While my students worked on the computers, I was able to observe their keyboarding skills, their work with technological equipment i.e. Corel Presentations programme, burning CD's and taking pictures using the digital camera. I had a checklist I used so I could evaluate a group of students each time we were in the lab.
Students were also asked to self-evaluate their own progress using the Corel Presentations programme and their work on their actual portfolio pages. They were given a form to fill out. Below are some of their comments. I will also be using this form prior to the end of the year to see if their reflections have changed or remain the same. Below is just a few of their comments:
" I am happy with my title page because I like where the pictures are placed and the font and the colour of the words. I'm happy with my All About Me page because it has a neat background and the pictures are cropped well. I am not pleased with my art page because the steps don't explain enough." (A. H. , Grade 5)
" I have done well in writing my paragraph using descriptive words and making it amusing. I am not pleased with how I messed up my background. But I can see if I can put a new background in and choose a different theme." (Lindsay Hmiel, Grade 5)
" I am not pleased with some areas when I forgot some words in some sentences. Next time, I can remember to put those words in or pay more attention." (Lyndsay Willard, Grade 5)
" I am not pleased with my art page. I forgot a lot of steps. So I don't think I did a good job explaining how to do the project. I don't have my picture there so if I looked back at my art slide, I wouldn't remember how to do it." (Danielle Woznica, Grade 5)
" I am not pleased with my PMI slide because it was hard to set up." (Madeline Rodrigue, Grade 5)
Assessing My Growth
It is May 1st and I'm at school finishing my first Action Research paper. I sit back and think about the first time I was introduced to the concept of what Action Research was and I think about that day in late September when I asked George about his electronic portfolios. How can so many years and present months slip by so quickly? I think about how I've grown through this experience. I look back at some of my journal notes and come across my entry from March 4, 2002. This was our meeting with special guest speaker Jack Whitehead. Jack is from England and is the guru of Action Research. He was also the guest speaker at my first Action Research conference. This is what I wrote as Jack spoke to us:
"What is Action Research, really?"
"Key factors -
- learn how important it is to listen to the students' voices (what they're really saying)
- each year you start out - you identify the area you want to focus on and improve student learning from this
- consistent process of trial and error - continually modifying what you are doing
- teacher/student evaluation to see what they have done, what they want to change, where they want to go "(Fulford, 2002)
Yes this is exactly from my notes. I look at (1) and I realize that I did listen to my students. When I had my students do a PMI regarding how they liked doing the electronic portfolios, I realized all their concerns were legitimate. So I re-evaluated my expectations and decided that I would not evaluate their progress per term. I would keep a close check on their progress and evaluate their overall work at the end of May.
I review point (2) In the latter part of September, I knew the majority of students I had just inherited were needy children, both in academics and self-esteem. I wanted to give them something they could look back on and know the work they had done was the best they were capable of. This is the main reason I decided to do the electronic portfolios. I wanted to give my students a tool to use that would help reflect their special interests and talents. All of my students have certainly achieved this.
" In this portfolio, I see evidence of my child's improvement in self-esteem and self-image." (J. Willard)
I read (3) and realize that I have a grin on my face. Yes, without a doubt I have gone through a consistent process of trial and error. In the early stages when George was teaching my students how to use Corel I found I spent more time trying to help my students than actually learning the programme myself. I approached George and asked him if I could have an experienced student from his room help me learn the programme. So, three prep periods later I had a better handle on what I was doing. Thank you Erica. In regards to the work my students were doing on the slide show, I had to readjust my expectations.
The last point is (4). My students have evaluated their progress to see what they have done by filling out my survey. They know what they want to change through the use of their PMI. They know where they want to go because of their term goals. I have evaluated my progress while working with the computer programme and know what changes I will make for next year.
Through doing this research I have realized how important it is to give students a chance to reflect on and appreciate their own work. I have given my student the opportunity to self-evaluate and choose their best work to put on display. They have proven they can take ownership of their own learning.
Electronic Portfolio Acknowledgments
During the course of the year, George and I have received positive feedback about our students' electronic portfolios and what we are doing with our classes. After talking to one of our Intermediate teachers I wrote some ideas in my journal on November 2nd. "I talked to Pattie Hawke this morning and she said she was really interested in doing the portfolios with her class next school year."
