Students Communicating Ideas Through Videos @ECVHS! #guhsdtech

screenshot-2016-12-21-at-12-10-29-pmscreenshot-2016-12-21-at-12-11-16-pmI’m writing this quick post while sitting in Mrs. Miller´s AVID class watching as students showcase the videos they produced using WeVideo. Amazing ECVHS AVID teachers Mrs. Miller and Mr. Millican are preparing their students to write University of California Personal Statements by having them create personal statement videos this semester. I’ve had the pleasure of viewing many student videos in which students communicate their hopes, dreams, and experiences. I am inspired by the young people at my school who have allowed themselves to be vulnerable enough to share themselves.

screenshot-2016-12-21-at-12-12-03-pmscreenshot-2016-12-21-at-12-12-26-pmIn addition to WeVideo in AVID, I’ve seen Mrs. Jones have students create Adobe Spark videos for a cultural project and Ms. Goodin and Mr. Enerva have students share research findings through Adobe Spark videos. I love that students are getting practice communicating ideas through videos!

 

 

Digital Portfolio URL Management System

Just to be perfectly clear, this blog post is about putting student learning on display–giving your students a way to focus on demonstrating what they are learning in your classes and sharing that learning with others.

I see digital portfolios as a great way to get students to rethink the degree of ownership they have when it comes to learning. School sometimes trains students to think that they have to wait for teachers to give validation of learning through test scores or point totals or grades. But we can empower students to prove what they have learned through the creation and curation of digital portfolio pages.

digital-portfolios-why-and-how-sdcuetechfairAt the #SDCUETechFair last month, I enjoyed sharing some ideas on why and how to use digital portfolios. If interested, please feel free to view/share my slides from that presentation. I plan on discussing the why and how of digital portfolios in more detail in later blog posts.

Now, although I have experimented with digital portfolios for years, I’ve found managing the multiple web addresses that I wanted students to submit throughout a year/semester to be a big challenge. Chasing down URLs and navigating through confusing menu structures is frustrating and time consuming. But I persisted because I truly believe that digital portfolios can put student concern and focus where it belongs: on learning, and making learning experiences better for students is one of my passions.

What I’ve created is a digital portfolio URL management system, a way for teachers to collect multiple web addresses from multiple students multiple times over a semester/school year and have all those things show up on one row of a displayed spreadsheet. This way, teachers can have students submit web addresses that take the teacher (or peer, or job interviewer, or college admissions officer) directly to specific pages on their digital portfolios (pages that can contain things like demonstrations of understanding for specific projects or learning goals).

To see what I mean, try it out below:

give-it-a-try

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So, would you like to set up a system like this for your own digital portfolio URL collection and display adventures? Great! It’s all done with Google Forms and Google Spreadsheets, with some formulas. I’ve created a couple of templates as well as detailed, step-by-step instructions for how to set up a digital portfolio URL management system like this for yourself. Click on the presentation linked below and follow the instructions closely (templates and examples are all in that presentation). You can do it! Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or hiccups that you notice in my instructions. I really, really want this to work and enable more teachers to see digital portfolios as a way to focus student attention on demonstrating learning.

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Improve your Digital Portfolio Workflow: Manage Multiple URL Submissions from Students

I love the idea of having students creating pages on their digital portfolios in which they demonstrate their learning. I see each page as an opportunity to defend the thesis: “I learned X” or “I completed the X project.” I think this use of digital portfolios helps students take ownership of what they are learning when their digital portfolio pages need to demonstrate learning, rather than waiting for the teacher to tell them whether or not they learned.

However, I had trouble as an English teacher matching specific pages to specific skills and projects. I would ask students to submit a URL to the page showing their X project, so I would need to make a new Google Form for each new assignment. To compound this problem, students would often submit a link to their home page, leaving me to navigate websites looking for specific pages.

This workflow was frustrating, and it reminded me of the way some of my colleagues flip through stacks Interactive notebooks looking for where students put their work. Now, I wholeheartedly believe in the power of digital portfolios to amplify learning, but technology is also supposed to help make things easier–and searching through student websites to find evidence of learning was not easy.

