THIS is why I love digital portfolios: what do my classes look like?

I’ve been asked a few questions lately about what my classes look like: Are your classes “flipped?” What kind of assignments do you give? How much lecturing do you do?

I thought about writing a post answering these, but then today I was evaluating this portfolio and thought that I would just post a link to it instead.

If you spend some time with this portfolio you’ll see:

  • Assessment by skill and content-area standards
  • Extensive use of various web-based tools
  • Reflection on one’s own learning
  • Cooperative group projects
  • Content-area writing
  • Student-designed experiments
  • Use of multiple devices and apps

This is what my classes look like.

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15 Thoughts on “THIS is why I love digital portfolios: what do my classes look like?

  1. Ryan Woodside on May 18, 2012 at 12:05 pm said:

    Thanks you for posting the sample ePortfolio. ePortfolios are something that I’ve been thinking about over the last couple of years and I’ve had a difficult time visualizing the role they will play in my assessment system. How does a student’s ePortfolio influence their grade in your course?

    • Ryan,
      The ePortfolio not only influences the grade for the course, it determines the grade for the course. Right now I’m in the process of grading finished portfolios and I simply go back and forth between the 9 standards in our online grade book (Infinite Campus) and the 9 major standards in the portfolio. Since we’ve been grading this way all year, students are pretty clear about how this works and have produced some pretty good evidence for each of the standards. This portfolio system has worked particularly well in anatomy and biology where we do a fair bit of blogging about conceptual stuff. It looks a little more sparse in chemistry where we are pretty lab heavy and have less blogging to bulk out a portfolio, but there are still some impressive portfolios coming out of that course too.

      • Could you post a sample chemistry portfolio? I’m hoping to bite the bullet and move to portfolio assessment next year.

        • Elena,
          This portfolio is a good example of a chemistry portfolio. Like I mentioned, the chemistry portfolio seems a little more “holey” than the anatomy or biology, at least in terms of completeness of topic and content areas (there are blank pages), but that’s due to my pacing of the course and in part to the early departure of our senior students from classes. See what you think.

  2. Ryan Woodside on May 21, 2012 at 6:22 am said:

    A question and then a comment:
    1. How is your gradebook set-up within IC? In the past I tried to use the IC gradebook to organize my learning objectives, but I needed one more level within the gradebook hierarchy. I wanted a student’s grade to be organized into unit (categories), learning objectives (I had to use assignments), and individual assignments (this is where IC broke down for me). I wanted to have the individual assignments listed within each learning standard so my students and I could track their performance on that learning goal. Believe it or not, this became cumbersome in IC! Are you using a numerical mark table or a standards choice? No one is my school is using a standards-based grading system, so I don’t really have a support network.
    2. Any thoughts about modifying a mini-poster (see blog point by Brad Williamson here as a web-page display for blog posts for a more activity/laboratory based class? I’ve used the miniposters in the past, and I think the idea could transfer well to a digital environment. The poster display could then have a on-line comment/question session outside of class time.

    • Ryan,
      This is our first year using Infinite Campus, so feel free to take what I say with a grain of salt, I’m no expert. For first semester, I did set up my standards as “assignments” within IC, but I ran up against the fact that my standards are big things that we work on all semester, so the due date on the assignments (12/20/11) was doing really weird things to the student portal and incomplete assignment reports. Administrators hated it more than kids because they were doing a lot of hand-holding at the beginning of the year and printing of lists for kids’ incomplete assignments and mine were all over the place. My tech director figured out how to get standards-based grading working for me and a few other teachers and I switched over as soon as it was up and running. It took the admin staff a while to figure out which buttons to click to correctly pull my grades for eligibility purposes, but we got it figured out in the form of the “progress grade” which is a manually assigned letter grade. As it stands right now I have only the 9 major standards in the IC gradebook and they are all graded on an A, P, PP, U rubric. The content area score (Standard 1) has some additional record keeping that happens on a student’s individual Google spreadsheet along with narrative comments on a student’s latest work.

