Since I had such a great time and learned so much at CUE Rock Star Tahoe, I decided to sign up for another three day session of learning and networking a little closer to home at CUE Rock Star Solana Beach, and I’m so happy I did. I will take a page from Melissa Hero’s book and write my reflections day by day so I can process today’s information before it gets overwritten in my brain with new information acquired tomorrow. Yes, I am taking notes in Evernote (one of the best tools ever), but writing about what I learned helps me make better sense of it.
The structure of the conference was the same as at Tahoe; there were ten sessions to choose from, each attendee could choose two to attend, and each day follows a theme. Today’s theme was “Getting Googley,” just like in Tahoe, but the sessions offered were different. I chose Holly Clark‘s session on digital student portfolios and Who Said Google Docs is not for the Primary Grades? with Juli Kimbley. One of the goals at my school this year is to increase communication; I thought that these two sessions would help me find ways to make it easier for teachers to publish student work online for an authentic audience.
The Power of Digital Student Portfolios
In Holly’s session, what I was really looking for were things I could take back to my school and share with my teachers to explain why they needed to have their students create digital portfolios and how easy it was to do it. I was not disappointed.
One of the best reasons to have students create digital portfolios is that it provides an opportunity to discuss digital citizenship. As students are working on their portfolios, we can teach them they about their digital footprint and how nothing online is actually private. This is key because when students post something online, whether they post it on Facebook, Instagram, or somewhere else, they are actually building their own brand, but they often fail to realize this fact. We need to teach students to think about what they are putting online. It is easier and better to create a positive digital footprint than to fix a negative one, so they need to learn how online interactions now will affect them later. This is especially key in an age when college admissions officers and prospective employers search for you on Google before they make a decision about whether you are a good fit for their school or company.
Digital portfolios also offer an opportunity to teach kids to be good global communicators. They must learn to put their work online in a way that makes people want to consume it. Simplicity is key. Just because you can use red text on a green background doesn’t mean you should.
Holly also pointed out that when work is online, both students and teachers up their game. Students produce better work when they know it will be seen by an authentic audience, and teachers will reflect on their lessons to make sure they are good enough to be used in a digital portfolio.
Holly’s recommended workflow:
- Upload all work to Google Drive
- Provide a Google Form for students to use to write a reflection
- Publish the work and the reflection on the digital portfolio
Suggested platforms for the portfolio were Google Sites (good, but can have a bit of a learning curve for teachers), Kidblogs (not live, you can choose to limit visibility to specific people), and Weebly (her favorite for ease of use and attractiveness of the result). If none of those are an option, at least the work will be stored in Google Drive and accessible. She recommended that whatever platform you select, make sure that the kids never have to click more than twice to get to their work.
One of the keys to her success was parent buy-in. We need parents to understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. If we can do that, they will be on board. Talk about what you are doing on Back to School night. Have as many meetings as it takes.
My favorite take-away from this session was the idea of creating QR codes that link to student work housed in the portfolio and posting those on the class walls instead of printing and then posting the work. Codes can also be sent home to parents.
Choose File > Make a Copy to save the planning sheet below to your own Google Drive.
Digital portfolio brainstorming sheet
Who Said Google Docs is not for the Primary Grades?
In this session led by Juli Kimbley, I hoped to find ways to have students in the primary grades collaborate and publish online. We are not a Google Apps for Education School, so I was hesitant about whether this session would be useful for me, but I decided to check it out.
Juli started out by immediately allaying my fears. A classroom account will work just fine for younger students to create in Google Drive. She suggested making the name and the password easy for the students to type and sharing all passwords with the parents.
When introducing Google Drive to young students, Juli pointed out that they must first be given the opportunity to play with it, just as they would if they were be given math manipulatives for the first time. Have them open a practice doc and type on it. Let them explore a bit.
Other helpful tips:
- Have students use a consistent naming protocol for their work, such as first name and date (Ex. Nancy 7-24-13) so that you can find it easily later.
- Have students work in pairs, especially in the beginning. This allows them to remind each other about what they need to do and how to do it.
- Ask students to do a pre-write on paper before they open a doc. It doesn’t have to be a rough draft; it can be a brainstorm, a Venn diagram, or anything else that has meaning for the student. In this way, you can avoid students sitting at the computer complaining that they don’t know what to write.
- Don’t worry about teaching proper keyboarding. Children at this age are too young for formal keyboarding instruction. That will come later.
- To help students learn beginning research skills, put information they need to access in a folder in Google Drive and let them pull what they need from there. Photos to be used in the documents can also be stored in a folder in Google Drive.
- Once a project is complete, store all the student work and any research/image folders inside a single folder. This cleans up your Drive without deleting any work and makes it easier for students to find what they need for the next project.
- Showcase one student’s work on your website every week.
By using Google Drive in her classroom, Juli said she saw improved classroom management (nobody wanted to lose laptop time), collaboration skills, and higher quality work as the learners strived to make their work as good as it could be.
When I get back to school in a few weeks, I will be meeting with the teachers to do planning for the beginning of the year. I hope to get at least a few teachers to try out digital portfolios, perhaps posting one project per trimester. For the younger students, maybe just using Google Drive will be enough. But first, I have two more days of learning here in beautiful Solana Beach.