Sunday, October 16, 2005

Online ePortfolio Research- elementary version

After focusing on higher education for so many years, the REFLECT Initiative is letting me work in secondary education, mostly researching high school e-portfolios. But finding tools that work with elementary students is a personal passion of mine. I just spent the last two days helping my granddaughters work on their electronic portfolios. The older one is in 5th grade now, the younger one in second grade. I was very actively engaged with the older one when she was in Kindergarten, first and second grade, partly because we showcased those portfolios at three different conferences, including NECC 2002 in San Antonio and NECC 2003 in Seattle. So the deadlines helped us get those projects finished. But with my increased travel in the last two years, and the fact that I now had two granddaughters to work with, we have not finished their e-portfolios. In the summer of 2004, we scanned all of their 2003-2004 work (third grade and kindergarten, respectively), but never organized it into any type of presentation portfolio. Since the girls had two days off school last week, and I was home, we decided to devote some time to the project.

In the past, we have used desktop common tools to construct these portfolios. The first Kindergarten portfolio was constructed using PowerPoint, converted to PDF, with lots of video inserted. The first and second grade portfolios were constructed with iPhoto and also converted to PDF. Because of their ages, most of their work was NOT created on computer, which meant we needed to do a lot of digitizing. That's why iPhoto worked well in the past to organize an entire presentation portfolio, and may work well to construct smaller pieces of these newer versions. But with the older girl now in 5th grade, she can handle major components of the work, and it just might get done! But now the task becomes finding the right tool so that she can work on her own portfolio!

We spent a lot of time scanning and taking digital photos of their work (the 5th grader scanned all of her own work, but I'm going to put a lot of the larger artifacts together into small PDF files using iPhoto books to group the separate scanned pages into single documents). We have a lot of individual images that need to be combined together into single multi-page documents, and PDF is the best format for the final versions of science fair projects, poetry books, etc. My mother gave them her old blue clamshell iBook with 284K RAM, 2 GB HD, OS 8.6, with Internet Explorer and an Airport card that I added to make it useful. Not sure I want to upgrade it any more, so it would only work for basic Internet access, not constructing a portfolio with desktop tools. I also took my daughter's old first-generation white iBook out, which I had just reformatted and installed Tiger. We used that computer for scanning with a small, cheap Canon (very slow). I sat with the 5th grader and showed her how to use TaskStream, thanks to their generosity providing me with two accounts, and she set up her first web page with little problem, using the oldest iBook (hers) connected to the home wireless network. She also uploaded some files from her parents' PC to a folder in her TS account, a much faster way to transfer those files from home or the PCs at her school.

I'll see how independent she can be without me sitting next to her. Her younger sister is another issue. As a 2nd grader with a lot shorter attention span, I'm not sure this program will work for her. We didn't get all of her work scanned today, but it leaves us something to do the next time I go out there. I will be experimenting with other tools over the next few months. This blog may be documenting another "online portfolio adventure" but focusing on early childhood-appropriate tools. One contribution that I made to their process was to donate my old 2 megapixel Sony mini-Cybershot camera to their family (the one that is the size of a Snickers candy bar... I have decided to move to a smaller credit card-sized camera). Several years ago, we gave them our old Mavica, that uses floppy disks, which worked OK, but the younger granddaughter has taken more pictures with my Cybershot, and knows how to work it very well.

The real challenge has been what I remembered when I set up my first e-portfolio: gathering all of the artifacts from different storage places. Another reason for an online digital archive. But I thought this picture, documenting the production stations, showed our progression in technology: my current G4 latest generation Powerbook, a first-generation white iBook, and a first generation blue clamshell iBook. All of them did their job in getting this project re-started!

1 comment:

drscottie said...

Helen, since I'm about to begin building ePortfolios with my own 2ne grade and 4th grade niece/nephew here in Boulder, Colorado, I'm (once again) ever so pleased and gratified to have have stumbled across your BLOG. The synchronicity of your research from the point of view of my own priorities is astounding.

Furthermore, as a college professor, I am frequently stunned/impressed/humbled by the sophistication, creativity, and intelligence of the K-12 teachers I encounter -- including the brilliant set of teachers that my niece and nephew work with daily. If ePortfolios ever do become a global standard (and we both believe they will), I suspect the impetus and inspiration, as well as much of the practical implementation and know-how, will come from K-12 teachers first, long before the colleges and universities fully catch on!

Another attraction of building ePortfolios for elementary-grade students is that it heightens the emphasis on truly lifetime learning (something that can be carried from class to class, school to school, job to job, across a lifetime of educational/employment arenas).