First week with SBG and portfolios

With about a week of school done, its time to break the communications blackout that I’ve seemingly been under lately.  I’ve mostly been dealing with the technical stuff that needs to happen at the beginning of the year to support the kind of classes I like to run.  I’ve been getting everyone logged into their own MacBook and signing them up for Edmodo, my Moodle site, textbook sites, Evernote, and Blogger, for starters.

Students spent the first few days of school visiting CogDogRoo and cooltoolsforschools to give them ideas on ways to share their knowledge in fun ways using web 2.0 tools. A few even created mini-reviews of what they did this summer and shared them with their friends (a really good use of Facebook by students is to pull a few pictures from Facebook into a web2.0 tool to share a bit about themselves).

I was visiting Apple HQ while they were working with the web 2.0 sites (more about that later, if Apple’s nondisclosure statement allows), but when I got back to school we started working on the vision for assessment and the class climate for the year.

When trying to communicate my vision, I found that its hard to stand in front of classes and admit that you are not sure exactly what they will learn this year, that you as a teacher have decided to let your students have some control over the content that they will learn.  I tried doing that, but I’m not sure they believe me, yet.

Standards-based grading was also a bit of a challenge to explain, as they have no experience of it in their other classes. I’m sure its the kind of thing that needs to be lived to be truly understood, but I think most students have a general idea of how they will be graded.  We just need to negotiate the details of what they will be graded on.

So far, portfolios seem to be the best way to collect student work for the purposes of evaluation of learning, especially if I’m going to allow students some autonomy in meeting the standards.  We are currently in the throes of getting set up with (mostly) Blogger accounts and figuring out the basics of blogging. Chemistry students will probably end up with a mix of online and paper portfolios, given the symbolic nature of some of the math and chemical equations, but the other preps (AP Bio, biology, A & P) will rely on blogs more, I suspect.

The next steps are to direct student learning in the major content and skill standards for each class, have them collect artifacts into their portfolios, and then evaluate them for their ability to demonstrate mastery of the standards. We’ll see how that goes over the next few weeks.

Bottom line: in the first week I’ve worked out some of the glitches in access to technology for students, shown them some tools to use, and begun to establish a student-centered classroom by allowing for multiple ways to demonstrate learning.

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