Monthly Archives: February 2012

Making portfolios happen schoolwide

As Trillium has been going through the “re-chartering” process (which we must do every 5 years) this past year one thing that the Portland Public School District mentioned they really are interested in seeing more of is the work we do with online portfolios. As a charter school we are charged with being a lab of innovation. At the same time we are charged with bringing our discoveries to a larger audience. Our local district is the obvious first place to start.

With the districts clear interest Trillium has decided to put additional resources into seeing that portfolios take center stage. For the remainder of the school year I will be taking a day or two a week away from the classroom to lead the charge. My first step was to set some goals for myself and the school. Below I have shared my initial ideas around how I plan to make that happen.

My Initial Ideas…..

The process of developing an e-portfolio system at Trillium will be a multiyear project. This process will be split up into 3 stages or levels, each building upon the last and adding to it. The goal of the e-portfolios is to transform the conversation about the learning that each student is engaged in here at Trillium and beyond. The real value of an e-portfolio is the reflection and learning that is documented therein, not just the collection of work. In the end an e-portfolio isn’t just a collection of work but a tool to have important conversations about learning with students, families, teachers, as well as potential employers and other educational institutions.

The 3 levels of development that I will address in this timeline are as follows:

Level 1. Portfolio as Storage/Collection This is the most basic level of creating an e-folio. At this level staff and students are collecting work and storing it. At this level the role of the teacher is to provide students with guidance on the types of artifacts to save and how to save them.

Level 2. Portfolio as Workspace/Process At this level learners reflect on their learning as represented in the samples of their work. Students could be reflecting in a variety of ways that can be linked or connected to their work. (Reflection sheets, Rubrics, Blogs that are linked to their work, Questions provided by a teacher to answer, etc). At this level the role of the teacher is to to provide feedback on students work so they can recognize opportunities for improvement. Teachers are also working to support students in how to reflect on their learning. Students can be reflecting on individual pieces or growth they notice over several pieces of work.

Level 3. Porffolio as Showcase/Product At this level students organize one or more presentation portfolios around a set of learning outcomes, goals or standards (depending on the purpose and the audience). The reflection that goes with this level is retrospective, thinking back over the learning represented in the specific artifacts selected as evidence of learning. The teacher’s role at this level is to provide feedback on the student’s work but also to validate the student’s self-assessment of their work.

Goal #1. To have all advisors and students at Level 1 of development by the end of September 2012.

Specific Measurable Results #1 I have met with all teachers to clarify the goal of e-portfolios by the middle March 16th.

Specific Measurable Result #2. Host Evernote webinar with Evernote Team on March 22nd at 5 pm.

Specific Measurable Results #3 A team of teachers has been put together by March 23rd (at least one teacher from each age level) who are willing to become experts on using the technology for e-folios. This technology will include Evernote, computers, Mobile devices such as i-touches, Lexmark printers, and the school’s Canon Copier.

milestones: I will have a list of team members.
milestones: Each team member will have access to a mobile device and a Lexmark printer.

Specific Measurable Results #4 I will have a half day of inservice training on Friday April 13th for the team. Teach them how to use the Evernote online, Itouch, Lexmark Scanner, photocopy machine as scanner. Have them upload work, including the reflection sheet and rubric.

Specific Measurable Results #5 By the end of the year all memebers of the team will have their advsing students portfolios up and running with at least one sample of work from each of their classes. At least 8 specific artifacts.

Specific Measurable Results #6 By June of 2012 all team members will be partnered up with other members of their teaching team to begin demonstrating how Evernote is being used in their classes.

Specific Measurable Results #7 Trillium will begin to use the Premium for Schools pilot project. All students and staff will be given an account.

Specific Measurable Results #8 The school will purchase or acquire at least one itouch or ipad for each teaching staff member as well as one Lexmark Scanner for each advising room.

Specific Measurable Results #9 As part of back to school training in August/September, all staff members will know how to use Evernote and mobile technology. Workshops will be done in conjunction with the already trained teachers.

Specific Measurable Results #10 All students will be entered into a database or Google Doc which contains their Evernote account access information.

Specific Measurable Results #11 Each advisor will train their students how to use Evernote and mobile technologies.

Specific Measurabel Results #12. Each student will have added at least 2 artifacts into their porfolio (with titles and tags) by the end of September 2012.


Example of a Rubric

I received a great comment and request this evening by someone reading the previous blog about report cards. They requested an example of a rubric that may accompany a portfolio piece. Below is a Project Rubric that one of my students recently added to his portfolio. This rubric is very specific to a project and was one that was developed within my classroom with the help of the students. I chose this to share because it is one that I have on hand. But it gives the basic idea of how a student could demonstrate what they have learned in response to a set rubric or criteria. Included with the rubric (in his portfolio )is his body of work, which includes an essay on the experiments he conducted, a faux newspaper about ants, photos of his experiments as well as graphs. The rubric was presented at the beginning of the project so students had a sense of how to gauge their own progress along the way.

