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, 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 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 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 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.





Primary Portfolio Agreements Infographic

Primary Portfolio Agreements headerA central focus of portfolios is the assessment of student understanding. To accomplish this mammoth task of collecting evidence, Teacher’s look for clues across the curriculum by which we measure the Student in knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes and action. All subjects contribute to a holistic learning experience and therefore feature in the portfolio. Added complexity comes from the fact that it is a year-long document of student progress which cycles through the terms. To create these agreements, feedback was acquired and a review cycle took place to examine our current portfolio agreements and expectations. As our school will be shifting to digital next year and in order to further enhance everyone’s understanding, our portfolio committee created this infographic to help outline the major sections. It is to be used in conjunction with the Primary Portfolio Agreements which contains the full list of requirements. With new procedures and new new teachers in different grade levels it is important to make this as easy s possible. We chose to present the information this way because as Wikipedia says “Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends.”

As a way to digitize our assessment in portfolios, as well as to assist Teachers with all Primary Portfolio contributions is a Google Keep in the form of a checklist to keep everyone organized. Check out more on Using Google Keep for Portfolios. Both the infographic and the Keep will be shared with the Primary Staff by our Primary ePortfolio Committee at the In-Service day in April.

Please find the full document below:




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 Responsible Use of Technology (RUA)

E&A Publishing House bring you the 3 Keys to the Responsible Use of Technology!

Responsible Use Agreement perfectly suited to Primary & Middle School Students

E&A’s Responsible Use Agreement is perfectly suited to Primary & Middle School Students


Infographic for a Responsible Use Agreement (RUA)

Co-Authors: Eric Richards from the excellent blog E=ed2 & Andrew Grover of Digging Out of a Digital Hole

Target audience: Grade 5 Students

Wider use: Upper Primary & Middle School Students

CoETaIL Course 2 Final Project


Improvements in version 4.2: 

Initially, a more complex RUA infographic which contained 10 separate themes without a unifying thread. Now three themes, paralleled with educational origami’s Acceptable Use Agreement (AUA). Students will be better able to remember and apply these codes of conduct. Covers all major areas and aspects of Digital Citizenship for ages 7-16. KISS rule leads to wider acceptance, understanding and adoption of the principles within Staff and Students. Comprehensive and shared understandings are scaffolded for success no matter where on the continuum. Licenced by Creative Commons.


Feedback from users:

“strikes a balance between the needs at opposite ends of the spectrum.”  Teacher

“implementation plan ensures major strands build upon each other”. PYP Coordinator

“Students & Staff start the year on a solid digital footing.” Director of e-Learning

“a simple glance reinforces the central ideas of the RUA”. Grade 5 Student


Implementation Plan included!

Lesson plans adhere to 3 overarching concepts:

  1. Look after Yourself – You are important.
  2. Look After Others – Show you care.
  3. Look After Property – Caring for your own & other’s property requires thought & effort.

Download your copy of 3 Keys to the Responsible Use of Technology!



Border crossing

Universal Borderless Patrol

Border crossing

Border crossing: South Tyrol – Switzerland. 2295m above sea level by Gerhard Haindl

Wouldn’t that be an interesting occupation? Flipping the concept of independent nations on its head; the Universal Borderless Patrol would have the fortuity to interact with all nations, races and peoples that inhabit our planet. The role would extend beyond our planet, through our Solar System and out into the expanse of the Universe. The idea matches the scope of our access to content and information; the edges of our technological universe. The internet is oblivious to the limitations of physical borders. Our globe is literally banded together, regardless of the location or distance. Communities are now closer than ever, with the invaluable ability to make connections with like-minded people or access shared content from your pocket instantly. Physical space has been eliminated by the technological revolution and barriers between individuals, information and media no longer exist. In rare, but high-profile cases, access to information is restricted or denied; however, I have not yet had the opportunity to visit, teach or live in these countries. Most countries in Europe and North America, where I have lived; all subscribe to their own, as well as international copyright law. Regulations, penalties and acceptable use guidelines may slightly differ, but the core principles are the same. Youth is the key. Educate the youth. They will be in positions of power one day.  


Digital Citizenship should help to eliminate the need to keep content restricted by helping the user cite their sources properly. Image by Unci Narynin

As educators, our obligation is to promote the ideals and guidelines of digital citizenship; protecting the rights of creators while balancing the needs of users. Teaching these responsibilities is easy, as students are keen and there are many excellent digital citizenship programs available.  We use both Common Sense Media and the ISTE Standards at our school. We also have a Scope and Sequence of Skills created in conjunction with the International Baccalaureate, which forms the backbone of our technological education as a school. We have a strong digital citizenship policy, which is communicated through school wide planning and sequential learning objectives, activities and resources targeting different grade levels.  The programme culminates in our Computer Code of Conduct, which is included in the package of information sent to all Parents and Students at the beginning of the year. Both parties sign the agreement and the notarized copy goes into the Student’s Portfolio. The Computer Code of Conduct is further posted in classrooms and included in the Student’s agendas.

No Borders

The internet is bounded by no geographical barriers as evidenced in the photo “No Borders” by Michael Q Todd

The School Librarian is a key cog, discussing the theory behind digital citizenship and reinforcing appropriate searching, referencing and citation skills. From Grade 5 onwards, our students are expected to have accurate bibliographies in all assignments.  Our Primary Technology Integrationist works closely with each grade level at the beginning of the year to help students understand the purpose and importance Digital Citizenship. She works in collaboration with the Students to create essential agreements within the classroom.  Our Director of eLearning leads in-depth sessions for all members of our community, providing leadership needed to address a variety of aspects of the online world. The Communications Department publishes our technology philosophy on the website and in the school promotional publications. It is a tapestry, interwoven with many people sharing a consistent message to create the full picture.

The front line in establishing the respect for copyright, is always the educational leadership that a class teacher demonstrates everyday. Modeling good practice and stressing the importance of proper use is essential at all levels. Instilling good habits and nurturing development year-on-year builds confidence, competence and understanding within the user. We must always be cognizant that we are building future generations who need to be well versed in the international expectations of copyright, communications and media.