Thursday, September 11, 2008

 

ePortfolios in New Zealand

I just received this email, which was wonderful feedback from the ePortfolio Conference in Wellington, New Zealand, in March 2007.
Perhaps you will recall your short time in New Zealand last year at the conference in Wellington and then your visit to Bucklands Beach Intermediate School in Auckland.

Well I thought I would make contact with you and share some of the developments we have in place since our first meeting.

You may recall I was very interested to look at e-portfolio developments as I have had a long involvement and interest in the ‘paper’ type portfolios. You will recall the ‘learning to Learn’ model I had put together.

Since we met last April, I think it was, I had a sabbatical from my work here and spent a little time in the UK trying to get my head around the ePortfolio ideas and to see how we could best move forward. I was somewhat disappointed with what I found I must confess. Maybe I was not looking in the right areas. I saw a number of good systems but I did not see them often being used to enhance learning. What the students were producing seems to be a waste of good learning time. What I did see also was more at the University level, in what I would refer to as the CV type Portfolio, and not so much at the primary or middle school level. The structures seemed very limiting.

So we have pushed on and developed our own way of doing things as is usual. I wanted an ePortfolio that was going to support learning and to provide evidence of that learning. I wanted it to be able to show the process as well as the product. I wanted it to allow for the ‘Voice’ to come through.. (See I did listen and was strongly influenced by your session in Wellington!) This was a key part of our developments.

The idea of the digital story was in a way the catalyst that enabled me to see how these techniques could be used to allow student voice to come through with respect to the student’s learning. I wanted to be able to hear their thoughts and reflections. This simple digital story technique is now being used extensively here for goal setting and reflection and for telling the ‘learning journey.’

We still have a long way to go. I am excited about what we have achieved in a little over one year. We started with a smallish ‘seeding group’ of students after you visited last year and now we are looking to imbed the ideas school wide. It will take another year before that process is completed I believe.

I thought seeing as you were the one who enabled me to see the real difference between paper portfolios and the way an ePortfolio could be used to allow the ‘voice’ to come through I would share a couple of examples with you.

Our portfolios are contained within a learning management system we are currently using called knowledgenet. I am not so happy with it but at present it serves our purpose. This is a commercial package used by quite a number of schools in NZ. I would like to move away from this in the future and am looking at ‘free’ sites that give the flexibility we now have with knowledgenet. Many of the free sites we have found seem to be very restrictive. By using Knowledgenet (KN) we know that the students are ‘safe’ in that their work, all their personal details, are in a passworded environment. Parents like this. I am sure this will change in the future as we all become more comfortable with the net. What we also do however is to use many other sites, blogs, wikis, podcasts, weeblies, teacher tube etc to give us free hosting for work with a simple link out of KN. We run a different set of protocols here which the students work to where there should be no particular identifying details. There are many strengths in this apart from the free hosting. With the addition of a ClustR map the students get feedback from around the world which is tremendously empowering. Some have had a great number of ‘hits’ on their work. They come to school in the morning excited to see if they have have new people looking at the work on the web. So we are keen to keep things out in the open to the extent our community feels comfortable with. (As I heard recently no one teaches children how not to cross the road safely! An important part of schooling now is net safety. This enables us to teach this in an authentic situation)

So I have set up a password for you so you can access a couple of our student’s ePortfolios. These are 13 year old students who have been working with us on their ePortfolios for a little over a year. You can see archived material there from last year as well as this year’s developments. You will see we are using a number of free web tools to help like glogster and voice thread etc. Where we are now is looking to develop our structure a little more and to ensure it is in place to support the learning.

You will note the section on key competencies. These are part of our new curriculum. I have been looking to find a simple way to show the students are capable in these areas. The template we have set up is designed to clearly provide evidence, that the student is competent in the particular competency. So a simple link to the evidence is what we are looking to do along with the reflection. This avoids the necessity for teachers ot be having to write lengthy evaluative comments. The students can simply provide the evidence themselves.

So if you have time have a trawl through a number of the areas you will see what we have been working on. We have goal setting, reflections, parent voice comments, and plenty of examples of process through to product. You can track the learning journey in many instances. I could suggest you look at a couple of the science fair blogs – particularly Cheyennes where she has video evaluation and reflection in the work. There is also Cheyennes literacy work on the diary of Anne Frank. (Archived from last year) This had hundreds of ‘hits’ Also she heard, via the school, from the Anne Frank Society who had found this work and were so impressed they sent a bundle of books to the school. Again very empowering.

As you can see I am pretty excited about what we have achieved in the 12 months since your visit and our start. I am off to Sweden in a week to talk about a number of things to do with vision and learning as I have done many times before and will be including some of this work on ePorfolios in my presentations.

Thanks for your initial inspiration. As I said I wanted to share some of the enthusiasm with you. You can read my paper, ‘ePortfolios, a Personal Space for Learning’ on www.ian.fox.co.nz. You will see your influence there strongly!

You may also be interested to know that next week we are holding a student conference. This is a conference run by students for students. The conference title is - ‘i-learn, e-learn, we-learn@bbi student voice conference.’ We have two keynote sessions being run by students and then 16 different workshop sessions also run by students. The students will be able to attend two different workshops. This is designed to allow ‘student voice’ with respect to their learning to be shared and to show some of the exciting developments to others in the wider schooling community. The conference is something I have wanted to do for some years so we have decided to get into it this year as I will be ‘retiring’ from my position here at the end of the school year. Jess and Cheyenne whose portfolios you have the link to will be presenting one of the keynote sessions on ‘Student Voice through ePortfolios.’ So that should be exciting also – well I hope it will be!

Regards

Ian Fox QSM, Principal
Bucklands Beach Intermediate School
247 Bucklands Beach Road
Bucklands Beach, Auckland, New Zealand
It is messages like this that make my work so rewarding! I responded with how very gratifying it was to receive this type of feedback, asked for his permission to publish the message above, and expressed my interest in being able to see videos of some of the student presentations. I also shared some of my work with GoogleApps Education Edition. His response:
A quick response as we are working through listening to the students who are preparing for next week’s conference. I will try to get some of it taped so we can get a copy to you somehow. It is all very exciting and the students are so motivated. We have special badges made for the delegates and ‘T’ shirts and caps for the presenters. There is a morning tea scheduled and we will be having student buskers in the playground. So hopefully it will all be a load of fun even though there will be an important message we are wanting to get across...

We would be interested to keep in touch re your developments with Google. We will keep exploring options here also as I am determined to keep moving forward in a direction that supports learning, that provides evidence of learning, that allows for process as well as product, that allows for student voice, that allows for flexibility and creativity on the part of the learner.
I couldn't have said it better, myself!

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Comments:
Hi! Thanks for posting that, it feels great to have the world look at it! I'm Cheyenne by the way and your blog and work is very inspiring. Jess and I are using one of your quotes for the i learn e learn we learn at bbi conference!
 
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