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Thursday, 28 October 2010

Captivating the young

Cartoon: 'Writer' from DreamstimeToo often people like the one in this cartoon think about ePortfolios from a technical standpoint or in terms of HE and FE, or upskilling of the workforce. It’s time we started focussing more on what we should be providing in terms of ePortfolios for our children.

I was pleasantly reminded of this by a long response that I got from Tricia Lockhart:

"As far as portfolios are concerned I share your frustration. Back in 1998 I came across primary schools where the year 6 pupils took with them a disc (almost a portfolio) of their work and skills to the secondary school who did not really know how to deal with it and so many of to-days schools have still not really got there.

"My exam boards talked about portfolios and so I made sure we were ready - only to find that firstly they delayed (because some schools were not ready) and then they gave a straightjacket of a structure or a theme which failed to understand what a portfolio really was (for example, we were allowed no external links yet these indicated the discoveries and hence journey of the students). They gave a context of a time capsule (the standalone portfolio would be found in a hundred years) and then failed to consider the reality of that - would the hardware and software still be decipherable. The logical failings of the task undermined what the students were doing. Imaginative schools and students were held back by rather unnecessary barriers. We had to change their online, working portfolio to make a stunted offline version for the exam board. Variety and opportunity must surely be the key - in a system that screams 'differentiation' why must assessment scream 'uniformity'?

"I worked with a year 4 lad, reluctant to read and write though quite clever and able he really did not have the motivation to navigate through the boring (to him) bits. In his spare time the call of the outside space and football lured him away. There were exceptions (The excellent Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls). However, when he was given the role of a sports reporter, the zeal and attention to detail as he researched what to include, selected what to say and reworded how to say it, recorded then rerecorded (voluntarily saying there needed to be more expression or it needed to be slower) made him look like the most industrious and studious learner. The pride with which he then shared the resulting podcast with grandparents and peers was wonderful and of course was further motivation. This was just an audio production with a picture of the reporter as an image. (Hats and glasses are fun to wear and give some anonymity plus a 'stage name') Other examples I have are the 2 girls who made a news report and had used chroma key so they on their 'studio' chairs were in front with suitable footage behind. Sharing the result widely is so important.

"The way that parents and others can be integrated into the whole process is also important. Over recent years the way our assessments have been a barrier to parents fully understanding what is happening and then needs to happen means we have diluted the help from the most important allies teachers have - parents.

"Yes we need to make students aware of the problems and the need for security but not at the cost of the possible advantages. We also need to get some perspective - local papers of full of the pictures of all children who start primary school, smiling faces and names included. Electronic sources are not the only risk factors."

How I agree with everything Tricia has said above. I believe that the eFolio solution meets all of her criteria. eFolio is user-friendly, configurable to one's own self image and, above all is extremely e-safe and not 'discoverable' by any search engine until such time as the owner wishes to make a page 'public'.

Do other readers have similar stories of bureaucratic failure to deliver what our youngsters need? Are we not missing out by not captivating the young?

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