Tag Archive | Portfolios

Soaking Up November

Being a techie teacher I was quite excited when @JudyArzt invited me to her class for a Skype session with Alan November!  I use his book, Empowering Students with Technology, in two of the courses I teach and read it myself as a graduate.  @JudyArzt and I agreed that she and I would be mum during the Skype interview so that the students could ask their questions.  Can I just say how hard that was for me?  I was definitely using my wait time because when it comes to tech I can definitely monopolize the conversation, and having Alan November there to chat with I so easily could have done that!  I did get two questions in, as a follow up to his responses to others’, but focused on capturing the conversation on Twitter.  The Storify of those tweets is here, but I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a few things he said.

One of the first questions was asked by @reisc25 about parent involvement.  Alan’s point struck me, not because of the tech solutions he provided, but because of how he removed it from tech.  Here I am, this teacher that strives herself in using technology to keep parents informed (Twitter, Facebook, website, Evernote) and have used DVD in the past, but these simple tips are just that…simple!  Not to mention that they are a fab way to maintain student relationships!

Another student asked at what age to put children’s work online.  I know that not everyone will agree with him, or me, but I felt validated.  I am of the mind that we should have children online as soon as possible.  If they can click their way through their parents’ smartphones and tablets, then they are ready to click their work online.  With the advent of touch technology, doing such things makes working with tech intuitive for kiddos.  In addition to that, I firmly believe that if we get kiddos on social media in particular then digital citizenship skills will be like breathing.  I say social media because when I think of putting student work online I think of portfolios, and immediately think of social media because of the reflective piece of portfolios and the learning process.

With all of the chatter going on in education about assessment and accountability the next question was pretty timely.  This student asked about whether Alan foresaw there being an assessment for technology, and how kiddos would fare with state and national assessments going tech.  His responses are below, but the rebel in me found his comment about no standards interesting.  But it also got me thinking.  If tech standards would be obsolete, than what about other standards?  Tech makes so much possible that doesn’t it make all other content standards obsolete?  He also commented on keyboarding, and I whole-heartedly agree with ditching cursive and replacing it with keyboarding.  He suggested some alternatives for kiddos to practice that skill, and I will be posting about an idea I kidnapped from someone about ten years ago that would also be an inexpensive alternative.

Thanks to @JudyArzt for the invite!  Thanks to @globalearner for taking time out of his day to Skype in.  And thanks to EDUC584 for asking thoughtful questions!  I appreciated the learning experience!


Pin It!

Thanks to a friend, I am now a pinner.   When she first sent me the invite I was at a ‘not another social network’ stage.  But then she kept sending me links of things that she found on Pinterest.  And so I decided I should take a peek.

First, Pinterest is a site built upon collecting things that interest you and sharing that with others.  You can collect images, videos, sites, blogs, games, purchases.  Whatever you choose.  And teachers are well known for collecting. It allows me to collect sites in a visually appealing way; there has to be an image associated with what you pin.  And because I work with younger children I know the importance of meeting the needs of a variety of learners, the combination of visuals and text are helpful!  Of course the educator in me couldn’t help but start thinking about all of the educational things I could do with it!

Professionally, I’ve begun boards related to digital citizenship and kind-heartedness.  Pinterest is a perfect site to collect articles, websites, and what-not around topics that are important to you.  For me it is digital citizenship and anything that inspires kiddos to be kind to each other.  But I’ve also been able to collect curriculum related resources.  I love how this allows me to connect to fellow educators in another way (in addition to Twitter).  I’ve followed a few more education blogs since I’ve started pinning, too!

Now…in the classroom…I see a great deal of potential for it.  I am an avid of Symbaloo.  I have a great deal of Symbaloo webmixes on my classroom website.  I like that I can create visual buttons for all of the users to access.  But here is the problem, oftentimes I like to pull out a few of those resources for my kiddos to access.  For example, when we are learning multiplication facts I like to pull out specific games that will let my kiddos practice them in a fun way.   I often use Tumblr to aggregate those resources, but I really would prefer to provide them with a visual.  Pinterest would allow me to do that!  I can pull together specific games related to time out of all of the time games I have and post little notes on them so that they can determine which would be best for them!

