Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sharing my Classroom Part 3: Grade 8

This post, and the next two posts on my blog have been in draft format for over 2 months! I need to post them, get them out there and then I have them off my conscience. They are part of a series that includes sharing my classroom part 1 and part 2
I am determined to get this written up for these reasons:
  • I can share what I was doing in my own classes last year, and I taught across 5 year levels
  • I have an historical record via this blog of development in pedagogical approach
  • I am leaving a legacy, or at least more descriptive details, of classes that I used to run but this year pass onto colleagues to shape and format as their classes
Grade 8 - Digital Portfolios
Digital portfolio creation is a particular passion of mine. I am an avid supporter of Dr Helen Barrett and followed the research and work done supporting digital portfolios using different mediums. I spent hours years ago creating a curriculum and putting it on a blog, only to have it lost in the virtual world through schoolblogs becoming defunct (I have backups). My own digital portfolio has evolved from this static version (about to die for good soon) to this wiki version.

I am also an avid supporter of Bernajean Porter and her Digitales site. I hope to find time this year to explore and learn more about Shaherazade in Second Life and the development of digital storytelling using a virtual medium.

So, taking the digital portfolio concept of publication, artifacts and reflections I have added a dose of digital storytelling (in a very minor way in this example) and asked students to create a portfolio using a wiki and other Web 2.0 tools with the addition of a personal video/story as a personal artifact to share with the viewer.

The curriculum is on the class wiki and is written for an MYP Technology class (Middle Years Programme, IBO).

Unit 1: Digital Portfolio
This unit follows the IBO MYP Technology curriculum guide

  • Area of Interaction: Homo Faber
  • Guiding questions: How can I showcase my experiences and work as a student here at Qatar Academy to a wider audience? How can I best document and reflect on the learning process in order to develop and grow as a learner? How can I best communicate my growth as a learner to my audience?
  • Learning objectives: All students in Grade 8 at QA will create a digital portfolio this year. This will be used to showcase their individual learning and to share artefacts, reflections and experiences with their family and other members of the QA community.
Students started by setting up a blog, a delicious account and exploring other Web 2.0 tools such as Animoto. Then, following the MYP design cycle they investigated, designed, planned and created their own portfolios.

One of the most powerful aspects of a portfolio, and this can be done in different ways using digital tools, is sharing reflections about progress as a learner. From the curriculum wiki here is how I set up the reflection part.

Writing a Reflection
Each artifact on your digital portfolio should have a reflection. Once again, be creative about this. A reflection can be written in 3 paragraphs however, if you have uploaded an essay for example, maybe your reflection could take the form of an image (with text) or a PowerPoint embedded on the page, or it could be an audio/video file.

As a suggestion the reflection can cover these three areas:
  • What? - Describe what the work is about. For example, this presentation is about a country and the requirement was .......Make sure you talk about what was expected for this work and what time it took you to complete it. Was it a group project? What input did others have to this work?
  • So what? - Now talk about why this piece of work is significant. Is it something you are proud of? Is it something you received a high grade for? Is it something developmental that helped you reach a new level in the subject? In other words why have you chosen THIS artifact for your portfolio?
  • Now what? - Now talk about how doing this work has improved you as a learner in the MYP program. Has it helped you organise your time and work efficiently? Has it demonstrated that you are capable of doing mathematics and so now you have a lot more confidecne than before? What are you now going to do with the new knowledge and skills you have gained from doing this work? How is this moving you along the path of life?
The final stage of the design cycle, evaluation, is also important as this gives students a chance to peer review each others work. One way I have set this up in my class is as a formative assessment excercise. Students created a personal blog post, describing thier portfolio and discussing some strenghts and weakneses and providing a hyperlink to the portfolio. Their peer then posted a comment to the blog post after reviewing the portfolio.

Examples of Digital Portfolios: Grade 8 0708 Qatar Academy
Many more examples can be found on the digital portfolio school wiki, howevere here are my favourites for last year.

Ali - Good use of Web 2.0 tools, video gives us an insight into his life
Burhan - interesting use of multimedia
Dale - Good variety of artifacts, images and reflections. Shows internationalism
Karen - Blog - vibrant, good video
Lara - An excellent example of creative graphic work and use of Web 2.0 tools
Some others to explore include:
Layanne - Blog, Leila, Maryam - Blog

Useful Web.2.0 resources for digital portfolio creation:
  • Wikispaces - a great way to publish instantly and focus on content as well as web publishing skills as needed
  • - for uploading a PPT and embedding into a wiki
  • - for creative use of images and adding a widget to the wiki
  • Voice thread - for adding images and voice commentary via a wiki widget...very cool!
  • Animoto - for creating 30 sec videos and embedding on your blog (can then link to from the wiki)
  • To embed documents try these:
    • Scribd - Publish yourself online....good for uploading essays and other word-based documents
    • Docstoc - Upload and embed docs online
    • Issuu - You publish and embed
    • Calameo - Create and share virtual publications
The challenge with a digital portfolio is to keep it updated (sigh!). With students however I believe it should be part of what they do as an embedded activity across all curriculum areas, not just a unit of work in information technology. That is the challenge for us at Qatar Academy this coming year. The digital portfolio work will now start in grade 6 (the first MYP Year) and, with a push from the IT department, it will be part of what all teachers do. The ultimate culmination within a school is to run student-led conferences supported by digital portfolios. This is where the constructivist part and student-led learning part really comes into play, rather than the focus on the tools and the IT tasks. The opportunity to show others your progress and the learning experiences you have been part of can be a revelationary experience for both students and parents. I have seen this happen before and want to see it happen here as a distinct activity that moves teachers, students and parents away from the marks-based achievement syndrome.

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