Tag Archives: M.Ed. Portfolio Blog Series

M.Ed. Portfolio Blog Series: Oral Comps

This coming Saturday I will be defending my master’s portfolio and I wanted to share some of my hard work with others who won’t attend my defense.  We often spend so much time creating artifacts of our learning, whether it be a document, video, song, web page, etc., to only have it viewed by a relatively small number of people.  I wanted to do something different and share my work with as many people as possible, because I’ve worked hard over the last three years and have grown tremendously as an educator during that time.  So, every day (almost) this week I will post about my experiences and share my reflections, with the hope that some conversation can be created about what I’ve done over the last three years and keep our learning going well past my defense.  Today I’ll share my presentation with you.

Well, today was the day.  I travelled to Ames today and defended my portfolio and really had a great time.  I’m not going to go into much detail beyond sharing my presentation.  What I am going to do, however, is open my portfolio up for comments on Facebook.  If you want to share in my learning, please feel free to go here and add your comments so we can keep the conversation going!


M.Ed. Portfolio Blog Series: Ethics and Technology

This coming Saturday I will be defending my master’s portfolio and I wanted to share some of my hard work with others who won’t attend my defense.  We often spend so much time creating artifacts of our learning, whether it be a document, video, song, web page, etc., to only have it viewed by a relatively small number of people.  I wanted to do something different and share my work with as many people as possible, because I’ve worked hard over the last three years and have grown tremendously as an educator during that time.  So, every day this week I will post about my experiences and share my reflections, with the hope that some conversation can be created about what I’ve done over the last three years and keep our learning going well past my defense.  Today I’m going to talk about the Ethical and Human Issues and Technology performance indicator.

I felt this was the most difficult performance indicator to talk about, because of the nature of the topic.  When we talk about ethics and some of the human issues with technology, we really are talking about some heavy topics.  Everything from bullying, to cheating, to child safety, to preparing students for the future are all fair game in this topic.  I struggled to find a topic initially, but then I started thinking more about what I felt this competency meant and I came to the conclusion that this is my chance to stand on my soap box and steer the conversation to a place where I thought it was important, where I thought it needed more attention.  So for me, this competency meant talking about three topics: unblocking social networking software, helping students develop an online presence, and helping students develop information literacy.  Influencing my decision was the fact that I hadn’t seen much on a 21st century perspective of this competency in either my conversations with other educators or in my actions.  Instead, I typically saw these topics discussed in a 20th century perspective, which I feel is much different.

I landed on unblocking social networking software, because often we have the wrong reasons at heart when we make decisions to block certain Web sites.  From my experiences as a technology director in a K-12 school, our decision to block social networking sites was based on classroom management considerations supported through the guise of protecting students.  However, what we failed to realize is the shift that is (was?) taking place in how our students learn.  Our students are social beings, but we don’t teach using social tools.  When we introduce social technologies into the classroom there is an inevitable butting of heads.  The easy solution was to block the social technology, when the right solution is to change how we teach to become more social.  Socializing isn’t a bad thing for education, but really is just the next evolution.  Eventually my school began to understand (not that we fully understood) the benefit of changing how we teach to leverage social networking sites.  There was an opportunity to reach our students in a way we had previously dismissed, thus dismissing a part of who our students are.

The second topic I landed on grew out of the first, developing student online presence.  Something we miss when we don’t use social networking software is how students develop their online presence.  Often they are left to do this themselves, alone, which is a breading ground for trouble.  All we need to do to find evidence of this is do a google search for cyber bullying and I all but guarantee the medium used to bully is social.  Here I advocate for teaching our students how to use social software so we can begin to instill our values into this new layer of society.  While some people may think this isn’t the job of school, but when we look at what schools are truly preparing students for, it clearly is being a successful citizen. With social networking sites not going anywhere anytime soon, it’s time schools begin helping students succeed in this arena as well.

Finally, I decided to talk about developing student information literacy.  Knowledge and information is expanding at an unimaginable rate and everyone needs to know how to both search and use that information.  However, by continuing to stick with instruction that doesn’t allow students to search and use that information, this literacy will not begin to develop in our students.  Teachers are no longer the only source of information, but we continue to teach in ways that still support this notion.  My belief is that we as educators have an ethical obligation to provide learning opportunities for students that allow them to be engaged in data and research.  This is likely only possible by drastically changing how we teach and maybe to an extent what we teach.

