Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Portfolios in the Web 2.0 Reality

The three types of portfolios described by Wolf & Siu-Runyan in “Portfolio Purposes and Possibilities” reminded me of what I have experienced and seen as a teacher in the last decades. Event though this article is 14 years old, the premise still holds true. However, the electronic means we now have at our fingertips make the management and maintenance of portfolios much easier.

In the “old days” (i.e. when this article was first published), the portfolios I struggled to maintain as a teacher were mostly ownership portfolios, where “students collect a variety of information that illustrates their progress in reading and writing, they reflect on the development of their work and their learning, and they set goals for themselves as learners (p.33).” I did struggle to organize and maintain these portfolios as my second graders would throw in their pizza box portfolios anything with neat penmanship, beautiful drawings, and any work they had easily completed. Back then, I didn’t know how to teach them to be self-reflective beyond a smiley face self-evaluation. And that’s IF I remembered to have them evaluate their pieces at all. Most often, everything ended up in the pizza boxes until they overflowed, which meant the next day would be Select-your-best-work-and-take-the-rest-home Day. The writing pieces I pushed through the full writing process were usually collaborative pieces such as class books or group projects like Pourquoi Tales. Anyone who has ever taught non-native speakers knows how laborious the revising and editing process can be: you carefully pick your battles.

Luckily, we’ve come a long way! We know so much more about teaching writing. Moreover, electronic resources have changed the way teachers and students write, and they provide an easy way to organize portfolios. Even without a student Blackboard environment, we can use wikis to organize portfolios. We are no longer limited to paper or pictures in these collections of student work. Kids, even non-native speakers, can show their learning through Voicethread and Photostory—no more arduous editing for accent marks and missing silent letters before publishing! The students can do their self-assessment reflection as comments on Voicethread or even on their wiki. In a digital portfolio, students can include pictures of their page contributions to class books. Students can use Google Docs to show their growth and writing process by typing the various drafts of projects, which may include feedback from peers and teachers. They would also use Google Docs to collaborate on research projects, build websites, etc. which could easily be shared or linked to their individual digital portfolios. What a great way to show the evolution of students’ learning, their strengths and growth!

Digital ownership portfolios could easily become feedback portfolios, “comprehensive collections of student work and teacher records, co-constructed by student and teacher, that provide ongoing documentation of student learning (p.33).” Teachers, peers and parents could provide feedback by commenting on a student’s Voicethread, Google doc, or wiki. Teachers could also add classroom assessment data to showcase both the strengths and needs of the student. And by keeping digital portfolios online, parents would have access to this information and the multi-faceted exemplars of their child as a learner.

We already have a form of accountability portfolios, “selective collections of student work, teacher records, and standardized assessments … to evaluate student achievement for accountability and program evaluation (p.33),” although most teachers would not describe them as portfolios. Yet, when teachers problem-solve issues about a student as part of the Response to Intervention (RTI) process, they present to their team a wealth of data about that child. It includes relevant standardized test data hosted online through ICue (our repository of district and state data) but also their own classroom data, which includes classroom assessments, observations, samples of work, and information about the student’s interests and home as relevant to the issue at hand. When teachers engage in that problem-solving protocol, the data they present to their team becomes an accountability portfolio that guides teaching and learning.

So we’ve come a long way indeed. In what ways have you used portfolios? How do you envision digital portfolios?

1 comment:

  1. A long time ago each Cornelia student had a writing portfolio that followed him/her from K-5. Each year, 3 required pieces were scored with a rubric and stored in a folder. In late August, we received a box of student writing portfolios shortly after class lists were finalized. While our intentions were good, we invested little time and effort in conversations about the purposes and uses of these portfolios. Student self-reflection and teacher investment was sporadic. Enthusiasm waned over time as teachers shifted energies to one-year portfolios of both teacher-selected and student selected pieces. The purpose of our second round of portfolios, usually 3-ring binders was to share work samples from all content areas with parents and involve students in self-reflection. I still use these portfolios in my classroom. I like the idea of digital portfolios, but with the limited availability of computer lab (especially during MCA testing), a lot of our work is done on paper.