‘A’ for Authenticity

Today I worked on my ePortfolio for the first time since completing the ADL program. It has been a strange experience, and uncomfortable. Dr.H was very intentional throughout the program on insisting that we have choice, and that our innovation plan should fit the needs of our community. At every opportunity he told us that our ePortfolio belonged to us. I can still hear him saying via Zoom…”It’s yours, make it work for you!”

Yet, honestly, I was in grad school. There was a rubric. I would receive a grade. I was earning a degree.

Today, I’m not. For the first time, It truly became completely mine. What direction will I take my innovation plan? How will everything I’ve learned fit into the the true needs of my learning community?

After that initial fear, I realized I really do have everything in place that I need. I made a few minor tweaks, revised my proposal, and am gearing up with my small team of influencers. Because I learned with the COVA approach, I can now move forward in the learning process and perpetuate choice, ownership, voice, and authenticity for more learners to come.

A course on course creation

Click the above image for video.

Implementation of ePortfolios 101 Instructional Design

In this learning environment, I have been asked to create a learning environment where my learners are tasked with the same: to take a metacognitive view of their learning. This significant work can happen when we invite our learners to make choices, and take ownership of their learning. When we create a space for them to express their unique voice in ways that are authentic to their learning. 

I hope to clarify my vision of creating a significant digital learning environment using the COVA framework in this course on constructing ePortfolios. To align outcomes, activities, and assessment I am using Fink’s 3 column table, focusing first on my goal of educators investigating and constructing an ePortfolio to model its effectiveness in collaboration, reflection on growth, and developing voice. Working cohesively backwards from this goal will allow my learners to make connections with their learning. They will be able to connect the dots in a learner-centered, engaging environment.

​​What is COVA?

CThe freedom to choose (C) their authentic learning opportunity and how to organize, structure and present their learning experiences.
OOwnership (O) over the entire learning process – including selection of authentic projects and their eportfolio tools.
VThe opportunity to find and use their own voice (V) to revise and restructure their work and ideas.
AAuthentic (A) learning opportunities that enable students to make a difference in their own organizations and learning environments.
See the COVA page on this site for more information.
  1. When are lectures appropriate and how can they best be used?

Thomas and Seely Brown posit in A New Culture of Learning that in this digital age where things are constantly changing, our exclusive focus on the explicit dimension is no longer a viable model for education. So while a lecture format might be effective in short 5 or 10 minute mini-lessons, it is not where learning happens. (p.76)

It is important that my course be more than just HOW TO CREATE A DIGITAL FOLDER. I want to remind my learners of the value and excitement of learning itself. And that the construction of an ePortfolio is a vibrant experiential representation of knowledge acquisition. 

  1. What Learning Management System (LMS) or other digital sharing platforms are you planning to use? Why?

I will utilize Canvas LMS as my professional learning platform as that is something our teachers are already familiar with. Canvas provides features such as quiz creation, discussion boards, and screencasting in Studio. Also within Canvas is the opportunity to use multiple external tools such as Google forms/documents, Padlet, YouTube, EdPuzzle, and external URLs like Wakelet and Canva. 

  1. How are you introducing the course and yourself and how are you building the learning community? 

My course is introduced on the “Home” page with language on Why/How/What and goals matching the Instructional Design page on my ePortfolio. In the Discussions / Introduce Yourself page is a personal welcome video to establish Faculty Presence. Our learning community will be built within the “Discussion” pages and assignments. Video posts and video feedback will foster greater social connections and engagement.  

In this “Introduce Yourself” page, learners are encouraged to become familiar with “Studio”, record a short introduction video, and post to this page. I have posted a short “how-to” video for Studio use. 

At the top of “Modules” is another Welcome, with a link to go back to “Introduce Yourself” if it was missed. 

  1. How will you implement the Overview/Introduction/Start Here module or section of your course including videos, documents, and related resources?

The Overview/Introduction/Start Here is presented before the first Module, and on the Home page. It provides the goals and outcomes as well as a tour of the course with a short introduction and contact information. I have also provided buttons to the modules for the course, my contact page, and the course resources. My goal is to create an inviting page that is easy for even first-time Canvas users to navigate.

  1. Is this course student-centered or teacher-led?

This course is student-centered and relies on the learner to provide choice, ownership, and voice for their own authentic learning.

  1. What is the scope or range of the instructor’s role?

The instructor’s role is to be a facilitator and to help advise learners’ choices and decisions; helping them to succeed.

  1. Is the course blended or fully online?

The course at publication is asynchronous, fully online. It could also be used as a tool in a blended learning environment.

