Digital Portfolio Update

And the winner is…WIXAs I continue to work on creating my digital portfolio, I find that I am learning a lot about the process of creating such content and about myself as a user of technology.  With much more confidence in my abilities to utilize technology tools to achieve my purpose, I find myself taking more risks and making choices with the understanding that I am capable of learning what I need to know in order to be successful.  For me, the most difficult decision has been related to the platform on which to house my portfolio.  After reviewing several different ones, including WordPress, Wix and Google Sites, I have decided to use Wix. Originally, I wanted to utilize Google Sites because it would be the one that my students will use to create their digital portfolios; however, since I already have a teacher website, I thought it would be beneficial to learn about, use and hopefully master, something new.  What I have found so far that it I have quite bit to learn about designing a Wix website, including how to make full use of the aesthetic features, ways to display content and link to other digital.  As such, I find myself spending quite a bit of time viewing tutorials.  However, I am happy to be learning something new to add to my repertoire.  

So far, I have decided on the artifacts that I feel best showcase my work in the IT&DML program, as well as my growth as a learner and user of technology tools.  I have collected all of my artifacts and examined them to see a big picture and distinguish categories into which each might fall.  Additionally, I have created my site and have started the designing process.  One question that surfaced for me had to do with the extent to which I should revise my work to display current skills, as opposed to including original content to show my learning and skill development throughout.  I imagine that this question will surface for my students as well.  My current thinking is that since this is a showcase portfolio, it should reflect my best work.  However, when my students create process portfolios, they should have opportunities to include original and revised content, along with reflections about learning, skill development and growth.

Platform Considerations

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For the past year, I have been experimenting with two different platforms for presenting my work: WordPress for my blog and Google Sites for my classroom website.  As I think about creating my digital portfolio, I am leaning towards using Google sites as my presentation space.  My decision, so far, is mostly based on one of the overarching purposes for my portfolio, which is to ultimately use it as a model to guide my students through creating their own digital portfolios.  Undoubtedly, the platform that they will be using will be Google Sites and I feel that navigating the same platform makes sense because it will help me to gather information about the process and about certain availability and limitations.  As I learn more about comfort levels, legality issues, etc. with having students post their work online, I am appreciating the privacy controls that Sites has to offer.  I can choose to make my content available publicly or to specific viewers via the shareable link.  Also, I like the idea of being able to adjust the accessibility in the future.  As far as I know, once posted on WordPress, the content is available and if I want to alter the accessibility, my only choice is to delete it.  However, this is something that I will be looking into as I head towards making my final decision.

One of my concerns about Google Site is the limited features for style. Although I can create my own images to include in my portfolio, there are only so many “themes” from which to choose. I did come across WIX, which is something that I will also be exploring further because it seems like it offers a wider range of style elements.

 

Image Sources:

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Personal Philosophy-A Work in Progress

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When I was a young child, one of my favorite pastimes included arranging my dolls in front of my chalkboard and then teaching my “students” what I had learned in school that day.  Typically, my lessons included re-reading books, retelling stories and reiterating strategies for spelling and problem solving.  Therefore, many years later, my decision to become an educator seemed like a natural one and after my time in the classroom, I can say that I am doing exactly what I was meant to do.  As an educator, I firmly believe that teaching is one of the greatest responsibilities that one can have, because with every student, comes the possibility of helping to shape who they are, who they will become, and the lenses through which they will ultimately view themselves and their world. In essence, every encounter with a student presents the possibility of that individual “leaving better and happier.”  As a high school English teacher, I enjoy the complexities, challenges and rewards that come with teaching and I love the fact that I have opportunities to personally reflect on, and improve, my practice.  Since students are individuals and their needs differ from year-to-year, class-to-class and student-to-student, I believe that it is imperative to be a reflective teacher because it is only through this continually reflective process that I have been able to know my students and how they learn; consequently, adjusting every aspect of the learning experience to fit their needs and push them to new heights. As a result of constant reflection, I am able to fulfill my responsibility as a public school educator, which is  to utilize aspects of our dominant culture to prepare students to thrive within a global community.  

 

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As human beings, we have an innate desire to feel accepted within groups, yet maintain our sense of individuality.  This is certainly the case with adolescents; therefore, in order for students to really delve into learning in a way that is authentic and continual, they have to feel as though they can be themselves in our classroom. I am always cognizant of how I can help each student gain this sense of belonging, yet maintain who they are as learners. When I first started teaching, I asked a very successful teacher what was her secret and her response was something that I remember often.  She said, “When I interact with a student, I ask myself, ‘If this were my child, how would I want him or her to be treated?” I often ask myself that same question and my answer helps guide my interactions and responses to students.  Consequently, our classroom environment is one that is grounded in respect and acceptance where students are more willing to take risks with their thinking and questions.

