I am a huge advocate of blogs as ongoing, reflective portfolios of student work. After using them with students for the last six years in a variety of formats in three different schools, in my opinion, they are the perfect container for sharing, organizing and reflecting on student learning.
For starters, they are so amazingly easy to use. I’ve used blogs with students as young as third grade and it really only takes one lesson for them to understand the basics. Once they get the hang of posting, organizing their work in categories is a breeze and adding links and media are natural next steps. Plus, the inherent organizational structure (categories and tags), if used properly, makes it extremely easy and quick to find anything. The hardest part is ensuring that students remember to organize their posts.
In addition to the ease of use, the accessibility of connecting with other learners around the world, since work is online and easy to comment on, makes blogs a straightforward tool for building a global classroom. Considering how often our students move (usually every two years) the portability of a blog is another strong point. It couldn’t be easier to export a WordPress blog from one school’s MU to another or to the online wp.com. Finally, there’s the fact that blogs are so popular in the “real world” that they have immediate relevance to today’s media landscape.
So I was very happy that YIS had an existing blogging portal, The Learning Hub, (set up by Colin and Brian last year) when I arrived last August. However, the blogs were still so new this year that students are continuing to produce paper “folios”. Although they sound like they could be old-school portfolios, they’re actually more like folders full of tests. Not my favorite way to share and reflect on student work, but that’s a whole different issue – and one we’re working on.
This year I’ve been working, mostly with our middle school teachers, to help students utilize their blogs as a tool to share and reflect on their learning, as well as to help them connect to other classes around the world. Also, because I teach sixth grade MYP Technology, I have more time to help them develop their blogs more fully. So, in addition to helping our teachers understand how students can use them (and how they, as teachers can use them as a central portal for their classes), I’m running my own little pilot project for very simple showcase portfolios.
Basically, all I would like students to do is reflect on their goals for the year and share pieces of work that are important to them. So far, so good. The only challenge is that because blogging is relatively new here, students don’t have as much of their work already on their blogs as I would like. But that will continue to improve year after year.
Here’s the (very) simple assignment I gave my class last week (they’ve had around an hour to work on their so far):
Create a showcase portfolio page on your blog to highlight your learning in grade 6.
- Your Student Led Conferences goals
- A brief reflection on each goal. Did you meet your goal? Why or why not? Did it help you this year?
- Special pieces of work that you would like to highlight
- A visual or a link for each piece of work you are highlighting – even if you don’t have a link or a visual for a piece, you should still include it. You can take a picture of it anytime before school ends and then include it in your portfolio later
- A brief description of why this piece of work is special
Types of work that you might like to include:
- things you’re proud of
- things you did well on
- things you found interesting
- things you thought were fun
- things you learned a lot from
Steps to complete your Showcase Portfolio
- Create a new page on your blog
- Call your page Showcase or Showcase Portfolio or Portfolio
- Add a title: Grade 6 (next year we’ll add a new section for grade 7, and so on)
- Type your goals from your SLC document
- Type your reflections for each goal
- Determine which pieces of work you want to highlight – these may be the same pieces from SLC (but it’s ok if they’re not)
- Find examples for each piece of work you’re highlighting – could be a blog link, could be a picture or a video & add them to your page
- Type a description for each piece, think about:
- Why did you include this piece
- What did you learn from this piece/experience
- What are your next steps with this piece of work/experience
And here are a few (still in progress) samples from my wonderful sixth graders (please leave them a comment, they would love it!):
Once they completed their pages, I e-mailed their parents to encourage them to have a conversation with their children about their learning at home. Of course, this is just the beginning, and a very simple version at that. I’m hoping that we can continue developing this process so that next year all middle school students produce a showcase portfolio that can be built upon year after year.
What do you think? Do your students use blogs as eportfolios? What do you like/dislike about the process?
- the end or the beginning on Flickr by Darwin Bell
- Trying to Extinguish the Sun! on Flickr by radiant guy
17 thoughts on “Blogs as Showcase Portfolios”
Thanks for sharing the showcase pages. It’s SUCH a great idea to get kids to do some reflecting. My students/school isn’t ready yet to do electronic portfolios (too many restrictions still in place) but I hope we’ll get there one day. I used to be part of a portfolio assessment team in a previous school and one of the pieces I always required students to submit (remember these are hard copy portfolios – not electronic) was an example of something at which they felt they were not at all successful. I didn’t use the word fail, but the kids often said, You mean something we failed, and I’d say no – something at which YOU feel you were not at all successful at. It’s similar to the item where you ask for something where they learned a lot, but slightly different.
Almost always, the learning came when I asked them to analzse WHY they thought they were not successful. It was scary how bang on the students always were.
I totally agree that it’s so important to reflect on failure, as well as success. Failure is definitely the experience we learn the most from. I like the idea of celebrating failure (which ADEs do so well), because it takes the fear out of taking a risk. This is a good reminder for me to bring that kind of energy into my classroom as well. Failure can be fun – especially when you have a chance to learn and try again, and you take the time to reflect on how and why things turned out the way they did.