  1. What is the ratio or percentage of synchronous to asynchronous collaboration? 

At present, our teachers appreciate the ability to earn professional development hours on their own time, at their own pace. The current design allows for 100% asynchronous collaboration. The framework of the course design can easily be adapted.

  1. How will you implement the first 1-2 Modules of your course including videos, documents, and related resources?

In each module, I have provided a page containing the learning objectives as well as a page with all video and reading choices. These choices are then narrowed in further pages. In this way, learners have an initial broad choice of information, but a more narrowed focus for Discussion and Assignments. 

  1. How is your instructional design approach realized in the modules? 

The activities in each module align to the learning goals outlined in Fink’s 3-column table adhering to constructive learning. Each module is built with the same framework: Objectives/Resources/Discussion 1 & 2/Assignment of adding to ePortfolio. With an Outcomes Based model, the assessment of learning will happen with the submission of Discussion questions and the product of an ePortfolio, as well as a final Survey. 

  1. How does each module align to outcomes/goals, activities, and assessment?

Each Module aligns to outcomes listed on my 3-Column table as well as the COVA framework. 

Module 1: Aligns to the Foundational goal of becoming storytellers and collaborators while applying practical aspects of ePortfolio construction. 

Module 2: Aligns to the Human Dimension with its focus on growth mindset and professional learning networks. Learners are also introduced to the COVA concept and invited to make choices in their learning.

Module 3: Aligns to the Application goal by encouraging learners to consider ownership of their ePortfolio, and how ownership contributes to effective learning. 

Module 4: Aligns to Integration and Learning to Learn goals by identifying a “Why” statement, clarifying purpose, and defining voice. 

Module 5: Aligns to Integration, Human Dimensions, and Learning to Learn goals by finalizing ePortfolio to date and self-assessment of learning by reflecting on authenticity of the process.

  1. How will you address the infrastructure, system, and support needs and issues the learner may face?

Each module includes support guides for apps and extensions used. I am available for consultation on all issues.

  1. “Cognitive overload” is discussed in one video. What are your thoughts on addressing this issue?

In creating an online learning environment that is completely asynchronous, “cognitive overload” is prevented. In this course, learners are able to make choices in which videos to watch and when. With choice is agency, and a greater likelihood of course completion. This choice is balanced by the outcomes-based expectation in the construction of an ePortfolio.

  1. How will you use media to support and enhance learning?

Dewey says in Democracy and Education that “Every step from savagery to civilization is dependent upon the invention of media which enlarge the range of purely immediate experience and give it deepened as well as wider meaning.” (p.165)

The media embedded in my course modules will provide deeper and widened meaning, and can help provide extended learning opportunities as well as clarification about each module’s information. My goal is to choose videos that motivate and encourage learners to see knowledge acquisition in a new and exciting way. In MY using media and technology as a tool to do something I otherwise could not, THEY see how they could do the same! The technology itself disappears. 

  1. What standards for professional learning will you need to address as you develop your course?

I have permission from my school district to allow the completion of this course count towards professional development hours. The district has requested access to an end of course survey/form. 

Also adhering to district alt text requirements, all learners have access to Google Read & Write which offers text to speech and speech to text accommodations. 

Dewey, J., (1916). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York: Macmillan.

Fink, L.D. (2003) A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Harapnuik, D. (2015, May 8). Creating significant learning environments (CSLE). [Video]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/eZ-c7rz7eT4

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

Professional Learning 2.0

I am working with a small group of educators who believe the culture of professional development can be improved. For the most part, the rhetoric tied to professional development is negative. Many are constrained to a short time period, provide no support or modeling for teachers, while content presented is generic and passive. It doesn’t have to be this way.

We have begun to implement changes that make our classrooms more significant learning environments and are encouraged by the response we see in our students. They have been given more opportunities to take ownership and make choices in their learning and exercise their voice in an authentic way.

How might we create this culture of inquiry for the educators we work with as well? We can start with a simple shift in rhetoric. As teachers, are we not in fact professional learners?

Professional learning recognizes that teachers are learning and growing just like their students. While the term “development” indicates a process that has an end point, “learning”recognizes that professional growth is a never-ending, lifelong process.

The biggest effect in our business is the expertise of teachers. It’s teachers who work together, collectively, collaboratively, to understand their impact.

John Hattie

We believe we can improve the effectiveness of teachers and create a culture of inquiry with improved professional learning, and we believe using ePortfolios is the best way to achieve this vision. Below is the Why, How, & What to our mission.

4DX in Beta

One of my grad school classes focuses on HOW to successfully implement campus innovations. I thought I might try using these steps of implementation in a small way before attempting on my innovation plan. The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling outlines a formula for executing strategic priorities by following their four disciplines: focusing on the Wildly Important, acting on lead measures, keeping a compelling scoreboard, and creating a cadence of accountability.

