ePortfolios by Digging Out of a Digital Hole

Online 6 – Course V – Final Project submission

ePortfolios in Your Classroom by Digging Out of a Digital Hole

Sit back and enjoy, thank you for joining me on this journey.

Full video can be found on the Digging Out of a Digital Hole blog

As part of the Digital Portfolio Task Force, 2ag and a team of educators attempted to completely change the way Grade Two students engage with their ePortfolios. All initiatives were centered on improving student learning. We examined how to better utilize iPads when contributing content and also how to improve quality of our video by enriching content accessibility and connectivity of our ePortfolios by adding tags and categories. Most importantly, we examined what role our ePortfolios played in a student’s learning over the entire course of a student’s educational career. The goal was evolution of our practice.

It is clear that there are many options for ePortfolios and that schools have chosen their platform carefully to reflect their philosophy of digital assessment. An example of this is both ICS and ISZL which carefully chose their platforms after a lengthy vetting process. Most schools which feel they are successful using ePortfolios are in some kind of 1-1 iPad or laptop program. The platforms which made up the majority of my feedback came from three options: EduBlog, Google Sites and Seesaw. For a more in-depth break down you can read ePortfolios in Your Classroom: Results & Analysis which discusses the use and experience from international Educators. Personally Power schools split between edublogs use in Lower Primary and Google Sites in Upper Primary has come at the end of a three-year investigation by the school into what platforms work best with our assessment philosophy.

While introducing  the Digging Out of a Digital Hole ePortfolio Task Force was introduced in a three-stage process. Firstly with the students in my classroom who are the constituents who this initiative affects the most.  I have long shared my CoETaIL participation with them and they were extremely excited to take a leadership role in the project. My opening blog post included characters which were very familiar to them. Mr. Douglas Beard, who is the man behind the hypnotizing circle and our class traveled to the Tinguely Museum to shoot the video which accompanied the announcement of  our plan. While rooting their attention in the familiar and by making the students the central player in this initiative; I had great buy in from my class and they responded positively throughout the process. The second tier of participation involved my professional Learning network as a whole. By utilizing multiple platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ in addition to frequent blogging, allowed me to spread the word to those that could help us, had challenges of their own or were interested in the subject matter. The third pillar was of course our schools’ staff, students and ideology. It helped enormously that I was able to tie my project into the natural ebs and flows of the school.  At ICS, our wave is cresting at the perfect moment, a three-year trial culminating with the adoption of digital portfolios in all classrooms from September.  Implementing the planning, research and personal experience of the practitioners brought ePortfolio dialogue to the fore in the staffroom and during faculty meetings. It was the perfect environment to launch my DODH initiative into and I benefited from much support throughout the process.

The students are quite excited and their enthusiasm made the project engaging. They now feel empowered in their learning and confidently apply skills and strategies to enhance their own portfolios.

I do feel that my project met its stated goals of transforming practice within a Grade 2 classroom.  Portfolio posts now contain greater detail in student reflection and presentation. The feedback that I received from across the school about how each individual’s portfolio works was fascinating. Particularly of note was that Secondary Schools do not run portfolios and that Primary Teachers are doing an excellent job of transferring ownership and promoting accountability from the students who managed their accounts themselves. Although I feel like I could have done a better job interacting with my Professional Learning Network in sustained conversations during this process, looking back over the entire CoETaIL course there is no question that I have met my goal of catching up to current practice In this digital epoch.  I now have a healthy Professional Learning Network which I access and collaborate with on several  activities such as the global Book Project. Sustained interactions on Twitter are commonplace, though unfortunately not as fully developed for this project. Google Plus still is a platform which I have yet to embrace. All of that being said I really wanted to get a sense of what is happening across the world when it comes to digital assessment.  Feedback I received came from across the world allowing me to get a better understanding of really how successful are own program is.  We are doing a lot of things right and I feel that the small nuances I focused on in my initiative was able to explore enhance that understanding.  Making sure that people had access to the policy and procedural documents is key because it allows the user to progress at their own pace.  With scaffolded guidance for those that are new to the platform or timid in their belief in their own ability a successful transition is expected. To me, that is a success.

