Key Elements of the ‘Modern Learner’
An Explanation & Reflection
Throughout this course my beliefs and views of technology in the classroom have been challenged, changed, and revitalized. I have been one in the past to try and use technology, to moderate success, but only to be stuck with old, dated, and slow equipment that runs on a dinosaur of a network. I have been reminded by my research of how useful new technology, presentation tools, and social networking/learning can be.
Rather than I describing the key elements of ‘21st century learning’ I attempted to show what my central view and supporting components consist of. I created my own personal blog/website/e-portfolio. My multi-faceted advertising/promotional tool goes with my view of learning and education at the high school level. I am responsible for preparing students for either higher education or the workforce. With this in mind, students need to be educated in the uses of technology, there are very few careers that no longer rely on at least basic technology and there are even fewer employers that would not be impressed with a well-educated and technological savvy employee. Many applications that a student will place in the future will be, if they are being actually considered for the application (job, tenancy etc.), will be followed by some basic research on who they are. This search highlights the importance of a positive ‘digital footprint’ and an e=portfolio which displays the student in a positive light and highlights there skills, abilities, and accomplishments in the past. My vision for the modern learner hinges on the element of e-portfolios and technological footprint/advertising.
I have come to a realization that the e-portfolio could end up being the greatest tool that a high school student leaves the institution with. I am in the last days of my twenties and am just now putting together an e-portfolio. I am creating mine in preparation for international teaching applications and attempting to increase the exposure of my experience, training, and essentially hard work over the past 10 years. For students, this could be a great tool for an application for any job or university, or even further down the line when they are applying for graduate programs or career positions. Lorenzo and Ittelson define an e-portfolio as a “digitized collection of artifacts including demonstrations, resources, and accomplishments that represent an individual, group, or institution.” With the technology available today students are able to showcase their work in such a diverse nature and are able to share their learning with an online community. The demonstration aspect of an e-portfolio is of great importance because the student can demonstrate their learning, abilities, and knowledge in a diverse and personalized way that suits who they are and what they would like to be displayed.
Within the e-portfolio all of key elements of modern learning can be incorporated and displayed for a greater audience.
Discovery is the result of exploration and inquiry. The AASL states that an essential skill for students is to follow “an inquiry-based process in seeking knowledge in curricular subjects, and make the real-world connection for using this process in own life.” By allowing students the freedom express and demonstrate their learning in different ways using technology, students will make news discoveries as the result of inquiry based learning. They will then be able to display their learning on an e-portfolio, resulting in more real-world connections. Writing a research paper most likely isn’t going to be used again after it is submitted, but a Prezi presentation or blog can be inclusive of an e-portfolio and used to showcase a learners capabilities. This course has allowed me to see the value in having a topic to research with an opportunity to express my learning in a personally effective and meaningful manor. During my research I was able to find useful sites/information through my inquiry. Reading the Richardson text prior to my research always provided starting points and then led to new and valuable discoveries, that I have since shared with my students, their parents, teachers/administration at my school, and (which I have enjoyed the most) our teacher-librarian.
Students rarely have the opportunity to explore and seek information on their own terms, and this is an aspect of learning that is passed over far too easily. As AASL stated, a key element of current and future education is the monitoring of their “own information-seeking processes for effectiveness and progress, and adapt as necessary”. The use of an e-portfolio in combination with this allows the students to promote what they have learned in an almost limitless ways using web based tools. I have been able to share findings and information with colleagues on my blog, which I will add to the professional development tab of my e-portfolio. Students similarly, would be able to share findings with friends, other students, or even act as mentors or sources for younger students and aid them with their research.
