The “E” in ePortfolio- A Reflection

This past fall our Superintendent shared with us her four main initiatives.  One of them to have every student K-12 create a living portfolio that showcases student learning.  The platform to deliver this… Google Sites.

What happened next was a concerted effort by our instructional team to help train teachers, support students and intentional time spent with students to get started.

When the educational world is in an uproar over testing and common core, ePortfolios show what can happen when effective instructional practices are in place and high expectations, married with freedom of choice, are communicated with students.  ePortfolios is authentic learning at its best.

But authentic learning aside, what happened with students is the story worth telling.

Students embraced the ePortfolios.  Eager to have choice in design and input on what would be included changed how students and teachers viewed learning.  It suddenly became about what is best about the student and not a compliance about products that “must” be included.

Follow the link below to our District IT blog to see how one student,  with teacher’s guidance, fully embraced the idea of ePortfolios and ran with it..

(Northwest ISD Instructional Technology Blog: “Making IT Click”)

 

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When Control Sinks Your Ship…

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Co-authored by Middle School Tech Club Sponsors Susan Fitzgerald, Library Media Specialist and Kirsten Wilson, Instructional Technology Coach
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In days gone by, the teacher was the sage on the stage –  the expert in the room.  Today educators are working with a population of post-modern learners with needs and learning styles that are very different from their industrial-age parents and grandparents.  Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until  2003, according to Google CEO, Eric Schmidt.[3]
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With that in mind, it is unrealistic nor good instructional practice to presume the teacher remain the expert and captain of the ship.  For motivation, passion and creativity to be fostered in students, we have to stop being the tyrannical Captain and become the endearing Love Boat Captain Merril Stubing.
When we started this voyage, the intention of the Tech Club was to foster student engagement with the district’s implementation  of ePortfolios through Google Sites.  What happened then was much like the legend of Blackbeard, in that our well-intentioned Tech Club was “hi-jacked” and the resources were pillaged for their treasure by a group of Pirate Coders.
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These Pirate Coders, a group of 7th graders, took our Tech Club premise and revamped the course.  They needed a place to congregate, collaborate and create.  Perhaps they saw something in us that we weren’t even aware was in us… but somehow they knew we were up for a mutiny on the Bounty.  They wanted to overhaul the Tech Club for the purpose of learning coding and programming and we seized the opportunity for the challenge.
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The realization that there was a treasure to be discovered was during the HourofCode.org event in early December.  It was at this point that our students began presenting self-written code that created things such as browsers, calculators with square root function, and operating systems.
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As facilitators we shared the message of coding, created an online course to help access resources and allow for collaborative discussion forums.  Every time we met they collaborated, learned, and coached one another.  Soon we knew their message and passion-driven work needed to be shared beyond our school.  Our districts technology showcase TechnoExpo was the perfect forum to share the Pirate Coders’ treasure chest of learning. To a standing-room only audience, the Tech Club presented their message of passion about coding, goals and big ideas.  They were even solicited for their autographs… our Pirate Coders were legendary.
Pirate Coders (Tech Club members)  took the helm from there.  They were ready for their next voyage… they were headed into the winds with full sails. Together the Pirate Coders knew, to achieve their goals, they would have to organize their resources.  A constitution and bylaws was written, an executive council was elected, they collaborated through their Google accounts, and a platform for sharing lesson plans on coding (including languages like batch, c++, dos, and java script),  was developed.
Who knew letting these Pirate Coders take over our ship would have taken us to this place.  We haven’t reached our destination but we are so glad we changed from the traditional educational route.  We are here to keep them in safe waters, but not keep them from taking an exciting new course.  They set the course with their coordinates.  We are here to help maintain the ship… but they are here to navigate the ship.  For that we are glad… had we not seen the beauty in the horizon, we might had never left the port.
All photographs compliments of Sue Fitzgerald and Kirsten Wilson.

[2] “Clipart – Teacher Lämpel – Open Clip Art Library.” 9 Mar. 2014 <http://openclipart.org/detail/10362/teacher-l%C3%A4mpel-by-stefanvonhalenbach-10362>
[3] “Eric Schmidt: Every 2 Days We Create As Much Information As We ...” 2010. 7 Mar. 2014 <http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/04/schmidt-data/>
[4] “The Love Boat – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 2004. 9 Mar. 2014 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Love_Boat>
[5] “Blackbeard – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 2004. 9 Mar. 2014 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackbeard>
[7] “TechnoExpo.” 2013. 9 Mar. 2014 <http://technoexpo.nisdtx.org/>

This post is also cross posted at Tech Super Coders Blog.

Delivering a Message… the Power of Video

I have been participating in the #blogamonth challenge since January 1, 2014.  I needed a “push” to keep me blogging, or so I thought.  Then I realized, through the #blogamonth website I had more material to work from than I ever thought “worthy.” Which brings me to my first “video” that I share with teachers, administrators, parents, students and, frankly, anyone.

Obvious to You, Amazing to Others by Derek Sivers 1

I most often use this video when helping students brainstorm ideas for Genius Hour, but what I am finding that this video is powerful at encouraging teachers and administrators to take risks and collaborate more transparently, move from lurker to participant on Social Media when utilized for professional development.  I believe it may even be a catalyst for “closet bloggers” who have blog posts and even private blog sites but never make them public.

The second video was shared with me two years ago by my very progressive and forward thinking principal Michael Griffin (now Executive Director of Elementary Education in my district).  This completely changed the way teachers on my campus and my grade level team approached instruction.  Interesting enough, this same video was shared with my newly formed Instructional Technology Team at the inception of the 2013-14 year to help guide our focus as we moved forward to re-define instructional technology, first for our district, and secondly globally.

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action 2

Finally, I would not be who I say I am if I did not include this final video.  Often the best videos are the ones that our own students create.  The video I am sharing is a math tutorial video created by a student on one of the campuses I support.  The crafting of the video, the variety of technology utilized and the level of engagement it demands of it’s audience makes it exceptional conceptually and technologically.  I use this as a way to share with teachers what students can do when they are given the freedom of choice and the content is evaluated rather than tool focused.

“Expert Math Project” by a 7th Grade Math Student

As a reflection, videos I select serve the purpose of learning to inspire, question and challenge.  If a video does not create a sense of urgency to be better, do better and create a passion for learning then it shouldn’t be shown; but in turn creates an opportunity for new, more dynamic videos to be created by us or, even more likely, our students.

How are you using the Power of Video to deliver your message, or even more, how are your students taking the learning goals presented to them to showcase their learning in a way so powerful others can learn as well?

1 “Obvious to you. Amazing to others. – by Derek Sivers – YouTube.” 2011. 2 Mar. 2014 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcmI5SSQLmE>

2 “Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action | Video on TED.com.” 2010. 3 Mar. 2014 <http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html>