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Course 4 Final Project

Course 4 Final Project

Cover photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Introduction to Unit

For my final project, I chose a unit that I am currently completing with the rest of the Design Department. “Remembering Your Memories with an ePortfolio”. This was a major undertaking in that we decided to work with all of the middle school (grades 6-8) and build an electronic portfolio with the kids.

If you have ever tried to get 300 kids to all to the same thing, you know how much of a challenge this was. The challenges for me were really in:

  • Keeping the kids interested and engaged. It was a teacher-contrived problem. And I wonder how this problem might have been made to feel more authentic.
  • We wanted the kids to create a portfolio. In this case, we handed them the problem and the solution. Could there be more of an authentic exploration of solutions? Or did we need something that was uniform and consistent for simplicity’s sake?

Constraints

Photo by Laurenz Kleinheider on Unsplash

My current thinking on this subject is that kids should have a system that has longevity to it; that is, the kids should be able to use this portfolio as a place to collect their work for years to come. To do this, I think there are three constraints or requirements for the solution:

  1. Easy to use. To do this, students AND teachers are going to need to be trained on this system to create ongoing buy-in for years to come.
  2. Finally, the options are going to need to solve the two problems that I mentioned above of
    1. student engagement and
    2. student discovery of the solution.
  3. Learning needs to be visibly cataloged for parents, teachers, and other students.

2 Different Options

  • Option 1 – All students need to create a Google Site (similar to what we did this time).
    • 1. I think it solves #1 in that it’s easy to use.
    • 2.1 It’s quick, so it solves 2.1 with engagement.
    • 2.2 But it takes away agency by handing the students the solution.
    • It does solve 3 by making learning visible by connecting to Google Drive.
  • Option 2 – All the students create a portfolio but they can choose from a list of possible tools.
    • 1. I would have to choose different possible tools that are kid-friendly and free. Google Sites could be one of them.
    • 2.1 I think that when there’s more choice, there is more engagement.
    • 2.2 it would scaffold students into finding the solution themselves. By MYP grades 4-5 (9th and 10th grades), the students should be able to source a problem and its solution themselves.
    • 3. My concern is that this could create considerable barriers to check in on student work. At best, students could share a link on a spreadsheet or form on how we can access their work.

ISTE Standards

Image taken from iste.org

5.a. Educators use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.

  • I was thinking that I could create videos that show screencasts on how to use the different tools.
  • I bet there are many tutorials out there that show how to use portfolio tools; I could curate a Wakelet with different tools the students could use. This would allow students to pursue option 2 with whichever tool they would like to use.
  • This is also an opportunity to create deep learning opportunities with the students. One of the tenants of DL is the idea that we teach one another, not just the teacher teaching students. Perhaps the students could also help to manage and curate how to use the resources that they choose in option 2. That is, they could teach others in some sort of forum about their chosen platforms.

5.b. Educators establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources and fosters digital literacy and media fluency.

  • I think that by allowing the students to choose from a list of tools, they could investigate and inquire as to which tool best solves their problems of (1) remembering things, (2) expressing what they know to others.
  • I could have students justify why that tool they choose best solves the problems which could enhance critical examination of the resource.

5.c. Educators mentor students in safe, legal and ethical practices with digital tools and the protection of intellectual rights and property.

  • This would be a great time and place to show the students how to stay private and manage their online presence.
  • This might also be a time to share with students how to respect intellectual property with citations, creative commons licenses, etc.

Applying Learnings from COETAIL

There are been a few influential moments in this class that are present in my current thinking. (1) The most influential element was the elements of graphic design/layout design. I can see that learning present in this unit because the students need to know how to present their ideas so that it’s easy to interpret by others. That is, they will need to think about the technical skills of graphic/layout design as they attempt to convey their learning.

(2) Deep learning, as I mentioned, could be woven into this unit through the students’ co-curation of tutorials and how-to guides.

(3) We talked quite a bit about SAMR. I’m wondering how an ePortfolio might be utilized in a way that a regular paper-based portfolio couldn’t necessarily function. A voice recording each year? A vlog? World-wide access? I would love comments on this with suggestions, actually. 🙂

Evidence of Learning

Following the MYP, I will have the students share on Google Classroom a Google Slides file that contains images with annotations of Criterion-A (research on the problem), Criterion-B (their plans), and Criterion-C (their solution) that contains their work and articulation of their technical skills.

Based on the unit I’ve just finished, this was one of the strengths of the unit.

Concerns

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I think my biggest concern is that the students are going to have more freedom with Option 2. This will, in turn, create a varied set of technical skills that our staff will have to have. This could create anxiety and the desire for simplicity. I can imagine people saying “can’t we just use one tool and make this easier?”

Perhaps, to preempt this response, I will need to provide 3-4 platform to the students while simultaneously providing appropriate faculty support, PD, and/or training.

Finally, along these lines, I think it might make things messy when people have to look in multiple places for the students’ work. I will need to think about a consolidated location for student work to live and for community members to be able to access.

Shifts in Pedagogy

I should be prepared for students to go at their own pace and allow for sufficient time. I think from the sounds of my thinking above, it’s going to contain more inquiry. I think that the biggest shift is allowing students to spend the time they need researching and inquiring about the best tool to help them remember their learning and also to express their knowledge. The biggest shift here for me is in time-management and finding the right page for the students while still allowing for uniqueness in their personal speeds and timing. I think some kids will be faster while others might need more time. I can address this by releasing all the Criteria Design Folders and allowing them to work at their own pace.

New Skills

While they might be used to inquiry, it’s still the ultimate goal. The kids will need to continue to work on researching, empathizing with themselves and their parents (the clients in this case), and also the technical skills of graphic/layout design.

Final Thoughts

Photo by Mark Duffel on Unsplash

I will know the students have been successful when they show these traits:

  • Using the language of Design Thinking (e.g. iterate, prototype, constraint, client, solution, etc.)
  • 80% of the students can score in the 5-6 or the 7-8 bands for Criteria A, B, and C.
  • Students demonstrate graphic design/layout design and perhaps evening coding skills as their technical skills.

I noticed that I gave the students 5 options for their technical skills this last time that I ran this unit. It was too many and scattered the students. It did create quite a bit of personal interest and engagement. However, it pulled them in too many different directions. I think that I could focus on 2-3 options to focus the class a little bit more.

I think that this brainstorming before Course 5 has been kind of all about that: balancing voice & choice to keep things engaging while simultaneously providing enough structure to keep the pace fast enough and the support from me to be adequate.

One Comment

  • Alex, great post and a very interesting perspective on the consistent tool vs student options. We worked through a similar process last year when we changed the way we approach portfolios in secondary. We are currently using Google Sites and didn’t give the students choice, but I’m very keen to see what path you pick and how it comes together. How do you plan on involving the rest of the faculty to ensure that the portfolio doesn’t just live with design or just just die off after a year? We are struggling with audience – we link them to reports and they play a big part of our Global Citizenship Diploma, but I’d been keen to see what ideas you all have!

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