Sunday, July 11, 2010

Learning Link Reflections Term 2

This term another teacher and myself undertook the e-portfolio journey with our classes. It was a great chance to work alongside a teacher with amazing ideas who wants to challenge where we were going with them and how they are working. Through many conversations and sharing sessions we worked on creating e-portfolios via keynote. Within this there has been some challenges and changes but mainly it has been 2 terms of hard work that paid off hugely with the student learning, collaboration and sharing.

The tech
For our e-port's we utilised a resource that the students had a basic understanding of - Keynote. Keynote is the mac version of Microsoft Powerpoint - but much more simple to use. The great thing about this was that the students weren't having to spend a lot of time on learning the technology so thus could focus more simply of the content of their Learning Links and sharing of the learning.

It was amazing to watch the students as they conversed and collaborated on their Learning Links. Often sessions would involve little direct teaching from me but rather facilitation of students helping each other. This allowed the students to build more and more confidence in the skills they had by being teachers. Students were able to hook their computers up to the projector and run small group workshops where they could share their knowledge. By the tech not being so heavy to learn and navigate it allowed the students to focus on the sharing of their learning.

Learning styles is a key area that we started the year learning about. It interested me to see groups of students who showed that they were very 'people smart' preferring to work in pairs or small groups while my 'self smart' students preferred to sit together but often didn't speak. For 2 students in particular they shared with me that their Learning Link was the best way to share their learning - they tended to be working on it in all opportunities, including their own time. All students thought that they were much better than sharing their learning via paper.

The biggest problem that we came across were the 2 following:

The crossing over of movie's from photo booth into keynote. Initially we were utilising the bonus of mac's drag and drop features but unfortunately we found that movies didn't transfer properly into keynote this way. By using the media button in Keynote to find and select movies we overcame that problem.

Because the Keynote is not an online system it meant that students had to take the keynote on and off the server to work and update their Learning Link. In the early days, as the students were learning the systems needed it meant that a lot of work was lost. As students became more confident with this we have had fewer problems with this. Ideally we both agree that an online system would be a good way to move forward and we have been investigating a range of systems.

Looking Forward...
In retrospect I can see that the students need a lot of focussed teaching on reflecting on their learning and work. The students are highly capable at choosing work that shows their learning journey and movement in core areas. In fact several of the students thought of better ways of showing their learning than I had originally allowed them. The teacher I am working alongside utilised the 6 thinking hats to help her students reflect. In adopting this idea I found that my students became more confident as they were using the hats to guide their reflections.

One thing that I worry about is that by putting hurdles up that make students explain their learning in a written format that it may mean some students aren't always selecting work they want to. Perhaps a good next step for this is trialling the students verbally reflecting via Garageband or Photo Booth to place into the Learning Links alongside the learning sample.

Overall I think that between the 2 of us we have given the students a lot of ownership over their Learning Links. They were keen to select and share the learning that they have completed over the last few terms and the parents seem to have enjoyed sitting down with the students and talking over these things at home. It will be interesting to read the feedback from the students and the parents about them too.


Allanah King said...

I wonder if you can upload the exported Keynote to Slideshare so students can share them on line.

Or... we are using Google Apps and kids are making presentations there to share and work on at home.


Miss Signal said...

At the moment the kids are taking them home via their USB sticks to share at home. But we do want something more portable. The google docs/slideshare is an option but we find that they don't transfer well into either and require a bit of moving/changing of fonts etc. My colleague found which is a pretty good site and very mac like. We think that we'll continue with the Keynotes for the year and utilise functions like notes for commenting. How are the kids finding using google docs for their e-ports?

Mr Wood said...

It is a rewarding experience and it should eventually lead towards the students choosing their own best work. Well done on all that work. I started e-portfolios with my class last term too. We used Google Sites as we have Google Apps and hoping to use them with parent interviews next term.

Allanah King said...

If the kids making their portfolios directly in Google Docs there is not concerns about the formatting not working for portability on line.


Miss Signal said...

Ak - understandable, but the kids have a lot of content in their Learning Links this year that we don't want to lose. Could be a possibility for next year, we are looking into a range of options. Would love to touch base and see how yours work.

Mr Wood - It is extremely rewarding. The students currently select the majority of their work with some guidance as to slides that they can include. We have a few slides that are reading/maths info but the rest are based on current learning. This is my 3rd year with e-portfolios and it's really interesting seeing the range of ways people are utilising different tools. Previous years were using Knowledge Net as the portal. How are you finding the Apps?

room2 said...

Thanks for this post. It is really interesting to get a look at the different ways of approaching e-portfolios. I am mulling it all over and wondering if it is at all possible and worthwhile for junior classes.

Miss Signal said...

I think it's really good to have a range of people sharing their journey and the way they are approaching their e-portfolios. I can't see any reason that junior classes couldn't undertake e-ports but it would be about finding the right portal for your kids to use. I will be sharing some information from a conference I attended and their junior students were using powerpoint to collect and share learning.

Mr Wood said...

I have found Apps easy to use and being able to add web2.0 tools makes it more dynamic and multimodal.
I choose Sites because it access can be managed and it is easy to move their e-portfolios across classes, possibly even schools.

Some down sides are the limited ability to change the look and feel of the layout. Kids love adding their stamp to things.

Miss Signal said...

Definitely agree about putting their stamp on it! That's one reason Keynote has been fabulous for them is because this can happen so easily and it is extremely flexible.

Nice with Google sites for them to be learning how to create a site though and also the knowledge that they can carry on the skills that they are learning. Thanks for sharing!

Mr Lietze said...

Hi Amanda

It has been good to read about what you have been doing with ePortfolios. Cool to hear you have someone to work with on them, I find this helps me think and evaluate things better.

Amanda you will have to explain to me what "Learning Links" are in relation to the ePortfolio. Thanks.

I like how you have been reflecting on the formats/templates that are used to guide students selection of work. This reminds me of the ones we use for student goal setting. Without meaning to we could be placing a hurdle in front of our students that slows or even "straight jackets" their thought processes, etc within the ePortfolio. Hmmm I definately want to discuss this more. I can see benefits for templates/formats in that it teaches the students what is important but as you said, it may also be a hurdle.

Keep writing Amanda!

Miss Signal said...

Thanks for your comment Jamin. Basically we call our e-portfolios "learning links". This was mainly as the portfolios currently being completed at our school are called "Homelinks" so it was just a way of keeping it close to the current system being used. Kids related to the term easily in the way it's linking or sharing our learning.

I think for me the last point you talk about is a big thing for me. As I see that some of my learners who aren't keen on writing can see the writing element as a hurdle. It's just about addressing a range of styles so that this isn't stopping the sharing. As I find often if I sit down with the students and have a conversation about the learning they have shared that I get more information and ideas from them. Maybe one way is by me having these conversations with them and annotating what they have shared. I guess we would have to be careful in the way we guide that conversation though as well.

I am thoroughly enjoying having someone to work alongside in this process and have found that we have had amazing conversations. Each time we seem to be able to bring something new or thought provoking towards what we are doing.

It's a shame that we won't be at the first e-port meeting but am looking forward to hearing more about it and taking part in future events. Thank you Jamin for all the sharing that you are doing with your processes as this helps foster the conversations too.


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