Kim, thanks for highlighting the ease of using blogs as a portfolio tool. The key, I believe, is to create a culture of blogging (and sharing and reflecting) as part of the day-to-day workings of the school. Then the showcase is truly that: a showcase of things students have already done that do not require any huge amounts of work to prepare! At the moment, our students go through an arduous process that, while important, has no bearing outside of the Student Led Conference let alone outside the walls of our school! I’m hoping to change that and will use this post as an example of how it might be done!
Clint Hamada´s last blog post ..The Cranky Teenager Stage
Totally agree. It’s going to take some time to make this part of our school culture, but I really believe in the end it will be worth it. I’m also thinking about ways we can use this kind of portfolio for teacher learning as well – not just a class blog as a way to communicate with parents and students, but similar to the way we use blogs, as a place to reflect and think out ideas, and share.
I love this post and Clint’s follow-up comment. The first level of building an electronic portfolio is to capture and save work in digital form (integrate technology into the teaching/learning process); the second level is to set goals and reflect frequently (a blog is the perfect environment for connecting artifacts and reflection); the third level is building a showcase portfolio at specific times during the school year (parent conferences? formal presentations of learning?). I discuss this process in more detail in my online article, Balancing the Two Faces of ePortfolios (2011, British Columbia Ministry of Education, Innovations in Education, 2nd Edition) http://electronicportfolios.org/balance/Balancing2.htm
I’ll be sharing your links! Thanks!
I’m honored that you would share one of my links! Thank you! This is a great description of how we can move forward, in stages, with our blogs too – it’s easy to understand how one level can lead to the next, and how the process builds a thoughtful and engaging reflective environment for learning. Thanks for the fabulous resource too – will be using this as we continue to develop our understanding (as an admin and teaching team) about blogs as porfolios.
Enjoyed your post, your approach with students and your summary of some the benefits of using blogs as the hub of your eportfolios.
For me personally it is great to see how far the school has come since I left as a grade 5 teacher in 2006. My class had electronic portfolios back then which were as Helen describes above, very much at the first level of ‘building’, not a blog but still online. We did use blogging a lot too as a class and I remember we live blogged the Exhibition one year.
The key difference of course is now blogging is becoming part of the culture of learning at YIS, rather than being isolated to one teacher in one class. This natural assimilation of blogging, as Clint has describe so well above, will lead on to eportfolios that are purposeful and seamlessly part of day to day teaching and learning.
Well supported by your leadership and vision, good resourcing and (I would imagine) some robust professional development and learning.
Look forward to future post on developments.
Nick Rate´s last blog post ..ePortfolios in the news
So fun to hear about past YIS experiences. One of my favorite things about the school is how innovative and forward thinking we are as a community. We’re not afraid to try new things, and to remix as needed as we grow and learn how to use them. It’s taken a while for blogging to take hold, and we’re still working on it, but it gets easier every day (literally). It’s amazing to see how teachers are blogging this school year with their classes, and how willing teachers are to share what they’re doing with others. Feeling pretty lucky to be working here, that’s for sure!
I just attended a technology PD about blogging and using the format for portfolios for students. What I loved about the idea is getting the students reflecting about their learning. During the school day you have great discussions and activities with students, but that does not always get communicated to home. This I felt was a good outlet for family, friends, and other professionals to see students creating new learning connections, reflecting, and being aware of their learning.
The ideas you have to set-up this up is very helpful. This will be an exciting school year to see how this comes together.
Thanks! I agree – the communication and sharing aspect of blogging is both engaging and exciting for parents and students!
I am attending a master’s in education course and learning about blogging and portfolios. Being able to let others reflect and comment on my PLN is a great opportunity. This I felt was a good outlet for friends and other professionals to see us creating new learning connections, reflecting, and being aware of my learning. Lots of good information.
The ideas you have to set-up this up is very helpful. This will be an experience to put one together. Thanks again.
Thanks! Glad the post was helpful!
Thanks so much, especially for the sample portfolios!
I LOVE having my kids do portfolios as a way of reflecting on their work over the year. Now that my students all have laptops of their own, I’d like to give them the option of something more permanent, something more portable, and something…well…cooler! Without bogging them down with too many sites (my site, my wikispace, my blog, edmodo, their site, their blogs, their wikis…) I’d like to try my hand at digital portfolios. We’ve used wikispaces before – but that didn’t allow for a lot of creativity. We’re thinking about using Google Sites – but that would just add to another in a long list of online “places” they’ll have to navigate to do their work. Your suggestion, using the blog as the portfolio, seems to be a perfect marriage of the two ideas! And, even more helpful, were your students’ sample portfolios – they look amazing, your kids should be proud of themselves!
Again, thank you all! You’ve really been a great help.
Excellent! So glad the post was helpful! Looking forward to hearing how things go with your students’ blogs!
I am a novice blogger, new to the game because I want to help our fourth graders get underway with blogging. We are also beginning student-involved conferences this year, so your post helped me connect the dots to consider how the blogs could be used as digital portfolios! Thanks so much for sharing your experience and your students’ examples.