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

Implementing Digital Portfolios in Grade Two

portfolioFor the CoETaIL final project, I will be detailing the implementation of Digital Portfolios in Grade Two. Grade Two students will be taking on the challenge of establishing digital portfolios to highlight and archive ongoing learning. As our school transitions from paper based portfolios to a digital platform; many challenges will present opportunities to apply knowledge gained from my experience in CoETaIL.

Documenting the journey a school takes while introducing digital portfolios is a good idea for my Course 5 Final Project; as I know that there are many other schools who have faced the same challenges, or are considering similar quandaries. The decision to take on digital portfolios is not one taken in isolation, as it has far reaching implications across teaching teams and the entire Primary School. Many stakeholders are invested in the programme’s success, not least the students who are at the frontline of these changes. Collaboration will be essential with Director of E-Learning, Primary Tech Integrationist, Primary ePortfolio Pilot Team, Primary Teachers & Primary Leadership Team within the school. I am hopeful that Holly Fraser from the International School of Zug & Luzern will partner with me during this time as she is also focusing on ePortfolios though we are as yet unconfirmed.

Concerns I have regarding implementing the Digital Portfolios are many layered. Student Class, Teacher and School-wide levels all must be considered. My concerns can begin to be addressed in some of the following questions: How will this impact the school assessment policy? What platform will be best to host the digital portfolios? Where will I turn for best practice examples? How will teachers who are not technologically savvy adapt to new expectations? What implications do decisions that I make within my classroom have on others? Is the switch to ePortfolios sustainable or even a good choice for grade Two students in the first place? Will my vision of digital portfolios and needs for CoETaIL align with what needs to happen educationally within my classroom? There are, of course, many other questions to consider which will be outlined in my posts in Course Five as I make my way through this final unit.portfolio2

There will be some important shifts in pedagogy required to make these units successful.  not least, the ability to carve out structures and strategies to allow students to be successful while creating reviewing and posting they’re learning to our new platform. In order to give students ownership, I plan to focus heavily on including my class in the decision-making processes and establishment of routines within the classroom. By developing shared protocols surrounding our digital portfolios, this should help to clarify expectations allowing all stakeholders to be more successful in its implementation. In addition to creating the time and the space to create our portfolios, I will need to more carefully balance skills-based lessons within the curricular framework of our primary classroom.  I have much learning to do about best practices and I am sure that the quantum shift in my pedagogy, though as yet unidentified, but is surely to come as each roadblock presents itself.

With new initiatives such as this, the learning is not only limited to staff members but will heavily influenced by student thinking in many positive ways. As we are an IB School, our students are guided by both the Learner Profile and Attitudes and Attributes which help to make students successful. It it through this lens that we will frame their experiences. Learner Profile areas that we will be focusing on within the classroom include:  Communicator, Risk-Taking and Reflective while Attitudes and Attributes are: Independence, Confidence and Creativity.

I am very excited to get started on this program as I can already sense the anticipation and excitement coming from my students regarding this opportunity. I have no doubt that there are many challenges and difficulties which lie ahead; however I am confident that these  difficulties can be overcome and that the end product will provide an authentic venue for sharing and celebrating student work. Let’s get going!

Projects, Problems and Challenges

img_8209Activities within a classroom are designed to give learners the best opportunity to acquire  knowledge and apply understanding. In the same vein that we teach that mathematical strategies are comparable to a technician’s tool belt, to be used at an appropriate time to solve certain equations. By giving students exposure to all three styles of learning can be easy to scaffold.  Here are some examples from my Primary School classrooms:

Project-based learning (PBL): Bottle tops for Bruno. In essence, our Primary Round Square Club (PRSC) joined with a local charitable organization to collect PET bottle tops. In turn, we donated these bottle tops to another local company which melts them for manufacturing other products. That company then purchases a wheelchair for children with severe disabilities, in this case, a boy named Bruno. Our entire school became involved in the initiative, with the PRSC and my Grade Fives leading and organizing everything. Bottle tops had been collecting for months and on the donation day our team set up in one of the main halls of the school. On the beamer above our heads, our Donation Table & graphs on Google Sheets was live updating data as students handed in their donations. Set up in 15 different donation booths, students were able to track their contribution to their class grade level and against the overall total. The PRSC & 5th grade students used Chromebooks to collaborate to create the graphs and tables needed to show the content to our school community. The initiative spawned a mini-Arts festival as a million bottle tops can be spread liberally across the school. Applied to Maths, data handling lessons flourished as manipulatives of all shapes, sizes and colors flooded classrooms for two weeks. From Kindergarten to Grade Five, Art galleries sprung up, which students used as an opportunity to post an perspective video where they explained why they made various artistic choices.

