All alliterations aside (see what I did there…), I’ve spent the better part of this school year researching, testing, playing with and picking other educators’ brains about different options for student portfolios (big shoutouts especially to @Kathycassidy, @HeatherMMcKay @happycampergirl and @millerg6 for their contributions to my inquiries- as well, the participants in @Neilstephenson’s digital portfolio session at #ConnectEdCa this weekend). From Edmodo to Evernote. From Edublog to Kidblog. From Google Sites to Google Docs. From WordPress to Weebly. It seems that the options are endless. How do you choose?! I’ve had several of my colleagues try a few of the different platforms, and I’ve played with several myself as well. The time has come for the staff at our school to make a decision on which portfolio platform we will pick.
Before the big decision is made, some of the key takeaways I’ve gleaned this year are:
1) It should be simple enough that even a Kindergarten student could learn to use it to it’s full potential (i.e. uploading or embedding images, video, audio, etc.). It doesn’t need to have all of the bells and whistles. Icon based, one-click, drag and drop features are your friend in the elementary grades.
2) It should be intuitive enough that even teachers who are new to blogging and its features can, in a few short PL sessions, quickly pick up on how to use it. Because we all know that time is of the essence in the teaching world
3) It should be available to be used across different platforms (computers, iPods, iPads) to allow for greater accessibility and posting capabilities.
4) It should be long standing – this one is twofold. Firstly, I mean that it should be tied to the student, not the teacher. It should easily be able to follow the student from year to year, with little to no hassle for the incoming teacher to create their class list each year. Secondly, the PLATFORM should be long standing. How frustrating is it to create something marvelous as a teacher, only to have it disappear or go by the wayside a year or 2 down the road? If we are going to do this school-wide, we need to try to pick the best option that is established, and is pretty certain to stick around for many years ahead. (Dear Google, I’m looking at you here with this comment. This is what makes me a little gun-shy about choosing Google Sites as our portfolio platform. Google had no qualms about abandoning the hugely popular Google Reader in the blink of an eye, with no option for replacement. I’m concerned that Google Sites will be met with the same fate.)
5) It should have the option of being either private or public. One thing I’ve learned this year, is that students are far more engaged if they have a large and authentic audience that they know will be viewing and commenting on their work. I’ve seen it with my own 2 eyes in my classroom. They become more reflective about what they are putting out there; My students have been sharing weekly twitter updates about the growth of one of the plants in our room. When they snap a picture and it’s blurry, I hear them say, “Oh, they won’t be able to see it very well, I better take another picture” They know that what they are putting out there has to be of a certain level of quality.
6) It should be simple to troubleshoot, and have a good support system in place for if/when something potentially goes REALLY wrong. It’s like the old adage, ‘Hope for the best, plan for the worst’. We need to have a platform where if something does go wrong, there are people in place that we can contact quickly for technical support.
So, with those in mind, we will hopefully select our perfect portfolio platform this week, and then begin to learn all of the in’s and out’s of using it with our students next year. I’m excited for the possibilities!