Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Advancing Learning Journeys: Digital Student Portfolios Blog Tour

"One realization regarding assessment is that formative and summative assessments are often not separate entities."                                                                  -  Matt Renwick, Digital Student Portfolios, p. 82 

A New Start 
It's that time of year.  On Facebook, my educator friends are sharing pictures of their classrooms set up for the upcoming school year.  There are conversations about spaces, classroom libraries, and goals for a new year.  On Twitter, the conversation has been about first read aloud selections, workshop routines for the beginning of the year, and changes in math practice.  Our minds are spinning with all there is to do, and all we hope to do differently, as we take our first steps in our new learning communities.

That makes this the perfect time to share Matt Renwick's new book, Digital Student Portfolios:  A Whole School Approach to Connected Learning and Continuous Assessment.  If I remember correctly, I was first introduced to Matt Renwick by Susan Dee several years ago in a Google chat.  At the time, I had started collaborating with others in my PLN to figure out Evernote.  Since that time, our conversations have continued and grown so I was honored to be asked to join the blog tour for Matt's new book.

Capturing Advancing Learning Journeys (p. 16 Jossey-Bass, 2011 reference)
As we think about the beginning of the year and start to set routines for ourselves and our learning community, considering use of a digital tool for collecting learning artifacts has many advantages.  In this book Matt reminds us, "[The tool selected to capture learning] is secondary to the 'big idea' itself compiling a dynamic collection of information from many sources, in many forms and with many purposes, all aimed at presenting the most complete story possible of a student's learning experience."

Here's an example of a checklist I created for writer's workshop
observations in the beginning of the year.  I copied the checklist
put it in each child's folder for conferring.
In an education world filled with data, graphs, and charts, it is easy to lose sight of the story of learning - of the journey.  Matt shares classroom vignettes that help to illustrate the way this school community worked together to find better ways to capture the journeys of young learners to document growth, plan next steps and celebrate progress.  (Throughout the book there are links to Evernote notes, screencasts, and examples of the work done in this learning community.)

Here's an example of a student's shift in spacing
after two lessons.  When we took the picture we took
a picture of her new piece with spacing and placed
the previous piece without spacing above to show
the change.  

Digital portfolios allow "the teacher to both respond to the student in the present moment, as well as look back later on artifacts of learning to prepare for instruction in the future. (p. 83)"  In his book, Matt compares performance and progress portfolios.

  • Performance:  "Digital student portfolios have the capacity to showcase [my emphasis] our students as people with ideas, creativity, and passion." p. 32  These portfolios share more personal best or mastery work and lend themselves to being more summative in nature.  
  • Progress:  "Progress portfolios are more fine-grained; the contents collected in these portfolios show growth over time; the ups and downs, the struggles and breakthroughs, that are always part of the learning process."  These portfolios share the steps along the way and may be more formative in nature.

Student Ownership
Matt's equation for engagement would look like this:
access + purpose + audience = engagement.

Connections help students to work authentically and Matt states, "I have found that the most powerful motivator for bringing out the best in student work is a broader audience. (p. 42)"  The examples shared help illustrate this point.

Matt continually stays focused on pedagogy over technology.  One of the pieces I appreciated was the emphasis on student ownership across the book.  For me, Evernote has opened doors to documenting the steps in student learning with purpose, ease, and efficiency.  It has allowed me to keep notes, capture images, and record audio to collect touch points across the year of steps students have made as learners.  It has made it easier to collaborate and share information.  However, I'm continually asking myself if students own this process.

Matt reminds us, "Students should also be invested in the process of collecting, analyzing and reflecting upon the products they produce (p. 15)."  The examples he shares of student work, Evernote notes, and other learning artifacts helped me to envision ways to begin to shift ownership to students.

A New Year
Now that my room is arranged, my first read aloud chosen, and my new website is ready to roll, I am ready to create folders for the students I will work with this year in Evernote.  Matt's book has me ready to spend some time considering new steps for the new year.

Please comment for your chance to win a copy of Digital Student Portfolios.  




