By Teachers, For Teachers
I am a huge advocate of blogs as ongoing, reflective portfolios of student work. After using them with students for the last six years in a variety of formats in three different schools, I believe they are the perfect container for sharing, organizing and reflecting on student learning.
For starters, they are so amazingly easy to use. I’ve used blogs with students as young as third grade and it really only takes one lesson for them to understand the basics. Once they get the hang of posting, organizing their work in categories is a breeze and adding links and media are natural next steps. Plus, the inherent organizational structure (categories and tags), if used properly, makes it extremely easy and quick to find anything. The hardest part is ensuring that students remember to organize their posts.
In addition to the ease of use, the accessibility of connecting with other learners around the world, since work is online and easy to comment on, makes blogs a straightforward tool for building a global classroom. Considering how often our students move (usually every two years) the portability of a blog is another strong point. It couldn’t be easier to export a WordPress blog from one school’s MU to another or to the online wp.com. Finally, there’s the fact that blogs are so popular in the “real world” that they have immediate relevance to today’s media landscape.
So I was very happy that Yokohama International School had an existing blogging portal, The Learning Hub, (set up by Colin and Brian last year) when I arrived last August. However, the blogs were still so new this year that students are continuing to produce paper “folios”. Although they sound like they could be old-school portfolios, they’re actually more like folders full of tests. Not my favorite way to share and reflect on student work, but that’s a whole different issue – and one we’re working on.
This year I’ve been working mostly with our middle school teachers to help students utilize their blogs as a tool to share and reflect on their learning, as well as to help them connect to other classes around the world. Also, because I teach sixth grade MYP Technology, I have more time to help them develop their blogs more fully. So, in addition to helping our teachers understand how students can use them (and how they, as teachers can use them as a central portal for their classes), I’m running my own little pilot project for very simple showcase portfolios.
Basically, all I would like students to do is reflect on their goals for the year and share pieces of work that are important to them. So far, so good. The only challenge is that because blogging is relatively new here, students don’t have as much of their work already on their blogs as I would like. But that will continue to improve year after year.
Below is a (very) simple assignment I gave my class last week (they’ve had around an hour to work on theirs so far):
Directions: Create a showcase portfolio page on your blog to highlight your learning in grade 6.
1. Your Student-Led Conferences goals.
2. A brief reflection on each goal. Did you meet your goal? Why or why not? Did it help you this year?
3. Special pieces of work that you would like to highlight.
4. A visual or a link for each piece of work you are highlighting – even if you don’t have a link or a visual for a piece, you should still include it. You can take a picture of it anytime before school ends and then include it in your portfolio later.
5. A brief description of why this piece of work is special.
Types of work that you might like to include:
*things you’re proud of
*things you did well on
*things you found interesting
*things you thought were fun
*things you learned a lot from
Steps to complete your Showcase Portfolio
1. Create a new page on your blog
2. Call your page Showcase or Showcase Portfolio or Portfolio
3. Add a title: Grade 6 (next year we’ll add a new section for grade 7, and so on)
4. Type your goals from your SLC document
5. Type your reflections for each goal
6. Determine which pieces of work you want to highlight – these may be the same pieces from SLC (but it’s ok if they’re not)
7. Find examples for each piece of work you’re highlighting – could be a blog link, could be a picture or a video & add them to your page
8. Type a description for each piece, think about:
Once they completed their pages, I e-mailed their parents to encourage them to have a conversation with their children about their learning at home. Of course, this is just the beginning, and a very simple version at that. I’m hoping that we can continue developing this process so that next year all middle school students produce a showcase portfolio that can be built upon year after year.
What do you think? Do your students use blogs as e-portfolios? What do you like/dislike about the process? Share with us in the comments section!