Those are all great ways I can use them as an educator, but are also some stellar ways for my kiddos to use them.  Did I mention that there’s an app for that?  Whether you use Android or Apple there is.  This makes the application much easier to integrate in the classroom.  Here are a few ideas I have for how it could be used by students:

    • Student Portfolio ~ I currently use Evernote in the classroom as a student portfolio & do love the multi-modal capabilities.  But I could just as easily see this be done with Pinterest.  Students could take a snapshot of their work, upload it, and then write a reflection.  They could also video record their reflection and post it.
    •  Research ~ They could gather resources for a research project and write their notes right on the pin.
    • Share Books ~ They could post images of the book jackets, rate them, write book reviews, develop theories about characters.  Speaking of characters…
    • Character Pinterests ~ They could create boards that demonstrate their understanding of a character or historical figure.  For example (we happen to be reading Despereaux) they could locate images of light and revenge to demonstrate what is important to Roscurro the rat.
    • Timelines ~ They could develop a timeline of a typical day of a historical figure (we happen to be exploring Native Americans) and post images that demonstrate what things they would most likely do during a day: hunt, skin, tend to the corn, etc.
    • Scientific Procedures ~ Couldn’t they capture images of the process they went through during an experiment and capture their notes of it along the way?
    • Problem Solving ~ They could do the same for explaining how they solved a mathematical problem.
    • Explore Language ~ What a fun way to create pictorial representation of vocabulary and/or phonetics they are currently exploring? It could even become a visual dictionary for them!!!<span style=”color: orange;”>Student Portfolio</span>
    • Digital Story Telling ~ Pull together images and write captions to pull together a cohesive story.  They could do the same thing with non-fiction writing and create an infographic!!!

I am sure this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I’m also thinking it would be a good way to group together student projects instead of listing them on my website.  When they all publish something, I could pull them together on a board and make it one-stop shopping!  I would love to hear some ideas of how you have used or would use Pinterest with your students!


I have to say how much I adore Weebly. It has a user friendly interface with a simple drag and drop working. I have been using it as my website host for about five years now without regret. I am able to include a variety of media while sharing what occurs in my classroom and engaging my students in content rich critical thinking. It also has been an amazing tool for my students to create their own websites that reflect their learning, or a portfolio (aka e-folio). So…it goes without saying that this decision is difficult. I am strongly considering switching the application my students use for their portfolio to Evernote. There are many reasons impacting this decision, none that have to do with Weebly.

One of the major decisions impacting this is how strongly I value reflection. An invaluable part of the learning process that helps learners grow because they are making decisions based on their own experiences. In order for reflection to be effective it needs to be ongoing as well as both private and public. While reflection is built in to every aspect of the day, I want more of that reflection to go beyond the classroom walls and to their parents. Knowing that I can only control what happens in my classroom, e-folios are a perfect way to do that.

But…because of technology issues (my school is fortunate to have more than most) doing so regularly is difficult. By the time the Netbooks turn on and every thing is logged in…ten to fifteen minutes have gone by. That is time we could have been better spent. With the Evernote app available on mobile devices, including the iPod and iPad this dramatically cuts down on boot up and log in time.

Because I want my students to be able to use evidence of their learning in various formats Evernote allows them to do this seamlessly. Weebly allows them to do this as well, but I have yet to find a way to share audio, video, or picture files with primary aged students that is simple and time efficient. Evernote will allow them to take pictures of their own work and record comments of their work in audio or text format. This provides a natural way to differentiate and meet the various needs of my learners.

More ❤ for Evernote

I know I have chatted up about Evernote before (here and here), but I have to share yet another brilliant use for it! In another recent post I chatted about some ways my friends and I share learning in a project based classroom.  I’m not quite sure why I didn’t think of it before, but here is yet another spectacular way to use it … share student work with  parents. 

If your students do a great deal of work online, like mine do…send a web clip to Evernote.  Have a folder set up for each child, or parent and set that notebook up to be shared with the parent.  They can access it and view what their child is or has been working on online.  Now because I am a goodreads and e-folio fan this makes it nice for me because I provide my students with feedback right there as well.  Which means their parents can see and leave feedback, too!

My kiddos aren’t online all of the time, but a lot of the other work they do, is done collaboratively or in notebooks.  While one notebook (Readers / Writers Notebook) goes home, others don’t.  That’s a lot of work they may not see.  When I’m walking around conferring with my students I can quickly snap a pic and add it to the Evernote notebook! 

Also, I don’t know about you, but in my state we are RtI (SRBI) crazy.  We are tracking the work we do with struggling students.  Parents often want to know what their child is struggling with and how they are being helped.  Two things can happen here: pictures of the student engaging in the individualized instruction or the documentation of their progress. 

Again, a great tool for parents to answer that question that kiddos struggle to answer, “What’d you do in school today?”  Some may believe that by sharing all of this you are giving parents too much power.  But I’m of the belief that if we aren’t doing anything wrong, then why aren’t we sharing?  Plus, all parents want the absolute best for their child.

Sharing PBL

I began teaching in 2001 and that is when I fell in love with Project Based Learning (PBL).  The longer I teach, the more immersed I become in PBL and the less I rely on worksheets and textbooks.  The same is true for the integration of technology.  I began my journey with technology integration in 2008 which has gradually decreased a reliance on paper and pencil tasks.  While this means that I am working at engaging my students with relevant tools, it also means that there are some unconventional practices occurring.

