Thursday, September 08, 2011

Student ePortfolios

Rather than paper/pencil reading response books and/or journals, students have created their own ePortfolios this year.  ePortfolios will house students' weekly reading response letters, self portrait poetry anthology, free writes, personal narratives, multi media compositions, mini research reports and more.

There are many benefits to ePortfolios:
  • Students are essentially creating their own book of stories, poems, reading response letters, and eventually multi-media compositions.
  • Students are motivated--they eagerly add text and images to their ePortfolio.
  • The ePortfolios are easy to update anywhere there is a computer since they're on the Internet.
  • The ePortfolio system facilitates regular teacher commenting and updates.
  • It's easy to differentiate as there are many entry points with this exercise and room for unlimited reading, writing, research and presentation growth and creativity.
  • Unlike paper/pencil, it's much easier to edit and write with skill and depth in real time.
  • Family members and friends far and near can easily access students' work with permission.
I must say, I was a bit nervous about the task of facilitating the creation of 22 student ePortfolios with my class.  As I always do, I created one for myself first.  Doing the project myself always gives me an inside view of what it takes for project creation. 

Then I transfered my process into a number of steps for student creation.

Students created their ePortfolios similar to the ePortfolio I developed this summer. 
  • Students logged into their student Google account, opened a site, picked a template, chose privacy settings, uploaded a photo (taken just minutes before on PhotoBooth) and saved the site.
  • Next, they added text to their home page: All About the Author.  Students also added the following pages: Free Write, Self Portrait Poetry Anthology, and Reading Response Letters (I like the announcement template best as it allows a new post for each entry). Later in the year students will add more pages and images.
  • Then students shared their site with me.  We updated page settings to include comments and updates so that each time a student updates his/her site, I receive an email about it.  I respond to students' writing regularly.
Originally, I was going to add writer's craft to the ePortfolios, but I decided to use a blog for that so that students could read each others' craft practice.  Students will be able to access each others' ePortfolios at a later date to read and view longer compositions (written and multimedia).

This is a new project for my class and me.  The students' enthusiasm, creativity, sharing and writing has been amazing.  To date, this is an empowering and engaging project. One that requires plenty of time upfront to practice using the site as it takes time to remember how to log in, edit pages, write and add new pages.

Let me know if you have further suggestions or ideas related to ePortfolios.  I've added a few technical notes, teaching tips and templates to guide your work should you decide to embark on this endeavor. 

Google ePortfolio Technical Notes: Creating and Editing Pages
  1. Log into computer, Log into student Google docs.
  2. Open Google Sites.
  3. Open your ePortfolio. 
  4. Click create Page.  Use an announcement page.  Name it. Save page.
  5. Go to Other Options. Click Share...  Add teacher email. Save.
ePortfolio Teaching Tips
  • Adding images to entries enhances students' comprehension and inspires better writing.
  • Allowing students to share exemplars prior to tech workshop and ePortfolio work inspires enthusiasm and high quality work.
  • Adding comments that include descriptive praise and writing tips effects better writing and responses.
  • Make the time to teach spellcheck techniques as well as word definition and thesauri tools.  Snappy Words is a fun and useful thesaurus/dictionary to use.
  • Create a table or chart to monitor students' ePortfolio work.  On the chart you can list names, notes and teaching targets.
  • Get into the habit of monitoring the ePortfolios daily.  Add comments to students' pages and note students' needs and progress on the monitoring chart for classroom conferences and teaching.
ePortfolio Guiding Templates and Instructions