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November 11, 2009


Digital Portfolios – Positive Feedback

by fambrojoe

Digital Portfolios - for Parent Coffee.001This week I have given two presentations concerning the digital portfolios that are being launched in our middle school.  My expectation was that there would be some resistance to both the launching of portfolios and that they would be digital (online).  It has been surprising to experience positive reactions from both groups that experienced the presentations.

On Monday, during our middle school faculty professional development meeting, faculty reflected on the value of portfolios from different perspectives (students, parents & faculty), discussed an overview of the implementation of the digital portfolios at our school, and began to build common expectations for the portfolios.  On Wednesday I was able to introduce the digital portfolio idea to a group of middle school parents during our Middle School Principal’s Coffee meeting.  Both groups were very receptive and were overwhelmingly in agreement that making the portfolios digital was the best choice.Digital Portfolios - for Parent Coffee.002

I am looking forward to meeting with small groups of middle school students to introduce them to their portfolio (a Google Site Wiki) and teach them how to use it.  We still have considerable work to do so that we all agree on the responsibilities and expectations that each group in the community should fulfill, but we are off to a good start.

Further, I am confident that our digital portfolio initiative will enhance student learning and lead us to hold successful student led conferences in spring.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nov 11 2009

    It’s great that you have so much buy-in from all members of your school community. That will make adoption and implementation much, much easier.

    We are currently looking into electronic portfolios as a school-wide initiative as well. While all (most?) are in agreement that they are worthwhile, we are ensuring that we have a clear rationale behind why we are using them.

    I’m curious to know why you chose to use Google Sites and what other alternatives you considered. I’m also curious to know how (if at all) you are dealing with Google Terms of Service with respect to minimum age for a Google account.

    Last but not least, is this a middle school only initiative or do you envision it spreading up to the HS and down to the ES? Will it extend into your Diploma Program as well?

    • Nov 11 2009

      Hey Clint,

      These are great questions… Here are some thoughts:

      – Our school uses Google Apps for both our faculty domain and student domain… both are educational accounts. My understanding is that Google Apps educational accounts have no age restrictions, but schools have to assume responsibility for complying with COPPA by getting parental permission. We are having a “community discussion” within the school about how “public/open” the portfolios should be and how, if it all, they should be shared or given an audience outside of school. I could write more about this in a future post (including my opinions).

      – What alternatives did we consider? Our research started about a year ago… we looked into Taskstream and considered Folios International. While at conferences throughout the Asia-pacific region last year, I talked to a variety of schools… those that were using an “online” service were not happy with their products. They were all considering moving to “wikis”. At that point, I felt pretty strongly that we needed to go with a wiki service, but we didn’t know which one…

      – Why did we choose Google Sites? It was a natural fit as each student and faculty member already have a school Google Account. Google Sites allowed for students to contribute while faculty could own the site… but then it could “given” to the student as he/she left the school by transferring ownership. Additionally, Google Sites has very easy integration with Google Docs… which our students use consistently throughout the middle school. One issue that we ran into at the end of last school year was the inability to mass create Google Sites for students. We contacted Google and 3rd party vendors to try and accomplish this… and had no success. Then, over summer Google created the “copy site” feature. This was a great help… we can now copy a “sample” site for each student.

      – MS only? When I proposed this initiative early last year, we included all divisions in the discussion. At the time, however, our ES divison and HS division were interested but not ready to take action. Our ES already has a physical (paper) portfolio system in place. We are discussing the possibility of grade 5 moving to a digital portfolio (possibly the same that we are launching in the MS). HS has not expressed an interest at this point, but I would envision that as we implement the MYP in grades 9-10 it will spread. I believe digital portfolios have a lot of value and would like for this to spread through the entire school in the future.

      Best of luck in clarifying your rationale… that’s valuable work and will help you be successful with the initiative.

      Thanks for reading… and a great big thanks for commenting! Please continue to share your digital portfolio journey and I will try to do the same.

      • Nov 12 2009

        Thanks for that in-depth reply. Your candidness is appreciated.

        As we run a MS SharePoint portal, we are looking at trying to leverage that platform, if possible, to help us with our ePortfolios. One of the problems is lack of portability, which is solved by the use of Google Sites. I don’t know if it is a viable solution for us, however, since internet connections are not entirely reliable and DL/UL speeds can be prohibitive. I will certainly show your example, however, to the rest of the team.

        How do students archive their work? Do you use something like for cloud storage? Or do you foresee the 100MB limit as being sufficient?

        Thanks again for sharing.

  2. Nov 15 2009

    We are still exploring possibilities for archiving student work… however, it isn’t a huge need as every student has their school Google account and many things can be imported to Google Docs (if it wasn’t created using Google docs). Most students in our secondary are already producing digital content when possible (student laptops help with this). Photos of 3-dimensional creations can be placed into Google Presentations or video reflections can be used. We are still considering how to archive video… I have used Dropbox in the past, but have had problems with their public links working correctly here in Korea. For other pieces of work that are not digital, we are considering ways to make copier/scanners available to students.

    One issue that we are currently facing is how to make cameras and video cameras available to students and faculty so that they can document their processes and/or student work (and for other uses as well). We currently have some Flipcams available, but they are proving to be very popular… thus we will need to purchase more.


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