I spent the day working with educators who are developing their own learning portfolios, before we embark on a journey of students going through the same process. I truly believe that why digital portfolios have failed in so many places is that we are encouraging educators to teach them without learning how to do them first. This, to me, is the equivalent of someone teaching math who has never learned math. Though this process might be slower and not have students going through the process as quickly, it is the idea of going slow to move fast. The depth of this project can be much deeper if educators think of the process from the point of the view of a learner, not the teacher. Not only do these “blog-portfolios” help with educators understand the process through the viewpoint of a learner, it also helps in the following ways:
- Consistent focus on their own teaching and learning practices.
- Understanding how to develop their own digital footprint.
- Possibly creating future opportunities for teachers to write and present.
- Shared practices that help elevate teaching as a whole.
As we talked about this process, we discussed the idea of both “learning” and “showcase” portfolios. A “showcase” focuses on your “best stuff”, where learning shows growth over time. I often find the notion of a learning portfolio is one that people struggle with because the growth in a year might be harder to see, so I showed them, what in my opinion, is part of the potential of a learning portfolio. This link, “Artist Shows His Progression From 2 Years Old To 28“, displays the power of what you can see when you capture learning over time. Check out the samples of work overtime:
(Check out the entire article to show the growth over time.)
Now the picture at 28 is quite amazing, but when you see it compared to where the same artist was earlier, it becomes much more powerful. Yet this powerful learning journey has often been stored in our head, or been shown mostly in the form of numbers.
Showing growth over time helps us appreciate not only where learners are at, but where they have come from, which is something that we need to put more of an emphasis on in education.
I have really been focusing on the notion of “digital portfolios” and how they can be utilized in a different way than your standard portfolio. I have also had a constant focus on the NCTE Definition of 21st Century Literacies, which are the following:
- Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
- Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
- Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
- Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
- Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts;
- Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.
The one focus that I am going to discuss (explicitly) in terms of a digital portfolio is “create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts.”
For example, I want a student to find a video or source that they believe is a good resource for learning. They then may embed a YouTube video into their blog and decide and list the criteria on why the video is powerful, and how it has helped them from learning. It is not necessarily “original” material from the student, but it is showing their learning process and why it is valuable.
The added bonus of having this done in a digital portfolio, not only is the ability to show the process of learning, but it is also the curation of resources that a student could actually have access to at a later date. Since this blog is a portfolio of my own learning, if I want to look up anything that I have written on “educational leadership”, I can simply find this through the search tool of my blog, or even by google searching “George Couros Educational Leadership“, to find my own information (while also building my own digital footprint). Imagine a student finding a video that they found valuable on “probability” and being able to find within their own resources, easily, the same video years later. If we have students doing this in a “scrapbook” or notebook, years later those resources will be lost or inaccessible.
When we look at portfolios, it should not be simply sharing our own work, but curating, critiquing, and analyzing the information that others share as well.