Today, I’m applying myPortfolio to support me in the redesign of my assessment model, to track the learning progress of my students and as a tool for collaborative knowledge building in my classroom. My use of this tool has evolved over the past 16 months and for anyone just starting their journey I have a few secrets of success to share with you:
Secret #1: It's all about Pedagogy
Before you look to integrating etools or eportfolios in your classroom you need to have a reason to do so. You MUST have a pedagogical purpose - you should be passionate about this purpose. If you cannot yet articulate your purpose or if you don’t believe in it, STOP HERE. Failing to get this step right means you are in danger of modernising your classroom - trying to do the same thing in a new way - instead of truly transforming learning opportunities for your students. For me, I am passionate about improving the opportunity for my students to self-direct their own learning. My vision was to facilitate this through a focus on learning as inquiry and collaborative processes.
Secret #2: Choose a tool that fits your vision
Once you are passionate about your pedagogical vision - go shopping. There are so many tools out there (etools and non-etools). Some are better than others, each has their strengths and weaknesses. The secret is, choose the tool that best fits your pedagogical vision. For me this tool was myPortfolio. I liked that it was student-centered, allowed for collaboration and that multiple forms of media could be used. It also appealed to me because it was free, supported by the Ministry and NZQA recognised it as an authentic pathway to submit assessment material. I felt that this tool had the flexibility I needed and its use could support me in maximising agency in my students.
Secret #3: Robust support is important - access the community
The first thing I need to say here is that I’m not technically minded, I have no innate intuition in an online environment and I often feel like a dinosaur when trying to use technology. I know that I’m not alone in feeling this way and that stepping into a new environment can make you feel insecure in your own practice. However, my final secret to success is to access a community of support to overcome this barrier. Without the support provided from the myPortfolio community I wouldn’t be using it today. My initial adoption of this tool, despite being passionate about it and feeling it fit my pedagogical vision, was rocky and daunting. However, the robust myPortfolio community saw me through this time. One of the myPortfolio team visited me at my school and spent a few hours one-on-one listening to my needs and talking me through the use of myPortfolio. Then, by accessing the myPortfolio Discussions and Administrators groups I was able to post all my questions. Usually within a few hours I had a solution and when I got stuck someone was available to talk me through my challenge on the phone. As a busy teacher, I often didn’t have time to search the various resources for my answer, but a simple post would quickly direct me to the information I needed. Knowing that a community of support was right at my fingertips meant that I persisted and gained the knowledge and confidence I needed to enact my vision of a transformed classroom.
So for those of you just starting your journey towards a transformed classroom, start with the pedagogy, find a tool that fits your vision and access a community of support to overcome barriers. It's working for me … I hope it works for you too!