Monthly Archives: November 2011

Using Portfolios for Student Led Conferences.


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This week my students had their conferences with their parents where they shared examples of work they had been doing during the year and planned goals for the next several months. Given adequate time to prepare and practice how they will present their work the student led conference is a great tool for students to demonstrate what they have been learning and plan their learning for the coming months. The requirements for this conference were as follows:

#1. In the week before the conference students were to sit down with their parents at home and look over a template of the report card and decide what areas they want to work on. They would choose one goal from the area of Independence, one from Community Membership and one from Academic Fluencies. Knowing that goals can only truly be successful when they come from internal motivation and choice, I really leave it up to the students to make a choice.

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#2. For the week or two prior to conferences kids began to cull through work and select pieces that they wanted to share during their conferences. We asked them to choose one mathematical piece, one piece that had to do with literacy and one that was of their own choosing.

#3. After they chose their work they then filled out a reflection sheet where they described the work, what they learned, who they worked with and how they knew it was ready to put into their portfolio.

#4. Using the Ipod touch, the ipad, the lexmark scanner and the computer the students entered their work into their Evernote account, gave their work a title and tagged it with the kind of work it was (math, art, literacy, science, etc).

#5. Once they had all their items loaded they then prepared a short reflection about what they have enjoyed about the year, what has been challenging and what they might want to change.

#6. With these things finished they then practiced conferencing with at least one other person so they had a good sense of what they would be saying and how they would incorporate Evernote into their conference.

The conferences themselves last about 30 minutes and are run almost completely by the students. They welcome their parents, share their reflection of the year, share their work and then I step in to help type their goals into a new note.

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With their goals for the next few months put into Evernote as a new note all parties (student, teacher and parent) have access to the goal and what the student has done to accomplish that goal. Throughout the week I ask students to go to their Winter Goal note and log what they have done. If they have done nothing, they log that as well. This record is helpful in holding them accountable for their goal work and also lets them see the work they have done to accomplish their goal. Along with logging their work they can attach audio and images of relevant items. It is a great way to document ongoing work and accomplishments.

Seeing Portfolios as a personal space of learning


“Can I just put anything I want into my Evernote portfolio,” asked one of my students this week after she was trained in the process of uploading work. There was an excitement in her voice and I knew that she already had developed a connection to the idea of storing her work.

We have just spent the last week preparing for student led conferences that use Evernote as a central tool. When the kids sit down with their parents and me to share the work they have been doing, their portfolio will be open and the vehicle for the conversation. They have each chosen at least 3 artifacts to include. (One piece that demonstrates their work in the area of literacy, one that demonstrates their work in mathematics and one of their own choosing). The process of preparing this group of 23 kids for the conference has been amazingly stress free. Partially because they know their is an authentic audience and they are leading the show, AND because the process of recording and reflecting on their work was actually enjoyable when Evernote was built into it.

That isn’t to say that having the students write reflection is easy. For some kids it is a real challenge. It is one thing to put things into the portfolio, it is quite another to really move to the next step, which is reflection. Helping students to think deeply about their work is an ongoing challenge. Last year we created a submission form that used a checklist. (See “old” Trillium Portfolio sheet below). This was helpful for kids who struggled with writing, but it didn’t give the opportunity to think and write a little more deeply about their work. This years submission sheet, while not quite perfect yet, was a step to simplify the sheet itself, but give more opportunity for kids to write about the process, what they learned, who they worked with and why they think it is “ready”.

The submission sheet isn’t necessary for all the work that kids do AND it could be added a week or even a month after kids upload a piece into Evernote. However, through out the year there will many many more formalized opportunities to reflect on their work, and not simple put things into the portfolio.

However, when all is said and done, I want kids to see their portfolios as a place to really keep their learning, think about their learning and share their learning. It is a tool that they can easily access and use to share who they are as a learning today, and for a lifetime.

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Getting Evernote into the hands of kids


The 4 months of work that I did learning about Evernote was always with the intention of getting Evernote into the hands of the kids as soon as possible.

The major tool that needed to be acquired was the itouch. They aren’t cheap (around $200) but I was able to put out a request to families to donate money to purchase one or two of them and to my great surprise and delight two families actually purchased them for the class. The itouch is such a powerful tool as it is mobile, it is something the kids love to use, and it provides the ability to immediately upload audio, text and photos. This ability is vital when designing a user-friendly portfolio system. With more students owning phones and itouch type devises the cost of obtaining them will go down for schools. In the future it won’t be up to the school to provide the financing for the mobile devices as so many students will already have them.

Of course there are questions of equity and accessibility that come into play. For that reason the portfolio system will not be based on requiring students to have their own mobile devices. However, it looks like the direction for portfolios is heading that way. Here at Trillium it is clear that there needs to be a base level of financial support to get itouch or ipad into the classroom. I am not trying to sell these brands but they are the ones that I use and they are perfectly aligned for the kind of work that we are doing. (I will write more later how the itouch and ipad work in harmony for me using the IOS5 operating system.)

When choosing a portfolio system I really wanted one that students could access from school, home, on the go, anywhere that they could connect to the internet. Evernote allows that kind of access. But I also wanted a system that they could continue on with even if they were no longer at Trillium. I wanted it to be a system that could integrate into their lives and not just be a “school” based tool. As a larger goal I wanted students to see their learning, to see the work that they do at school, to be integrated into their lives and I want their lives to be integrated with their work at school. The paradigm shift is happening around the world where school and life are connected in a deeper and I think that electronic portfolios can be part of that shift. For these reasons I wanted students to have their own Evernote account, not just a “notebook” within my account. (This is also a possibility for those who want more control of their students portfolios. The kindergarten teacher at Trillium uses Evernote in this way).

Setting up an account for each child isn’t very complicated but it does take some time. In the past I have assigned the job to a tech savy parent who is ok with a bit of data entry.

Here are the steps I took. All this work was done on a computer not on an itouch or ipad.

#1. First I created a gmail account for each student. To open up an account you need an e-mail address and by making accounts for each child I would have some access to their accounts in the future if I needed.

#2. I opened up evernote accounts using account names and passwords that would be easy for the kids to remember. I made sure that I recored all this information.

#3. To active the evernote account I needed to log into their gmail account and click on the link sent by evernote.

#4. At this point the accounts are all ready to go. However, there are a few other things to do.

#5. Have each student (or a volunteer) “share” their Notebook with me. They share by adding my e-mail address to their their list of people to share with. Students can also share with their parents, grandparents, friends, etc. By sharing (in the free version) students allow others to “read only” their work.

#6. I use the Lexmark Pinnacle Pro scanner (which is integrated with Evernote) and need to add students Evernote e-mail addresses to this scanner. This allows them to send work directly from the scanner to their accounts. (I WILL COVER THIS DEVICE AND ITS USE IN ANOTHER POST).

#7. I copy and past each students personal Evernote e-mail address (found under settings in each account) to my contact folder which allows me to send work directly from my computer, phone or ipad.

Once these steps are finished the kids are ready to start uploading work.

In the first month I just wanted to get kids comfortable with the tools so I let them make many choices of items to upload. I didn’t want them to have to worry too much about reflection for the first few times. Once they got a hang of how to upload, how the software and apps worked (adding tags and titles), how to upload pictures, etc, they would be ready to do the more heady work of reflect on the work they did upload.

Below you can see two students using the hand-held devices. One student is logging on while the other student is lining up a piece of work to photograph and add to their portfolio.

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