my class to build their ePortfolios?  I began by introducing them to our class blog . Because it’s been on the go for about four years now, I was able to locate lots of examples of the benefits of class blogging – and I also told them about what happened when I gave children in previous classes their own individual online spaces and explained that I hoped to eventually give them their own blog , too. I’d spent some time during the summer setting these up via GLOW  (I’d originally planned to use primaryblogger  – a fantastic support for schools! – but then decided, for various reasons, to give the GLOW ones a try). I’d planned on giving everyone in the class a GLOW login anyway, so I decided to set their blogs up at the same time.

Here’s my step-by-step explanation – there are probably better/quicker ways?:

  •  log in as pupil and go to ‘My Glow’
  • add the ‘Glow Blog’ web part
  • click on ‘Advanced Settings’  then ‘Go to Site Administration’
  • Go to ‘Manage  Users’ then ‘Add Users’
  • Add own Glow username to the ‘choose users’ box and click on ‘administrator’ role
  • When email is received, click on the link, create the blog and set the permissions, etc.







After that, I am now a member (administrator)  of every child’s blog and have customised them as I would have done with any other blog ……

Hey Presto!







More to follow ………  🙂

A Secondment Whirlwind Tour – 2 Years in 2 Minutes

alumni 1

 I have less than 2 weeks left of my two year secondment as a Curriculum Support Teacher (the title has changed a few times since I first took up the post) and all the secondees who are leaving the team to return to class were asked to put together alumni presentations to share any changes/successes that we have influenced – or been part of – in our particular area of practice.

 On Friday afternoon, the wider Curriculum Support Team members were treated to some very imaginative, fun activities such as: fairy stories; poems; games.

My own presentation probably seemed bland in comparison :-).

 I chose to tell the story (as best I could) of a few of the changes I’ve made that I’m most proud of and I shared four of these …. there are more, but we only had 5 minutes 🙂 


How it Began


 I intended to begin my presentation by talking about what I’d been up to before I embarked on my secondment journey – but, as I missed out some of the important stuff, I’ll take this opportunity to add it here.  

Just prior to the secondment post being advertised, I’d completed a case study of my experience of having given learners their own blogs and wikis.  Very soon afterwards some work colleagues mentioned that an ICT Support Officer secondment opportunity was available and I decided (was persuaded?) to apply for the post in order to share what I’d learned.

I don’t know how many applied, but there were 8? candidates interviewed. I must have said something to convince them that I was the right person for the job because I here I am two years on writing this blog post about my secondment. My main remit was to introduce others to any online resources that could improve the learning and teaching experience.


Success Number 1


 The first success I talked about was the number of class blogs I’ve helped to create.

The screenshots on the powerpoint slide show just a small amount, and in some schools every class has their own blog.

 I’ve also had lots of feedback from teachers telling me about the positive impact of having a class blog has had on their classroom practice.

Finding the right host to recommend was a learning curve but finding http://primaryblogger.co.uk/ was a godsend. The support is second to none – check out  johnmclear  on twitter. He’s on a mission to improve learners’ experience via ICT.


 Success Number 2


 The second success I mentioned was having had the opportunity to spread the news about the host of freely available online tools. These tools can greatly benefit both online and offline classroom learning. Digital Storytelling, active learning, parental involvement and collaboractive activities are just some of the areas they can help enhance.

Sharing how using simple inexpensive tools such as mp3 players with built in microphones or digital cameras can make a difference to the quality of the learning experience was made easier because I was able to demonstrate by showing real life examples from my own class blog (capably looked after by others until my return).


Success Number 3


 The third success on my agenda, was the changes to Falkirk’s Virtual Teacher Centre (known as the VTC). Part of my original remit was to oversee the day-to-day management and maintenance of the website. As a class teacher, I wasn’t very familiar with the VTC. I knew that it had links to great resources, but as I could never remember the password, I opted to use Google searches or the LTS website instead.

I was aware from talking to other class teachers that the VTC was not the first port of call for them either when they were looking for online resources. I managed to persuade my new colleagues that it would be a better idea to have the VTC more accessible by taking away the need for a password.

As an added bonus, the Staff area of the VTC is now the default homepage for every primary school staff teacher in Falkirk – what a great vehicle for sharing news, websites, case studies, etc.


Success Number 4 


 My next choice for a ‘Success Story’ was the realisation half way through the secondment that teachers are not always the best recipients of CPD sessions. When I began hearing statements like:

This looks great, but I’m not sure I could manage to do this with my class”

I offered to work directly with the children – this was very warmly received..

Can you do that?”

.. was the typical response.

When she heard about this approach, my new line manager was convinced that this was the right path to take and gave me the ‘thumbs up’.