img_8179Challenge-based learning (CBL) – is closely aligned with the inquiry based approach used in the IB’s Primary Years Programme. Our students have a Central Idea and Lines of Inquiry which they use to explore concepts. Our current unit’s Central Idea is “Different strategies can be used to resolve conflict and maintain peace” while our Lines of Inquiry are: 1) People’s points of view may differ and this may influence their actions. 2) There are different causes and resolutions of conflict. 3) People make decisions whether to repair and restore relationships where harm has taken place. A good explanation of Kath Murdoch‘s inquiry cycle can be found on her blog which is an excellent source to help deal with the bigger questions of how to implement inquiry and challenge-based learning.

Problem-based learning (PBL): commonly exhibited by the students in the classroom in a variety of opportunities. This example centers around their new educational blogs. Students were given iPads and accounts on Easy Blog Jr. Initial lessons helped the students to understand how to log on and navigate their new platform. From the very start, their questions dictated the learning path of the class as they wanted to share interesting discoveries of what is possible on the blog. In Math, construction of 3D shapes spurred students to ask how to take a photo to keep a copy of their structure. Another time, students recorded themselves reading aloud their independently written stories to conclude our storytelling unit. That desire spurred video editing and uploading those final pieces to their blog. Each time the students have encountered an obstacle, they have shown developing thinking skills to find solutions and share their understanding within the group.

In reality, the three styles of learning are not used exclusively from one another. In fact, healthy classrooms apply each one effectively to suitable opportunities. Without a doubt, the students benefit from repeated exposure throughout their school careers in order to master these vital life skills.

Triumverate of EdTech

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When examining the use of devices to support learning in the classroom, it is helpful to divide the context into three major categories. Hardware, software and whether it is effective way to complete the task.

Our classroom has a Smart Board with speakers, visualizer, professional presenter, two digital cameras, a tripod and a class set of iPads. Students are given daily opportunities to use these devices in order to master the skills needed to use them effectively. All students can manipulate the Smart Board, adding shapes, text, images or record themselves solving Math problems. Students are able to manipulate the visualizer including the zoom, focus and all-important document positioning skills which are all needed to communicate their message. The students are able to use basic photography & filming techniques on digital cameras and recognize when to use a tripod. While speaking in front of the class or in assembly, they use the presenter tool properly. Our iPads are the source of our main digital diet, so we have undergone extensive training on the platform this year. In addition to skills based learning, aspects of digital citizenship are also explored when caring for the equipment.

The implementation of the device is an entirely different set of skills for both teacher and learner. As highlighted throughout Digging Out of a Digital Hole and specifically in the text of Projects, Problems & Challenges the most important question for technology integration is its effectiveness. Similar to the using the SAMR model and Problem Based Learning strategies; the question becomes how does this positively transform the task? Technology is not always the answer. The early days of chalk was followed by a long reign of paper and pencil but has now given way to an unprecedented digital epoch. Devices are used to document how students access, analyze and interpret information How they communicate their understanding and how they connect. Principles of design are embedded within the content of the curriculum while presentation skills are not just limited to the layout and format of the work. Students are always formally or informally collaborating with partners; coupled with developing presentation techniques especially in front of the class. The teacher’s role is provide the opportunity for the student to take the next step.

Students use devices to access our class created Global Book Project and skills based sites such as Hour of Code or Mathletics. Within the lesson they use Explain Everything to record their reflections and questions. Grade Two then upload using Easy Blog Jr. Grade Five would access my curriculum site which contained rich resources helping to deepen students understanding of their Unit of Inquiry.