31 comments:

  1. This was just what I needed this morning Cathy. I am working hard to keep things very clear and simple this year. My room is set up with lots of different kinds of seating. I finally figured out a way to organize my library. My partner is going to teach math this year and I will do writing. That is thrilling for me! It means I can really focus on advancing and documenting my students in writing and reading only. My classroom set up will be done this week and then I am all about setting up my evernote folders (although still wondering if I should do it in google docs instead. Would LOVE Matt's book.

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  2. Wonderful inspiration, Cathy! I cannot wait to get past the foreword (which is pretty darn good). :) Matt's book, with the interactive aspect, will be a HUGE help to educators.

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  3. Cathy, this is so smart. I will have to look at Matt's book soon. I've been struggling with a few things - when to use Google Drive vs Evernote and how involved the students should be in the portfolios. Is it my spot to keep my thinking about them or their spot for the record of their learning. Thanks to you and Matt for pushing this thinking further.

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  4. I experimented with Googledocs in the last quarter of the school year and have been thinking about portfolio building ever since. Like Katherine, I struggle with Google Drive vs. Evernote - but perhaps that's just because I need to spend more time (and this book, for sure!) learning how to best use both. Thanks for sharing, Cathy!

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  5. My staff is digging deeper into more technology for portfolios, & I am hoping to explore Evernote for them to see if I think it will work. I already have set my notes for those teachers I work with, just as I would have done for students. Now it will be fun to see what I am able to document for teachers, & then show the connection with students. Thanks for sharing about the book, Cathy!

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  6. Thanks for sharing this resource! It is exciting to ponder how technology can increase student ownership and engagement.

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  7. I was thinking the same thing with Google Drive vs. Evernote. Our district is using Google tools more and more, so I'm curious about when to use what and the value of adding another tool.

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  8. It really has opened up so many possibilities.


    Cathy

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  9. Linda,
    I'm trying to figure out how I will set up Evernote in my new role. It will be helpful for teachers to see the way you are using as they begin to give it a try.


    Cathy

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  10. Tara,

    I think it would be hard not to live in Google as a high school teacher. I don't know if you've seen Google classroom, but I think it is going to make it even easier to share and collaborate with students. Scott Sibberson has more on it here: http://www.scottsibberson.com/2014/06/my-google-classroom-thoughts.html.



    I have been wrestling a bit with Google vs. Evernote, but I'm thinking the answer is Google AND Evernote (as you said, BOTH). Google lets me create forms and collaboratively build documents, but Evernote allows me to collect different types of information with greater ease. Additionally, for me, Evernote's capabilities to organize and sort make it more effective for me to use alongside students.


    Cathy

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  11. Katherine,
    I would love to have this conversation. As a primary teacher, I'm thinking Evernote is still the better tool as I can easily record audio, take pictures, and sort information. I still use Google for a variety of forms and then just insert them into Evernote notes. The updates to Skitch in Evernote may also make it possible to do more writing on notes. It works much better within the note than it used to since the update.


    Matt's book really has me thinking about ways kids have more ownership of their notebooks. Maybe we can set up a Google chat for a Google & Evernote conversation.


    Cathy

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  12. I have to agree. There was plenty to ponder right in the foreword. Of course, there is much more to come too. ;o)


    Thanks for stopping by,
    Cathy

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  13. Kimberley,
    That new arrangement sounds perfect for you. It will be nice to be able to focus on the literacy side of the day. Like you, I still need to set up my Evernote folders (and clean out the old ones a bit).


    Enjoy the first days,
    Cathy

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  14. Last year I used Evernote for the first time for digital portfolios. We are IBO PYP school and portfolios are student owned starting from third grade. Twice a year students write reflections and choose what to show in each subject area. The reflection pieces are the most valuable components of the portfolios. The students found Evernote to be easy to use. The students used these portfolios for student-led conferences when they shared their learning with parents. I use GoogleDocs and Evernote for recording assessment. Still developing in this area. It would be interesting to read the book about digital portfolios and improve my practice.

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  15. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I've only just tapped the surface of digital portfolios with having students take photos of their writing (plans, drafts, final pieces) and keep in a Google Drive folder, but am thinking more about digital portfolios and how to tweak and streamline and make it effective for them to be reflective and share with families and/or each other. Would love to read Matt's book!