GOAL 1 - (for my grade 5s) How can I use electronic portfolios to create a reflective record of the highlights of my students' school year?
GOAL 2 - (for George's grade 6s) How can I develop students' reflective writing using electronic portfolios?
GOAL 3 - (for Patti's grade 7s) How can I improve student self-evaluation using electronic portfolios?
George had the pleasure of sharing his students' portfolios with Mr. Moffatt, our Director ofEducation. He then invited us to share what we were doing at a School Board meeting as part of his Director's report. We brought Ray Balberman, George's student, to present his portfolio. I did the introduction related to what the electronic portfolio was and how we were using them with our students. George did an excellent job using Ray's portfolio for the visual presentation. He along with his student, shared the process, the student's learning and answered questions. Our Superintendent, Mr. John Bryant attended the presentation and wrote the following note to me: " Thanks for an outstanding presentation on Monday evening. Your students are fortunate to have you as their teacher. You are an asset to your school and the Grand Erie District School Board."
Mr. Moffatt had also included us in his Director's Report to school administrators. He wrote "Goose Honkings... Accountability & Alignment: To George Neeb, Sandie Fulford and student, Ray Balberman for sharing the electronic portfolio with the Board on January 28th."
As a follow up to our presentation at the board office, The Brantford Expositor contacted us to do an interview for a feature story about the portfolio process. The article ran on Thursday, March 7, 2002 entitled, "Students use computers to show off school work. Some North Ward pupils create electronic portfolios."
George and I planned and implemented an after school P D session for our staff using Corel Presentations. I taught them how to use the digital camera, and George had staff create their own slide show.
" What if I had a job interview, instead of writing an essay could I show them my portfolio? " (Danielle Woznica, Grade 5)
" Would I be able to teach someone else how to make their own slide show? Could my Mom use an electronic portfolio for part of her job interview? " (Kiva Brown, Grade 5)
Our Computer Committee has already approved funds to be used to begin in-servicing teachers on the technological aspects of the electronic portfolio. We have decided to begin using the programme Hyperstudio, which has more useful functions for the portfolios than Corel Presentations. Hyperstudio has a free download that can be copied onto student CDs so they can easily run their portfolios at home without needing Hyperstudio installed. Other advantages of Hyperstudio are the capability to include website links and scrolling textboxes. A Hyperstudio in-service workshop was held on Tuesday, April 30th. There will be a follow-up session in May for those teachers beginning electronic portfolios in the fall.
George and I received a call from Teacher Consultant, Lori Barkans asking us if we would do a P D workshop for October 18th, 2002. We told her we would.
My Final Thoughts
My year has passed very quickly and now I reflect back once again to a phrase I've kept on the back burner, "take little steps." I read over my research paper and discovered that my little steps have grown into "giant steps." Why has my work on my research project developed into such leaps and bounds? There are two reasons why. My first reason is the unlimited support and encouragement I received from my mentor, my critical advisor and my friend, George Neeb. George was always there when I thought I should have packed it in. George is an inspiration to everyone. He is a professional who strives to make learning fun and memorable for all his students. I thank him for his help.
Secondly, I strongly believe electronic portfolios are a reflection of our students' future. Because of our technical society, we are preparing our classes for the variety of avenues computer technology will take them. When I was telling my hairdresser about electronic portfolios, she already knew about their particular use. Her daughter, Lindsay applied to Sheridan College for Fine Arts and her actual resume was an electronic portfolio. She displayed her portfolio of drawings on CD.
Lindsay is now in her second year. I am very excited and pleased to have been able to give my students an extraordinary way to illustrate their achievements for this school year. Their portfolios have been a positive motivator to display their self-image and interests. Eliminating the excessive paper trail that follows them home during the year, the electronic portfolio is a keepsake of their elementary school years. I can foresee that this is not the end of our work with electronic portfolios. I know that there will definitely be one school in Grand Erie District School Board that will continue in the fall of 2002, with electronic portfolios.