Friday, June 29, 2012

Wading into ePorfolios

I hate giving tests. I'm not good at writing them, so they don't measure what my kids know. Said kids try to cheat as much as they can in order to show me what their neighbor knows. I never know what to do while giving a test, so I kind of wander around in my squeaky shoes. Even if I use the same test I did last time, I can never find my key. Did I mention that I don't think it's a good way to measure what they know?

A couple years ago, in the interest of finding a way to alternately assess, we started blogging in a couple of my classes. At first it was mostly just a place to answer questions instead of writing on paper. That was okay, but I wanted it to expand into something more more. We did a lot, but not as much as I would have liked. I have mentioned my inability to write driving questions, but my main issue is the availability of computers at any given time. We are not a 1:1 school, but we have three computer labs available to schedule. The problem comes when I have them scheduled for Tuesday, and we end up needing them on Monday. That lag time has kind of done me in, so our blogging experience has been shaky at best.

This year, we kind of accidentally moved away from blogging by setting up websites. My plan was to have kids summarize each learning target on their sites and then link back to their blogs and other pieces of amazingness that they may have created. The kids I had this year struggled so much with the technology* that we dropped the blogs and focused on the sites. Each kid created a site and I had them create a page for each unit.

I loved the way this got set up. There was a place for everything and I didn't have to keep track of paper. I can't tell you how refreshing that is, although I will admit I did miss the practice of actually writing out comments. A little weird, I know. I ended up using pearltrees to keep all my sites in one place because I did a lot of my grading at home on my own computer. The only problem I had was where to put the comments so my kids could access them easily. We use PowerSchool and it has a comment section, but I'm not sure how much I like that. I am definitely trying out BlueHarvest this fall.

Of course, I had grand visions of kids creating their own spaces, but up until the very last week of school I had kids convinced that I wanted them to create a dictionary. A copied and pasted dictionary. It was so frustrating. I couldn't get them out of that comfort zone of regurgitating everything they could find on wikipedia. I finally got a touch of the amazingness I was looking for on their final projects when they had to correlate local rock formations and tie it all in to every unit. There was some true critical thinking going on. Again, driving questions anyone???

If I had been paying attention, I would have noticed how Terie and Chris have their classes set up and applied it to mine. There are some parallels, but I have a sneaking suspicion that their sites will come in very handy this summer when I sit down to polish up my own.

I really like this idea, especially with my earth science classes. Chemistry, I'm not so sure about, simply because I feel like they need to have that lab notebook experience. I can't decide if it would be worth the time to recreate it on the web. I think this next year, I will focus on my other classes and become more comfortable with the process before I have all my classes switch over**.

*Yes, I have kids who struggle with Google. Some days I have a hard time comprehending this.

**You have no idea how hard it was for me to write that sentence! I have never been one to ease into anything.

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