Working with a few students, and allowing them to become the ‘experts’ – who then spread their new knowledge to create other ‘experts’, who then spread their new knowledge ……. 

Some even shared their expertise with peers in another catchment area .


Where to Now?


 Last summer I stumbled upon the idea of giving learners their own eportfolios and I’ve been trying to sell the idea ever since. My musings led me to writing this:

When I mention this to others in my own Local Authority – and to others outwith the Authority – the first question I’m typically asked is : So … what is an ePortfolio?”


I find the answer to this question difficult. I think it’s because when I first heard about the idea, I was so attracted to it that I began reading any available relevant literature. This led me to writing a blog post about what I understood about the concept … but I can’t regurgitate all the bullet points in that that post every time someone asks me to explain in a few sentences what I mean by an ePortfolio, so I’ve tried to reduce them again to get the main points (as I see them) across. 

1. What is an ePortfolio?:

  • It’s a collection of student work that tells the story of the student’s efforts, progress, or achievements 

2. What should they look like?

  • There should be evidence of self-reflection

3. What’s the teacher’s role?

  • They need to plan carefully to provide clearly defined criteria 
  • Effective feedback should be given to students, to encourage them to observe their own learning journey

4. What about the pupils?

  • Comments should go beyond “I think I did OK” or ” I think I have more to learn.”
  • Pupils should be monitoring their own learning so that they can adjust what they do when they perceive they are not understanding.

The next question that I need to prepare for is: ” How do you manage something like that?”

Whilst on secondment, I’ve only been able to ’play around’ with the idea and I’m looking forward to trialling it ‘for real’ when I return to the classroom in August. I’ve been very encouraged, however, by the motivation shown by the children I’ve helped set one up for so far. Because I set up the wikispace eportfolios, I receive an email every time a change is made to one of them.”



 Back to  the Future

alumni final

I’m really looking forward to seeing where my ePortfolio idea leads to when I try it out for real in the classroom.
The insert in my powerpoint presentation was a clip of Memoona talking about her view of an ePortfolio and what it means to her.
I’ve included the origional Voki here. She seems to have grasped the idea 🙂
Have a listen!

A Brief Look at Building the Curriculum 5


The learning and Teaching website’s section on Building the Curriculum 5 : A Framework for Assessment states that:

“Building the Curriculum 5 – A Framework for Assessment is the next step in providing support for staff as they implement Curriculum for Excellence. It provides an outline of the approaches to assessment to support the purposes of learning 3 to 18.”

Last week, we worked in groups to try to familiarise ourselves with the document. Each group member looked at a different section and tried to summarise the main points. I looked at the section on How We Assess and I’m going to publish my summary here. Others  might condense the chapter differently, but I’m putting it on here in the hope that it will be more accessible in the future should I ever wish to revisit my own first thoughts about the  document.

How We Assess

  • A variety of approaches and range of evidence should be employed. These should dependent on the activity, but also on the learners’ preferences. Learners should be able to show their thinking and provide evidence
  • Assessment should be fit for purpose. it should be valid, reliable and proportionate … and it shouldn’t be so much of a burden that it takes away from the learning and teaching time
  • Assessment should: demonstrate learners’ understanding; confirm progress within school; provide information for other partners; supply information for use beyond school (exams. etc.?)
  • When designing discussions, tasks, activities, etc., it is important to obtain evidence from inside and outside school. Sources may be: observations; records (e.g. oral); information (e.g. dialogue and questioning; writte; product; accounts by others (peers, parents, staff, etc.)
  • Assessment needs to be carefully planned for interdisciplinary learning and records must be kept but it must be manageable and practicable within day to day teaching
  • A section on the SQA describes how National 4 and National 5 will replace Standard grade exams. Access, Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications will be revised. New Literacy and numeracy qualifications are being developed from S3 onwards – these will be awarded on the basis of a portfolio and will initially involve input from the SQA who will award grades.

When the group got together to share our respective summaries, one thing that stood out was the repetitive messages included in the document. There were 5 members in the group, and on quite a number of occassions voices could be heard saying, “Yes, that’s much the same messages I got from reading my section.” Despite the repetitiveness, I agreed with the sentiments.

We then looked at how we might put this in to practice and were given a scenario so that we could assess an aspect of  Literacy.  After some discussion we looked at emerging approaches to assessment . These come with a ‘warning’ message: 

“However, in their day-to-day practice, practitioners would not be expected to document the assessment process for all learners in this kind of detail. It will be up to local authorities and establishments to decide how evidence of learning is to be captured, evaluated and used to inform next steps in learning and teaching.”

 We also looked at specific examples.  

