ePortfolios In Our Classrooms: We’re Creating A New Culture of Learning
Imagine a classroom where we could harness the passion and imagination of our students through their interests, while still meeting state standards and creating successful learning environments. In the book, A New Culture of Learning (Brown & Thomas, 2011), the authors present the possibility, if we move away from the old, traditional way we think of learning, to what is happening now, all around us, through gaming, blogging, social media and so much more. In creating a shift in how our students learn, we need to look at the learning that our students are doing outside of the classroom, most recently by way of games like Roblox, Minecraft, and Animal Crossing. These games involve challenges, puzzles, and critical thinking, as well the opportunity to collaborate with kids all over the world.
Currently, our educational system is relying heavily on the knowledge coming from the teacher, along with standardized testing which doesn’t accurately reflect what a student has learned. In my Innovation Plan, I proposed the implementation of ePortfolios in our elementary classrooms. By giving students the opportunity to create their own ePortfolios, we are guiding them on the path to enter the “New Culture of Learning” by giving them choice in how they will put their portfolio together, along with allowing them to decide what topics interest them and how and what they choose to present to others.
Bringing In Some of the Fundamental Ideas from A New Culture of Learning
Probably the most fundamental ideas that can be utilized alongside my innovation plan are PLAY, IMAGINATION and PEER-TO-PEER LEARNING.
As the innovation plan is geared towards the fine arts, play and imagination are necessary components. Exploration and experimentation are crucial to developing and creating art. Allowing students the freedom to explore mediums, various forms of artistic expression, and presentation will promote creativity and innovative thinking. Play also sparks critical thinking, questioning, and the use of imagination, something that we often underutilize. Peer-to-Peer learning will also play an important role through Project Based Learning opportunities. Students will collaborate with one another to form ideas, brainstorm, question, and work through challenges to formulate their own ideas and conclusions. These collaborative projects will bring together students from diverse knowledge backgrounds to create a plethora of engaging questioning and excitement. They will also allow for students to play while also working around boundaries or constraints which foster creativity and innovative solutions to problems faced. (Thomas, 2011)
One of our major challenges as teachers is always, TIME. In developing and implementing the ePortfolio innovation plan, we will meet as a leadership team to develop time into the master schedule to allow for the implementation of the ePortfolios. We will also be utilizing PLC times to help teachers formulate a plan to enrich their students’ learning through more play opportunities, PBL, and exploration.
Another huge challenge to consider is providing our students and teachers with adequate technology resources. As a Google district, we have access to Google Sites for our students to use to house their ePortfolios. However, we must make sure to allow them access to as many resources as they may need, including YouTube, which is often blocked. Although some may think it should not be allowed, YouTube can often prove to be a valuable resource for information, providing videos on a wide range of topics and from sources from around the world.
The last challenge is CHANGE. As teachers, we have already had times where we’ve had to adjust to new ideas implemented by our district. This change though, will require every stakeholder to be a willing participant and fully committed. In presenting the innovation plan, we will provide several examples of classrooms implementing the ePortfolios, offer lots of coaching and support, and help our teachers create their own ePortfolios beforehand, so they feel confident in what they will be teaching their students. We must also embrace the change in where we need to move to into the New Culture of Learning. For so long, we’ve been stuck in the old system. Many teachers think, its the way that has always worked, why change. In reality, it isn’t working, students are not developing and succeeding to their full potential. Times have changed, students are learning differently, embrace the CHANGE, or continue to hinder the greatness that our students deserve to achieve.
Allowing for the creation of significant learning environments will impact our school by shifting to what has already been proven to be a successful, new way of learning. We hear daily from students everything they did in regards to the games they played, how they research new tricks and tips, watch videos of others playing the game so they can develop their strategies. Gearing their learning in the classroom through games, exploration, and engaging topics that interest them will prove very beneficial. Just like adults, kids seek out to learn more about what interests them. When proposed with challenges in their interest, they research, question, and formulate innovative solutions, sometimes after failing and learning from that. This is a new era of learning that will take place within our school, and we will bring about new ideas, engaged learners, thinkers, engineers, scientists and more.
Below is the video, A New Culture of Learning, where Douglas Thomas one of the authors of A New Culture of Learning highlights some of the main ideas of his book. We will be using this video in one of our presentations to the staff as inspiration, a jump off point to discussion and spark ideas related to our school wide innovation plan.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change (1st ed.). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
TEDx Talks. (2012). A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas at TEDxUFM. YouTube. https://youtu.be/lM80GXlyX0U.