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-9-46-56-amI’ve been thinking of a solution to this problem for a while, and I think I’m on the right track to finding a solution. Here are the steps I suggest:

  • Teacher: Create a Google Form that you will use to collect a class’ digital portfolio URLs.
    • In the settings, only accept one response per student, but allow students to edit their submission. Students will need to edit their previous form submissions as you have them build additional pages. They will come back to this form later, edit their previous response, leave the URLs in place that they submitted perviously, add URLs to new skills/projects, and resubmit the form.
    • Put a link to this form on your website and/or in Google Classroom (I work in a district that uses the Google Suite–admittedly, this digital portfolio solution would work best in a Google Suite school).
  • Students: Build digital portfolio pages according to teacher instructions to demonstrate understanding.
  • Students: Turn in digital portfolio pages to the teacher by submitting URLs to specific pages on the same Google Form throughout the semester.
  • Teacher: On the Form Responses Spreadsheet (the spreadsheet that collects the responses from your Google Form), create a new tab (new sheet) at the bottom for display purposes. Embed this display sheet on your website (very easy to do in the new Google Sites).
    • Each column on the display sheet should have its own formula so that it takes Text from one section of the spreadsheet and URLs from another section. For example, in Mr. Ford’s Multimedia class, his columns currently have the following hyperlink formulas:
      • A:=hyperlink(‘Form Responses 1’!D2,‘Form Responses 1’!B2)
        • column B of Form Responses 1 = The student’s last name
        • column D of Form Responses 1 = The student’s digital portfolio home page.
      • B: =hyperlink(‘Form Responses 1’!E2,$B$1)
        • column B of the display sheet has the name of this project/assignment
        • column E of Form Responses 1 = The URL the student submitted for this project/assignment
      • C: =hyperlink(‘Form Responses 1’!F2,$C$1)
        • column C of the display sheet has the name of this project/assignment
        • column F of Form Responses 1 = The URL the student submitted for this project/assignment
      • D, E, F, and so on in the same fashion as columns B and C (above).
  • screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-10-14-19-amTeacher: As you add more skill/project pages for students to enter on your Google Form, you will need to enter another formula to the next column over on your display sheet. You will also need to drag/copy your formulas across your entire display sheet once in a while so that students who submitted previously omitted URLs will see their links updated on your display sheet. What you end up with is a one-stop-shop taking you straight to students’ different digital portfolio pages. You can quickly and easily see who has/hasn’t submitted each page, and you can even color code the cells to provide initial feedback (a color for “great,” a color for “needs work,” etc.).

It does take some work to set up, but if you’re seriously attempting to use digital portfolios as a way to assess student learning, this approach could end up saving you a lot of time and frustration in the long run. This is especially true if you teach middle school or high school and you’re dealing with well over 100 digital portfolios.

Thanks very much for reading. Please share this with anyone working with digital portfolios, and please let me know if you have discovered a better solution or innovation that would achieve the same or better results!

Connections Between Scaffolding and Digital Portfolios

The work of Aida Walqui and other advocates for effective teaching of English learners stresses the importance of providing scaffolds for English learners. When educators provide the right kind of scaffold at the right time, students acquire language (and, more generally, knowledge). This way of thinking about how understanding (and language proficiency) is developed comes from the Quality Teaching for English Learners (QTEL) initiative. The QTEL approach suggests that there are 6 kinds of scaffolds:

Bridging, in which students make a personal link between prior knowledge and new concepts

Contextualization, in which concepts are delivered via the senses (sounds, sights, smells, etc.)

Schema Building, in which students build on understanding to construct new knowledge

Metacognitive Development, in which learner autonomy is fostered by helping students assess and think about their own learning

Text Re-presentation, in which students are asked to display what they understand from one medium/mode of a text by re-presenting that understanding in another medium/mode (such as creating a visual based on what the student understood from a chapter in a science book)

