I have recently drafted a “vision” of our school project. I would love any feedback, thoughts, or questions on the process.
Forest Green School is located in Stony Plain, Albert and is a K-6 school with Parkland School Division. We have three school sites, including Forest Green School, Connections for Learning (K-12), and Brightbank (K-6). Each site is separated in distance and serves a wide range of families and needs, but we are connected through our staff and online practices between our students.
We have developed an Eportfolio project that is focused on deep, critical thinking activities with the infusion of technology. This project is done by all grades within our school community from K-12 at all three sites. Not only will each student have their own blog/portfolio that will be maintained throughout their time with Forest Green School, it will also be transferred for their own use as they move on to other schools, or transition into the workforce. This will be a collection of their work and will be maintained as they progress through our school. Teachers and administrators, leading by example, maintain their own blog that serves as not only a way of communicating with our school community, but also as a way of promoting deep critical thinking activities in an online, collaborative forum. Through this project, our school will host over 500 staff and student blogs on our website, http://forestgreenschool.ca.
At Forest Green School, we want our students to be innovators, thinkers, collaborators, and strong citizens who lead and serve. Through our school-wide eportfolio project, we felt that we would be addressing all of these needs. The project is focused on empowering our students to be self-directed learners who have the opportunity to have a space that they will be able to create, modify, and extend their learning not only on curriculum objectives, but their own passions and interests as well. We envision our students will increase their deep critical thinking skills through the opportunities created through this project through a collaborative process, while being able to link and share ideas with one another. Students will not only have opportunities to build their critical thinking skills, but they will also be able to create a strong digital identity and ensure they emulate strong digital citizenship. Through sharing their passion, students will be showing leadership in their chosen interest areas. As the project progresses, they will not only share their passion and leadership with our school community, but also with others around the world.
As this is a very ambitious project, there were several challenges that we have had to overcome. This is an entire school initiative and it is being implemented from grades K-12. Since we have all started this project together, there was a steep learning curve for our staff. Through a technology integration coordinator, technology team, and critical thinking team, staff received time and support to learn how to implement these initiatives in the classroom. Our critical thinking team works with staff and students during class time, to focus on job embedded professional development to have a strong understanding of how this project will deeply impact the development of student learners. It was the belief of the school that if we are to expect the students to fully immerse themselves into this project, staff must also join them. Through staff blogs, parents can not only have a full understanding of what is happening in the classroom, but they are able to partake and have conversations regarding our journey. Through this common understanding, we envision this to be more than a school, but a community of learners working side by side.
The Forest Green blog/portfolio initiative is not meant to be a one or two year project, but a continuous endeavour that will be maintained for the duration of a student’s time at Forest Green. Every student will have the opportunity to create and develop a growth portfolio that will be maintained through all grades. Currently every single classroom and school site has a blog that models what is expected. Every student will have some form of a portfolio, but like a resume, it will be continuously updated to show evidence of success. You will be able to see all staff/classroom blogs at http://forestgreenschool.ca, but individual student blogs will be open only to our school community.
Through our cross-site collaboration project, you will see parents, staff, and students from different sites commenting and sharing their knowledge with each other. As the vision is to build a learning community, it is fantastic to be able to see all stakeholders working together in this open format, while also building strong digital identities that will continuously be formed in a positive manner. Parents, staff, students, and the global community working together is evident within our project and we are proud that are students have an authentic understanding of what it means to be 21st Century Learners.
As we move forward, we want this to be more than one or two year project, but something that is maintained and developed for many years. Through the process of working together as a staff, we will build capacity within the school community. Only new staff will have to adjust to the process, but they will be able to learn from everyone, as all other staff will understand the process. Even though students from K-2 will not be creating blog/portfolios this year, they will have the access to their teacher blog in which they will have a solid understanding of not only best practices using this technology, but will also help to build their own digital identity. They will begin to document electronically growth in some areas.
To ensure that this practice has the ability to be maintained past the years the student has attended our school, all students will have the opportunity to download and then upload their entire portfolio within a few minutes to a third party site. Parents and students will then assume full responsibility for their work, but are then able to use this as a portfolio to further their future learning, while also being used in the workplace.
We are very excited about the future of this project. The essence of this project is that it is something that is continuous past schooling and gives students opportunities to become developed critical thinkers, creators, while building a positive digital identity. They will also have the opportunity to learn not only from their teacher, but to all that have access to their portfolios. Through these conversations, students are more likely to develop the skills they need to be successful citizens in whatever path they choose to follow.