Ethical and human issues of technology is such an important area in education, but we often don’t talk about it enough.  Here’s your chance!  What’s on your mind?  What do you think is an important ethics or human issue surrounding technology, but isn’t being discussed?  My three certainly aren’t exhaustive.  Add to the conversation and help everyone learn by adding a comment!


M.Ed. Portfolio Blog Series: Technology Applications

This coming Saturday I will be defending my master’s portfolio and I wanted to share some of my hard work with others who won’t attend my defense.  We often spend so much time creating artifacts of our learning, whether it be a document, video, song, web page, etc., to only have it viewed by a relatively small number of people.  I wanted to do something different and share my work with as many people as possible, because I’ve worked hard over the last three years and have grown tremendously as an educator during that time.  So, every day this week I will post about my experiences and share my reflections, with the hope that some conversation can be created about what I’ve done over the last three years and keep our learning going well past my defense.  Today I’m going to talk about the Technology Applications performance indicator, which is a fancy way to say show us how creative you can be with technology you can be in the classroom.

The biggest change that has happened as a result of this program has been the firm development of my teaching philosophy.  Three years ago when I started I had a pretty good idea of who I was and what I thought good teaching was.  Well three years later the changes are truly apparent.  I believe students need the opportunity to learn in a hands-on approach where the teacher has a very reduced role in the classroom.  So for this performance indicator, I used my first PBL project I ever created.

How can I make my community better?

This project was about how students could improve their local community.  Students have the option to do whatever topic their group decided upon as long as it addressed the needs of a certain population within the local community.  This project was designed for a fifth grade technology course, but it is important to have multiple content areas in any lesson in a technology course because that gives the technology additional meaning by putting it in context of a real world application.  This project was no different and addressed both social studies curriculum and literacy curriculum.  If you are interested in the process of how I created the project, check it out here.  The rest of this post will focus on the technology used and the logic behind my decisions.

This project has a number of different technologies used, beginning with blogs.  Each group in this project was to create a blog that they would use to reflect on their process as they went through the project.  There are many components to this project and managing time is often a difficult task so allowing them the opportunity experience reflection was important for me as I created this project.  Students posted every week about their progress, what still needed to be completed and what their next steps were.  Not an overly fancy or new concept, but still a useful way to get students thinking about what they were doing.

Next students became researchers and used the Internet and Google Docs to find and organize their information.  The goal here was to have students construct their own knowledge about how they could improve their community.  There wasn’t a simple solution for each of the students so allowing them to use their own ideas and see if it is a plausible solution was an important characteristic of this process.  Bransford refers to this as a knowledge centered environment, because this is where the students are making sense of information and transferring it to a new situation.

The next step was to share their information with others in the community.  This was done in two different ways.  The first was a somewhat traditional activity, but with a twist.  Students wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper that explained their position and how they thought they could improve the community.  The hope was that students would have their letters published in the newspaper and would receive real feedback from community members, making the task more authentic.  However, I wanted to make sure the students received the proper feedback from the community they deserved so I ended the project with a culminating activity that involved both the students and the community.  It was during this final part of the project where students presented their solutions in a different way.  For this part of the project, students created a short digital story that explained both the problem or issue they were seeking to solve, as well as their solution.  These digital stories were then shared with local city council members at an event devoted to the students and their work, where students could receive real feedback from the people who make change happen in the community.

Also part of the project was a Web site created to help students manage their time.  As I said at the beginning of this post, it was important that the teacher not be at the center of the project and the students had the opportunity to learn collaboratively.  This is where the Web site came in.  On the Web site there are a series of modules in the Homework Assignments section that guide students through major parts of the project.  In these modules are videos and links to resources that help students learn more about the technology they are using for each assignment.  The Web site isn’t anything more than a simple Web site.  If the students had been older, I maybe would have used Facebook, but I didn’t want the focus of the project to be on the vehicle used for learning.  I just wanted something that would easily facilitate the project.

To check out the project and my reflection, go here.


