presentation

Digital Portfolios in the Classroom – Introductory Video

Below is a short video I recorded to promote my new book through ASCD. Below the video is the transcript for the hearing impaired.

Have a great weekend,

Matt

Digital Portfolios in the Classroom – promo video from Matt Renwick on Vimeo.

Assessment is messy.

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.

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Digital Portfolios in the Classroom: Now available!

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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)
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ASCD Webinar: Digital Portfolios in the Classroom

DigitalPorfolioOn Tuesday, August 8 from 2-3 P.M. CST, I will be hosting a free one-hour webinar for my upcoming book Digital Portfolios in the Classroom: Showcasing and Assessing Student Work.

I’ll go over some of my favorite tools for facilitating digital portfolios and share teaching strategies for making this authentic approach to assessment work in the classroom.

Time at the end will be provided for participants to ask questions and discuss technology integration and student-centered assessment.

Click here to register. I hope you can join us!

-Matt

blog post

Think you’re doing digital portfolios? Think again.

At the risk of sounding like a know-it-all, I have wanted to point out a misconception that some educators have regarding digital portfolios and what is facilitated in classrooms.

This post comes from the idea that by merely publishing student work online for families and a wider audience to view, that students now have a digital portfolio. This isn’t accurate. Digital portfolios are defined as “a multimedia collection of student work that provides evidence of a student’s skills and knowledge” (Niguidula, 2010). This collection is not as simple as baseball cards or dead bugs. Student work within a digital portfolio has been carefully selected by a student and teacher and is accompanied with some sort of reflection, self-assessment, and goal setting. The online space in which a digital portfolio exists matters less than the learning acquired made evident by the content.

Here are three situations in which educators may think they are doing digital portfolios but actually are not.

  • Social Media

If a teacher can get families to join a classroom Facebook page or follow a teacher-directed Twitter account, that is great. Teachers can model for students how to create a positive digital footprint and what it means to be a citizen in the 21st century. Pictures, video, and text that are shared in this way provide parents a window into the classroom. Most families also seem to like this way of staying connected with the classroom, especially if they already use that social media.

Why it’s not a digital portfolio: Social media is a popular way people communicate in today’s world. But it is not a useful tool for collecting and curating important artifacts of student work. Students need more permanent digital spaces to call their own when sharing their learning. In addition, social media might have unreliable security settings and can be susceptible to hackers.

  • Home-to-School Digital Communication Tools

A number of applications that used to do one thing are now proclaiming that they also have a digital portfolio component. For example, Class Dojo, a behavior management app, allows teachers and students to share images and video with parents in addition to the points they accumulated for positive behaviors. Families can comment on what is posted and engage in a conversation about the work.

Why it’s not a digital portfolio: We are getting closer here, as each student has their own account for the teacher or student to post their work. The missing component is in how it’s used. Typically, the teacher is the one posting pictures and video for parents to see. Technology providers that advertise a digital portfolio function often do not see it as an assessment tool. There is little guidance provided for students or the teacher to reflect or self-assess on their work. The work and effort are usually owned by the teacher.

  • Single Year Digital Lockers

In these situations, a teacher might actually be having students lead the digital portfolio process, including uploading their multimedia work and reflecting on it. The free version of digital portfolio tools such as FreshGrade or Seesaw is integrated into instruction. Over the course of the school year, families and the student can see how they have grown from fall to spring. This type of work can have a positive impact on learning.

Why it’s not a digital portfolio: Simply put, the student’s work disappears at the end of the school year, like cleaning out the lockers on the last day. There is no plan for maintaining past artifacts of learning from year to year. Students cannot look back on prior years to better understand their learning journey. Teachers cannot look at student work from the previous year to assess their needs for the current school year. There is no learning legacy for a student in these situations.

So what is a digital portfolio, for practical purposes? An online space that students maintain throughout their school career. It is directed by the student with guidance and support from their teachers. Students identify their best work to publish in a variety of areas that better represent who they are as a person, not just a pupil. True digital portfolios serve as a mosaic of their educational experience. It can even follow them beyond the K-12 years and serve as a professional portfolio for college applications or a job search.

Here are some ideas of what they could look like, year after year:

Of course, all of the posted artifacts of student learning are accompanied with reflection, self-assessment, and goal setting for the future. Otherwise, it’s only sharing content. Nice, but not necessary for students’ education.


DigitalPorfolio

My new book, Digital Portfolios in the Classroom: Showcasing and Assessing Student Work, is now available for pre-order through ASCD! Click on the link below for more information and read the first chapter:

http://www.ascd.org/Publications/Books/Overview/Digital-Portfolios-in-the-Classroom.aspx

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Exploring Classroom Innovations at the AWSA/WASDA Summit for Data-Informed Leadership in Green Bay

Data is a four letter word, literally and sometimes metaphorically in education. Educators need data to drive instruction and making informed decisions about student learning. When students have information about their own learning progress, they know themselves better as learners. Yet when data does not serve an important purpose, it can also monopolize our time that is better spent teaching and learning.

I was grateful for the opportunity to speak about the challenges and promises of this topic at the Wisconsin Summit for Data-Informed Leadership this week in Green Bay. This event, co-facilitate by WASDA and AWSA, gave administrators and teachers the opportunity to develop a better understanding of data in the context of schools today.