Modeling, in which students get access to clear examples

Now, when I was at the QTEL Summer Institute in San Francisco a few months ago, I had digital portfolios on my mind. I was advocating that my school should implement digital portfolios on a wider scale. I am a big supporter of how digital portfolios can amplify student learning! It was pretty clear, though, that a significant portion of our school’s professional development time over the next couple of years was going to go toward helping staff members effectively teach English learners. We have over 800 English learners at my high school (and more every week!), so training in this area is incredibly appropriate. Still, I was looking for a way to link our school wide focus on English learners and my desire to tap into the learning benefits that digital portfolios can provide. As we reviewed the 6 types of scaffolds, I saw it clear as day: Digital portfolios can facilitate the implementation of the 6 types of scaffolds! I got so excited, I used a different color in my notes to remind me to come back to this idea in a blog post later:

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After a little more thinking, I realized that if I tried to show a connection between all 6 scaffolds and digital portfolios, it might read a little like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I didn’t want to force the issue inauthentically, but I still saw a clear connection between some of the scaffolds to help English learners acquire language (scaffolds for learners in general to acquire concepts through language) and work educators could be doing with students through digital portfolios. I concluded that digital portfolios can facilitate the implementation of at least 3 types of scaffolds: Metacognitive Development, Text Re-presentation, and Modeling:

6-types-of-scaffolding-vs-digital-portfolios-venn-diagram

Metacognitive Development:

Thinking about thinking is vital to causing authentic, lasting learning for our students. I worry that teachers sometimes over emphasize “covering” or “getting through” content, rather than taking the time that learners need to clarify what they have learned, how they learned it, and determine where they need to go next with the concept. I understand the pressure that educators feel to get through content, but our primary goal should be to cause learning–and if that means we don’t cover everything we set out to cover then so be it.

One of the most valuable skills we can foster in our students is learning how to learn. When we have students document their learning process, demonstrate what they have learned, and assess what their digital portfolios actually show they know, then we are using digital portfolios to help students build metacognitive skills. Students creating pages on a website that are meant to prove how and what they learned is a metacognitive act.

I very much see this as the primary value of having students curate their own digital portfolios. Putting knowledge on display is great. Building digital communication skills is awesome. But the most important pedagogical value that digital portfolios provide is their ability to continuously facilitate metacognitive development among our learners.

Text Re-Presentation:

When students are able to present their understanding of a concept using a medium that is different from the source medium, that is text re-presentation. Students are re-presenting ideas in another format. screenshot-2016-10-30-at-4-46-39-pm

Implementing this scaffold means to give students learning tasks that ask them to re-present their understanding. So, if a student has to re-present their understanding of a concept that they heard about in a class lecture, why not have them do so by creating and posting a video about the concept on a page of their digital portfolio?

Digital portfolios offer many other ways that students can re-present ideas from source material. Students can blog about their personal learning/understanding related to the text, create visuals, create videos, create presentations, embed images of the learning process–text re-presentation can take on many forms.

A focus on digital portfolios as the way to assess student learning can facilitate the implementation of text re-presentation.

Modeling:

Giving students clear examples of how to demonstrate learning on digital portfolios becomes much easier when you can refer them to other students’ digital portfolios. I’ve listed modeling last because it will probably come last in your own implementation of digital portfolios–at least as far as this kind of modeling is concerned. Sure teachers can create student mock-ups of what they would like students to do on digital portfolios, but the more authentic models will come when students can see how other students incorporated their learning onto their websites in creative and innovative ways.

Of course, we’ll continue to expect original meaning-making from students. Seeing how last year’s students demonstrated their understanding of meiosis and mitosis doesn’t give this year’s students license to copy and paste. This is why it’s so critical that students see their digital portfolios as representative of their own personal learning story. But if seeing an explanation from last year’s students helps this year’s students develop their understanding, all the better.

Scaffolding student learning and implementing digital portfolios are not mutually exclusive ventures. We don’t have to decide between one and the other. Just as with all technology integration in the classroom, it should never be about the technology. This isn’t a blog post about technology. It’s not really a blog post about digital portfolios. It’s a blog post about learning and using the tools at our disposal to help students learn more deeply. My argument is simply that digital portfolios can facilitate some of the work that is most vital to educators:

  • Implement scaffolds as needed to help learners, especially English language learners
  • Encourage students to focus on the value of learning and their own learning process
  • Challenge students to assess for themselves what they really understand and what they might need more help with

 

Sources and References:

Couros, G. (2016, August 16). 7 Important Questions Before Implementing Digital Portfolios [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/6602

Ritchart, R., Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2011). Making thinking visible: how to promote engagement, understanding, and independence for all learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Walqui, A. & van Lier L. (2010). Scaffolding the academic success of adolescent English language learners: a pedagogy of promise. San Francisco: WestEd.

