As the editorial in the New York Times (Reinventing High School, Feb. 1) notes, American secondary education is rife with gaps: achievement, graduation, reading, teaching and others. Ultimately, these gaps can be closed only by students themselves, and only if they have the drive to succeed. That drive comes from motivation and engagement, characteristics sadly missing in some high school students. Many of today’s teenagers’ communication and creative skills revolve around personal webpage building, file and photo sharing, music downloading, text messaging, video editing, IM-ing, and blogging. It is difficult to see where traditional 20th Century approaches to learning are motivating and engaging for these 21st Century high school students.
One promising solution is electronic portfolios, which enable students to share their accomplishments, show off their creativity, reflect on their work and be accountable for their own performance. High schools that are experimenting with e-portfolios are seeing new excitement about learning, and a narrowing of those troubling gaps.