M.Ed. Portfolio Blog Series: The Process and Platform

This coming Saturday I will be defending my master’s portfolio and I wanted to share some of my hard work with others who won’t attend my defense.  We often spend so much time creating artifacts of our learning, whether it be a document, video, song, web page, etc., to only have it viewed by a relatively small number of people.  I wanted to do something different and share my work with as many people as possible, because I’ve worked hard over the last three years and have grown tremendously as an educator during that time.  So, every day this week I will post about my experiences and share my reflections, with the hope that some conversation can be created about what I’ve done over the last three years and keep our learning going well past my defense.  I thought it would help to discuss the overall process and the platform I chose to use to represent my learning.

The process

The process is relatively straightforward.  There are five standards (I call them performance indicators) that each student is required to represent in an artifact followed by a reflection about that artifact.  We could use the same artifact for multiple performance indicators or they could be all different.  The key for this portfolio, and really for all portfolios, is to show your best work.  As time has gone on and I have learned more about education it isn’t a surprise that improvements needed to be done to many of my artifacts so that was the next step after deciding which artifacts I would use.  Next came the reflection portion of the portfolio, which by-and-large was the most time consuming portion of the portfolio, which isn’t a bad thing because reflecting is a great learning experience.  As I’m writing this blog series, I’m preparing to enter the final stage, which is presentation and defense of the portfolio.  Next is where the fun part comes in, talking about what I did and why!

The Platform

For any portfolio, there has to be a platform.  Traditionally this was a folder, binder, or in some other paper based format.  However, times have changed and new technologies have emerged making the decision much more complicated in the sense that we have to think about what we plan to do with the portfolio in order to choose the right platform.  I could have done something more simple, such as a Web site or wiki, but I knew I wanted to share my experiences and work with others so I opted instead for a Facebook Page.  This might seem nontraditional but I wanted to do something unique and contemporary that would meet the needs of  21st century learners.  I also wanted to model proper uses of Facebook in an educational setting, because Facebook and social networking in general, get a bad rap because of many of the potential negative things that could happen.  We often get caught up in reasons why we shouldn’t do something, rather than reasons why we should be doing it.  So Facebook emerged as a logical choice for me.

I had a couple options for creating my portfolio, a group or page.  The main difference between the two is a group is setup for having multiple people interact around a general topic where a page is meant more for distribution and discussion.  In a page the author controls the topic, where in a group the community determines the topic.  Whether or not that is what the people at Facebook had in mind, that was my perception of the differences so I decided on using a Facebook page.

The Facebook page by default will take viewers to the Notes section of the page, which is where I posted/organized my artifacts and performance indicators.  I created six different notes, one for each standard and then one additional note for the full reflection (the formal document containing all my reflections, citations, title page, etc.).  Since uploading documents was not an option in Facebook, I posted links to any written documents on Google Docs as a PDF.  I also created links to Web sites/pages for the artifacts as well.  I would have done that on any electronic platform, because all my work resides in the cloud if possible.  Then for each standard, I added a short introduction and a link to the full reflection.  Not very sophisticated but effective nonetheless.

You can access my portfolio here.  I will open it for comments after my defense on Saturday.

The Larger Educational Connection

So why did I devote a post to discussing the process I went through and how I organized my portfolio?  The answer is simple: I’m advocating for a different type of learning experience.  We have to begin thinking about how we are designing our instruction in education and begin using tools that students already using, but more important, we have to begin making the student’s experience more social.  Collectively it appears we have dismissed using social networking, Facebook in particular.  Why?  Is what I created any less valuable because I used Facebook?  What matters is the content, but we often become caught up on the tool used to achieve gains in learning.  My goal in this blog post, and really this entire series, is to show different ways of using technology in your instruction.  Will anything I present be game changing or solve all your problems?  Of course not, but it can be the start for many who may be struggling to find ways to use technology effectively in their classrooms, or it might provide a different lens for a tech enthusiast teacher who wants to explore different technologies and learning strategies.  Remember, the focus should be on reasons to teach a certain way, not reasons for NOT teaching in a certain way.

How do you decide which technologies you use in your courses?  Are you using Facebook and/or other social networking software in your courses?  If so, how?  Share your experiences and keep the learning going by leaving a comment!


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