For e-portfolios to be effective and avoid becoming a burden for students, access to computers and a reliable network is paramount. My school lacks computers and what we do have is quite dated. For us to successful incorporate technology and benefit from such use, we need increased and improved access to technology. This includes more consistent access, by way of both more reliable computers and networks. With the e-portfolio being such a great tool, and one that I will now design some of my courses around, teachers and students alike need to be confident that access won’t be an issue or hindrance. I have also been very pleased with students accessing their work/assignments from home. Since I have incorporated blogs into the curriculum, I have found that students take more initiative in making sure they have their blogs up to date and current. When students miss a class, it can often be like pulling teeth to get them to print the information from the course website or take the information from the missing work binder in the class, but when a students misses a blog day they just simply login at home and they finish right away (some even have downloaded the WordPress app and have the entry done 10 minutes into lunch).
Self-assessment & reflection
With the use of an e-portfolio and the incorporation of other presentation alternatives (blogs etc.), which are all incredibly easy to include and connect within an e-portfolio, students will develop new methods and skills related to self-assessment. Since others, and not just their teacher, will view the information that they post, the students will put more time and effort into what they produce. If a student provides their website/blog address on applications (which I now will include/link to on my international application), cards, or in any professional setting, they will need to ensure that what they have online is a positive reflection of who they are. As a result, students will need to reflect and assess what they have produced and be more cognizant of what they are producing. This self-assessment will happen on a smaller scale each time they post or add to their e-portfolio because of the possibility of anybody becoming an audience. I have found that the students are much more thorough during blog creation than they are during traditional classroom work. Students are also able to go back and edit posts, entries or pages made on their e-portfolio, which is a huge asset for publication purposes and another example of students assessing and re-assessing their own work.
Reflection is so vital in the process of learning, and is one of the best tools/ideas I am taking away from this course. My students reflect on what they have made in class and how successful they were during their creation. In a sense, the whole blog process in this course has been a reflection of what I have learned during each week and even now I go back and read my own reflections as a reminder of what tools to use and which ones to avoid (we have covered so much I need a reminder already!).
Today people need to be connected. This comes in so many diverse ways now, Twitter, Facebook, Linked In just to name a few. Students need to learn these skills in school to prepare themselves for life outside of high school. Via online learning tools and e-portfolios, students are able to comment on each others postings, look back and reflect on their own work, connect with others, converse with people around the globe, and create meaningful and educational conversations (comment trails). The AASL highlights that students need to “use interaction with and feedback from teachers and peers to guide own inquiry process.” Through this interaction learning will occur. A simple comment or question from a teacher, friend, or online reader can have a great impact on students thought process and possibly make them look at some of their work from a different light (the old ‘aha moment’). A conversation can also begin where all involved come out with a better understanding or new view point.
Students who are able to use online resources that allow for learning and connections to be made will come out of a course more educated and prepared. By utilizing sites/sources that allow for collaboration, students can be part of the ‘whole learning’ process. Wikis are a great example of this, but when online research is being completed and posted in any form, learning will follow as a result. I was totally surprised when I linked a website that I made last year to my ‘in progress’ e-portfolio. This website, which I completely forgot about, has been getting hits every day. For the first time in a year I checked the site and the hit counter and I had 21 unique visitors just the day before. It is quite amazing that something I created, which had slipped out of my mind completely, is still be utilized by dozens of people a day for educational purposes. I now wish I had a comment board or any form of communication for those using the site to ask me questions or provide suggestions. In the classroom, by being able to post and comment on each others work, students are able to provide constructive criticism for their peers as well as tips and ideas prior to that students’ next blog post or addition to their e-portfolio.
Variety & Presentation
For a student to fulfill their learning potential they need to be permitted the opportunity to produce and create work and prove their learning in a way that works best for them. I have heard countless times about different styles of learning, but with the e-portfolio, or online tools in general, students are able to create and present information in many different forms that fit their learning style and technological abilities. By giving students the opportunity to personalize their work, they in turn will make the work more meaningful to themselves.
A ‘blank canvas’ may be overwhelming for some students, so ideas or a list of options is very helpful. Options also provide the chance for variety, as some students learn how to use one tool and become comfortable using that tool and then, in turn, will want to submit all of their work or research using the same tool. This is positive in that they may become an expert, but by using a variety of online tools and presentation options, students would be able to have a more well rounded and diverse e-portfolio.
