Saturday, March 22, 2014

E-portfolios are like holidays



I spend a lot of my time thinking, learning, teaching and reading about e-learning, and lately, a lot of this time has been focussing on e-portfolios. Although the concept of a portfolio is not new, the e-portfolio has become increasingly trendy of late. However, personally I hope that e-portfolios transcend trend and make their way into the realm of common practice.

Personally, I think the biggest value in e-portfolios lie in that they exemplify the learning progress. Learning is not a destination, it is a journey. After all, why do people go on holiday? We go for all the experiences along the way. We all have to start somewhere, some of us stay longer in certain places, and ultimately, we may all end up in different places. The experiences along the way is what matters, and I believe learning should be the same. We should be celebrating with students all the amazing things that happen on the way of their learning journey. We should stop to see the sights, and help them make plans when their flights get stranded. Although it is great when we come home, it is the journey that we cherish. Learning is not about the grade that you get, but about the lessons your learnt and the progress you made. I think a well executed e-portfolio does just that. It's a photo album of the holiday rather than the homecoming.

At Hobsonville Point Secondary School, we will be using e-portfolios with both staff and students. For the staff, to document evidence towards the New Zealand registered teacher criteria (RTC), inquiry into their own practice but also as part of the appraisal process. Since there are so many teachers who blog at Hobsonville Point, we have also set up these e-portfolios so that blog posts can be tagged and automatically filed as evidence for the relevant RTC.

Our students will also have e-portfolios. In a school where nothing is the way it used to be, it is a very tough ask for one teacher to be able to report on a student's progress in their seven modules, big project, and dispositional development. (If you don't know about the unique structure of our school, see Claire Amos's post). 

John Hattie mentioned in one of his talks at the Festival of Education that teachers need to be more efficient, in my mind, student e-portfolios is one way that we can be more efficient. Having students collate their work in one place allows teachers to be able to track the learning of students across all their subjects. At Hobsonville Point, this will mean that a student's learning coach will be able to evaluate their progress based on both academic and dispositional goals such as SOLO, the fluencies (problem solving, information and communication), and the hobsonville habits (resilience, compassion, creativity etc). An individual piece of work can have multiple designated tags, one piece of work can thus be used as evidence of a student being resilient, showing creativity and showing evidence of communication. This single piece of work could also be anything from a reflection, a formal assessment, a video, content embedded from another site or even an audio recording. Hopefully, once our students reach year eleven, they will already have some evidence that they can use towards their NCEA accreditation. I was fortunate enough to attend the Mahara Hui in Wellington this week where NZQA (New Zealand Qualifications Authority) expressed how keen they are for moderators to submit student work as e-portfolios. Can you imagine how much postage will be saved? 

So if you are yet to buy in to the e-portfolio trend, don't you think it is time?