On November 25, Holly Clark wrote a piece posted on Edudemic making the case for digital student portfolios, or archiving student work. Clark, a former teacher, laments over not having enough information on her students in September to steer her teaching. Instead, she had lists of numbers that took the place of examples of past work, oral presentations, and stuff that added the human dimension to these numbers. The problem, she says, is “that we are assigning numbers and values to things that we could have much richer and detailed information about.”
The solution? Digital portfolios.
“Reflection, reflection, reflection”
On the first day of second grade, my teacher had our class draw portraits of ourselves. I, an arrogant little person, thought I was at the top of my crayon portrait game when I smugly handed it in. During the last week of that year, we drew another portrait of ourselves. When we compared the two pictures, everyone made fun of my first picture because my nose looked like cherries. Luckily, my drawing skills had improved and my second drawing had a more life-like rendered nose.
This was my first memory of a little thing called progress. Had my second grade teacher thrown away my first drawing, I would gone on being a brat, without recognizing the value of my second drawing, and never thinking twice about drawing in the second grade. But having to face my original Crayola creation made me see that I was not as great an artist as I thought I was. It also put things in perspective for me: I was better than I was before and I’ll be better later than I am now.
By seeing past work, students can see how far they’ve come. The key to success, after hard work, is feedback: seeing where you’re good, bad, and average to make adjustments for the next time around. It’s why athletes watch film and why thermostats have sensors: they are constantly checking the current state of things for how to get to the ideal state of things. So when a student sees a video of their presentation riddled with “um”s and “like”s, they know what to work at for next time. Back when I was in school my presentations only existed in that moment. These days, recording technology seems more common than text books.
Technology has got your back
How many of you take pictures? Keep a journal? Post to social media?
*Pause to answer rhetorical question*
The correct answer is “I do, because who doesn’t?”
These daily documentations are things we don’t even think about. The tools we have on our phones and computers have essentially interfaced our physical life with our digital life. A great place to start is Google Drive, which allows you to share stuff like documents, presentations, and drawings. You can even make a form for reflection so students can reflect on their work. For more, check out The Beginners Guide to Creating Digital Portfolios, also by Holly Clark.
From the Gradeable perspective, the digital portfolio is one of our product pillars. Yes, we sooth the grading process, but even cooler, we keep track of all that information for you. That way, you can share with teachers like Holly who want a high-resolution picture of incoming students. You can share with parents, the student, other teachers, administration, etc. And no need to worry about security, Gradeable uses the same safe-gaurd technology as banks. So yeah, you could say we’ve got student info on lock.
What I’m trying to say here is that embracing digital portfolios is more a workflow thing than a technology thing. Digital portfolios don’t have to be some complex endeavor; it just has to work for you. The more examples and information you can keep to student output, the better.
A place to showcase their work, and yours
To me, a moonlighting artist, portfolio means a collection of my best work. When employers ask for a portfolio, they want evidence that you’ve got the experience they’re asking for. The portfolio is the display case where you put your most prided work for all to see. It’s the place where you put the polished pieces.
Instilling this idea of “finished” pieces of work is great for the learning process. Eventually, students will be expected to adhere to a results-driven mentality. A portfolio can orient their minds to creating something that other people will see. For example, doodling in my notebook is a lot different than painting a picture to give someone. In my painting, there are no mistakes or carelessness. Since it is for an audience, I am under pressure to make it better than if it was just for myself.
The portfolio mentality is for teachers too. The stuff students put in their portfolio reflects the type of stuff you ask of them. How you guide, encourage, and challenge them can be evident in the work they produce. It’s essentially an extension of your portfolio.
So what will you do to improve your portfolio?