Peer Tutors and Peer Mentors: Shared Responsibility and Mutual Respect

The staff at El Cajon Valley High School works extremely hard to give students the support they need, but providing all of the support that students need is a pretty daunting task. To help with this, we have a tradition of having Peer Tutors and Peer Mentors help out in the classroom. Peer Tutors and Peer Mentors mostly consist of upperclassmen who have expressed a desire to give back to the school community.

We have had students helping in classrooms for years at El Cajon Valley High School. When I was an English Language Development teacher at ECVHS, I enjoyed the help of some amazing multilingual Peer Tutors (many of them former ELD students of mine) who helped me provide the language support that my students needed. The Moderate to Severe Special Education Program has been relying on Peer Tutors for years to help students with special needs. And now we have a Teaching and Learning course, which trains students to be Peer Mentors to help students in a variety of learning situations.

20160915_084719As the librarian, I had the privilege of playing host to Liz Castagnera as she trained Peer Tutors to help students in the Moderate to Severe Special Education Program. Mrs. Castagnera is always looking for ways to improve how her Peer Tutors serve our students with special needs. Her training focused on the benefits of a philosophy of inclusion and acceptance, as well as the personal benefits being part of a community where we help each other.

20160915_101404Mrs. Castagnera has had her Peer Tutors use Digital Portfolios in the past to reflect on the different aspects of what it means to provide support to students with special needs. But as a person continuously looking for ways to improve, she worked to develop a sample portfolio in the new Google Sites to show Peer Tutors more clearly what was expected of them.

The thing I admire most about Mrs. Castagnera’s use of technology here is that the point of what she is doing is not the technology itself. The focus of this Peer Tutor training is on goal setting, communication, and documenting progress–technology is simply the tool her students will use to keep track of the work they do with students. And because students are developing their Digital Portfolios in this way, Peer Tutors will leave high school with documented evidence of volunteerism and work experience. And as these Peer Tutors apply to colleges and get started in careers, that documented evidence will be very valuable.

Speaking of Digital Portfolios, we are experimenting by having all 9th grade students in our Brave Adventure classes start Digital Portfolios in the new Google Sites. Students follow this sample, which includes links to a step-by-step guide by Grossmont Union High School District Digital Learning Coach, Reuben Hoffman (@reubenhoffman). As stated above, we have Peer Mentors as part of our Teaching and Learning Course. One example of these Peer Mentors helping our school is that they helped us with this Digital Portfolio roll-out. 20160906_132121The Teaching and Learning Peer Mentors were trained in how to create Digital Portfolios in the new Google Sites, then they were assigned to lead Brave Adventure classes in the site creation task. I was able to visit one of the classes during this roll-out, and it was impressive to see our Peer Mentors at work. The class I visited had a substitute teacher, but the Peer Mentors took over and made sure that all students in the class created their Digital Portfolios.

Our Peer Tutors and Peer Mentors are continuing a tradition of giving back to the ECV community. I’m so glad to be a part of a school culture that empowers students to be campus leaders, and I’m excited to see what happens this year as more students embrace leadership roles. We’re building a community of shared responsibility and mutual respect.

Keeping a PLN (and a PLC) Civil

#INFO233 PLN Post 7

I began teaching at El Cajon Valley High School in 2007. As a relatively new teacher I was tasked with being the Professional Learning Community Team Lead for a team of English Language Development teachers. In order to prepare people in my position, all the PLC Team Leads at my school were given a copy of Revisiting Professional Learning Communities At Work.

6a00d8341c721253ef0120a5226c31970bAt that point in my career, I didn’t necessarily see myself as a leader. So, I appreciated having that book as a guide for how to develop effective PLCs. I remember slowly reading through the text throughout the year (I’m a slow reader and it’s a pretty thick book). The explanations and guides for how to run an effective PLC made a lot of sense to me. Yes, we should be learning together. Yes, we should be talking about how we instruct students and sharing our instructional experiments with each other. Yes, we should read some research together and discuss how to implement the best practices that we’re reading about. I saw all these great ideas for improving our ELD program.