One problem is that grades are not the means for student feedback.  For some this can be difficult because that is what students have experienced in the past and that is what their parents are familiar with.  Despite my own crisis in faith with rubrics, I value them for communicating expectations.  This can be difficult for some as well because it too is different from a grade.  Because of these two things, I often provide feedback verbally, in a 1:1 and/or small group situation.  Sitting side – by – side my students, engaging in conversation about what they are currently doing.  The other problem? Very little paperwork goes home.  For some this can be difficult because papers are seen as evidence of teaching and learning.

For teachers who value PBL how do you inform parents about what’s happening in the classroom?  Here are a few ideas that a few friends and I have used over the years to keep parents informed.

  • Newsletters: a 1-sided sheet that shares what is happening in the classroom
  • Home Journals: a notebook that goes between home and school allowing the children to write a letter to their parents outlining what they’ve learned during the week
  • Websites: a central place for messages and publicly display student work
  • Weekly Folders: a folder that gets sent home with any notes and/or work that has been completed
  • Rubrics: send a copy home before, during, and/or after a project/task
  • Copy Student Work: take pictures or photocopy student work, during and after task completion for parents to see the work ‘in progress’
  • Events: invite parents to project culminations; plays, museums, walk-throughs, poetry slams, author’s chair, etc.
  • Social Media:YouTube, Twitter, Facebook (and more) are forums to send out quick bursts of information about what is happening in the classroom before, during, or after it happens.
  • Progress Reports: postcard that highlights a student’s current achievement on assessment

I would love to hear how you hear keep families up – to – date with what’s happening in your classroom!

Ten Minutes or Less

I remember the first few years I began implementing a workshop model. No matter how much I or the kiddos enjoyed it I always felt overwhelmed. Those of you who do workshop model probably know exactly what I’m talking about. And it had nothing to do with implementing the workshop model.

Every night I carted home twenty or so notebooks. If it was your book shopping day I was collecting your notebooks. Your Readers’ Notebook. Writers’ Notebook. Math Notebook. Inquiry Notebook. About five kiddos book-shopped each day, so about twenty. There’s the obvious strain from the weight of the notebooks on my teacher bag and shoulders.

But the strain I felt the most was on my time. Each night I carted those notebooks home. And each night I would spend hours reading the notebooks. Searching for the most recent work. Reviewing student work. Assessing student work. Hours. And some nights I couldn’t possibly get through all of the notebooks so naturally my work load would increase the following evening.

These last two years, since implementing technology into my classroom, all that has changed. There are numerous benefits for my students, but to my free time…Woah, Nellie! Ten minutes or less. And that is for my entire class. Yes, my entire class. Each day my students read and respond to text. Each day they solve complex mathematical problems. Each day they reflect on scientific, geographic, or historic concepts. Each day my students write. That creates approximately 100 pieces of writing for me to review. But with the technology I use, it takes me about ten minutes to read the writing of my entire class. In about ten minutes I can review my students’ mathematical thinking.

It started last year when I began to implement a blog during Math Workshop and Inquiry Workshop and Twitter during Inquiry Workshop. Using these tools I was able to quickly see where my kiddos were at. The blog I use through Weebly allows me to see all the comments in one shot. Twitter allows me to create a list so I can view a stream of only my students. This year I have been able to expand on this with a couple of other tools.

Goodreads. I can not say enough about this virtual bookshelf. Goodreads is good stuff. not only can my students create bookshelves of what they’ve read, are reading, and want to read but they can also rate and review books. Every day I can see what my students are reading and thinking about the books they are reading. The one thing that Goodreads let’s us do is the thing I love the most. Have book talks. I’ve created a group for my class and pose questions for them to respond to; just like a stop and jot. Just like a blog, all of these get sent to my feed and I can immediately see what’s my kiddos are thinking.

Goodreads also has a writing option, but I am leaning towards Notes on the iPod. First, because Goodreads is working on having that option available on mobile devices as they do in their desktop application. Second, because my students can use Notes as an ongoing Writers’ Notebook, and then email me selected entries that they are working on. In addition to being able to meet with half to all of my students during learning, I can review and reflect on the day’s learning quickly.

-Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

My Teacher Bag

Today began my tenth year of teaching. And in those ten years I have collected a great deal of bags. Teachers seem to like bags, or companies and organizations seem to think they do, and so anytime I attend a conference a new bag is added to my collection.

There must be something to that perception because I have friends and colleagues who walk into and out of work with, at minimum, three bags filled to the brim. Every day. Bags stuffed with papers, books, lesson plans, and grade books.

This year, since June-ish, I have been in a purging mood. Trying to get myself into a ‘less is more’ frame of mind. So I figured that I would start the school year in much the same way. Other than my lunch and plenty of bottled water all I brought into work with me today was this:

It’s really all I need: conferring notes, rubrics, lesson plan notes, access to student work, books… Not to mention I can keep up to date with work emails and memos if needed. It was quite nice bringing home only a bag filled with empty water bottles (will work on that next). And my shoulder thanked me.