      Just to clarify, there is no math happening in my use of IC, its all manually entered. Its fairly easy to use, and I’m never in the IC Java gradebook, which doesn’t work on iPads anyway. Also, I don’t have long lists of standards that make it into the final gradebook, only the 9. I found this primer by Marzano recently that said to have no more than 20 standards per course, which is good advice, I think.

      As for the mini-poster activity, my students have used a variety of formats in how they handle presentations of lab data. Most students do them straight onto their blogs, but others have used Prezi and Glogster, which have better visuals and organization than most standard blog posts. All these options, blog, Prezi, and Glogstser, have public commenting options that I encourage kids to use, but we really haven’t to their full potential yet. That’s an area I want to work more on for next year.

  3. Cool example of a student’s display portfolio. I would love for you and your students to check out which is in beta and is trying to make it easy for teachers/students to create “progress” or “working” portfolios. I believe that, done well, eportfolios can provide us a way to pay rigorous attention to student growth and learning in a much more authentic way.

  4. Tracie on May 23, 2012 at 3:21 pm said:

    LOVE this. I ventured into digital portfolios this year without much in the way of a plan. This is definitely where I want to go.

    Do you give regular tests? How does that figure into your grading?

    I am assuming your kids don’t come to you knowing how to reflect in this manner (or do they???). Do you have prompts for kids to write from?

    • Tracie,
      I don’t give regular tests, and in fact hardly do much “testing” at all, certainly not the multiple choice variety. When I do testing it tends to be of the practice kind, like a problem set on Moodle and is more diagnostic/formative than summative. We do a few tests in each course, but the students just use those as another artifact to put into their portfolio. For example, in biology we just completed a lab practical exam on fetal pig anatomy and if you look at a student’s “organ systems” portfolio page, you’ll see that they describe earning a 98% or whatever on the pig test.
      As for the reflection, no, they certainly don’t enter the class knowing how to be reflective. It takes a lot of practice and discussion with the students to get to the point that you see in the exemplar portfolios. A lot of students never get near the level of reflection that you saw there. I see the whole spectrum, from kids who don’t do anything on the portfolio, to kids who simply list links of what they did, to kids who will write paragraphs describing how much they loved or hated a particular topic or activity. I did give them a framework at the beginning of the year that was based on this article. I could see several students using this format in their reflections so it seemed to help.

  5. You’re right… reflection is difficult even for young kids. I teach 3rd grade and it takes quite a bit of discussion, think time & discovery experimentation in order that they have working information to discuss. It’s incredible what they pick from one another as we’re dig deep into discuss the material and making connections. I don’t think my students could create or write a written or digital reflection if it were not for this discussion and learning how to express in an academic tone.
    Great discussions here!

  6. kathryn lapid on August 10, 2012 at 2:50 pm said:

    So this is similar to interactive notebooks?

    • Sort of. As I understand interactive notebooks, which is very little, they often are of a defined format that has a page for the notes during the activity and a page for a reflection on the activity. The examples I saw in my brief exposure to interactive notebooks look a lot more teacher-driven whereas the portfolios are student-driven. The teacher can create a Google Site page for the student, but what goes on the page is entirely up to them. We do some activities in class but students can take their exploration of a topic further if they choose and go as in-depth as they desire. Both ways of record keeping, the notebook and the portfolio, seem to be on the right track in asking kids to think about what they are learning, what they are confused about, and what they really understand. The major differences are, of course, that an online portfolio is a lot easier to share than a physical notebook and has a lot less limitations as to what sorts of artifacts can be put into it.

  7. I like the students doing the work. They are working cooperatively and are engaged.

  8. Chris,
    Do your students work on portfolios in class or is it strictly an outside of class project?

    • Both. I’ve got students who don’t have access at home, so I need to provide them time for blogging and portfolio writing during class. Some do work online at home, but even those kids will use class time too.

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