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.
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.