The great thing about a rubric is that it sets up the expectations clearly for students so they don’t have to be guessing what they need to be working toward. The rubric below represents the self reflection of the student, without my input. However, most rubrics also have a place for my feedback as well.

Of course a rubric could be created that covers a much larger scale or subject mater. A rubric could be used to show the developmental stages of a writer, reader, mathematician or artist. This kind of continuum of learning much more clearly allows all parties involved to see where students have come from and where they are going. Many school districts already use learning continuums when developing scope and sequence and these could be easily used in classrooms and with portfolios.




Beyond report cards?

One of my goals with using online portfolios at my schools is to find new and dynamic ways to share student learning. The portfolio itself is a tool for student documentation, reflection and presentation but it also has the potential of changing the nature of the “report card”. Having worked in many educational environments I know that report cards can look very different. At my first teaching job in a small private school we wrote four to six page narratives that took hours per student. At a public elementary school we had a checklist of boxes that signified progress with no opportunity for comment. At Trillium we have a combination.

Whatever they look like, report cards are complicated in that they ideally are meant to show where students “are” (often in comparison to their peers) but really can only give a basic understanding of achievement and progress. They are sent out 2-4 times a year and rarely represent a conversation. It is the teacher’s determination received by the parent or family.

How would the educational landscape change if rather than a report card that goes out a few times a year, the work and progress of each student was an ongoing conversation, not a one way sharing of information? What if each student was personally responsible for collecting, reflecting upon and sharing their learning on an ongoing basis with their families? What would it take for a school or a district to move in that direction? Is it possible to do away with report cards all together?

This conversation is in the early stages at Trillium. At the intermediate level (3rd-5th grade) we have been thinking of ways to eventually phase out the report card as it presently stands (a twice a year 4 page document created by the teachers). If families were made aware of progress on an ongoing basis, would there be a need for a report card?

Of course there are questions such as “what if we wanted to move to a new school that HAD report cards?” “What about getting into college?” “How would the families know the progress of work?”

One answer to the last question is the use of rubrics. The creation and the use of rubrics that are aligned with standards in conjunction with portfolios may make clear where a student sits on the academic spectrum. These rubrics could be uploaded into each note that a student creates with a place for teacher comment. The students progress along a rubric would more clearly demonstrate where they “are” than a letter grade or a checkmark in a box. Plus, the evidence of the student’s work would be sitting with the rubric in the portfolio so a teachers assessment could be understood.

For a real conversation to happen Evernote will need to allow comments, like one is able to do with a blog. This is something that I hope they will consider in the future as a tool to improve communication. If parents and teachers can comment on work, give suggestions and feedback, which a student could respond to, an ongoing dialogue could occur.

The work on replacing the report card has a long way to go. It is just an idea, but one that my collegues and I are taking seriously. We are fortunate to be in a setting that allows for this kind of conversation and even the flexibility to see if this could work. I know that many people who read this will be part of a larger institution or district where change is slow and the idea of doing away with report cards in favor of portfolios wouldn’t be possible. However, using online portfolios does allow teachers, students and families to make clear connections between grades and work done That is the first step.

E-Portfolios Evolve Thanks to Web 2.0 Tools

Here is the link to an edweek article describing some of the work I do plus information about how others are using online portfolios.

<a href=”http://“>Edweekly article

Setting up accounts for your students

One question that keeps coming up for people (and rightly so, as it is the first thing you need to do in the online portfolio process) is “How do you set up accounts for all your students?” While I have set my kids up in a certain way (look below) it isn’t the only way to do it. The issue around setting up Evernote accounts (especially for kids under 13) is that you need to do them all individually. At this writing I don’t believe there is any way to set up a whole class of accounts which one teacher or school has access and control over. Ideally Evernote will create a way for schools to “batch” accounts so the school can have control and access over them and eventually when kids leave the school their accounts could be released so individuals could take them with.

Another way to set up an account (if your school or parents have issues around setting up email accounts) is to create notebooks for each child within a teachers account. This way individual student notebooks can still be shared and viewed outside of school. Unfortunately this also makes the students portfolios inaccessible to them if they are not with their teacher.

I believe that the power of the online portfolio is the way that it changes the conversation about education between students, their parents and their teachers. It takes the conversation beyond the walls of the building and enables the documentation, reflection and presentation of learning to happen almost anywhere. THIS is powerful and needs to be considered when creating online portfolios. THAT is the main reason I decided to give each individual student their own account. However, as you will read below, I also set it up in a way that I can access their accounts at any time.

