February 6, 2018

Some questions about digital portfolios

This post starts of with a personal experience and ends with a series of questions for adult educators.

Last week, while I was at a conference focused on our new programs in Quebec adult education, I received this via a portfolio app called SeeSaw that my son’s teachers use to share news from the classroom.

image of dictee with red pen corrections and stickers

I usually love to see pictures of him working on different projects or singing songs but this image affected me differently. After a few days, I sent a message to his teacher to let her know this (I shared this article with her before publishing it).

I was thinking, Way to go, Jack! at the same time as I thought about all of the work I have been doing with teachers and consultants over the past number of years to move away from the celebration of weekly quizzes, at the same time as I thought about the role of educational technology and how this app brought this image to me along with all of what I just described.

I love the idea of digital portfolios. I have my own all over the place, most recently here:

image of portfolio webpage, click to access

Jack even has one that I started for him and that he added to through most of Kindergarten.

As a technology consultant, I love the premise of using technology to share learning with others. One of my central beliefs about the use of technology has to do with its power to share our stories. I love seeing pictures of Jack during the day, they lift my heart. But when this picture came in, it didn’t have the same effect.

One of SeeSaw’s selling points is that “Seesaw gives families an immediate and personalized window into their child’s school day.” (from their website).

Do we need this? Is this what a portfolio is?

If I wanted an immediate and personalized glimpse into my child’s school day… shouldn’t I be homeschooling?

Part of it is that I just don’t celebrate weekly tests and quizzes. Especially when I received this image completely out of context, in the middle of the day, while I was at a conference in another city. And I guess that is it. A system like SeeSaw doesn’t really give us a personalized window into the school day. It gives us tastes, as determined by the teacher.

A big part of it is my own fault for not changing the settings on the app. I now have it set to notify me only once a day for any updates. (Not sure what time of day that is, guess I will find out!)

I know that some of you have used apps like SeeSaw with adult students – either in adult ed or higher education. What do you feel about it? What do your students feel about it? Do you find that it gives you more work? Are you using it in ways that encourage students to self-assess? To assess their peers? To assess their teachers? What is amazing about it? What are its downfalls, if any? Have you ever received feedback like what I just wrote?

And what is our responsibility as educators when we use apps to share things with our students and their families?

I don’t claim to know all of the answers. This is a new line of questioning for me. Help me out.

I have been teaching and consulting - from primary school through adult education - since 1996. Currently an education consultant with la Commission scolaire de la Seigneurie-des-Mille-Îles in Montreal, Quebec, I believe that sharing our stories is the key to getting better together.

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