Last week, I joined Justin Baeder at Principal Center Radio to discuss my new book Digital Portfolios in the Classroom: Showcasing and Assessing Student Work (ASCD, 2017). Click here to listen to the podcast on Justin’s website.
It’s Saturday night, which means I start to wind down my connectivity. I try to take a 24-hour sabbatical from almost all things technology. Typically I would let the phone die and not recharge it. However, lately I have been using an app called Streaks. You can track your daily habits in order to develop a better, more healthy lifestyle. You can track your progress over time and customize your goals for how frequently you want to accomplish something. During the day, the app will push out notifications on your phone to remind you to drink enough water and get 30 minutes of exercise.
While the dilemma is now whether or not to have my phone on Sundays, these notifications are the type of distractions that I appreciate. I feel a little more mindful of my actions, even if I don’t always meet my goals. This example relates to an article I wrote for EdTech Digest, titled Promising Distractions. Educators are bombarded with so many options for integrating technology into instruction. Which ones are worth our time? I offer three possibilities: gaming, digital storytelling, and citizen science. Each of these modern concepts holds a lot of promise for teaching and learning.
I wrote this post for my school blog yesterday and thought it might work here too.
Have a nice weekend! -Matt
In an article for The Atlantic, professor of psychology Jean Twenge offers some stark information about the effects of smartphones on our youngest generation. Referring to this group as “iGen”, these teens and preteens have lived their lives largely with the inclusion of mobile devices available everywhere. Here are a few statistics Dr. Twenge shares from her generational study:
Since the release of the iPhone (2010), rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed.
Young people with smartphones hang out less with peers, instead choosing to message each other via social media and texting.
Young people are more likely to feel lonely and left out, possibly due to seeing peers posting images and video of themselves having fun online.
They are getting less sleep, and less good sleep, especially if their phones are in the bedrooms. This is likely caused by the constant buzzing and pinging from incoming messages from peers.
The writer concludes that, in general, the more time a child spends on a screen, the more likely they are to experience these negative side effects. As a father of two children on the cusp of adolescence, I read this information with worry. I don’t want my kids nor yours spending the majority of their time on a screen. But I also take a critical stance with a single study.
Specifically, I wonder: Is all screen time created equal?
Our house has a cornucopia of devices. My experience is likely similar to yours. For our kids to have this much access to technology could be a cause for concern. That is why we have done our best (and by best, I mean far from perfect) to a) monitor our children’s time on screens, and 2) monitor what our kids are doing on these screens.
For example, we provide a time limit for how much screen time they have at home. They get a little bit more during the weekend. This does not account for school screen time, which we expect to be more educationally-focused, such as watching a movie based on a read-aloud book on a warm Friday afternoon.
Also, my wife and I know what our kids are watching. We might even view the show or play the app with them to ensure it’s appropriate. Additionally, we have resisted (so far…) any requests from our kids for a smartphone. When they do get to an age where a mobile connection makes sense, we may be opting for texting as the only function available beyond making phone calls. We’ll see. As well, we have guided our kids to be creative with the technology available instead of always consuming, such as watching endless YouTube videos. Minecraft is one application that our kids enjoy, building new worlds and working together in collaborative online spaces.
I hope this post doesn’t come across as a “do as we do” statement. We don’t always make the best decisions. When errors are made, we see it as an opportunity to have a conversation as a family about the issue of ubiquitous technology. It’s an opportunity for learning instead of a negative event. If you find the information from the linked article helpful and you have adolescents in your home, I encourage to share this information with them. The best we can do as parents are to raise this generation using new knowledge and common sense.
We try to make school and learning clean by attaching numbers, grades, and levels to evidence of learning. But what do we lose when we take the messiness out of assessment?
I think we lose quite a bit. Maybe it’s the visible enthusiasm of the student presenting the final project, or the curiosity in the students’ voice when they pose an important question to research. This information can be just as important as any quantitative assessment results.
Let’s embrace this messiness and capture students fully as learners with digital portfolios. The ability to use video, audio, images, and text can make evidence of learning come alive. The opportunities for content creation with the possibilities afforded by today’s technology is hard to pass up. Digital portfolios can reframe assessment as a way to see the whole child and not just as a number.
Assessment is messy and complex. Instead of trying to simplify this important process to teaching and learning, what if we accepted and even honored all the ways students are smart? Digital portfolios, these online collections of artifacts that represent student achievement and growth, can be the answer.
RB: The subtitle of your book is “Showcasing and Assessing Student Work.” We often focus on the assessment part and overlook the showcase element. What are some of the ways digital portfolios create a good showcase for student work and why is this important?
MR: Students, and really everyone, want to be recognized for their accomplishments and best efforts. Our society has little problem with handing out trophies and medals for success in sports and extracurricular activities. Celebrating academic work should not be a significant shift for anyone when we consider this context.
Digital portfolios can facilitate showcasing student work in a variety of ways.
Post pictures of students’ final products. These images should be shared with an accompanying text caption in which students describe what they created, how they did it, why it’s important, and what they want to work on for next time. This explanation, self-reflection, and goal setting provides context for student work and their future goals.
Upload video of student performances. Our families cannot attend every play, concert, and demonstration of learning, nor should they be expected to. Digital portfolios can bring families into the classroom by documenting their performances via video and then uploading this media for families to watch and enjoy at a later time.
Record audio of students’ current skills and understanding. Showcasing our students’ best efforts should not be limited to only final projects and performance tasks. There are reasons to celebrate every day. Maybe a student achieved the next level on a reading benchmark assessment or was finally able to pronounce a specific sound during their speech and language intervention. Parents can experience this success with their kids by hearing evidence of their accomplishments.
This was a nice surprise to come home to yesterday. ASCD is great to work with.
It’s great to see my book finally in print. I signed the contract for this project almost two years ago to the day. In that time, our family moved to Mineral Point, took on new positions in education, and became a part of a new community. Exciting times and something I don’t need to experience again for the foreseeable future!
Here are some book-related updates.
Right now, the book is only available in print and only through ASCD. The publisher and I prefer orders through them directly, although I realize Amazon can be more convenient. As for print only, I am checking with ASCD on that. Stay tuned.
If want an overview of my book, click here to check out the archived webinar I did through ASCD.
In our Google+ Community on the topic of digital portfolios, I am giving away three books to anyone who +1’s this post. You have to request to join first.
I’ve written a draft curriculum for an online course on digital portfolios. It will likely be a companion to the book and provide multimedia content that can’t be delivered through a book alone. If you have suggestions for what should be in the course, leave your feedback in the comments.
While I am working full time as an elementary principal, I do have some availability to facilitate teacher workshops on digital portfolios. Click here for a description and feedback from a workshop I led this summer (scroll to the bottom of page). Here is what one attendee said about this professional learning experience:
What I liked most about the workshop is the wealth of web-based resources the instructor shared with us to help support technology-based student activities and projects. I am not very tech-savvy, so giving me the sites and time to explore the applications for building technology integration into my class was very beneficial.
I’ll be speaking on digital portfolios and technology integration at the following events this school year (so far). If you are able to attend, let me know and we can connect!
October 5-6, 2017 – Wisconsin ASCD 2017 Fall Conference (Wisconsin Dells, WI)
October 25-26, 2017 – Illinois ASCD Lead & Learn 2017 (Schaumburg, IL)
February 21-23, 2018 – AcceleratED & IntegratED (Portland, OR)