This project it’s beneficial to take a moment to reflect upon what I learned. Next time I would involve my external Professional Learning Network earlier and take more advantage of my CoETaIL support group. I know that the key to receiving interactions is to give them and that is an area is where I can show future growth in order to strengthen my connections. Surprisingly my use of Twitter has dropped off as the project took hold. Instead of Tweeting out the fact that each post had been completed, I missed opportunities for collaboration.

I’m very thankful for the help in the support of my colleagues during this process I have been excited to share the results of the survey with them through the ePortfolios in Your Classroom: Results & Analysis. The sharing of materials in the DODH Resource Repository is another way for me to share some progress from this initiative. By openly asking for contributions to share with in the ePortfolio community made the opportunity to share resources and results in return very easy.  I have taken special care to make all of my manipulatives, data, strategies and learning open to anyone who could benefit.

My greatest learning in this course is that it is a process. A quality product takes investment of time and resources, though ultimately the users will drive it. Aside from the fact that there is an artificial deadline due to the conclusion of CoETaIL for our ePortfolios initiative; in all reality this is just the start of its impact within my classroom on teaching and learning. Ideas not yet implemented or even fully formed, will percolate into practice with favourable results. Connections across our educational field have been established and will strengthen in the coming decades.

When considering whether this implementation meets the definition of redefinition, in order to say yes, you must realistically find a demographic for each of the descriptors.

  • Substitution: the computer substitutes for another technological tool, without a significant change in the tool’s function.
  • Augmentation: the computer replaces another technological tool, with significant functionality increase.
  • Modification: the computer allows for the redesign of significant portions of a task to be executed. Such as recording  student thinking  and understanding  buy a video and easy to use manipulatives To enhance their content and saves  the most precious resource In a classroom:  time.
  • Redefinition: the computer allows for the creation of new tasks, inconceivable without the computer. Real time assessment and easy to access examples of student work. viewable by  students teachers and parents alike. Assessment can shift much closer to the speaking and listening spectrum of the curriculum which is actually a benefit as traditionally it is the least planned for element of language learning.

In conclusion, we are all at different stages of a journey which takes place on a continuum not a destination. A positive attitude and a willingness to learn and apply new understanding is all it takes to move into those two upper tiers of modification and redefinition. Embracing change is an essential element to being a lifelong learner and deft practitioner. This has been a positive process and I am very happy that it has been rooted within the classroom and centered on student learning.  I will be a better educator as long as I remember that core principle. Thank you to all who helped me during this journey. I am pleased to enter into another phase of our collaborations.

Beacon for Community Ch..Ch..Changes

Communities craft common conceptions.

Communities craft common conceptions in collaboration.

The time has come to reflect on my level of community engagement during Digging Out of a Digital Hole’s ePortfolio Task Force. My  stated mission was to improve student learning by changing how students engage with their digital portfolios.

I proposed that I would rely on the expertise and friendship of many individuals and groups and I had planned to cast a wide net encompassing feedback from my entire sphere of influence. I had identified several groups, setting goals and expectations within each demographic. Let’s reassess how that proposal looked in action, including a ranking out of 10 and some qualitative remarks. See the Community Engagement Evidence slideshow and Community Engagement spreadsheet for all evidence.


My immediate colleagues:  identified as my Second Grade teaching team, including all Specialist Teachers and curricular Leadership positions. DODH’s stated mission of facilitating school wide discussion; deepening our understanding and improving practice through the sharing of our creativity.

DODH selfie score: 8/10. A strong area of collaboration, noted for its ease of access and shared sense of purpose. There is no surprise the colleagues I work most closely with are the ones with whom I could have the greatest discussion. We are all moving towards the common goal of being ready to fully implement digital portfolios and all have relatively the same amount of experience with the platform including its challenges and celebrations. My colleagues are unsurprisingly a source of positive partnerships in this endeavor.  Examples of evidence include a few whole school staff meetings, weekly grade level meetings, student-led conferences  as well as specific resources created by the DODH to be shared amongst colleagues.