Beyond the Gold Star: Strategies for Nurturing Self-Directed Learners

This first session guided participants to explore innovative classroom approaches that gave students more autonomy in their learning. Data in this context wasn’t necessarily a number or letter; video, audio, and images can also serve to inform teaching and learning.

Educators tried to create a story using an unknown digital tool with little direction. This activity gave participants, especially school leaders, an opportunity to experience the anxiety that teachers and students might feel working with technology. Some of our tensions are healthy, as we sometimes don’t challenge ourselves enough.

Attendees were directed to a simple Google Site with several pages devoted to innovative approaches for classroom instruction: http://bit.ly/classroominnovations. Right now it is pretty bare bones; I hope to add more ideas and resources to it as time goes by.

Digital Student Portfolios in Action

This session was much more technology-focused, around one approach to facilitating qualitative assessment. Our goal was to “rethink our plates” instead of trying to add one more thing to our busy days.

Participants had a lot of time to explore different digital portfolio tools, as well as new ways for students to represent their learning. This group already had a strong understanding that data was not limited to quantitative information. They offered smart questions and creative ideas for making their classrooms more student-centered.

Having studied and experimented with digital portfolios for students for almost five years, it was probably the most comfortable I have felt presenting on informational technology. It was a good way to prepare for my presentation on the same topic at the ASCD Convention in Anaheim on March 26.


I will be facilitating a number of workshops this summer on these two topics at CESA 3 and CESA 4. If interested in learning more about classroom innovations that work, as well as having time to effectively integrate technology into the curriculum. please reach out!

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What I'm Writing

What I’m Writing: February 2016

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How Google Apps Help Develop Online Learning Communities (EdTech Magazine K-12)

Three tools – Google Groups, Google+ Communities, and Google Sites – are highlighted in this article. Brief directions are provided for readers on how to use these digital forums for online learning communities. Also included in the article are some suggestions for getting things started and keeping the conversations going. Frank Smith revised and edited my initial offering into an acceptable submission for online reading.

Interview with Kemp Edmonds for the FreshGrade Blog (blog.freshgrade.com)

I spoke with Kemp Edmonds, Director of Marketing at FreshGrade, about the principalship and education in general. We discussed a variety of topics. Here is a sample of our Q and A:

What’s the most impactful technological change you’ve seen in education in the last 5 years?

In my opinion, it is the inexpensive, $100-200 mobile device. They are in the hands of virtually every kid now. Even in financially challenging environments there are smartphones, laptops and other devices that are not prohibitively expensive. Whether this looks like a laptop for every kid or they are bringing their own devices is still being determined. The policy of no devices in schools is not helpful. How do we teach kids to use devices in ways that enable learning? Can we use Instagram to highlight learning or assignments? It’s why we like FreshGrade, as it infiltrates the students’ and parents’ social media-centric world.

Taming the Screen Beast (ASCD Education Update)

This was not written by me, but I did contribute to this article in another interview. Sarah McKibben looks at the pros and cons of allowing mobile devices in the classroom, K-12 and beyond. While smartphones and tablets can become a distraction during instruction, they can also serve a tool for powerful learning experiences when planned with intention.

The Art of Visual Notetaking (www.readingbyexample.com)

This post on my blog has received over 1000 views so far. It was a short post, highly visual, and specific in topic. I described how my serendipitous seating gave me a close view of how another educator uses images as well as words to take notes during a learning experience. I share my own initial offerings and my process for improving my practice.

If technology is at the forefront…

All of these articles revolve around using digital tools to augment and possibly redefine learning in the classroom. I have found that our natural inclination is to declare technology as the main factor in student achievement and success. Here are some of the key terms and phrases that are often referenced when connected educators making the case for implementing technology en masse in schools:

  • The digital divide
  • Education 3.0
  • “If you won’t tell your school’s story with social media, who will?”
  • 21st century learning
  • Technology integration

Cliché city! Many of these phrases have been used by me as much as anyone. I’m not saying they are poorly chosen. But what evidence do we have to support these calls to action? There are schools out there, such as the Waldorf schools, where students are experiencing great success with minimal to no digital tools used. I’ve been in these schools and have observed exceptional learning in action. The kids are doing just fine.

21st century learning is not necessarily synonymous with technology integration. Critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration can all happen in the absence of the digital element. It is when we recognize through our instructional preparations that these technology tools become necessary, instead of merely nice.

 

Theory and Practice, Uncategorized

New Book Project – ASCD Arias

Image used with permission
Image used with permission

Yesterday, I signed a contract with ASCD to write a book for the Arias series. The topic will be about debunking some of the technology myths that seem to linger in education. It is a short-form publication, around 10,000 words, so we are looking at a publication date of August 2015.

4328639481_4e0c36cefeSince that’s only four months away, I am taking a break from writing my weekly summaries and reflections for the month of April. I’ll hopefully be back at it in early May. Until then, check out my blog, Reading by Example. I still plan on posting short topics of interest there when time allows.

Related, my first book, Digital Student Portfolios: A Whole School Approach to Connected Learning and Continuous Assessment, is now on Amazon for only $9.99. You can also purchase it as an ePub (Nook, iBooks) and a PDF from me by clicking here.

photo credit: Closed via photopin (license)