ePortfolios might just save education as we know it.
Thank goodness – because something has to.
Now, I know there are a lot of people out there who are leery of online portfolios being used in schools. In fact, there’s a lot of people out there who just don’t want to use portfolios AT ALL in schools. Here’s what I usually hear:
When do I have time to do that?
My reply: make the time. In fact, if you set up the portfolio process correctly, you might actually SAVE time.
Who is going to be responsible for filling the portfolio?
My reply: Depends entirely on how you set it up. If you want to be responsible for filling it, then the work will fall to you. If, however, you want to delegate to students/colleagues, then the work is a collaboration. Ding, Ding! Welcome to the 21st century of learning!
That’s just one more thing on my already overflowing plate.
My reply: Yep. We are all being asked to do more with less. Every teacher is over-stressed this year. Then again, talk to a person who has been out of work for 6 months or more and then come back to this complaint. It might give you some perspective. A great book to read for this is Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly-Effective People. Change your priorities, and the rest will fall in line.
There’s too much work involved. (seriously – I’ve actually heard this one)
My reply: See above.
And when it comes to online portfolios, I usually hear things like this:
What about student safety and security? There’s just too many unknowns.
My reply: This is definitely a valid concern. However, if you use programs that are specifically for the purpose of education portfolios (like EduBlogs), you can protect student safety without jeopardizing something as important as collective data.
I’m not sure how I feel about our information being public like that.
My reply: Again, a valid concern. However, most of our information is already public. With the safety features built in to dedicated education online portfolios, you can control what information is public and what is private. And in the end – we are all in control of what we decide to contribute online.
So now I have to submit something online? When do I have time to do that?
My reply: Again – read Stephen Covey’s book or Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture. Time is what we make of it. And yes…the digital revolution has come and gone. Welcome to the present.
I know that some of that sounds harsh. But – we need a wake up call. Australia and Japan have been using ePortfolios for students and teachers for years now and are surpassing us in education by leaps and bounds. It would behoove us to pay attention and learn from something that is actually working in education.
I’ve written before about the power of using an online portfolio for student assessment. But I believe in going even further than that. I believe that schools themselves should use online portfolios, as well as teachers who are serious about professional growth.
The Power of a School Portfolio
School portfolios can be set up in a multitude of ways. You can use them as lesson sharing sites where teachers across grade levels can share lesson plans for certain school initiatives (ie: Arts Integration, Green School, Differentiation, etc). Or, you could so far as posting videos, student work samples, polls for what teachers need for professional development, and virtual galleries of classrooms. You could make this into a vibrant, collaborative community within the school which could then become a documentation of a journey towards your school vision. Think about the power of that.
You can also set up an online school portfolio to present information to teachers or parents, which can then be commented upon and shared. This is a wonderful way to communicate with the school community and to have it be a two-way street. I set up something similar to this when I did our most recent Arts Integration Teacher Training. Now, our teachers can access the whole presentation, ask questions or make comments about things they tried in their own classrooms, and share it with their individual schools.
The Power of a Teacher Portfolio
I highly recommend teachers set up their own online portfolio to document their individual journey toward educational and leadership success. Teachers are always learning and growing and an online portfolio can house both their reflections of the process and their celebrations of success. Teachers can write posts of reflections on their teaching practice which can be made public or private, providing flexibility depending on their comfort level. They can also post presentations they’ve done, lesson plans that were successful, and student work samples. This can become a powerful tool for teachers when they are asked to communicate what they’ve done through the year with their administrators or with parents. Best of all, it can be the reflective piece of the puzzle that many teachers yearn for but few receive.
Online Portfolios are here to stay. Are you willing to take the chance that it might just save your teaching?
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.