Strategic Change Digital portfolios

In the northern-most part of Beaverton, Oregon lies a large K-8 school. Opened in 2009, Springville K-8 was the first EL Education school in the Beaverton School District. EL Education is a comprehensive school model with one component being project-based learning. Springville teachers are committed to innovation, creative thinking and deepening learning through exploration and guiding questions.

A current technology goal of Springville K-8 is to create digital portfolios for all learners. These portfolios will be archived with Google Drive and Google Sites, which can easily be shared will school staff members, parents and family members and the greater EL Education community. Students will have access to these portfolios as long as they are in the Beaverton School District. Portfolio requirements will deepen and become more rigorous as the student advances in grade level. Portfolios will document progression of learning, connected to learning targets and students will engage in selecting evidence of their progress in habits of a scholar. Teachers will provide opportunity for student reflection and goal setting as students take responsibility of their portfolio creation. Portfolio creation in grades K - 6, will prepare students to understand the structure for 7th and 8th grade “Passages” presentation which are opportunities for students to reflect on their learning and their readiness to move on to the next phase of their education (The Who, What and Why of Portfolios and Passage Presentations). Although many different forms of digital portfolios are available, a site agreement has been made to use a Google Drive folders and Google Sites since all learners and staff have access to GAFE (Google Apps For Education). An example of the Springville K-8 student portfolio template can be viewed here.

Implementing a new procedure school-wide can be difficult. Most new ideas fizzle quickly when not enough support is given. Staff begins to wonder "Oh, are we still doing that?" To ensure success, the technology specialist will offer ongoing support with weekly newsletter reminders, support, and suggestions. Within this goal of creating digital portfolios for all learners, teachers, support staff and students will be responsible for uploading and organizing their documents. Occasionally physical student work will need to be photographed or scanned in order to create a digital copy. Teachers and support staff will be trained in navigating GAFE (focusing on Google Drive folders and Google Sites). Primary students and teachers will be provided with basic instructions for creating, navigating, and maintaining Google Drive folders (Google Drive Folder Example). Upper elementary and middle school (teachers and students) will be provided with instructions for creating, navigating, and maintaining an e-portfolio on Google Sites. Work sessions will be provided so teachers can ask questions and have focused time to organize artifacts. Suggestions for organizing portfolio documents and portfolio creation may be patterned after this Google For Educators Site. Each year there will be more release of responsibility for learners so that students are adequately prepared for the requirements in 7th and 8th grades.

To minimize anxiety surrounding the overwhelming task of creating portfolios for over 1,000 students, there will be a slow-roll out of events, over two years, centered around the creation of portfolios. In addition, K-2 students will only be responsible for curating documents; creation of actual portfolio sites will be accomplished starting in third grade. This is developmentally appropriate for students age 5 - 8. During the first year of this implementation, teachers will encourage students to create a folder on Google Drive, name it “Kindergarten Portfolio” (changing the title depending on their year in school), and upload documents to save in the folder. K-2 teachers will be provided additional support by Instructional Assistants and Technology Specialists to help teach and manage this project. In addition, parental and community support will be requested. Our school is located in an area where many community members/parents are employed by high-tech jobs (Nike, Intel, and more). Employees are encouraged to volunteer time in the community. In addition to the above, a classroom in 4th or 5th grade will be asked to pilot this program, creating a full portfolio during the first year. This example will be used during the second year of implementation to demonstrate and teach the other grade levels

Our school and district currently have the infrastructure in place to accomplish this task. In coordination with our Future Ready initiative, our school has devices for almost every student (currently the devices are 2:1, 3:1, and 6:1 in kindergarten classrooms). Next year there will be more devices per student as a new school will be taking a large portion of our population. The least available resource for our staff is “time.” With large class sizes and subsequent workload, teachers are not mentally prepared to take on portfolio creation. This plan will be in place to start Fall of 2017. During teacher in-service, the plan will be introduced. The technology specialist will be available during in-service and the month of September to come to classrooms to assist teachers and students in creating portfolio folders on Google Drive. In addition, the technology specialist will be available every month to push into classrooms to help students organize and maintain their documents in the folders. Students will be encouraged, according to EL Education practices, to discern which artifacts show progression within Habits of a Scholar. The fall of 2017 is also the first year that our district will be providing early release one time per week. This enables staff to collaborate with each other and as full staff. The technology specialist will ask to have a portion of this time once a month, to collaborate with staff members. Many staff members are new to EL Education and can benefit with identifying Habits of a Scholar, how to assist students in reflection practices and in identifying highly proficient work products.

