It is the end of the school year. Both you and the students are exhausted, yet this is the perfect time to engage your students in processing and reflecting on what happened throughout the year. It is time to bring closure to the work, make meaning of the students' experiences at school, and give them a final word about their accomplishments.
This is why I chose to have students complete an electronic portfolio. An electronic portfolio is a collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a student. My students' e-portfolios tell the story of the student's work throughout their time at our site, and provide them with tangible evidence of what they accomplish throughout the four years of our program.
The final portfolios are opportunities for students to be creative as they interpret their their own work and learning from the year. As opposed to being told what they should know, as the students create their e-portfolios they have an opportunity to articulate their learning, reflect on their accomplishments and connect to their work in a more personal way.
The e-portfolio can serve to introduce a student to their next teachers, providing them with a tangible artifact to share. As the students add to their portfolios, they create the story of their learning, and can even pull ideas for further research or work later on in their academic careers. Finally, along with academic blogs, e-portfolios help students develop a positive digital footprint.
For a lot more information about e-portfolios, you might want to visit Helen Barrett's E-Portfolios with Google Sites.
The creation of the e-Portfolios is not only a worthwhile, rigorous and fun end of year project for the students, it is also tied to the CCSS standards.
Depending on the artifact selection, as students develop their e-portfolios they often explore several crosscutting concepts such as:
To engage students in the creation of the e-portfolios I present the following video.
Note to teachers: You might want to create your own, to showcase some of the work the students have done in your class. This video was created using Stupeflix, which in the free version does not include a watermark. However, even a simple timed slideshow created using Powerpoint or Google slides serves the same purpose. An alternative would also be to create s scavenger hunt of student notebooks or blogs, responding to a prompt such as, "Remember when...".
Once the video has finished playing, I invite students to have a conversation. Prompts might be "Did I miss anything?" or "What about in other classes, what do you remember from this year?"
Once the conversation ends, I tell the students that over the next several days, they will be working on developing an e-portfolio, and navigate to the document.
I explain the purpose of the portfolio as a way to encourage them to reflect on their education, and provide them with a place to showcase their work, show growth over time and document achievement. I then go over what I expect them to include in them, as well as the rubric.
Note to teachers: Since the purpose of the assignment is to have students showcase what they believe is their best work, the e-portfolio is not graded. The rubric is intended to help guide the work and ensure completeness.
This is the second year that this group of students has crafted an e-portfolio. Although I encourage the students to read through their previous work, I specifically ask that they not "correct" any work, as they will show how much they have grown since their first attempt. The document I shared includes instructions for "first years" too, as there will always be students for whom this will be their first experience.
Some things to consider when using this lesson:
1. The homepage prompt (What it means to be an AdVENTURE student) is specific to my school and situation. However, you could instead ask students to talk about career goals and aspirations, reflect on the purpose of the portfolio or their journey as a student, choose a favorite quote and explain how it guides their life, write letters to your incoming students in response to, "All you need to know about 7th grade", or even "How to survive the 7th grade"
2. I have students choose an artifact from each of their classes to reflect on. If your students, like mine did the first time around, complain about having to do this you can respond by explaining that although "your class is the most important one - wink", their e-portfolios are not really for you. The portfolios are for them (the students) and detail their journey. I encourage you to talk about how no discipline exists in a bubble, and that by showcasing an artifact from each class, they are in fact becoming better at connecting knowledge and being able to see how their abilities can be observed across the content areas.
3. I purposely tell the students that they can develop their e-portfolio in whatever webpage hosting site they are more comfortable or have more experience in. If they decide to use one that is not familiar to me, however, I might not be able to provide much assistance. On the other hand, web hosting services as a rule have many tutorials available, and there is always YouTube as the ultimate place to look for "How do I ____ on <name of service>?", so the fact that I might not know how to use it is really an opportunity for them to learn/teach me some new tricks.
Once all clarification questions are answered, the students are free to work on their portfolios for the remainder of the time until the due date. Normally I have students working on this exclusively for at least 5 class periods. However, you can extend or shorten the time as you see fit. However, I would not shorten it too much as the depth of the reflections will suffer.
I asked the students to respond to, "What do you think is the purpose of writing an e-portfolio?" This is what they said:
One of the things I enjoy about the e-portfolios is that they provide me with an insight into what the students think. Reading portfolios rejuvenates me, as it helps me understand things about my students and their experience in our program that I might not have seen otherwise. Even though the students know that I will be reading and sharing their work, they tend to be very honest in their opinions. As I read them I start thinking about how to improve my practice or how to bring life into a project or assignment that I thought would make it into the portfolios, but didn't.
The portfolios also help me connect with the students that I loop. Even though I might know about a specific project or assignment from another class, the perspective I gain from hearing the student voice as to how this or that helped them improve on something in particular gets me thinking about how to include whatever it is in my practice.
The samples e-portfolios I am including reveal things like: