A month or so ago, I wrote a post entitled ePortfolios in the Upper Primary Classroom? I’m now investigating using the concept with upper primary stage children in Carronshore Primary School. The children are Primary 6 stage and last session they were given their own wiki space which they used to record some things they’d been learning in class. I want to carry out a wee bit of research to see if it’s possible to use the same type of wiki to create an ePortfilio.
Before I meet with the children, I need to decide on the purpose for the ePortfolios, and what sort of template design would be appropriate. I’ve already decided to use the basic PBworks academic workspace with the children because they are familiar with the layout so don’t need instruction on how to use it. The children are also familiar with a number of free online tools and how to embed these in to a wiki. As I’m not based in the school at the moment, I think it’s important that a teacher there is involved in the project. The class teacher isn’t familiar with using any type of online spaces, but Evelyn W, who is currently teaching art in the school has just begun to look after the Carronshore Blog, and is keen to be part of the ‘experiment’.
Before deciding on the structure of the ePortfolios, I’ve done a bit of background reading (again) and come up with some ground rules for myself. These ideas are taken from a variety of sources and are not listed in order of importance:
- The first page should contain an overview of the eportfolio and provide an explanation of the overall goals.
- Reflection should be the ‘heart and soul’ of the ePortfolio
- Be wary of learners focussing to much on technology skills, thereby puting less emphasis on the content
- Guidelines as to what is to be included shouldn’t be too prescriptive
- The children should feel they have ownership of the ePortfolio
- There should be a structure in place, but this should allow freedom for creativity
- The learning takes place in the constructing of the ePortfolio, rather than in the end product
- Children need to be introduced to the concept and given clear reasons for constructing an ePortfolio
- Children should be given regular and useful feedback on their reflections
I also think it would be beneficial for me to revisit my own experience of using online spaces with upper primary stage children. These spaces were not ePortfolios – but I think that parallels can be drawn. At the time, background reading helped me to gain a clearer insight and the thoughts that follow have been influenced by; Buckingham, Stern, Lafferty, Green and Hannon – and others………….. that’s the disclaimer bit (I’ll not refer to them individually here).
Every primary 7 pupil was given the opportunity to personalise their individual blogs. The children chose their own theme and created avatars. This helped them to gain a sense of ownership of their on-line spaces - they were allowed to play and experiment with them. They were, in fact, testing out different versions of current and possible identities Up until then, the main audience for their online spaces was themselves, but they were also eager for peer approval during that stage.
So - when setting up the ePortfolios for the primary 6 children, Time will need to be given so that the children can customise their wikis. There won’t be as many themes to choose from, but they will be able to use various online tools to help them establish ‘ownership’. For example, activities such as making vokis and designing weemee characters might be useful here.
Once their new online spaces were ‘designed and furnished’, the children were free to choose the content of their blog posts and wiki writing. The informal learning that took place happened primarily by means of experimentation rather than by following external instructions and directions.
Although, the ePortfolios will be more structured than the blogs and wikis were, the children will be involved in the planning stage so that they can have a say as to what that structure should look like, and as to what sort of content should be included.
Guidance was given by providing a sense of online audience by submitting comments on the children’s posts regularly. Offline, new interesting posts were shared with the children. This had the effect of influencing the others to add to their own blogs – often on a similar subject. They acted as role-models for each other. The children were asked if sharing their online writing in this way helped them to get to know each other better:
- “In our blogs, we’re allowed to write about what we want to write about, so we’ve got to know each other better”
- “Some people in class don’t talk very much, but I can read their blogs and find out more”
- “I feel as though I know my friends even more now because of what they write on their blogs”
- “I like when we read the stories that people in our class have written on their wikis, and how good they are”
- You get to know what peoples thoughts and dreams are through their stories on their wikis”
By adopting a similar approach, I hope that it will provide opportunities for reflection and self-assessment … key ingredients for building successful ePortfolios. I also hope that this sense of audience will increase motivation.
I suppose that an important difference between the blogs and wikis that I’ve used with children in the past and the ePortfolios that we’ll set up soon, is the clearer motive for creating them. This will be discussed at the outset. Goals will be set initially to help establish a sense of purpose.
I hope to have my first meeting with the children next week and when I get the ePortfolios up and running, I’ll give a wee update as to how things are going at the TeachMeet Falkirk event next month!