by: Katie Krueger
Have you ever wished that parents could see the amazing things your students do in class? Do you wish you could have documentation of individual student progress, but wonder how to have accurate representation since we teach a performance-based art? What about professionally – do you wonder how you could truly showcase your skills as an educator? If you answered YES to any of these, ePortfolios may be for you!
An ePortfolio is simply a digital portfolio that can house documents, videos, images, links, and other digital artifacts. There are multiple ways to make one for free – I will show examples of different ePortfolios that use Google Sites and Blogger. In very little time and with minimal “techie” skills, you can have a great place to showcase work.
A Class ePortfolio
The first way I used ePortfolios was class-based. A few years ago, I created and managed one Google site for each of my 4th grade classes. We are a Google Apps for Education district, so Google sites are connected to my regular school email account. If your district doesn’t have Google Apps, you can always make a free gmail account to house the sites. Once you have your account, I have made a template that you can use for a class-based ePortfolio. Click here for instructions if you’d like help getting started using my class ePortfolio template, very similar to the image below.
The homepage for a class ePortfolio:
Each student had his or her own page within the site which, by the end of the year, included a video of individual recorder playing, a video of individual singing, and an image of a composition project that had been done with pencil and paper. You could also include group videos, projects, and even videos of class activities and games. I was lucky enough to have a high school student as a “student assistant” (SA) during my 4th grade class time.
My SA did the video recordings with an iPod touch in my storage closet. It was the best soundproof option since the recordings were happening as I was teaching in the classroom. He was able to get up to 10 videos done in one half-hour class. These could also be done with a parent volunteer, educational support professional, or perhaps a colleague on their prep, if you asked really nicely (wink!). If you use stations/centers in your classroom, recording could take place at one station with students helping each other. The recordings were then uploaded to my class YouTube channel as “unlisted” videos, then inserted on the appropriate page of the ePortfolio.
A screenshot of one student’s page:
One thing I loved about the class ePortfolios was the individual assessment I was able to do.
It had been eluding me during our limited class time. After watching the videos, I was able to add comments to the student pages to let the students know some things they were doing well and some things to focus on as they practiced. For the students, knowing they were going to be recorded individually was a great motivator to continue pushing themselves to practice and improve.
The biggest downfall of this type of ePortfolio, for me, was the teacher time to manage the pages. While I loved being able to watch all the videos, uploading, watching, and commenting on each one took quite a bit of time for 150 4th graders. If I had had more help with the management of each site (from a co-worker, a techie parent, or even a techie student), I probably would have continued with them for more than just one year. As it was, I regretfully had to step away from them due to time constraints.
Individual ePortfolios – For Students or Yourself
Individual ePortfolios are a wonderful, personal way to showcase work. They can follow a person from year to year, where the class ePortfolio really only included one year’s worth of work. They can be used professionally as a resource to share with potential employers. They can also be used with students to house projects, work, and reflections on learning.
At my school, our Technology Innovations teacher, Mrs. Groehler (@JanelleGroehler or @besbearstech), has students create and manage their own ePortfolios starting in 2nd grade. She has the students use Blogger to post about projects they have done in their homeroom classes, her class, and other specialist classes. Digital artifacts are included when available. These follow the students from year to year and are a wonderful, simple to use, showcase of work. They are also a wonderful way to have students reflect on their learning. Below are two screenshots from our students.
A second grader’s ePortfolio post about the rhythm video she made in music class:
A 4th grader’s reflection on her ePortfolio after the music concert:
Mrs. Groehler loves using Blogger because it is so easy for the students to use and is available on both PCs and iPads. It works well for our district because students already have google accounts through school. Everything is organized by post date, so that is how students can find their work from different years. There are limitations with what type of artifact can be uploaded and what is possible to do on different devices, but with a little bit of collaboration we have been able to work through the issues. It has been great to work together with my tech colleague to include the students’ music work and reflections in their ePortfolios. Now that this system is in place in our school, I am hoping to include more individual performance videos like I had done in the class ePortfolios.
For older students or your own personal use, you might want a more customizable option. I really like making my own Google Sites, and using a Site as an ePortfolio is a great option. Our district’s middle and high school students make their ePortfolios in Google Sites. What is nice about Sites is the ability to customize with different pages, multiple layout options, and the ease of including Google Docs, Sheets, YouTube videos and anything else within Google Apps. Students can organize their sites according to their different classes, their grade level, type of project, or any way they (or you) choose.
Professionally, Google Sites offer the ability to quickly make an ePortfolio using basic templates and tools. Your portfolio can look professional with just a few clicks. If you like to customize, there are also plenty of bells and whistles to add interest and character.
A professional ePortfolio using a simple template:
Online portfolios are a great tool for reflection by students, communication with parents, and integrating what we do as music teachers into the work students do in other classes. Create yours today!
About the author:
Katie Krueger has taught elementary music in Byron, Minnesota for ten years. She previously taught one year in Detroit, Michigan. In addition to full-time teaching, she enjoys being a technology coach for colleagues, helping them better utilize the tech tools at their fingertips. Katie was thrilled to share some of her favorite music technology tools and tips at the NAfME conference in October, 2014.
Linked In: www.linkedin.com/in/KatieKruegerMusic
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