Educated Research & Online Publication
With all this comes a students need to be taught how to search, be resourceful with their time, and keep on track and on topic. The librarian is someone who needs to be utilized to teach digital citizenship and tips and tricks to help avoid becoming encased in the web of time wasting that can become the Internet. Equipped with the proper strategies and tools, students can be more productive with their time and more efficient with their research. Once students are given the tools to research effectively online their quality of work will increase and be more beneficial to an e-portfolio. The teacher also needs to be able to assist, in some capacity, with the tools that they are introducing and asking the students to use. Leaning about screencast in this course has had a huge impact on my ability to help the students, as they can access and use the screen-casts as they need. I no longer need to go around individually and help those who didn’t pay attention during my demonstration as they all have access to the screen-casts that I have made.
The amount of information that students are posting online is alarming. There is a necessity for students to know about the repercussions of their unfiltered posting. I have learned a great deal about a digital footprint and students need to be made aware of of their personal footprints. E-portfolios can be a way for a student to see the importance of having a positive footprint and begin to have them make changes about posting any and all pictures online. I have always been one to limit what is out there, but I too posted a lot more when I was younger and in University. This course re-affirmed my hesitation to post certain material online, but has made me aware of the need to have an effective digital footprint to showcase my abilities, which resulted in my work towards a completed e-portfolio.
Professional learning and sharing
By sharing/posting key tasks online and being able to showcase work that the students have completed, students are not only sharing their learning with the online world, but they are also sharing with other teachers (my colleagues). This provides such a great opportunity for not only their learning, but for teachers learning as well. I have gained so much from this course by seeing what other teachers are doing (Kristina Dimini’s e-portfolio and Westwood’s efolio page just to name a couple). These have not only been educational but also inspirational.
If teachers are able to share something they found and are connected (via blog, Twitter, etc.), other teachers are able to get more creative with their lessons and learn as well. The best way for us to move forward as a profession is through the sharing of knowledge and connections. With my e-portfolio I will be setting up a blog (or continuing my current one) with which my colleagues can read/follow and hopefully they will comment and provide new tools and information as well, a connected blogging community would be ideal. I also thought that the online book club was a great idea, and something that I am striving to organize once my courses are over this summer. These are all goals and ambitions I have as a result of my learning in this course, and will add some depth and read/write aspects to my e-portfolio.
After all of the exploration we did I wanted to come away with an idea that would change how I offered some of my courses. I also wanted to create something for this final assignment that is beneficial and re-usable for me. The e-portfolio serves both of these purposes. The students in my courses may not generally make an e-portfolio in all of my classes, but they will be using great web tools (Twitter, podcasts, wikis, Prezi etc) we have seen over the semester, which they then can later link or add to an e-portfolio. The e-portfolio in this way is most effective, as it is a centralized hub of all the work a student completes. Rather than having to go to multiple websites to showcase a student’s work and personal accomplishments over the course of a semester, year, or duration of high school, students can simply share their e-portfolio site. Some of the classes which I will use a full e-portfolio include Planning, Foods, and Tourism.
Setting up a WordPress blog for my e-portfolio took a lot of work, as once I began adding pages and text to the page it wasn’t as intuitive as the simple type and post method I had been using throughout the semester. Once I finish my courses this summer I am going to have a good look at whether WordPress is the best option for me or if Weebly might better fit my needs.
Each tab and page on my e-portfolio has been either completed or filled in with some notes on what I would like to add in the future. But that need for something tangible to come away with steered me away from creating a presentation summarizing all of this, as I felt my blog does this effectively already.
American Association of School Librarians. Standards for the 21st Century Learner. <www.ala.org>
Lorenzo, G & Ittelson, J. (2005). An Overview of E-Portfolios. Educase Learning Initiative. <net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli3001.pdf>
Kist, W. (2010). The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Webtools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.