Digital Portfolios are so much more than a digital versions of a paper portfolio, a folder sent home at the end of the week, semester or year or an online version of someone’s writing journal. In addition, I am talking about Blogfolios, which are digital portfolios on a blogging platform. These blogfolios are:
- not behind a password protected wall to encourage authentic feedback and a global audience
- not only sharing the “best” work of someone, but the process of learning that it took to get to the “best” work in this moment in time
- the platform to allow open discussion to have one’s work be critiqued, influenced, re-mixed and built upon by others
If I had to create a “pitch” for Blogfolios, I would say:
Blogfolios are the glue that can hold it all together!
Blogfolios are a pedagogical tool/platform for the teacher to facilitate learning and at at the same time can become in critical component for a heutagogical (self-directed/ self-motivated) process for the learner. Blogfolios are the glue that can hold all curricular content, goals and objectives as well as support school initiatives, observations, assessment and accountability requirements or personal passions, interest and projects together… you can insert other education related programs, theories, taxonomies, methods, etc. and we can find connections HOW blogfolios could help support it.
We know that the notion of literacy, reading and writing in order to communicate in our day and age has expanded from traditional reading and writing via text and analog paper sources. The world around us has significantly and is continuing to change exponentially. We read and need to comprehend multimedia messages, follow hyperlinked, non-linear content and need to be able to write on different platforms. We need to know how to take into consideration their collaborative and connected nature and a potential global audience. How do we take advantage of different media and platforms to effectively address copyright considerations and requirements, search engine algorithms and network characteristics to engage potential readers, collaborators, curators and thought partners? To be considered literate, we need skills beyond basic reading and writing and extend into the world of “reading and writing” in a networked, global and different types of media environment with the ability to not only consume information, but find, evaluate, analyze, curate, remix, and create new types of information.
…Blogfolios can be the platform to expose learners to the skills, dispositions and habits of mind to amplify basic reading and writing into the world of an extended notion of literacy. Blogfolios give learners the chance to not just hear about these new literacies, but they are actively experiencing and working with new skills to become fluent in them.
Pedagogy is about the techniques, methods and strategies teachers use to facilitate learning for their students. Heutagogy is centered around self-motivated and self-directed learning. Webucation is about taking advantage of the fact that anyone with access to the internet and a device is capable to access information, tutorials, mentors, coaches, materials, videos, text, images in order to literally learn anything they wish to learn. The only thing that is required to bring is the MOTIVATION to learn the skills to find, evaluate and use what is available for their own learning. There is a shift away from learning for grades, credentials and other extrinsic factors towards learning for the desire to learn and intrinsic motivation.
… Blogfolios can support learning and teaching ourselves. Blogfolios should not belong to a particular teacher, professor or the school, but to the learners themselves. Taking ownership of their blogfolios is crucial versus having entries to the blogfolio be by assignments and deadlines only. Blogfolios are not strictly meant to be for “school work”, but should include documentation of any learning (in and outside of school).
Documenting our learning serves as a heutagogical tool. Capturing artifacts that demonstrate the process of learning as well as a product, need to be able to be stored, archived and displayed somewhere. Blogfolios give the self-directed learner a hub to document their learning and to make it visible for others. Where have they been? What steps did they take along the way? How are these learning artifacts connected with each other? Documentation OF learning can grown into documenting FOR learning and documenting AS learning, when strategically embedded into the learning process.
…A blogfolio allows for all types of media (text, images, video, audio) to be inserted and embeded into a post. Through linking of blog posts or individual artifacts, a timeline of the learning process can be created and reflected upon. When documentation happens over a period of time, the blog with its chronological postings facilitates a timeline of the learning process. The blogfolio becomes the showcase to use documentation FOR learning (our own as well as the learning of others who visit and engage in our blogfolio.When we use documentation as a vehicle of learning, the blogfolio becomes the tool and the process at the same time.
Reflection & Metacognition
Reflection is not an add-on to the learning process, but a critical component. Thinking about your thinking (metacognition) reflecting on one’s own cognitive processes and stresses the awareness and flow of our thinking as well as strategies that help us learn. We can, of course, reflect and think about our thinking in paper journals, in verbal conversations, in our own heads, but there is a depth to our learning added when we reflection in public and in writing (not only in text necessarily). Jackie Gerstein says “If we don’t create a process of reflecting and framing them, then we are leaving learning up to chance,”
…A blogfolio allows for the support of that framing of reflection and metacognition. Activities, projects, curriculum units, assessments, etc, don’t stand on their own, in isolation, but they become part of a process. How can I tell the story of my learning? What does my learning mean to me and to the world around me? Why is my work important and how is it related to other people and other work? How is it related to my own word from last week, from last month/year and to my other areas of interest? What are cross-curricular relationships, patterns? Where do trends in my knowledge, learning emerge?
Student (and Teacher) Led Conferences
Many schools are embracing student-led conference to give students a voice and ownership when reporting on their process and progress. Why should teachers and parents talk ABOUT the student? Why shouldn’t the student take ownership, know what the goals are, how to accomplish them and how to articulate the journey and process towards these goals. In addition, Andrea Hernandez asks why not teacher-led conferences as the next step to complement or replace teacher high-stakes, model lesson observations?
