eFolios, Reflecting, Documenting and Workflow
We piloted eFolios last year in the Fifth Grade. One goal was to help our students reflect about their learning while setting goals for future growth. Teaching students how to reflect and make connections in their learning is not an easy task. Yet, it should be central to every school’s culture and mission.
To also guide the students to find evidence to support their reflections is an additional skill that takes time for students to grasp. We supported the reflection process by having the students respond to guiding questions around our Portrait of A Graduate (POG) attributes (Independent Learner, Communicator, Community Minded and Balanced) while providing evidence of their work towards reaching the POG attributes. The students met with their parents at the end of the year as part of our student-led conference system using their eFolios to communicate their growth. This year the eFolios are being rolled out to the rest of the Middle School students.
We use the eFolio module of our learning management system (Haiku) where we insert a template with directions and questions to guide the students as they reflect and record their ideas into the template. Here is a link to a draft of our eFolio template. It provides one approach to have students review their learning from a course perspective and one with the Portrait of a Graduate approach. As noted, we ended up having the students use the Portrait of a Graduate focus. Hopefully the template can provide practical ideas for other schools either using eFolios or looking to do so.
Our grade level advisers are now working together to review the guiding questions in the template for each of the four POG dispositions. The questions are being refined and differentiated for each grade level and potentially within each grade level. As we know, a Fifth Grader’s ability to grasp complexity and work with open-ended questions can be quite different than that of an Eighth Grader.
A further connection is to think about having teachers and administrators develop eFolios as part of their professional growth experience. eFolios can also be used in partnership with teacher coaches and administrators to be used in teacher appraisal systems. This leads to the next topic of how students and teachers document the evidence/artifacts to be used in their eFolios.
I have written several posts about students creating their personal learning systems of Web resources, software and hardware tools. I will remember to include teachers and administrators in future posts as they, too, work to use their personal learning systems to gather and document information, curate it and communicate their learning and their professional growth.
The students at our school are using their iPads to document examples of their learning. The next step beyond using examples of work from Pages documents, links to Prezis, video projects, etc. is to help our students use their technology literacy to choose tools to record their thinking about the work they are producing.
Many of us have moved from using paper and pencil to digital tools to record ideas, reflections, goals, etc. On the iPads, the students might use Evernote, Notability, mind maps, voice recording, the camera for screenshots, still shots and for video. There clearly is a wide variety of apps to assist all of us in recording our thinking.
The tools are easy to put into the hands of our students. The greater challenge is to help the students not only be more reflective about their learning but to go the next step to record their ideas throughout the year. To make this recording habitual is another teaching and learning task that will take some time. But once the students and teachers and administrators get into the practice of documenting their thinking, they will then be ready to bring their learning artifacts and reflections together into their eFolios.
Mark mentions from time to time on the Edtech Co-Op podcast how he manages his workflow. This led me to further think about how our Information and Communication Literacies (ICL) curriculum includes targeted lessons to help students not only find information but to also help them manage and eventually communicate their understanding. An example of an ICL lesson is when we teach how to use Noodle Tools for research documentation, synthesizing information and creating a Google Document to communicate one’s findings. Here is a link to a post from our school blog that covers it.
What we need to work on regarding the eFolios is helping students build a system for processing and synthesizing their recorded reflections to then publish their understanding in their eFolio. This is a workflow challenge that will need to be differentiated for groups of students and eventually individualized for each student as he/she builds his/her own workflow system including one’s personal learning system tools to use in this process.
As I like to provide tangible examples of ideas presented here, look to review a WebQuest that we used several years ago at an international school in Taiwan. The Middle School there started in Grade 7. As the culture of the school was very progressive and one where students used a lot of technology, we created the WebQuest as an orientation to the Middle School connecting it to the students’ study of culture in the social studies curriculum. There were no iPads or similar devices during that time so the WebQuest doesn’t include any information about apps. If I were to write up a similar WebQuest for my current school, it would definitely include information on using iPads/Android tablets and smart phones.