My school has been thoughtfully discussing the uses of electronic or digital portfolios. The purpose would be twofold: to have a living, reflective authentic assessment of student work and to demonstrate growth tied to a student's individual learning plan over time. A worthy goal, right? Why aren't more schools doing this? While researching digital portfolios, I came across examples that seemed to fall into either a"fancy digital file cabinet of student work" or simply a photo gallery of "this is what we did". No reflection from the student. No comment from a teacher or peers. Just because you put student work in a folder online does not make it a digital portfolio. What was the purpose? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a portfolio is defined as "a selection of a student's work (as papers and tests) compiled over a period of time and used for assessing performance or progress."
With so much emphasis on standardized test grades, providing parents (and someday college admissions officers and/or future employers) with a fuller, richer picture of one's academic achievement and growth should be our goal. With today's technology, it is not the burden it once was. One could use Evernote, Wordpress, or Google Apps for FREE to create such a living repository. Or there are wonderful companies out there like Digication (which actually handles the portfolios for free if you are a Google Apps school). Dr. Helen Barrett (I like to think of her as the Megamind of E-Portfolios) has a wealth of resources available, all which underscore that it doesn't take much to capture a child's growth in a variety of subjects.
Facebook recently introduced a totally new format, the timeline. Why? Well, according to Mark Zuckerburg,
“Millions and millions of people have spent years curating the stories of their lives, and there’s no way to share them,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.Perhaps Mr. Zuckerburg is on to something. I believe that in this digital world, people do like to curate their lives. The time is ripe to do the same with our students. Collectively, teachers have spent millions of hours curating their students' lives. Many teachers, especially elementary teachers, spend considerable time curating each of their student's works into boxes or folders or the like, only to be sent home at the end of the year. Perhaps parents look at them. Maybe they get put in boxes to be saved and cherished. Maybe someday in the future they will be opened and the former student will glance at the work with fond remembrance?
I think we can do better. Let's not curate without reflection. Let the curation be purposeful. Let's encourage our students to be reflective, to be "noticers", to take ownership of their learning, and to understand that a standardized test score is only a snapshot.