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  16. I will be implementing digital portfolios this year as I also embark on a 1:1 Chromebook initiative. A little overwhelming...thanks for sharing your ideas! Being able to connect and collaborate with other professionals makes my job easier but yet challenges me to learn more and become a better teacher. Thanks again:)

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  17. I completely agree Cathy. I decided to set up folders in google and Evernote. I figure it might be more work at first, but I won't have reams of paper at the end of the year. Just like people, no one app is going to do everything for you. :-)

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  18. I would love to be a part of this conversation!

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  19. I am in Australia and in my first year of teaching, I have year 5. We are over half way through our school year. We talked a lot about digital portfolios at uni but the reality of school is quite different. I will continue my learning about this tool and think about implementing it in the classroom. Do you think mid-year is too late to start? Am I better off waiting until the new school year? Thanks for an interesting post.

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  20. Wow, what a conversation here. Sorry I haven't responded until now. This week was first week back, so I have not had an opportunity to respond until now.

    First of all, Terje is our winner of a free copy of my book! I used a very scientific process for this contest, called "Random Picker". :-) Cathy - If Terje does not see this, please have her contact me directly via email for the code to get the book.

    I will respond directly to some of the comments in this thorough post by Cathy.

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  21. Jane, you asked "Do you think mid-year is too late to start? Am I better off waiting until the next school year?"


    As they say, there is no time like the present. I think any time is a good time to try something new. The first piece of advice I give in the book under "Change Literacy" is to start small. We are talking microscopic. Take a couple kids in your classroom, get parent permission, and then start capturing their learning with Evernote (or whatever tool you decide to use). Build the fluency of using the tool and take time to experience success. Build in opportunities to just sit back and go through the artifacts you have collected on your students. What trends do you see? Where are they doing well? Why? How can I build on that success with the areas they need more support in.


    BTW - I am not a practicing teacher, just a lowly principal. :-) Cathy is a much better resource on this topic.

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  22. That's great Julie. Are you considering Google Classroom for your learning management system?

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  23. You are very smart in curating both the process and and performance for your students' learning. Students need to see that our best works comes from a lot of trial and error. Posting our plans next to our final products is a great way to encourage this belief. Good luck!

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  24. Hi Terje. Please note that you are the winner of a free copy of my book. Connect with me so I can get the code to you.


    I also like Evernote and Google. They are like #1 and #1A for me in terms of digital tools. What separates Evernote from Google (for me) is a) the integration among all platforms, b) the visual impact of Evernote, and c) the ability to search anything within Evernote. If you have a premium account, Evernote will even read your handwriting (even mine:-). If that is not magic, I don't know what is.

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  25. I love how Genesis, at the beginning of the book, uses Evernote. She is my speech and language teacher, and she keeps detailed notes and artifacts about all of her students. The audio component combined with the work her kids do makes their learning go live. Genesis exits her kids out of her S/L program at an impressive rate.

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  26. Well said Cathy.

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  27. IMHO (and I am not a currently practicing teacher)...Google is the way to go for older students. With Sites (and now Classroom), The student ownership aspect of Google Apps for Education is hard to dismiss, which I highlight in the last chapter of the book.


    That said, I have come to find for myself that Evernote has become my own digital portfolio for professional learning. Using their web clipper, app, and email functionality has provided so many avenues for me to capture my own learning. As Cathy states, the organization and sorting capabilities of Evernote can be a boon to teachers as they look to reform reading groups and collect artifacts for new teacher eval systems.


    Thank you for sharing Tara.

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  28. KImberley, are you a member of our Google+ Community on digital student portfolios? If not, request access here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/107299147056550128738


    We have almost 150 people in this community already, looking to discuss authentic learning and assessment in the 21st century. I'd like to get a G+ Hangout planned soon so we can chat more.

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  29. Katherine, consider joining our Google+ Community on digital student portfolios: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/107299147056550128738


    You are a needed voice in our group.

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  30. Thank you! I connected with you on Twitter.

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  31. Thanks Matt I appreciate you taking the time to reply. Will look into it and start small as you suggest. Cheers!

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