Guidelines for getting students started with Evernote accounts.

1. To set up an Evernote account you have to have an e-mail account. Make sure all your students have e-mail accounts. If you plan on setting up the Evernote accounts for them then you will need to have access to their user names and passwords. To have full access to their Evernote account you will need to set up an e-mail account for them. This way if they change or lose their password or forget their user name you can request it from Evernote and it will be sent to “their” email account. It is not possible to set up multiple Evernote accounts using one e-mail account. For record keeping it is useful to set up an excel spreadsheet to keep and track all the accounts you have created and set up. Storing this in a Google Doc is helpful so it can be accessed by multiple teachers/staff or if there is a main online porfolio administrator.

2. Go to

3. Create new accounts using the students e-mail address. To make it easy for kids and yourself, you may want to use their first and last names for their user names “marcusallen” for Marcus Allen. Also use any easy password to remember “allenmarcus2” for instance. The students can always change them later but it makes it easier when everyone is getting started and they keep turning to you for help with passwords.

4. Once the account is created you will then have to open up their E-MAIL account to verify the opening of the Evernote account. This is a tedious process, especially when setting up a whole class, but once it is done you never have to do it again.

5. Once the Evernote account has been verified, you can then log onto their account so you can “SHARE” the account. When students share an account you will be able to see everything they have added but will not be able to make changes to it. (Unless everyone has Premium Accounts). All shared accounts will show up in the “share” section of your Evernote homepage.

6. The students are now ready upload work to their accounts using the internet ( and mobile devises that have Evernote applications.

Adding Student Evernote Accounts to Lexmark Smart Solution Printers.

Once you have set up your Lexmark Printer you are ready to add Evernote icons to the Smart Solution section.

1. You will need to set up a Smart Solutions account online ( This will allow you to add icons to the Smart Solution section on your printer.

2. Log in and press on the SOLUTION CENTER link on the top right. This will open up a page containing a variety of icons on the left hand side and big box with a few of the permanent icons that are already on your printer.

3. Scroll down until you see the green Evernote icon with the elephant. Grab it with the mouse and drag it over to the large box.

4. Double click on the icon and a pop up box will appear. Here you can title the icon. For each student I wrote their name. (ie Marcus’s Evernote).

5. You may choose from either pdf OR jpeg. If you choose jpeg artifacts will be loaded into the Evernote as a picture which will allow you to use the great Evernote Scanning feature. It doesn’t work with pdfs.

6. For the icon to work on the printer you will need to get the students special e-mail address from Evernote. Go to Evernote and log on to the students site. Clink on the SETTINGS link at the top of the page.

7. At the bottom of the page is the Emailing to Evernote section. That is where the special e-mail address is. Copy that address and paste it into the Lexmark pop up.

8. Once you have done this will all students save it. It will download this to your wireless printer.

9. Students can now go to the Smart Solution section on the printer and find their Evernote Icon. When they have something loaded on the printer they only need to press the icon one time for it to work. The items will scan and automatically upload to the Evernote account.

Ways to keep Evernote Useful, Efficient and Organized

Inform Parents. Make sure parents know about the E-portfolios.

Reflection Sheet. Create or use the Trillium Portfolio Artifact and Reflection sheet. I use this for all items that are added to the portfolios. You can scan them in with the work that goes into the Lexmark or you can take pictures of them for items you will be adding by mobile device. For instance, when kids did a 3D art project they wanted to preserve I had them fill out the reflection sheet and then took a picture of it. I then made a new note in Evernote and added both the picture of the reflection sheet and the picture of the artifact.

Use Tags. Have everyone use tags to record what categories from the Framework are being added. This can be done immediately with mobile devices and after the fact when using the scanner. Using tags is vital when searching for items. If you or a student are just searching for Literacy items you can type in literacy in the Evernote search and it will find them all. I also created WIP (work in progress) so you could check out everything that is still in process. Once it become permanent then the WIP tag can be removed.

Here are the tags I use: Literacy, Math, Science, Social Science, The Arts, Technology, CM (Community Membership), Independece, Movement, HWS (Health, Wellness and Safety), WIP (work in progress), Best Work

Teach Kids. Teach kids how to use the scanner and mobile devices right away. That will ensure that you are not doing most of the uploading and will get the kids excited about the process. Walk them through the whole process with one piece of work and then make a weekly activity until they get the hang of it. Teach them how to select work both on-going and completed.

Use Evernote Online for Writing. Kids can type text directly into Evernote. It has a text editor. Instead of using word, or Google docs, or their Ubuntu account, they can type directly into Evernote. This way you can also (as an advisor) have access to ongoing work.
Stay on top of the Technology . Evernote is constantly updating the way that users can interface with the program.