1. We are still preparing kids for the process we went through to get into a school or get a job. It worked for us, partially because there was no other source of data on applicants. Admissions officers and employers weren’t able to contact our old school social network to see how we interact with people and they couldn’t easily look at our body work. Now they can do both within minutes of receiving your application.
    Helping our learners decide what to share publicly starts with asking the purpose of the share, the why. Is it as a showcase of a finished piece? Or, is it to demonstrate growth over time? Even better, is it to show the use of feedback to improve?
    Let’s help kids use the Gretzky Method for portfolio development, to be where employers and admission officers WILL be looking.

    • George

      Great point Patrick…just worked with a college in Virginia that is going to make “googling” candidates part of the application process. Frustrating that we seem to always be in “catch-up” mode.

  2. I agree that it is important for students to develop an online portfolio and carefully curate what appears in that forum; for me, though, the purpose of “hidden” portfolios that are limited to parent, student and teacher is to document the learning process. These include showing areas of student growth and areas for future growth, and I’m not sure they (or I) want those pieces – ones that don’t show off their strengths and triumphs – available to the general public (and, sometimes, their peers).

    • George

      Thanks for the comment Christy…I guess it depends on what you consider the “process of learning”? Is this blog not my learning as it is happening? Or is this the final product? There are things that I have written to just share my thinking and I love the notion of Clay Shirky saying that this generation is “publish than filter”, instead of “filter than publish”. There is power in showing growth as well. I love this piece showing the artists development over time as it conveys so many powerful messages of not only their work, but the growth as well.

      I agree that students may not want their “learning” to be public and should always have a choice, but is that option even available? If they truly own the learning, shouldn’t they get the say?

      • Hi George,

        I think I understand what you are saying: that the problem with private portfolios such as FreshGrade is not that they keep some things private but that they don’t allow a way to make anything public. Is that relatively accurate?

        I agree that we should have public spaces for e-portfolios (for my students, I’m working on getting them to think about doing this through blogging), and it would be nice if the public and private learning could happen in the same place, absolutely.

        I think one difference between what you’re suggesting and the purpose of FreshGrade (and I am using this to represent all similar assessment programs; FreshGrade just happens to be the one supported by my district and so the one that I understand best) is that FreshGrade isn’t solely about the learning process but also about assessment thereof. Surrey is looking at replacing grades with “communicating student learning,” with an eye to not only having students actually reflect on their learning (instead of tossing the assignment once they see the mark) but also allowing parents to see more clearly the process. There are concerns about this – parents aren’t trained to assess the way that teachers, and even students are, so their interpretations may be incomplete. However, I believe that the idea that education needs to be a collective activity with family, student and school working together, is a good one.

        As for the “publish, then filter” idea … I agree that it fairly accurately describes many people in this generation, but I also know that as an English teacher, I try to move students towards understanding that their best work is almost never their first draft.

        You’ve inspired me to blog about this idea of portfolio and purpose; thanks!

  3. The Hurley and Gretzky quote are great!!! The digital footprint is really revealing – quite often in unintended ways. Lots of advice about what not to post to your digital footprint. Not nearly enough about what to post to your digital footprint!

    Teachers need to require and facilitate the development of useful and informative e-portfolios – ones indeed of the quality that positively contribute to the digital footprint. It needs to document the evolution of learning on various topics, how that learning was accomplished, how it was assessed, AND how it was useful in addressing meaningful situations. That last component particularly documents the learning but each component is important. They make the e-portfolio worthy of sharing, adding to the digital footprint.

    • George

      So correct John…need to move away from a deficit model of thinking. Thanks as always for your comment!

  4. George,

    As you know Surrey has been working with digital portfolios as a way to document and share learning with parents. They are being used to communicate student learning in replace of reporting student learning. Unlike the blogs where my students share their learning with the world, their Fresh Grade portfolios are private. It is here that they are able to make mistakes, fail safely, self-reflect, set new goals, and celebrate success. It’s the capturing of the learning in process and being able to track, and specifically talk about the learning that has occurred over time. Their blogs showcase work they are proud of and what they want the world to see. Their assessment portfolios showcase where they are at with their learning and contains all the assessment data that goes with that learning. They are not the same. They’d never upload math that is done incorrectly for the world to see but their fresh grade portfolio is a good place to capture these failures, so that they can be tracked and the growth with learning can be documented. I do believe some things need to be kept private between the learner and those involved with their learning. I don’t see too many people publicly posting their staff evaluations on-line. Those are typically kept between the employee and the employer. Think of these portfolios as just that with the notion that we have switched from reporting learning vs communicating about learning in an on-going process. There are most certainly artifacts of completed work that are in both their Fresh Grade portfolios, and on their individual student blogs. The Fresh Grade portfolio contains contains snapshots of the journey from the teacher/student/parent perspectives. The additional child-specific assessment (formative and summative)/self reflection/goal setting piece is also key to these Fresh Grade portfolios. I agree that work needs to be shared with the world, but I don’t agree that everything needs to be shared publicly. I’d be more than willing to chat more about this. Karen

    • George

      Not sure where it is stated that “everything” should be shared. What I think is important is that there are opportunities for students to have a choice.