Our goals for the new year in Grade Two will be focusing on apps which will target: spelling, phonics and other features of language. We also will be implementing e-Portfolios. Exciting time with lots to look forward to on the horizon.

Into the Great Wide Open

into-the-great-wide-open2It is not a question of “will education as we know it change because of technology?” The answer of course is “absolutely, it already has! The indicators are everywhere, the fact that CoETaIL even exists is a testament to how rapidly education is changing. The biggest change? The shift away from traditional educational structures to access learning experiences. Now learning is personalized and borderless.

I was lucky enough to attend Katherine Prince’s Education in the Era of Partners in Code conference ICS hosted in October. The conference covered what the future of education might look like. Sessions included exploring and analyzing signals of change, future educator roles, learning ecosystems and prototyping solutions. A fascinating weekend “developing aspirational visions for the future of learning and examine how to move toward them.” It was especially rewarding as our group was able to discuss real challenges for our school, proposing solutions that could have real bearing on the institution’s future.

A very cool thought as I debated how to start to answer “Where and how will you be teaching in 5, 10, 15 years time?” Initial thought was that I would be teaching everywhere because I am already digitally alive. I feel I am ahead of the powerful ocean waves which bring radical change to this field. As John Mikton writes on Beyond Digital’s Hal, is in the House. We are already at the wearable technologies stage and soon headed towards embedded. Humanity already has the capability for a “potentially new hierarchy where AI supplements a user’s expertise”. Prior to this stage, was the use in Medicine of pacemakers and other such controllable devices; which showed even an extreme examples of cyborgs might not just the work of Science Fiction in the future. At what stage does a Matrix style upload of knowledge becomes commonplace? I figure that reality has less than a half century from being a philosophical conundrum for humanity.  One that society will ultimately choose in favour of.

As for location? My thought is that I will be teaching right in front of you. Personalized learning experiences are already at hand. Students at all levels as well as people of all ages, take advantage of digital content daily to learn. The use of the personalized mobile device is a commonplace with an opportunity to access content specifically targeted and educationally scaffolded for these platforms. The individualized nature of an education is connected with the ability to process and apply information in opportunities for collaboration. Who knows? Already, I have my own YouTube channel where I teach lessons to students who are not the same physical space as me. Once you can reach one person beyond the wall, how many others? Where we live and other physical limitations are no longer barriers. For a deeper discussion, please read my Universal Borderless Patrol post. To conclude, I reference the show, Intimate & Interactive. It was live concerts combined with audience questions for bands on MuchMusic, our Canadian Music television station. With a nod to the title, I believe that Intimate & Interactive best describes where I think education will be in a Decade.

Right here, there and everywhere for everyone.

The Game is Afoot

hour_of_code_certificateWhen it comes to game-based learning in  an educational context it is tough to beat the Hour of Code. A worldwide initiative, specifically targeted at teaching children through play, how to program a computer is the first stop in quality game based learning. A significant effort is being made, by many invested parties, to address the future gap in technology skills. Tasks are scaffolded from the very beginning, with dragging and organizing blocks of colour; all the way to creating animations and proper coding challenges. Activities are interesting and educationally solid. Students lead their own learning through multiple stages and disciplines. Hour of Code captures their imagination and inspires them in new ways. While engaging with the program, they are applying mathematical, language and thinking skills.

Other opportunities which extend game-based learning include the use of Makey Makey  and student coders graduating to the use of the Probot roamers. Makey Makey calls itself an “invention kit for the 21st century. Turn everyday objects into touchpads through art, engineering, and everything in between”.  The Probot roamer allows the user to program directional instructions for the robots to follow. The roamer might follow a track by receiving instructions such as following or creating the outline of shapes, to demonstrate cardinal directions and ordinal numbers.A strong educational tool, game based learning has many powerful attributes to develop student understanding. It fosters a sense of ownership and identity which in turn creates positive self esteem. Giving students challenges which they can address in a fun and relaxing manner is always a winning situation. There is a growing pool of resources but spreading these types of activities across the curriculum continues to be our next frontier.makey_makeyprobot350

Redefinition Edtechnologist


tes“User inspired upper-level technology literacy; collaboratively coupled with the ability to apply knowledge and skills effectively to perform or complete a task.” In a wordy, complicated nutshell that is my definition of what we are all aiming at when we talk of technology integration. It is the ideal we strive for as teachers, in the modern world of education. A grandiose idea of best practice; which we continually try to apply to our daily learning outcomes and objectives for students.

