Portfolios in Action

I have decided to stop using the terms “Digital Portfolio” and “ePortfolio”. Whenever I refer to a portfolio now and in the future, it will overwhelmingly be of the so-called-digital kind anyway, so why put them in a separate category? These so-called-ePortfolios perform the same function (and more!) than so-called-traditional portfolios, so why single them out?

It doesn’t make them special to most; it makes them scary. It doesn’t make them exciting and innovative to teachers; it makes them something ‘other schools’ do. It doesn’t make them common practice; it makes them exceptional practice.

I wanted to share this photo that I took at ASB Unplugged in February.

DW was my Grade 3 tour guide through her digital portfolio. Google Sites are being piloted as eportfolios at ASB and the students seem to be in charge of everything, right down to scanning in their work. It was really cool to see these little people taking charge of their learning, taking pride in documenting it and even taking control of the technology. It makes me wonder why some people feel that middle and high school students would have a hard time with portfolios. Is it because of the students? Or the teachers/school?

Transforming Education

There are simply too many technological innovations and social and political expectations for the model to stay the same. In the latter case, we increasingly live in a 24×7 world. I get annoyed when I can’t talk to customer service about a banking problem at whatever time I encounter it, late in the evening, for example. The forces are toward new models, new efficiencies, new responsiveness, and new transparency. Information when I want it, in a form that I want. – Pam Heath, Jensen Heath communications consulting, from The Impact of the Internet on Institutions in the Future (emphasis added)

A while back in September or October, when we were preparing for the spectre of H1N1 and the inevitable school closure (which never happened), I was speaking to a colleague in the math department about the idea of turning the school day on its head: what if the students used their “homework time” to receive instruction and content – through such media as podcasts, screencasts, video lectures – and used their “school time” to work on practice problems (if needed) and investigations.

This was echoed by Dr. Scott McLeod at ASB Unplugged when he talked about the ‘fungibility of teachers’ – what are the aspects of teaching that cannot be replaced or outsourced? Lecturing is definitely fungible. As charismatic and knowledgeable as I am <sarcasm!>, there is definitely somebody else out there who can say what I know a whole lot better than me. The ability to create learning experiences for our students is not fungible. Nor is the ability to effectively facilitate a discussion in order to challenge every student in the classroom.

Will Education ever give students the information that they want when they want it in a form that they want? I know that there are some individuals who are succeeding in doing this already. But will it ever amount to a systemic shift? Will we ever be able to suppress our collective memories of what Education should be and think about what Education could be?

Is Dan Brown on the right track?