      This is from the post:

      “I also have the option of allowing you to see it or not. I do have spaces where my learning is for my eyes only, or in what I choose to share. Talking with educators, this component is crucial. The learner should have the option of what they want the world to see, not the teacher. The conversations that can come from this are so crucial. Asking the learner why they chose the piece of work that they did to share with the world, is a critical conversation that we are not having enough with our students, because frankly, we aren’t giving them this opportunity enough.

      Yet many of the “portfolios” that I have seen being shared now are for the school and for the parents only, with no intention of it going any further. There is power in putting your learning in one place, but are we taking advantage of the opportunities that digital allows us to connect and share our learning with the entire world, if we so choose?”

      I love the idea that they have different spaces to share as you suggested, but too often, that is not the case with these initiatives. Glad to see the example you have shared.

    • Jarrod Lamshed

      This is an interesting conversation. In our classroom, students decide what to post on their own blogs, often after some discussion with a teacher but sometimes not.

      We don’t, however, encourage a private space for rough work and public spaces only for polished work. We have private spaces and sometimes this is what happens, but regularly, students will pick a piece of work they see potential in and use their public space to ‘crowdsource’ feedback to help take their work from good to great. We regularly talk about how feedback and collaboration are to tools for improvement. Sharing drafts and soliciting a broad range of feedback helps our students to do better work.

      I agree with you that not everything has to be posted, but I think we need to be careful not to give a message that only ‘finished’ work is ok to share and that ‘works in progress’ should be kept to ourselves.

  5. Spiri Howard

    I agree with you George. It’s important to examine what and when to share student’s work. That being said, I must include a key element to digital portfolios, the importance of students reflecting on their work. Without student reflections on their learning, digital portfolios are reduced to a simple collection of artifacts. The process of reflecting is what builds student metacognition, helping them learn about their learning. Classroom work that is meaningful, and that is tied to constant dialogue between students and teachers fuels effective digital portfolios, or “memorable learning archives” (new buzz word alert!). A digital portfolio is a great way to foster that dialogue between student and teacher. As students develop expertise in reflecting and selecting, teachers benefit from a clearer picture of student learning and are better able to tailor instruction to meet students’ needs. Lastly, I loved the hockey quote…nice touch 🙂

    • George

      Yes! Yes! Yes!!!

      The component of reflection is missing so often in our “portfolios” and essentially, they just become “digital dumps”. That is why I believe having a blog allows for that reflection process in portfolios. So important!

    • Jennifer

      Great comment, Spiri! I’m only beginning this process, so I sure appreciate the positive and evaluative tone of your comment.

  6. Abraham Alarcon

    One of your best comments. A real eye and mind opener! Always look forward to your writings. Helps me think of where I want and need to be. Muchas gracias!

  7. Jarrod Lamshed

    This is a well timed post for us. We have lots of teachers blogging this year and some are ready to move to using individual student portfolios. This is one of those times where I get to take what I learned earlier and use it to improve the work we do.

    At my last school, I jumped into blogging with kids by telling them which work to post and when. I will certainly be advocating a different approach this time around.

    Letting go and allowing students to make some of these choices can a difficult thing to do! Our default mode is often to lock things down and keep the reigns short.

  8. Thanks for sparking this conversation George.
    As you know, digital portfolios and transparency reside at the core of my personal and professional learning. However, many learners are not equipped or prepared for full transparency. Our LMS, Schoology, provides opportunities for scaffolded digital practice. The user profile page includes an about me space, a blog, and a portfolio component; (3 things all students should have by HS graduation) each of which can be hidden or shared transparently with a hyperlink. Like Audrey Watters, I would like to see all of our learners provided with a web domain so they craft their learning story and build their digital footprint Indie-style. Her terrific piece here; http://goo.gl/Lqu8Fj
    I also recommend Will Richardson’s recent post, “We’re Trying to Do the Wrong Things Right”, http://goo.gl/a8fX0F Are educators choosing tools and strategies because they add efficiency to teaching, or because they add value to learning and meaning to the learner? I embrace portfolios because they provide opportunities for learners to also be teachers. Like many educators in our PLN, I embrace transparency because sharing has reciprocal value. The hidden portfolio wouldn’t be my personal choice, but for some, it provides experience, a stepping stone leading to effective transparency.

  9. […] paper portfolios to share their work with their family.  George Couros, blogged this week about “The (Nearly) Invisible Portfolio”. George discusses how many portfolios being created in schools are made to be shared with the […]

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