Redefinition is a complicated and complex web, which helps us to outline elements which might contribute to achieving our goals. Reaching the redefinition level is more complicated than just a teacher progressing through the  levels by deciding to change their in-class practice. A quick overview of what goes into reaching redefinition on the SAMR scale follows, starting from the big picture and working our way down the digital wormhole.

As educators, we are on the front line; closest to the student who is the end user or beneficiary and ultimately responsible for the final product. But we do not arrive at the upper levels without careful planning way back at the beginning by others. True redefinition starts on a much more macro level. An educational institution needs to align its school mission & vision to maximize their instructor’s capability. Far from the classroom, the impact of decision making at the Board of Governors, Head of School or Principal level sets the course. SAMR starts with budgets and strategic planning, or in the hiring practices and training & development of staff. All of these factors outside the classroom allow us to be successful when interacting with students. Other important building blocks such as a scope & sequence of skills, enable students to build a repertoire of competencies over years to make redefinition possible.

Once all factors out of control of the practitioner are taken care of; then the role of the educator comes into play. By changing in-class practice and pedagogy, through sustained effort in planning for learning experiences; allow the final pieces of the puzzle to fall into place. What must be remembered, is that it is often a process and it can be tough to jump from one level to the other, without at least some struggle and significant scaffolding.  Although the SAMR model, in many ways, is more applicable to Middle or High School, I have found success in Upper and Lower Primary. The Google Apps for Education (GAFE) platforms have helped transform learning enormously. GAFE brings the collaborative aspect to the classroom and within various curated digital communities. GAFE’s greatest strength is the ability to easily mimic best practice and to learn from others who encountered the same issues or successes.

Activities such as collaborating on presentations, or creating and editing shared texts are just the beginning. A few best practice examples can be found in Heidi Neltner’s SAMR Smash – Integrating iPads into Teaching & Learning Practices. I found this to be a very important resource, guiding me through my own SAMR development. The article helped guide me through Language and Math in my first year with iPads in Grade Two. Several graphics in the article contain verbs for each SAMR level, to embed in your teaching and also have clear parallels to the New Bloom’s Taxonomy. In our classroom we are fortunate to be a part of the Global Book Project by Heather Simpson’s Grade Two class in Canada. My students have contributed to the publishing of three informational eBooks about Switzerland. An Introduction to Switzerland, Swiss Holidays & Celebrations and Recreation in Switzerland. Schools from 10 different countries have participated creating 30 grade-and-reading level appropriate resources for over 200 students. Not only do the students learn about the characteristics of a country, their global understanding and mapping skills have become very developed for their age.

Another example of practice that I have adopted is highlighted in Kelly Walsh‘s 8 Examples of Transforming Lessons Through the SAMR Cycle. As a coach of the school’s Girls Softball teams the redefinition outline of “Phys Ed – Learning To Hit a Baseball Well” describes our integration of technology perfectly. The article’s example is: “Students watch video examples and practice the techniques, then the coach/teacher videos them hitting balls and provides feedback about their technique”. We do that. The students love it. I have had the most success in Varsity Boys Basketball, where we are building a individual player’s video library to track skill development over the course of the season. Our team manager Beatriz records statistics on a Google Sheet and we have found that having access to this information has created much more ownership and given focus to our training for the athletes.

After reading Walsh’s “Learning Fractions” lesson, she inspired last year’s Fifth Grade to create in collaboration a Google Sheet with the characteristics of 2D and 3D shapes. This acted as our class’ Mathematical reference dictionary and included a link to the student explaining and modelling the shape in a video.

SAMR on paper sounds much more complicated than it really is in practice. The students have the ability to lead the lesson, as they are the ones who are currently pushing the technology boundaries in terms of time, content and accessibility.  Once the students are turned on to what is possible, they create a vortex, driving their own progress forward. Just be sure to enjoy the journey.