Weekly Reflection: Portfolios

A paper-based e-portfolio.

Sounds like a contradiction in terms.

I’m not a huge fan of paper portfolios.

In fact it is fair to say that I loathe filing bits of paper into folders with the fire of a thousand suns. Supervising a class full of kids updating portfolios feels like a form of medieval torture. Bits of paper are almost always missing or in the wrong place and my patience is in short supply.

Moreover I can’t help but wonder if all those countless hours spent updating, checking, re-checking all those bits of paper are actually worth it. Real learning is messy and doesn’t always lend itself to being filed away in clear files.

Enter digital portfolios.

In theory digital portfolios should be easier to create and curate content for the purposes of showcasing student learning. However in practice clunky content management systems and limited time on computers often add work to teachers workload particularly if you don’t have 1:1 access.

I do not teach in a 1:1 environment. Computers are a resource that I constantly have to ration in class and negotiate with other teachers to get to 1:1. Given the shortage, I’d rather have the kids spend their time creating content or connecting with others. Kids doing the same stuff on computer that has always been done on paper seems downright wasteful in this context.

My school is experimenting with different ways of reporting to parents. I decided my goals were to make my reports multi-media, child-centric and, dare I say it, less labour-intensive on me. More importantly I didn’t want to waste too much class time curating learning at the expense of actual learning.

So I came up with a plan. The kids got a Google form where the reflected on the key competencies, successes, challenges and surprises on the year so far. Those responses are automatically logged by Google and were then merged into a separate document for each kid. No faffing around with codes and an no worrying about kids accidentally deleting parts of their portfolio.

The kids also found a photo of themselves from the class Flickr site which they emailed through and I copy and pasted into the merged document. No faffing around with layout and the entire class was able to get through a session. After a quick proofread the reports were ready to go.

The students reflections were for the most part amazing. What was particularly gratifying was seeing kids who don’t normally shine in the 3Rs able to talk about successes at school. Monday tech challenges, documentary making, quadblogging and passion projects all featured in my students’ reflections.

At this point I had saved myself a whole heap of time and if I was a smart teacher, I would have called it a day and pressed print. But oh no I just had to create more work for myself.

The kids in my class have been interviewing each other once a term so I chucked the footage so far on YouTube and then created an individual QR code for the student, which I copied and pasted into the document for each kid.

And thus with a major FAIL on the creating less work for myself goal the students and I created a multi-media paper-based e-portfolio.

4 thoughts on “Weekly Reflection: Portfolios

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  1. In Canberra (Australia) – we’ve recently been informally advised that if we want to allow our students to use google docs – we have to get the permission of their parents. But for this to be legal… we need to download, print out and photocopy (…budget?) the terms and conditions (EULA) and distribute these to the parents – who have to sign and return to us… and presumably we have to store these documents…. somewhere.

    But! should these terms and conditions change… we would have to go through the whole procedure again! And apparently, this will have to be done with every web based service we might use in preparing our students for the 21st C.

    Just incomprehensible.


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