My internal Professional Learning Network: Primary Technology Integrationist, Director of eLearning, Primary Leadership Team and the Digital Portfolio Task Force. Identified as the decision makers and policy setters who dictate direction, execution and participation. During the portfolio initiative this tier also expanded to include Teachers across my school who contributed their expertise and experience to ePortfolios in Your Classroom survey.

DODH selfie score: 9/10. This was the most surprising and rewarding section of my community engagement. An in-depth interview with John Mikton & Lara Porter examining the future of ePortfolios and their impact on an individual’s digital footprint  was personally engaging and interesting, while 15 participants from the school contributed to the survey data.  During the time the initiative was running, important decisions were taken by our Leadership Team to scaffold future usage and expectations; most notably the decision to go fully digital with our portfolios including a deadline of September 15th to have them established within each classroom. A concrete support plan has also been discussed and for the first time there is support from the Administrative levels.  These decisions are the culmination of a three year trial under the guidance of the ICS Primary ePortfolio Committee of which I am a guiding member, so I am especially pleased.


Parents: Stated goal was to Examine their understanding of ePortfolios, and solicit opinion of their child’s engagement  and experience.  

DODH selfie score: 3/10. A major glitch in the process was the lack of parental feedback. Aside from a few informal conversations during Student Led Conferences, parental feedback was not really sought during this process by myself or the School. Still, the conversations which took place in April helped me as a educator understand the desires and the needs of parents.  The most stated desire was to be able to see their child’s work in real time and to have an understanding of the criteria with which the assignment and their child will be measured by. Upon reflection, the reason for this chink in the armour has more to do with the timing. Some of the decisions being taken by the steering committee had to be in our interests first. Our school had to put the needs of the Student and the Teachers first, determining their own comfort level and chosen direction prior to soliciting Parent input. However because we are at this stage, it would be the perfect time to have solicited parent opinion to involve them in the process. The fear is that our educational needs, which are rooted in assessment, may not be the same as the parents, with whom it will be shared.  Although there was a section specifically dedicated to Parents in the survey, the questionnaire was not shared with parents for their feedback. This can be an easy focus for our group to attack as an area to improve as ePortfolios are implemented throughout our Primary School next year.

an overview of interactions during the DODH ePortfolio Project

an overview of interactions during the DODH ePortfolio Project

School Communication: How the School shares their policies, practices in a documented form. Specifically the resource’s location, accessibility and ease-of-use.

DODH selfie score: 9/10  Scores for this section are quite high due to the good practices of my School. We have just undertaken a review, so the policies are up-to-date and posted in several easily accessible areas.  The decision to implement portfolios also contributed to the high score. It is my hope that by participating in the survey, that those who answered that they did not have accurate, up to date or easily accessible documentation; take steps within their own schools to rectify this.

My external Professional Learning Network: DODH selfie score: 6/10. Facebook Group International Schools Information Technology Leadership and Integration, Google+ CoETaIL group, Holly Fraser of Inquiry into Tech Integration in the Early Years CoETaIL, John Mikton of Beyond Digital, Phillip Cowell of Edublogs.org, My own @GroverAndrew Twitter account,  DODH Resource Repositories which contains all the materials collated during this investigation, as well as respondents to the ePortfolios in Your Classroom survey whose contributions are outlined in this DODH Results & Analysis post.

External PLN Positives: Wide variety of contact, multiple platforms and a decent take up. Split almost 50-50 between internal and external PLN’s, the data had enough breadth to begin to give an idea or practices across the world and could be compared to a wide cross section of my own School’s experience and implementation. Aside from the fact that there is an artificial deadline due to the conclusion of CoETaIL for our ePortfolios initiative; in all reality this is just the start of its impact within my classroom on teaching and learning. Ideas not yet implemented or even fully formed will percolate into practice with favourable results. Connections across our educational field have been established strengthening in the coming decades. I like learning and have been interested in the process of Digging Out of a Digital Hole for a long time.

There were several possible areas for improvement: Although Phillip Cowell of EasyBlogs.org reached out to me through my Facebook post I did not take the opportunity to further fully engage with him regarding my thoughts and suggestions for tags and categories as I had made a note to do during my planning.  I merely ran out of time. I did not directly contact EasyBlogs.org to put forward my suggestions on the student’s’ ability to add categories & tags to their work. Though I maintain that the timetable is the biggest factor (school needs first) I missed out on the perspective of the Parent Community. The ground work has been laid for future collaboration, next year once we are up and running as a school. This is a process and what our ePortfolios will look like 3 or 5 years from now will be likely very different than they do in October of the next school year. I struggled with sustainability of connections outside of my school. I did connect with a wide range of practitioners although, as evidence by the missed opportunity to connect more closely with the project Holly Fraser executed at ISZL; sustaining a dialogue about my project’s focus can be challenging. Receiving feedback without purposefully chasing it is complicated by the fact that my needs do not always align with that of the wider community. I was disappointed that despite a post on the CoETaIL Google+ and a Retweet by CoETaIL, there was not a lot of take up within the CoETaIL community. For example, I have shared out my resources and Holly shared as well (in part a CoETaIL requirement) no others added resources they use in the classroom. I cannot complain too loudly though as my own contributions to the work of others has been absent. This will soon be rectified when I view my cohort’s final submissions. Twitter helped to get my message out, which worked; but not to the degree I had hoped for. I was aiming for 100 participants in my survey and to subsequently influence their practice. Estimated contact for this initiative is 65 persons (excluding students).


Students: central focus of what needs to take place and why; with a goal to always to improve student learning,

DODH selfie score: 7/10  Despite students being the focal point of why we create digital portfolios in the first place I am as yet unimpressed with the impact on their learning. I am pleased that I took videos of the students speaking about their experiences with both paper-based and digital portfolio systems, as I felt that that it helped to guide me throughout this process.  I also feel that the creation of resources such as the e-portfolio prompts,  Google Keep ePortfolio checklist and the ePortfolio Infographic will help students enrich their contributions and improve their reflective practices. However, I still have questions about their inability to add tags and categories or comment with full control their own digital platform. There is an update coming from EasyBlog.org which may address these issues. I have received positive feedback from students across the School and the Students are enthusiastic users. I look forward to implementing much of the learning from this course into classroom practice next year.


Community Conclusion: All in all, I feel this process has been a positive experience for me and the members of my professional learning community.  Certainly there are elements which could be taken further, or greater opportunities for prolonged collaboration.  However I am confident that since the conversation has been initiated it will be easier to continue beyond next year, as portfolios become more prevalent in many classrooms across the globe.

I’m thankful for the contributions of all members of my community who helped me throughout this process.

Without you I am nothing.

Digital Shadows of ePortfolios

DODH_digital_shadowsLara Porter, John Mikton & Andrew Grover stare into the future implications of ePortfolios.

Reflections from an Interview with John Mikton Director of eLearning and Lara Porter Primary Tech Integrationist @ ICS. I would like to thank both for their time and insightful answers.

One of the major questions that I have been obsessed with throughout this process has been “what is the digital footprint of a student’s e-portfolio?”. With all of the focus that we as Educators take to look at the digital footprint of our students and the hours of digital citizenship lessons our students partake in; I was very unclear about what future ramifications the creation of student portfolios might be. The planning and consideration of both the positive and negative consequences of moving portfolios online never seemed to be fully taken into account.  In a world where employers and universities research a person’s social media accounts prior to acceptance. A world where  information is becoming permanently accessible for the rest of the foreseeable future. I was intrigued to see what might be the potential impact of the students actions within the classroom today.

In our own School, the question is only now being considered since we have taken the decision to fully implement digital portfolios from the start of the next school year. I had no idea what could be future outcomes and solicited the opinions of two other respected practitioners in the field of our conversation.

The future impact the creation of digital portfolios seems to be as yet, unconsidered  within the educational community. Or at least the ramifications currently are assessed to be a negligible  level. When discussing cases from current culture, where tweets or Facebook posts have come back to haunt their author, costing their employment or sponsorship contracts; it appears an educational portfolio should not be judged in the same breath. The content posted is singularity educationally valid, whereas social media is just that. Social. Not based in curriculum or student understanding.  Social media is a reflection an individual’s education,  personal philosophy and worldview.  Most educational assignments are much more structured and created to make safe spaces for dialogue to take place. Perspectives are shared through a lens which promotes discussion and analysis of common or dividing principles.

