Friday, February 1, 2013

ePortfolios -- Vehicle for Global Digital Collaboration

Our guest blogger today is Paula Neidlinger, a 7th grade Language Arts teacher at Lincoln Junior High School in the Plymouth Community School Corporation.

An epiphany you ask?  Yes!!!..... It’s not rocket science.....- students are the change-agents in their own learning.  As the learning catalysts in the classroom, we need to feed our students’ craving for discovering, designing, collaborating, and creating, thus validating their contributions to our 21st century classrooms. My personal challenge this year was to infuse Global Digital Citizenship into the classroom through on-line discussions, based on incredible workshops I attended at ISTE last summer.

As the year kicked off,  I discovered quickly that a majority of my seventh grade students did not own the terms blogging and collaborating in their vocabulary repertoire, and the ideal of “global digital citizenship and collaboration” was a fleeting notion.  If the students were going to be the change-agents in their own learning, their self-discovery needed to begin immediately.  Using My Big Campus as the platform, I utilized the blogging/discussion forum enabling students to begin their first attempt in the world of blogging and on-line discussions.  As blogging erupted throughout the classroom, students immediately began responding to other posts, without regard to what was “required!”  Small group discussions at individual tables flourished, as the blogging propelled the topics into Socratic classroom discussions.  I was enthralled at the level of insight and collaboration that had exploded in front of my eyes with just a few clicks.

I quickly realized that I needed to propel learning outside the classroom walls.  One of my goals for the year had been to create a class website/blog.  I had toiled a bit with both Google Sites and Blogger; I charged ahead with Blogger.  The website soon became the vehicle in which our class used for blogging, collaborating, celebrating, informing, instructing, sharing, and much more. 

At the end of the first semester, I craved more.  Again, one of my personal goals for the year had been the development of ePortfolios. Sorting through a multitude of research-based articles, proved to be cumbrous, as it was important to establish a medium that fulfilled my objectives.  I kicked off the beginning of the second semester with the introduction of ePortfolios, harnessing Blogger as the platform.  My decision was based on the following criteria:

 *  Students were already familiar with the site
 *  Blogger was easy to use and was student friendly
 *  Blogger had several on-line tutorial videos and a Getting Started Guide-
 *  Blogger provided three tools in one- 1.  Website  2.  Blog  3.  Portfolio
 *  Blogger allowed students to embed, compose, upload, store, and facilitate discussion of curriculum using YouTube, websites, etc..

...............and the journey began..................

MY ePORTFOLIO JOURNEY:  ePortfolios are essential for 21st Century Literacy, as they give students the opportunity to build a positive digital identity and establish their own online, unique self.

What is an ePortfolio?: An ePortfolio is an organized, purposeful collection of work that displays knowledge, understanding, skills, accomplishments, interests, and achievements over a specified period of time.  An electronic portfolio utilizes digital technologies, allowing students to collect and organize portfolio artifacts in many media types.

Purpose:  Digital portfolios offer students the opportunity to showcase skills and intelligence that are not always measured on standardized tests.  Additionally, it provides an opportunity to demonstrate an array of technological skills.

What are the objectives?:   
*  Interactivity and Collaboration- collecting, selecting, reflecting, directing/goals, and presenting
Social Networking- connecting, sharing, listening, and responding
* Technology- archiving, linking/thinking, digital storytelling, collaborating, and publishing.

What will students learn?:
.....from the process-
*  discover a valuable exercise in self assessment through the reflection process
*  self-esteem and self-confidence will be enhanced as students take control of their learning
*  develop goals for their learning
*  receive more recognition for individual learning abilities and preferences
*  learn and begin to practice a process that will be used in life-long and life-wide learning pursuits.

....from the product- 
 students will have..... 
*  a tool for personal development
*  a personal learning record
*  a tool for feedback from teachers and peers
*  a concrete way of showcasing strengths to teachers or future employers
*  an extremely portable tool to use no matter where they are in the world

ePortfolio Classroom Components:    
The creation of the electronic portfolio will be used to demonstrate 21st Century skills focusing on creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking.

*  Time Frame:  Four sixty-minute class periods initially- it is a work in progress

*  Blogger Start-up:  Students created- their portfolio name using their first name and last initial only in the title of their portfolio;  a theme layout and header that represented them as individuals; and individual pages that would appear on the navigation structure of the blog.

*  Individual Initial Page Set-up:  As a class, students set up the following pages with the flexibility of exact titles and the option of creating additional pages as well:

Overview of pages established initially:
*   Profile page-  Who are you?  What makes you unique?  Identify the purpose of the portfolio, the audience, and the contents.  Why did you create the portfolio? 

*  Guestbook-  Students created a Google Form and embedded the form into their page, thus enabling guests to sign in when visiting their site. 

*  What I learned this week?- A weekly journal entry in which students reflect on their learning including the following:  I noticed....I liked.....I wonder.... What if...... How might.... and I learned. 

*  “Paula’s (their name) Corner”- Personal insight and reflection of current issues and events within movies, music, books, sports, news, school, and community.

*   Technology (Tech Tab)- This page represents students’ digital reflection of learning.
*  Writing (Express Yourself)- This page can be used for exploratory writing or writing produced in class; it should be a reflection of students’ expressive self.

*  Goals- The process of goal-setting turns portfolio development into powerful support for lifelong learning.

*  Blog Posts- Students may blog about current events, books, news, or any personal insight that they want to express an opinion on or about.

The ePortfolio process is a work in progress, as I am currently linking all student portfolios to the classroom blog/website-    It is only the beginning of our classroom quest for global digital citizenship and collaboration  development.

Recently, we established a classroom Twitter account #Neidlingerla7 and a classroom Facebook page - Neidlinger La -, both as vehicles to share and connect with students and classrooms around the world.  Additionally, each student established their own Twitter accounts, thus expanding our capacity for digital global collaboration......we are only a “Tweet” away!  Join us in our on-going classroom pursuit of blogging, collaboration, communicating, creating, and thinking!

The Challenge

Have you considered using ePortfolios in your classroom? Do you see a use for them in your classroom? Share your thoughts or plans in the Comments. Or, if you're already using ePortfolios, tell us about it.

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