Some of the improvements suggested by this text were readily adopted by my fellow PLC members, and some were opposed. I couldn’t understand the opposition at the time. I thought that if we were going to have an effective PLC and serve our students well, then we should implement as many of the ideas in this book as we could. Opposing the ideas in the book, refusing to even read about them, these behaviors seemed so anti-improvement, so anti-progress.

Believing that the ideas in the book represented improvement, I basically resorted to ideological campaigns fought in the email and PLC meeting battlefields. In my mind, I built myself up to be superior to any colleague who disagreed with the ideas I saw as so obviously beneficial. I emailed point-by-point rebuttals to their concerns. I tried using peer pressure to turn reluctant PLC members over to my “side.” I wrote off their educational experience as simply many years of doing things the wrong way.

I’ve since apologized to some of them, and I believe that the majority of the people I work with see me as someone who they appreciate working with, someone who is fair and helpful, but I am sure I permanently damaged my relationships with a few people at my school.

Teaching is such a personal thing. Educators’ beliefs about teaching are an extension of who we are as people. When the ideas about education I was attracted to came under attack, I felt attacked. So, I attacked back, not recognizing (for a long time) that I was hurting some of my colleagues. And I’ve found that when you hurt someone, they’re not too keen on trying any of your ideas. When you hurt a member of your PLN, the trust required in a learning community is damaged, and people stop learning from each other.

 

I’m not proud of how I acted during this time in my career, but I am proud that I was able to reflect on my behavior and recognize that I needed to change. I still have colleagues who have different educational philosophies than I do. I have colleagues who hold ideas that I see as detrimental to how humans learn. But I don’t feel the need to bully those colleagues into believing what I believe (as I did back when I was the PLC Team Lead). What good can come of that? None. I’ll still voice what I believe about how to improve our school. I want our school to improve, but I recognize that trusting each other enough to disagree with each other and still be productive together is one of the most powerful ways our school is going to improve.

So, keep your PLN (or PLC) civil. Learn from each other, and when you disagree, be sure to remember that it’s a conflict of ideas, not a conflict of people.

Share Your Ideas

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Please take a couple minutes to view this video:

This video is a pep talk to all those educators out there who doubt that they have good ideas to share. Participating in a professional learning community means more than simply connecting to resources and experts, it also means contributing your own ideas. I think many teachers shy away from sharing, thinking: my ideas aren’t good enough to share (as the video illustrates).

EDpuzzle- Teacher InstructionsI experienced something similar to the situation in the video: I started using @EDPuzzle, and I really liked it. I liked it so much, that I wanted to share it with others. To do this, I made a Google Slides presentation with instructions and screenshots for how to get started with EDPuzzle. Now, EDPuzzle has their own instructional tutorials on how to get started (and their instructions are better than mine). More than that, some of the screenshots and instructions in my presentation are a little outdated. Still, I made this presentation and sent it to my colleagues to show them how to get started with this instructional tool. I was also sure to set the sharing settings so that it was public on the web, just so it would be easier for others to see.

I thought nothing of this presentation for a long time, and then out of the blue I got emails from teachers out of my district–out of my state! They were asking for permission to use this presentation to help their own colleagues get started with EDPuzzle. Of course, I told them to go for it–make a copy and modify it for their needs. I even changed the title slide to include a link that makes a copy of the presentation (see above).

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I’ll admit, I felt proud that a presentation I made was being looked at (sought out) by educators I didn’t even know. It told me that the idea I had (to share this cool instructional tool and make it as easy as possible for others to get started with it) was valuable to others. It told me that my idea helped others.

But the part of this experience I really appreciates goes back to the idea in the video at the top of this post: This wasn’t some spectacular insight. This wasn’t an epiphany that would reshape the pedagogical world. This was just a “how to” presentation for getting started with a useful edtech tool. Still, by sharing I was able to contribute to more educators and more students than if I had decided to keep my ideas to myself.

I hope the non-sharers out there have a change of heart. It would be great to see more educators contributing their ideas so we can all better serve our students.