According to the PYP definition, a digital portfolio is “a record of a student’s involvement in learning which is designed to demonstrate, success, growth, creativity, assessment strategies and reflection. A portfolio is a Celebration of an active mind at work”. In other words, assessment.  That is where our conversation kept circling back to. The concept of assessment and the digital portfolios documentation of that process. Through the use of a deft questioning technique designed to help get to the root of the problem, Mikton was able to unpick the confusing tangle of complications to bring our focus back to assessment. Portfolios are created purely for assessment within an educational context.Even though their permanence is now more likely than ever before, their impact on the future is negligible. In part due to the moderation which takes place prior to publications. What we are proposing and offering are not yet likely to impact a student’s future in a negative way. A case can certainly be made for the professional portfolio created by a student whether it be for writing, art, music or the rest of the spectrum of their education. One created for professional purposes, which might be used as an asset to sell oneself is might make to privately advertise or share parts of themselves. Most School digital portfolios are not developed at that stage, although they might lay the groundwork for future adoption and presentation by the individual.

The last aspect of this question which perplexed me was while compile and archive a student’s work from year to year.  Within the major bandwidth of the Early Years, Lower Primary and Upper Primary; clear divisions can be seen.  In Lower Primary the use EasyblogJr. in both Grades 1 and 2 allows for easy transfer of ownership and gives the student the opportunity to pick up where they left off skillswise from the year before. In Upper Primary our students run with the Google Sites platform which again allows easy structure and archivability. However it appears that there is a wide chasm between handovers within the school. Namely it does not happen because the platforms are not compatible.  Rather, it is seen as a natural ending point and conversely a starting point as students transfer throughout the school. When it comes to the Primary to Secondary transition another natural conclusion and reincarnation takes place as the ePortfolio structure is not paralleled in Grades 6 to 12. In fact, in many cases Secondary Students and Teachers do not maintain or contribute to a digital portfolio. The curriculum dictate is compiled differently for documentation of assessment. In fact the maturity, physical and educational development driving assessment are gathered and presented in other manners such as IA’s or Individual Assessments in Math or the Personal Project in Grade 10.  A detailed breakdown of the research can be found  on my post ePortfolios in Your Classroom: Results & Analysis where I discuss the results of the collaborative survey.  

In conclusion, I still feel the question of potential impact of a digital portfolio remains largely unexamined by our institutions and educators. It is quite difficult to predict, as we are just entering the stage where this issue might be come into effect. The future is to open the possibilities almost too vast to accurately consider without as yet identified signposts. Due to the relatively “safe” nature of the content posted to ePortfolios, they are unlikely to cause harmful digital shadows for an individual in the future. Although I feel that this is an important question that must be revisited annually to ensure it remains this way for the sake of the creator.





ePortfolio Prompts

While researching the current application of ePortfolios in our schools a number of resources have been created by me and shared by others. Please feel free to add your own or use the ones available in your own classrooms.

Prompt Cards: Below you will find both the PYP Attitudes & Attributes and PYP Learner Profile prompts that the students use while reflecting on a learning activity. Students can write in dry erase markers their message on the back of the laminated cards, then hold up the definition while speaking to the camera reinforcing the learning outcome and focusing the narrative.

Check out our growing bank of DODH ePortfolio Resources.


ePortfolios in Your Classroom: Results & Analysis

Results & Analysis of the ePortfolio experience of Educators around the world. The ePortfolios in Your Classroom survey contains current information about the actual application and integration of ePortfolios in our Schools.

Thank you all for your time and contributions. Your feedback is greatly appreciated. I hope that this data may help you understand the journey that your fellow practitioners are joining us on. We are all moving in different stages of development and have different circumstances; but I feel strongly that  we are better when we learn together.

You can find the presentation below at DODH ePortfolio Survey Results

Communities Come Congealed

During the ePortfolio journey thought bubbles come together to form clearer ideas and solidify understanding.

During the ePortfolio journey thought bubbles come together to form clearer ideas and solidify understanding.