In addition to focusing on creating an environment that is supportive of their learning needs, I believe that it is important to help students gain a broader awareness of their global identities.  In a time when we are faced with global crises that require collaborative, authentic and respectful solutions, I want students to realize that they must move beyond following the “Golden Rule,” which encourages egocentrism, to living according the “Platinum Rule,” which is to treat others the way that they want to be treated.  In order to do this , students must extend their cultural knowledge to include perspectives beyond their own.  The result is respect for, and acceptance of, all human beings–regardless race, religion, values and practices.  On the surface, this might seem to be an insurmountable feat to accomplish in the English classroom, but through the examination of literature and other writings, students are able to engage in honest discourse about themselves, their communities, our country and our world.  

While the written word is one way to help students develop and explore their global identities, a key medium through which this exploration happens is technology.  As a classroom teacher, it is imperative that I capitalize on available resources to support and extend learning.  I realize that students today are immersed in technology and the ways in which they learn are different from the way that I learned.  Therefore, it is my responsibility to acknowledge cultural norms and teach students the way that they need to be taught.  Through various media sources, students are able to hear the voices of people around the world who would otherwise remain distant. So, with the mere click of a mouse, a student in our classroom can hear the voice of a young girl in Nepal who was sold into child slavery or the voice of a 16-year-old boy who shows what it is like to live in Iraq. More than ever, the line from the children’s song rings true:  “It’s a small world after all” (Sherman and Sherman, 1964).

As technology and learning have become inextricably woven together,  I get excited about the educational landscape, because learning is no longer limited to the physical spaces of the classroom.  With instant access to all kinds of information and a myriad of perspectives and interpretations, schools must continue to utilize platforms that allow students to navigate and extend their own inquiries. The teacher’s role is not to inculcate students with facts and knowledge; instead, it is to teach them how to use the information that is available to gain their own perspectives.  Therefore, I am committed to the following:  helping students decipher information that is credible and reliable; teaching them how to process that information; and inspiring them to go beyond consuming information to  becoming responsible producers of digital content.

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As I continue my work as a public school educator, I would like to help students see our physical and virtual classrooms as equipping spaces where they are able to gain knowledge, skills and strategies to help them be successful individuals, as well as members of a global society.  As a student, one of my greatest pleasures was to take a course taught by educational theorist, Maxine Greene in which she reflected that education “at its best is a process of teaching people to explore ideas about themselves and the world in which they live, to ask questions about the experience called living and to embrace ambiguity, to notice the unusual without fear and to look upon the ordinary with new eyes” (Shaw, 2011).  I believe that to a large extent, I have embodied Maxine’s philosophy in that I see my purpose as helping students to create the lenses through which they will look at themselves and their world.

References

Images by Reggina Kailan.

Shaw, R. P., & Rozycki, R. G. (2011, August 18) Synopsis of Maxine Greene’s Educational                    theory. Retrieved July 07, 2016, from                                                                                                          http://www.newfoundations.com/GALLERY/Greene.html.

Sherman, R. & Sherman, R. (1964). “It’s A Small World After All. Walt Disney Music                            Publishing Company.    

 

 

Digital Portfolio: Initial Considerations

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As I begin the task of creating my own digital portfolio to showcase my learning during the IT & DML program, I am careful to consider how this process will not only serve to communicate my evolving identity as a learner and educator, but also how it will support my future work with students as I lead them to create their own digital portfolios. Therefore, at the end of this process, I am looking forward to having my own product, as well as extensive notes, resources and personal knowledge to share with my students.  

When beginning the process of creating a digital portfolio, it is important to first consider purpose, which in my case, is to make a claim about my identity as a learner and educator in this program.  It is also important to identify, and anticipate the needs of, my targeted audience.  When creating a paper portfolio, the issue of audience becomes less complex because the audience is quite limited; however, when in digital form, the range of potential audiences is widened to now include anyone who is able to access the product.  Therefore, as the creator, I must keep this in mind.  Once purpose and audiences are articulated, it is then important to decide on the platform and actual medium that will allow me to best achieve my purpose and address the needs of my audience.

Key concepts  in creating any portfolio include reflection and metacognition because in order for the process to be purposeful, each decision must be carefully considered and thoughtfully reflected upon.  According to Beth Holland in Digital Portfolios: The Art of Reflection, successful digital portfolios must reach beyond merely collecting artifacts as representations of growth. In fact, they must include “reflection and documentation of progress”  and “insight” into the “what, “how and why.” When these aspects are included, the product becomes an active representation of personal growth and learning. An effective strategy to help students achieve this kind of long range view of themselves as learners is to begin the year with essential questions and use those questions throughout as a thread that guides reflection.

As I create my digital portfolio, another concept that I would like to keep in mind is one that is examined by Dr. Helen Barrett, which is Digital Storytelling. Although Dr. Barrett suggests various helpful resources to guide creation of these stories, I am most intrigued by the overarching idea of telling the story of my journey in this program and how my work has helped me to evolve as a learn and as a teacher..  As such, I anticipate that my collection of artifacts will include my best work and also reflections about my process to achieve those levels of mastery.  As I continue in this process, I am beginning to think about ways to tie the parts of my portfolio together with a common motif, which will creatively contribute to the aspect of storytelling.

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