You do not always expect the first workshop, on the first day of a conference to be a slam-dunk, but my 8:00 A.M. Thursday morning session was awesome.
Every bit of information that I collected at the Garrison Forest School workshop on electronic portfolios, presented at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) annual conference in Philadelphia, will help me start an e-portfolio project at my school. As the four presenters shared their many resources and described their electronic portfolio research, my mind zoomed ahead to my return to school — all this before the end of the first hour of the conference.
I’ve been thinking about helping teachers and students create e-portfolios for some time, but with so many factors to consider and so much to figure out, I’m always a bit stumped when I think about the extensive collaboration that needs to take place. The benefits for teachers, students, and parents are clear, but the process takes an enormous amount of time to plan and carry out, and time is always at a premium. Yet we all know that twenty-first Century learners need to be able to think about, examine, evaluate, and extend their work if they are to be, well — better 21st Century learners. E-portfolios support this learning process.
Interestingly, about two weeks before this conference, two teaching teams that I support indicated – out of the blue — their interest in developing some sort of electronic portfolio project, so I am fortunate to have a small group of educators who want to get started. This workshop has essentially handed me the knowledge as well as a map to lead me.
At e-Portfolios: Teaching Students to Curate and Manage Their Digital Footprints, Garrison Forest technology team members provided an overview of the basic steps that a school needs take to start a program — the decisions required, the strategies they tried, and the options that they did not like as much. The presenters, representing the PK – grade 12, shared stories about the problems that popped up during the initial planning and implementation, and they also spent time speculating about the challenges that they expect to encounter down the road, as their e-portfolio program matures. Each person shared examples that illustrate how a different student age group and their teachers were using their online portfolios.
When the Garrison workshop finished up, people all over the room began chatting with one another, continuing the conversation about getting started with e-portfolios in their schools. “This workshop has organized the information for me. It’s completed a lot of the homework for me. I can go back to school and use these resources to get started,” commented a woman sitting next to me.
The teachers from Garrison gave us all a head start, and they did it with enthusiasm, collegiality, and grace. They could take this presentation on the road. Now, however, it’s our turn.