Technology in the Classroom: Electronic Portfolios No III, 5766
Al sh'loshah d'varim haolam omed: Al haTorah, v'al ha-avodah, v'al g'milut chasadim. The world depends on three things: on Torah, on worship and on loving deeds. - Pirkei Avot 1:2
This year each issue of Vshinantam will be on a different topic in the area of technology and written by our Educational Technology Specialist, Renée Rittner. Renee received her Master's of Education in educational technology from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She also holds her MSW, MAJE, and MAJS degrees. She is currently the Director of Education at Temple Israel of Greater Miami.
Vshinantam is organized around the three pillars of Torah, Avodah, and Gmilut Chasadim. In the Torah section you will find an overview of the topic, in Avodah, applications for your classroom, and in Gmilut Chasadim additional resources.
Authentic Assessment and the Electronic Portfolio
Curriculum and lesson planning methods such as backward design have made assessment a focal point in the learning process. Authentic assessment looks at performance in real-life situations, allowing students to demonstrate their relevant skills and to analyze their own understandings. In authentic assessment students become active partners in the assessment process.
One tool used for authentic assessment is the portfolio. A portfolio is a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the students efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas. The collection must include student participation in selecting contents, the criteria for selection, the criteria for judging merit, and evidence of student self-reflection. (Paulson, Paulson, and Meyer, What Makes a Portfolio a Portfolio? Educational Leadership Vol. 48, No. 5, February 1991) Portfolios can be used not only in the short term for a given topic, but also in the longer term, across all years in school.
Portfolios can be used to:
· Show the development and improvement of a students work over time.
· Assist with teacher planning from year to year. New teachers can review student portfolios from previous years to assess the abilities of incoming students.
· Demonstrate student proficiency.
· Complement a résumé when applying for jobs by giving different examples of the individuals best work.
· Strengthen a college application. Certain universities are looking at student portfolios to determine critical thinking and self-reflection skills as well as the students potential for success on campus.
Today schools are using technology to create electronic portfolios. A leader in research and understanding of the electronic portfolio is Dr. Helen Barrett, retired faculty of the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Barrett defines the electronic portfolio as an organized collection of artifacts in diverse formats including, audio, video, graphics and text.
There are several benefits to creating electronic portfolios over paper ones.
1. The e-portfolio saves space and allows you to back-up and protect the content. The portfolio can be stored on a computer, the Web or on a disk.
2. Electronic technologies allow you to preserve and depict ideas within the portfolio using multimedia.
3. The electronic method allows for the development and practice of essential computer skills. Many of our students already feel most comfortable working in this domain.
4. Electronic portfolios also offer the ease of sharing. Those published on the Web can be easily accessed (though hopefully password protected). Portfolios saved to disk can be copied and given to family, friends, employers, etc. They can even be kept on file in a school library. You can archive all student portfolios or establish a school electronic portfolio highlighting some outstanding examples.
 While Dr. Barrett distinguishes between electronic portfolios and digital portfolios (digital portfolios contain only materials that are in computer-readable formats and electronic portfolios may also contain analog videotapes or sound), in this Vshinantam the terms will be used interchangeably. An electronic portfolio contains any type of information that can be in an electronic format, e.g. digital photos, video clips or sound bites.
Creating an Electronic Portfolio
Imagine a scenario where a schools curriculum centers around overarching enduring understandings in the areas of Torah, Avodah, and Gmilut chasadim. What might a portfolio created over the course of the students schooling look like? There would be a home page identifying the student with a brief statement of the purpose of the portfolio, e.g. to depict the students understanding and interpretation of the core concepts over time through the projects, activities, and events that he or she completes at the school. An annually updated written biography of the student along with an image he or she had chosen would be linked from the home page. Other links could include work organized by year or by category or topic. The student would be charged with selecting artifacts for each section that demonstrated his or her growing understanding of the core concepts. The artifacts might include photos of events (such as holiday celebrations or volunteer work), music learned or written by the student, scanned images of artwork relevant to the topic, papers or projects such as dvrei Torah. Each artifact would be introduced by the student explaining why he or she chose it and how it relates to the enduring understandings. The electronic portfolio becomes a glimpse into the mind of the developing student.
Electronic portfolios can be created for a finite project or over a longer period of time. They can also be retrospectively constructed as a culmination project. A portfolio might be created in the classroom with the teacher or in some instances with a technology specialist. Below we outline the basic steps for designing and executing an electronic portfolio.
For the tools to create and store student work electronically, please refer to Vshinantam No. 1, 5766, Technology as a Tool for Productivity. There is also multimedia software or templates for organizing portfolios, such as FileMaker Pro, Hyperstudio or Digital Chisel. This is the best option for use with younger students. Older, technologically-savvy students might use word processing software, presentation software (like PowerPoint) or Web editing software (like Dreamweaver or FrontPage).
Portfolios should be planned as far as which artifacts will be included and how they will be organized. Software such as Inspiration (grade 5-adult), Kidspiration (K-grade 4), PowerPoint or other software allowing for the design of flow charts and page linking may be helpful. Follow the steps below in developing and designing portfolios.
1. Define the purpose. The teacher should clearly define the portfolios purpose for the student. Either use an assessment rubric which clearly defines expectations of the portfolio or create a simple checklist stating the types of items to be included to helping the student understand the scope of the portfolio.
2. Determine the types of artifacts and the format. Explain that all of the work will need to be electronically stored and outline what electronic equipment students have at their disposal.
3. Train students on the equipment and software. Have technology available but not knowing how to use it is the same as not having it at all. Younger or less technologically skilled students will need a template set up for placing their artifacts into the portfolio or will need the work to be uploaded for them, but they will be able to assist in creating and selecting the work.
4. Collect artifacts for the portfolio. Over the course of the year or unit, all student work, photos, flyers, etc. that relate to the purpose of the portfolio should be kept.
5. Select artifacts to include in the portfolio. These artifacts should demonstrate an understanding of the concept as well as follow any set rubrics or defined standards of work.
6. Allow students to reflect on their work. Incorporate student reflection on the artifacts into the portfolio as well as synthesizing thoughts about the entire portfolio.
7. Project future learning and growth. The student should also generate a list of future goals in this area, thoughts and questions.
8. Add the finishing touches. Dr. Barrett suggests a final step of connecting the items in the portfolio, hyperlinking topics and text, bringing relevant thoughts together and connecting all pages. Once the portfolio is published to the Web or disk, you can include space for others to give feedback on the portfolio. Students can revise their portfolio based on feedback.
The finished product
When completed the electronic portfolio is a culminating work. The students can be proud of their portfolios and reflect on and revise them for years to come. Students, parents and teachers will all be able to answer the question, What did you learn in religious school? Student work and accomplishments can be showcased in Jewish ritual celebrations such as bar or bat mitzvah, confirmation or graduation. With an electronic portfolio, students and the school can each keep a version of the portfolio. Students can even revamp the portfolio for other needs in the futurea high school student may choose to upload their portfolio to the Web and provide the link to potential college admissions offices. They may integrate their Jewish portfolio with one they have created in general studies in order to present a deeper glimpse into who they are and what they think.
The electronic portfolio is not only useful for students. Teachers can use the electronic portfolio as a way to demonstrate their own skill set to possible employers or to the parents of their students at an open house. Your own portfolio can also help you to self-assess your own teaching philosophy, styles and accomplishments.
The following Web site is a WebQuest: Creating an Electronic Portfolio, designed by Lisa Spencer, to teach teachers about creating their own personal electronic portfolios.