Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Reflecting on Learning with ePortfolios

Finally, finally, I have met a long-standing goal of mine - starting student ePortfolios. This idea has been rolling around in my head for over a year, with no place to go until now. The catalyst was an article I read a month ago about reflecting on learning. Oh, the article's content wasn't really important nor earth shattering, but the idea of reflecting on learning was. It isn't new, but it is something I realized we don't do enough of. Best of all, an easy way to do it is through ePortfolios. Now the ideas started flowing and I knew we were going to start them. Today, we actually got our feet wet.

Last week, we dispensed with the basics - setting up a Google Site. I created two versions of directions: fast track for those who had set up a Google Site before, and a picture heavy slide show for those who had not. I toyed with creating a video, but I wanted them to do one step at a time, thus the slide show. I posted these as homework, to be completed outside of class. While I could have used some already-made tutorials, I wanted to make my own to ensure the site was created with just the home page, and a specific name (we used their initials to add privacy in case we share them in the future). The site is very, very basic. One page - the home page, set as an annoucements page so we could start with a blog post. I did this on purpose as I want to build as we go, not get bogged down in the technology side of this.

Yesterday, their homework was simply to share the site with me. I did not want 100 shared sites on my own Google Sites page, so I had them change the permission of the site to "anyone with the link can veiw", and then paste the link on a Google Form I had created. The form simply asks for their name, class hour and link. I can then sort the form by class hour and name so I have a permanent record of all the links to refer back to each time we use the site.

As I mentioned, we don't do enough reflecting on learning, in fact, we do very little. So yesterday during class, we took notes to help us write. The questions included: What have we been learning about? (Poverty in India) Why are we learning this? (Oh this was tough!) What does this topic mean to India? What does this topic mean to me? Compare/contrast my life to life in India.

Yes we struggled, and yes our answers look similar, but this was just our start. As we do this more often, and we will as I have it in my unit plan now, things will become easier. Of course, it will get boring answering the same questions each time, so we will vary them; and yes it will get boring to read 100 student's writing about the same exact topic, so the students will learn to write their own questions. However, this all takes time, and we just needed to START!

Their blog post will include one picture - a pie chart they made using this website to show one statistic on India compared to the United States - population, population density, literacy rate, etc - one of our lessons from last week. They also have to discuss this pie chart in their post - another skill we are learning.

In the future, I hope they can add projects, other technology integrations, maps, and lots more. I also want to add response forms so we can read each other's posts and leave feedback without using the comment feature (too public).  The possibilities are endless! In the meantime, I am just happy we started :)

Technology in the Classroom for the Student and Teacher

As I look at my blog, I am embarrassed that I haven't posted anything since (gasp) June of 2012. Eeek! It isn't that I haven't been using technology, I have; I am just really busy learning a new curriculum. In fact, this month I am finally teaching everything for the second time and can evaluate the lessons, tweek them, improve them etc.

In the meantime, I did present the following presentation at the Wisconsin WEMTA conference last Spring. At the time, I decided to use that as a portfolio for keeping track of the neat things we do in the classroom. That hasn't worked, so I am returning to my blog.

My presentation included using technology as a teacher with a class website, Google Docs and other resources, along with the technology the students use in my class. We are a 1:1 district and this year every student has a Chromebook that loads in 8 seconds, so we tend to take technology for granted. But I remain steadfast in using technology when it improves a lesson, not just to replace pencil and paper. Therefore, we use it sporadically and usually with a choice of non-tech use also.

Enough rambling, please enjoy browsing through my presentation.