I work in an Independent School in Melbourne, Australia, and this year we have made a commitment to help our students (grades 7-12) create ePortfolios, using an Edublogs campus as the platform. Here are 5 reasons why we are making student blogging and portfolio development a high priority.
These kids need to establish a positive digital footprint. Without question, it will be the norm for these students to be Googled when they begin to seek employment. Even employment of the part time variety! They need to cultivate their personal brand, and we can help them by encouraging them to post about the great things they are involved in at school. This can reflect what they are learning in their classrooms, or it can be a discussion of the co-curricular activities they enjoy. We want our students to understand that they can control the message about them that exists on the Web, and they can point prospective employers, colleagues or university admissions officers towards a digital footprint that they themselves have created when the time is right.
2. Communicating with digital tools
We want our students to have a handle on how you use digital tools for communication purposes, and not just through networks like Facebook. Plenty of our students are Facebook users, but there is a higher order skill set required to maintain consistent posts in a blog. We’ve taught our students how to set up categories, add widgets, use the HTML editor to embed code, and even how to tell the difference between a legitimate comment and someone who is spamming you. As our world moves ever more closely towards the Internet as the main vehicle for communication, we feel that we are helping our students understand the language they will need to navigate this new territory.
3. Transparency for parents and family
Our curriculum is becoming more transparent for our parent population. As our students write more and more about their learning, we now have a means for our parents to feel more connected to what happens at school. Where once a child would write for an audience of one – their teacher – now they are writing for a potentially much larger audience that includes their immediate and extended family. When you see a grandparent leave a comment on a child’s blog, it brings a bit of a tear to one’s eye!
Just think, these students will have a digital archive of their learning, but not only that, they will have comments from friends and family members that they can revisit in years to come. Their access won’t be limited to the box of cherished school records and momentos at the top of the bedroom cupboard. For these kids, an internet connection will enable them to pull up their account from anywhere and revisit their childhood and adolescent school years.
4. New ways of thinking about Web tools
We need a digital space to demonstrate new methods of learning using Web tools. Already this year, our student ePortfolios have been used to embed Slideshare and Google Docs presentations, Glogsters, podcasts created with Garageband, Google MyMaps, Prezi’s and links to Wiki pages they have edited for differing subject areas. Just having our students understand how to hyperlink to other people’s content, and the potential this opens for two-way conversation, has been eye opening for them. These spaces have helped provide even more reasons for our teaching staff to utilize Web based tools and teach themselves new skills in the process.
5. Effective digital citizenship
The ePortfolios support our commitment to assist our students with the skills they need for effective digital citizenship. We are having the conversations we need to have about how you conduct yourself in digital spaces in the context of our curriculum, and not in isolated lecture style presentations that may hit a chord with some students, but miss the mark with others. When I talk to my 7th grade students, they can clearly articulate why it is we are using these ePortfolios. It makes sense to them, and they know it is important for their future lives. Believe you me, when a student tells you they need a really good digital footprint, it makes you feel like you’ve earned your keep that week!
Amazing or what?
I know I said I’d give you 5 reasons, but I can’t resist adding a very important 6th. For many of our students, their world view is changing as a result of posting in public spaces. Many of them have embedded clustr maps into their sidebars, and they can see where people are visiting from. Recently, one of our year seven students posted about the effect this global audience has had on her.
“Okay- so is this is amazing.
I’ve used this blog since March 30th and so far it’s been a great resource and an amazing display of some of my work this year. It hasn’t just been my teachers, my classmates, my family and I that have looked at it- as of August 6 my blog has had 533 visits worldwide.
Amazing or what? WOW.”
Photo: Pixelsrzen, Creative Commons