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Growing teachers and learners with online portfolios.

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For the next two weeks I have committed to helping teachers create their practice portfolios.  Many of our teachers are long overdue for promotion, some want a better way of evidencing their teaching practice to their managers, some want to introduce their students to portfolios and some want to improve their confidence and capability in ditigal literacies.

This morning's session was very positive. Everyone was able to go away with something started, and lots of questions they can now integrate into their portfolio.  After lunch it was nice to receive positive feedback from one participant.

Interestingly, the teachers have given some powerful information about their activities, and their need for a place in which to keep their reflections, good practice, wonderful teaching moments, professional development achievements, ideas for improving their teaching, and manage their online presence.

An online practice portfolio provides a safe place, held in a cloud, where both a developmental and showcase portfolio can be created and maintained.

Later Thoughts...

The portfolio workshops were successful, and I was invited to give the same workshop for staff and students.  As a result of those experiences I came to some conclusions about the place of portfolios in learning,  professional development of teachers, and in professional practice.

You cannot lose it, forget it or the dog ate it.

One of the best aspects of an online portfolio is its indestructibility.  It simply cannot be harmed by the wear and tear of normal life. It can be opened on any browser and used where ever there is Internet access. Online portfolios can be accessed by computer, ipad and phone.

Online portfolios move seamlessly between home, school and work.

An online portfolio is the true stamp of the web worker. To create an online portfolio, you need to move online, have documents, photos, video, and Podcasts hosted in a cloud, and then linked into your portfolio. Those who have created their online portfolios have created new identities as web workers.  They can take their portfolios anywhere and to any computer. Once comfortable with this I think online portfolios reduced anxiety and made users more capable and confident They felt they were in control.

Online portfolios can be shared with family, friends, colleagues, classmates and the public.

While everyone was seeking "private" status when commencing their portfolios, it wasn't long before they wanted to show someone what they were doing. When we pointed out that it was better to control your online image than leave it to chance, people began making their portfolios public.  It was better to have something small available than nothing at all. Staff and students wanted to claim their space on the Internet. They wanted to be known for what they are good at doing.

Portfolios are at the heart of organic learning and change

In the time I was working with staff, I heard more and better quality conversations about teaching and learning that I had ever heard before. Everyone was active, and learning, and there was no one who sat back.  I can think of nothing more powerful to support learning of students and staff. I noticed that all teachers were focused on bringing change to their classroom, and that change was based entirely on student need.

Online portfolios scaffold and support learning, they help learners to organise ideas, and concepts, they record progress over time, and showcase achievement. They create active learners.

Online portfolios are great filing drawers

Everyone, staff and students alike had material all over the place, including computers, ofice and home drawers and online.  Now they have a home for text, audio, video, and multimedia. Once again this one stop shop seemed to lessen anxiety, and give more confidence.

Online portfolios are personalised

The author of an online portfolio is in control, of their ideas, experiences, reflections, and artefacts. They have the opportunity to present them however, they like.  They can add and remove items to suit specific audiences.  This responsive and reflexive nature of an online portfolio keeps staff and students engaged. In the workshops there was a huge amount of sharing of ideas, balanced with very personalised portfolios.

Online portfolios are the best evidence of student and staff work

In higher education our challenge is to demonstrate to the community that our work carries value. The portfolios, or portions of, are demonstrations of student and staff achievements. The material that I saw being developed within portfolios was exciting and interesting not just to us in higher education, but to the community at large. The portfolios encouraged feedback and exchange.  They are great tools for community building.

Groups need portfolios too!

It became crystal clear to me over the three weeks of portfolio workshops. Groups wanted a shared online space, and to link their personal portfolio to the group space.  The group portfolio encourages collaboraton, sharing, creativity, and problem solving. I ended up demonstrating group portfolios such as Posterous Groups.  I am not sure where you start, personal or group, but I do know that both develop digital literacies skills, and encourage collaboration and active learning.

I am convinced.... are you?



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Comment by Hazel Owen on August 5, 2011 at 15:08

It awesome to read the actual experiences of educators working towards using ePorfolios - and the conclusion that a shared space to begin with is a positive foot on the ladder is definitely in line with experiences with people I have worked with.The development of online communities as a starting point raises awareness of all kinds of benefits associated with being an active member...including a forum for discussion, resource sharing, and improved digital literacies. However, the key is the word 'active'. Lurking as an initial behaviour can be really positive, but I feel there needs to be someone whose role it is to gently (and maybe not so gently) encourage the person to 'jump into the water'.  Water wings (support) can be provided by a sensitive community convenor who ensures a positive atmosphere in the community, where every contribution receives some form of acknowledgement....


Interesting how there appears to be so much overlap between the affective factors of a learning space, and the development of your own ePortfolio :-)

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