“Students, make sure all of your work is placed in your folder. Once your latest writing piece is in your folder, close the folder and stack them in the back of the room in alphabetical order.”
How many times have you said this as a teacher? Like most print media, the student portfolio is in a period of transition, however, there seems to be too many options for housing student work. For the past few years my department has debated ideas about how we should transition the student-writing portfolio. Here were some of our suggestions…
All students get a flash stick
House student work via Google Docs
House student work on class wiki
Give all students another flash stick to back up when they lose the first.
While all of these ideas are valid and practical, there is one glaring problem. Why are we housing the student work?
Most districts have students keep their prominent writing throughout their academic career. As a 12th grade English teacher, I am in charge of handing them their stack of yellowing papers that they have stored in folders or binders for the last few years. I encourage students to keep them and that I always enjoy reflecting on my own writing folder from high school to see how far I have come and for simple sentimental value. After this speech, the bell rings and soon enough my trash can is full of student writing folders.
So what is the solution? What is the point of housing these documents if they will only be recycled or trashed?
The first step is to find a housing method and implement it throughout the district or school building. Students do all of their writing on a computer and save it over and over again. Let’s face it, there is no need to keep paper in a folder for four years of high school and three years of middle school. Here is my suggestion:
Elementary and Middle School (K-8)
Each teacher will have a flash stick for student work.
When Students create a writing piece they will save the work on the flash stick and on the school server for backup.
If students create a visual piece the teacher will scan and save the work.
The teacher will host a class wiki and feature student work each week. This is great to collaborate with Administrators, other faculty, parents and grandma who lives 3000 miles away from little Mary and can now see the work she is doing in school on line!
High School (9-12)
Students receive their own flash stick at the beginning of their high school career.
Their work is already uploaded on to the flash stick and is also archived on the school’s server.
At this point, students are capable of maintaining their own wiki space. During freshmen orientation, students will attend a workshop on how to maintain their own writing portfolio wiki.
Students will upload to their wiki throughout their high school careers and also interact with this portfolio.
This may seem like a lot of work and yes, there are many things that could go wrong, but this comes with any new venture. The problems are no different than a student writing portfolio getting lost or misplaced. I think my suggestions cover many bases and allow access to the material throughout their academic careers and beyond.
Many Colleges and Universities ask for writing samples or student work. This allows students to access their work anywhere or even point admissions officers directly to their personal wikis. Also, this is no simply limited to the language arts curriculum. This can be done for computer science, art, history, etc.
Some ideas for portfolio integration:
At the end of each year, students write a reflection piece on their writing for the year. They cover the following items:
How you have grown as a writer
Three goals for writing improvement next year.
Senior year: Students write a comprehensive reflection piece that covers their writing career. Students can also add one visual element to this piece:
A film trailer that captures their writing career and style
A collage of all their writing pieces
A presentation on their writing evolution
Revise several pieces from previous years that focus on
Students write an editoral-esque review of every piece of writing they submit to their portfolio. Their voice will be that of an outside reporter covering the writing process that just took place. Students can reflect and comment on their writing strengths, weakness and goals for the future.
Finally, this idea can also be used for educators. Last year I created my own wiki for my education portfolio. Since then I have used it in interviews and for updating my lessons and curriculum. It is the same concept and my work is always accessible. This also works well with Google Docs, but I like the idea of inviting someone to view my wiki and they can simply see the educational work that I have posted.
Here are two screen shots of what I have created for my educational portfolio