In progress conversations: These are some suggestions and questions from our ePortfolio Committee meeting as we transition from a paper based system to a fully digitized portfolio system.

Background: a brief description of process our school has gone through to implement digital portfolios. Four years ago we trialed using ePortfolios. At first we ran the trial in Upper Primary because that is where the interest initially began. The portfolio platform was the old Google Sites  and started in Grades 4 and 5. In the second year of the trial, our Lower Primary adopted EasyBlogJr and made their own inquiries into its attributes.  Our demographic transitioned from the phase of early adopters into the early majority.  In the third year, use became more widespread and most teachers were running an ePortfolio of some type. As we enter Year 4 next Autumn, only the laggards truly remain opposed as the staff has widely embraced ePortfolios to different degrees.

Rationale: I must admit, I love the style and flair of a paper based system. Largely I cannot fathom the reasons to take the digital content produced by students and print it out for book creation. Wrong on so many levels, including all environmental benefits. Both paper and paperless have their places in a Grade 2 classroom; where writing skills, manipulatives, Art and creativity all mesh together.  Naturally, a paper-based portfolio showcases students understanding best, when the content is created on paper. But more content is being created digitally in our classrooms Most significantly, recording students reflecting about their work thoughtfully in video posts which brings to life their understanding through communication.

The following is a conversation with three primary teachers on the Portfolio Committee. It highlights challenges and triumphs of our implementation and provides an insight into some of our obstacles or hurdles and how we navigated those issues. I have often benefited from having these discussions with my colleagues and hope these ideas will guide another’s path.

Both my colleagues use Google Sites as the platform while I use EduBlogJr in Grade 2. We are all in the innovator classification. The three of us spoke in a staff meeting recently and our conversation points below are us  assessing the feedback of our teaching community.

  • Make a better checklist for ePortfolio requirements – possibly use Google Keep?
  • Redo the ePortfolios with more structure to guide users easier with a need to continue to make the process more student centric.
  • Upgrades in both EduBlogs and Google Sites have made this process much easier.
  • Timeline of sharing ePortfolios and the positives and negatives of “real time sharing” with Parents. Ultimately decided that there is no need to hide what is there – it is the Student’s work after all.
  • Lack of clarity of structure within the Google Sites. An effort is being made to clarify the need for structure by each class and flexibility was promoted. Sharing of best practice from our classroom examples.
  • An agreement of common titles but structure again to naturally parallel the learning.
  • Blogs vs Learning Stories vs ePortfolios – all have their own purpose. Are we clear about ours? At ICS we believe the portfolio contains examples of the samples of work that show growth over the year. This is where all phases of the learning process are documented. The process portfolio inevitably emphasizes student’s reflection upon their learning process.
  • Tree Trunks – what are our main branches when organizing the navigation and content structure.
  • Inquiry & collaboration is best exemplified by our Unit of Inquiry and make great opportunities for blog additions.
  • Other skills which need to be considered – scanning pictures, picture taking, handling images and files as well as design and layout elements when constructing and publishing posts.
  • EduBlog has other challenges. Ease of use, sharing and privacy
  • Working Unit of Inquiry will always be the visible home page and then move over to another UoI menu once completed. Keeps the homepage fresh.
  • Needs a period devoted to adding to ePortfolios per week, especially to establish the protocol, procedures and practice of contributing to their blogs. As the year progresses, the students become very independent in these tasks.
  • A suggested timeline of mid September to have all classroom teachers have their ePortfolios established was approved. One month from the outset of school. This will be plenty of time for all but the so-called “laggards” who can then be supported personally. Luckily, that is what all the innovators have been waiting for. 

ePortfolio Attitudes

DODH_portfolios_tagulHello Digging Out of a Digital Hole Community!

A quick update on ePortfolios in classrooms around the world. I focused on the feedback disseminated from the in class portfolio experience of my digital community. To see with whom and from where I have accessed data From please consult my community engagement post for a full breakdown of PLN demographics.

I am examining the compiled data which was collected during the ePortfolios in Your Classroom Survey. I am excited to find out what people’s challenges and triumphs have been.

Thanks for your support