One part of EL Education is that people embrace change. Most teachers at Springville K-8 are innovative thinkers and are willing to morph their practices to better fit the needs of the students. During the past couple of years, the explosive growth of our school has affected the commitment to EL Education. Adding classrooms and staff have overextended current resources and new staff have not been trained in EL Education. Many of them do not see the purpose of providing project-based learning, teaching Habits of a Scholar, and other reflective practices. Previously, building portfolios has been viewed as being better suited for primary grades. The upper elementary teachers have not always embraced the idea of portfolio creation. This is in large part due to the amount of time and space it takes to keep documents, organize them and store traditional binders. Creating digital portfolios will decrease many of these frustrations. Additional information and training will be provided by our EL Site Coordinator so teachers will begin to internalize the importance of portfolios, how to lead students in reflective practices surrounding high-quality work and how this adds to student success. Often times teachers need to see the "big picture" in order to understand why they need to include additional practices.

As stated previously, the staff at Springville K-8 are incredibly innovative. They are also incredibly tired and weary. Our past several years have been so difficult with large classroom sizes and the addition of temporary staff. In the fall of 2017 our numbers will drastically decrease due to a new school opening. Staff is anxiously looking forward to this as a time of regeneration where we can all finally catch our breath. It is a perfect time to encourage new and fresh ideas, especially practices that will encourage student success. However, change is hard. Often times it only takes one hesitant person to derail even the most organized plans. The technology specialist will develop relationships with staff in order to build trust. During this time the technology specialist needs to be committed to reflective practice of their own in order to observe and evaluate how staff is feeling toward the implementation of digital portfolios. Identifying potential issues ahead of time will help towards successful implementation. For instance, our school often enrolls new students throughout the year. In order to assist the classroom teacher with new students, the Technology Specialist will plan to help new students with GAFE permission, login, and creation of their portfolio. Also, if a staff member is having a difficult time it will important for the Technology Specialist to come alongside this person and have a conversation to get to the root of their hesitancy. Together they can problem-solve the issues, moving closer to successful implementation of digital portfolios.

Springville K-8 currently has a Tech Crew in place. This team consists of staff members who are passionate about technology integration. So far this team has problem-solved difficult issues like how to equitably share devices when not enough were available and which direction to take in replacing aging projectors/interactive whiteboards in classrooms. This team will be the first to integrate digital portfolios. During the spring of 2017, the Technology Specialist will present the plan for digital portfolios, why this is an important practice in EL Education schools, and how digital portfolios will be created. This team has teachers from all grade levels so there is great potential for high-quality examples to be created. The Technology Specialist will ask for one primary and one secondary teacher to volunteer to create digital portfolios during the spring of 2017 so that there are examples to show during the fall of 2017 inservice week. During the fall of 2017 the Tech Crew will be asked to make themselves available to other teachers in order to assist with the digital portfolio integration.

EL Education schools offer a different approach to teaching and learning. They are based in Core Practices, are built upon 10 Design Principles and focus on Three Dimensions of Student Achievement. One practice is “Producing High-Quality Student Work.” Staff and students at Springville K-8 are already committed to creating multiple drafts of work to progress toward high-quality final products. Teachers encourage an iterative approach to work samples: produce a sample, reflect upon the work (both alone and collaboratively), edit where needed and new product. This approach repeats until a high-quality product is achieved (example: Austin’s Butterfly). Implementing digital portfolios will be a way to curate these high-quality products. The digital portfolios is just the next step the reflective practices already being used at Springville K-8.

Greek philosopher Heraclitus said it best with "change is the only constant in life." Interestingly enough people view change as difficult and intimidating. With something that is so constant in life, it’s a wonder that we aren’t more comfortable with it. Recently I had a conversation with a strategic planner from Blue Cross Blue Shield. He stated that with any change one must Prioritize, Focus, and have Follow-through. Most strategic plans fail due to lack of follow-through. With focused attention given to the need for digital portfolios along with tangible ways to help staff, the implementation of digital portfolios will be successful. Continual support and follow-through from the Technology Specialist and the Tech Crew will aid in successful implementation of digital portfolios.


Created with images by jill111 - "stack of books vintage books book" . All other images were created by Sandy Hoppenrath.

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