I began to wonder that, as it’s just not possible to provide that much detail about each student’s learning without compromising learning and teaching time, might we end up going back to paying lip-service to assessment (PLP’s, Self-assessment, Peer-assessment, etc.)?

What if they were allowed (encouraged/trusted/guided?) to assess their own learning via  ePortfolios?

Too many questions …. and I’ve gone off on one of those ‘blue sky thinking’ tangents again – time to publish 🙂

A Class Blog Journey Continues

nethermains1Three primary 6 stage children from Nethermains visited Carronshore just before the Easter break. They wanted to know how to add a  Voki and Photopeach slideshow to their new eportfolios. The picture here shows them concentrating as their ‘peer mentors’ demonstrated how to use the websites and then embed the completed efforts into their eportfolio. The class teacher had brought them along to see this for themselves. I’d already visited their school with a small group of Carronshore children to introduce them to the concept of eportfolios.

On both occasions I was struck by the genuine feeling of willingness to share and to listen (I think this picture and the ones below illustrate this?)

 Here’s a picture taken when the Primary 6s from Carronshore explained the process involved when adding a voki to an eportfolios home page.  I can’t remember which one was was displayed on the screen, but I think it was Jaimey’s .


The Nethermains group only had an hour with us, so it was a bit of a rush to help them to create their voki character and upload a personalised message to the site before embedding it into their new eportfolio.


These eportfolios are very much a ‘work in progress’ and won’t come to much without a lot of input from all involved. I know that when I return to class in August, the school management team will give me the freedom to set up an eportfolio experiment with my own class …. and this secondment has given me the opportunity to play around with the potential of reaching out to others in the authority.

On reflection, setting up these eportfolios is the result of a journey that started with a class blog – which then led to me giving children in my class their own online spaces (and voices) .  

I hope I’ll be adding some more to ‘The Story of the Carronshore Blog’  soon …..

ePortfolio and Transition Opportunities

 I only have a few ‘secondment’ months left. I’ve really enjoyed the experience and I’ve learned loads from it, too – once I found my feet -:)

Although my remit is to provide ICT support to all stages, it’s been mainly primary schools that have approached me directly. As I come from the primary sector anyway, this didn’t really surprise me. I’ve always been keen, though, to become more involved with high schools. I think this may be because of the interest I have in the transition stages between the two sectors.

I’ve tended to teach children in the upper stages of primary and in the past have set up individual blogs for the children. Although these were well used at the time, they tended to disappear in to the ether when the children moved on to high school

When I wrote a blog post about  ePortfolios, a comment by Ray Tolley helped me understand what had happened to the various online spaces I had set up for children in the past.

Ray commented:

“Perhaps one important point missed so far is about longevity. Having taken the trouble to help pupils build up an e-Portfolio, what happens if there is no ‘portability’ to the Secondary school or beyond? I doubt that promises of ‘interoperability’ will really materialise in the next 10-15 years! I think that it is very important to invest in a system that is future-proofed. I feel that children will get very frustrated if they have to start from scratch all over again when they move on to another school.”

Since then, I’ve been toying around with an eportfolio experiment  and last week the children who are taking part went along to Nethermains Primary school to explain the concept to some peer primary 6s.

Yesterday I asked the Carronshore children if I could record some of their thoughts about their eportfolio experience so far:

Now that I’ve set up the ePortfolios for the P6 group at Nethermains primary, they are really enthusiastic. I’ve also met with their class teacher who seems very willing to take things forward. The children and their teacher are coming along to Carronshore next week so that they can learn some more ‘first hand tips from the original ‘guinea pigs’ 🙂

I’m also really pleased that I’m going along to the local High School tomorrow to meet with some S4 students who are interested in setting up their own eportfolios to reflect on their Art work.

I introduced the concept to the teachers in the Art department recently and just today one of them (Mrs C)  left a comment on the Carronshore Blog :

Hi Carronshore!

Just a quick comment to say well done on creating the fantastic artwork for the exhibition.  I think it looks fantastic and really like the tartan designs.

I teach Art and Design at Larbert HIgh School and we are really keen to start a blog with our Art classes.  I will continue to visit and encourage our pupils to have a look at your wonderful work also!

Keep up the good work!

She also left a comment on a post I’d written on the Carronshore blog about the eportfolio experiment :

 The pupils (and teachers!!) are really looking forward to Mrs Vass visiting us on Friday to hopefully help us set up  ePortfolios with some of our pupils.  I really enjoyed reading that so many pupils at Carronshore enjoy Art and we can’t wait to meet you when you move up to HIgh school!

I’m really looking forward to going along to the High School tomorrow to introduce the S4s to eportfolios – I’ll blog about it 🙂