…A blogfolio allows for students and teachers (“the learners”) to collect and demonstrate over time their goals, process and growth towards these goals and other objectives. The ownership rests with the learner to present evidence of steps towards and accomplishments of their goals. The ownership of looking for this evidence does not lie with the teacher or supervisor.
As educators, we are responsible to assess our students’ learning. We assess to fulfill requirements of accountability and we assess to tell us, as teachers, more about our students. We assess to know what our students know, what they have learned and how that will affect what we will and how to teach next.
…A blogfolio can give us insight HOW we and our students are learning (if properly framed to embed reflection and metacognition), not just WHAT was learned. We learn how students will use what they learned and apply it in authentic situations. We could replace weekly spelling tests of 10 random words or grammar quizzes and see how students are USING the assigned words and grammatical forms in authentic context in a blog post.
We don’t all learn the same way. We don’t all come with the same background content knowledge nor the same abilities and skills to make sense of the content we are presented with. In Wikipedia, differentiation is described as “a framework or philosophy for effective teaching that involves providing different students with different avenues to learning (often in the same classroom) in terms of: acquiring content; processing, constructing, or making sense of ideas; and developing teaching materials and assessment measures so that all students within a classroom can learn effectively, regardless of differences in ability.” John Spencer asks himself: What happens when students have choice in the way they learn and show evidence of their learning?
…A blogfolio supports choices for learners. Blogfolios are not prescribed, with a one-size-fits-all appearance, matching content, assignments, and media format. Learners are to take responsibility and creativity to show evidence of their learning. Ron Ritchard worries about how too much instructions can inhibit genuine thinking in students. Blogfolios are a platform and a framework that encourage learners to make their own thinking and learning visible on their own terms.
Project/Inquiry/Problem Based Learning
No matter if you are implementing project based, inquiry based or problem based learning with your students, all stress the importance of the thinking process and the cognitive awareness of the learner.
…A blogfolio supports that process of inquiry/project/problem based learning by encouraging documentation and reflection. The inherent chronological sequencing of a blogfolio adds to a timeline for unpacking content/learning/phases/results. The ability to hyperlink different posts/content and documentation artifacts on your blogfolio encourages the creation of connections on multiple levels. Blogfolios also strengthens the learner’s capacities to articulate, visualize and present their thinking, reasoning and decision making skills behind their work.
Our Digital Identities are becoming increasingly more important in our digital world! Our digital identity is our online that we claim in cyberspace. Digital identities are not reserved for companies or organizations, but are increasingly important for individuals as well. It is a fallacy to believe that, if we choose to NOT be online and worry about building and growing a digital identity consciously, that we do not have a digital identity. Not finding a digital footprint of a person online speaks volumes about the “lack of the work” that their are sharing and contributing to the field. Also, even though someone might choose not to create a digital footprint, others might/will for them. Will Richardson in his book “Why School?” challenges every school: “How can we make sure that every student who walks on graduation day is well Googled by his or her full name?”
…A blogfolio allows us and our students to build an academic digital footprint. It gives us the space to upload, store and archive our work to build content that will develop and become part of our footprint and seed, grow and maintain our digital footprint. Through blogfolios, we can take advantage of opportunities that develop skills to strengthen our identity, connect our content to an audience and become aware of the interconnections and flow of networks. Blogfolios give learners an opportunity to create (positive) content, attached to their name, that when someone googles them, they will be found among the search results. It becomes part of our digital identity to strategically be search engine friendly (keywords) and create content that will associate ourselves within a desired content area.
The traditional school system can be very rigid. There is a daily school schedule to follow that dictates us when to be in class and with a certain time for a specific subject area. Teachers and students are siloed within the school and from the outside world. Parents are dependent on phone calls or annual parent/teacher conferences to learn more about what is academically going on in the lives of their children. Teachers, who teach the same students, usually have no access and insight to the work and thinking of their students in other academic areas, unless they schedule specific meeting times with their colleagues. Professional Development opportunities offered at the school are scheduled for specific days and times and conferences or workshops are in different locations.
…A blogfolio removes many of the barriers to accessibility. Student blogfolios give parents and teachers a view of learning anytime and anywhere. Parents don’t have to wait until a teacher calls them or invites them to a conference meeting. They can review blogfolio entries with their child, deepening the conversation and going beyond the typical interaction of “What did you do in school?”… “Nothing”. Teachers will gain valuable insight into their current students’ thinking and learning outside of their own classrooms and times together as well as future students at the start of a new school year. When educators share their own thinking and learning, their experiences and best practices, blogfolios become a rich source of professional development for other educators around the world. No longer do we have to wait to go to a conference or workshop, but we are able to access new learning opportunities 24/7.
How do you see blogfolios as the glue that can hold all the puzzle pieces together? What are some of your puzzle pieces and how are/can blogfolios support them?
cross posted at langwitches.org/blog
Silvia Tolisano is a Curriculum21 faculty member, author of the book Digital Storytelling Tools for Educators and founder of the Around the World with 80 Schools project. Read more at http://langwitches.org/blog.