I wanted to use the 4 Disciplines for the STAAR test prep as a unit of study on my campus. Knowing that success on the STAAR test looks different that success on other assignments, we try to repurpose familiar reading anchor charts as test taking strategies. We also know that providing more independent reading time will increase success.

In tackling the challenge of independent reading, I worked with our campus literacy coach in creating a friendly competition among campus Learning Communities using 4DX. We established our wildly important goal, created compelling scoreboards that our readers could see every day, acted on lead measures, and created a cadence of accountability among our readers.

As this was our first attempt at using 4DX, we established our WIG for our students:

We created 6 scoreboards, one for each learning community, and smaller individual scoreboards for each student to view lead measures. As our readers arrived before school each day, they applied a sticker to that day of their scoreboard (11 year olds love stickers!). They then settled down to read before the morning bell. At the end of our time together, they recorded their total amount of minutes for the day.

I completed the line graph of lead measures so that each reader could easily see how their daily choices were affecting their ability to reach their goal of 200 minutes (it was the straight line down the middle). Even if they missed a day, or didn’t read as much for a couple days, it was not impossible for them to achieve the WIG.

A cadence of accountability was created by grouping individual scoreboards on colored paper per learning community. We didn’t use very competitive language, and all readers were rewarded, but there was an unspoken push within learning communities for their readers to show up and read.

In addition to giving kids enough independent reading time, test taking strategies on standardized tests are also important. I wanted my students in Learning Community 8 to reflect on their learning and use strategies in a fun, competitive way. I attempted to use 4DX in my classroom to do so.

Each student had their own folder with a scoreboard stapled to the inside front cover. On the right cover of folder were 25 strategies represented by anchor charts we have used during the year in our reading. Before beginning, we read through and reflected on how we’ve used these strategies in the past, and how we will use them on STAAR passages in much the same way. We also looked at past benchmark scores and each student established a goal for their STAAR test scores. I wanted to tie in the importance for independent reading, so I created a space for them to measure that as well.

Each student’s Wildly Important Goal was a little different, and all students were able to see that their goal was to score higher. They were able to break down this goal into an achievable controllable lead measure tied to them using specific strategies and spending time reading. They were motivated by the ability to check off strategies and earn fun stickers on their scoreboards. They knew I was holding them accountable by requiring them to annotate strategies used on STAAR passages.

Not mentioned in McChesney, Covey, and Huling’s book is PLAY. Every day, as we started class, I turned on the same upbeat song and called out each child’s name as on a game show while awarding them their folders. By the end of our test taking unit of study, each reader knew the words of our song and banged on desks in the rhythm of the music, to the slight chagrin of my neighboring classrooms. That we ended on an even higher note that we began is a measure of success to me.

As I look to next year and the implementation of ePortfolios, I will use these two examples of the Four Disciplines of Execution as a possible vehicle to ensure EP success. I have sent a Google Form to my staff with a 1-minute video on ePortfolios with 2 additional questions. 31 of 93 staff members responded, with 9 indicating an interest in forming a pilot group for EP implementation next year. I’m looking forward to showing these examples to them and coming up with a WIG for ePortfolio implementation. Together we will establish lead measures, we will create a compelling scoreboard, and create a cadence of accountability so we don’t let the whirlwind of teacher life cause us to lose sight of the importance of ePortfolios.

But what is an ePortfolio?

My school has had a Wax Museum every year since they opened. They were the first ones to do it. Anywhere. Because we are innovators!

Except this year we will not be able to host the traditional event. In my present ePortfolio entrenchment I see a solution. Let’s be innovative again, and start a new tradition. One that sets students up for their future of research rather that only reflecting the past. In a memo to my principal for the leadership meeting tomorrow, I told her that ePortfolios could include:

  • Files of various formats (video, slideshows, images, etc.)
  • Writing samples (including several drafts tos how development and improvement)
  • Evidence related to all courses taken
  • Projects prepared for class for extracurricular activities
  • Evidence of creativity and extracurricular activities, including examples of leadership or community involvement

I also mentioned benefits of ePortfolios:

  • Empower student voice and choice
  • ePortfolios help students develop digital composition skills
  • Students share and reflect on their work themselves
  • Research shows that operating an ePortfolio stimulates memory and deepens understanding of past experiences. 
  • Research shows that the combination of thinking about design and textual content provides higher-impact learning experiences than simply putting words on paper.
  • Demonstrate deeper level of personal growth over time

It wasn’t until I spent 9 weeks in thought and creation of my own ePortfolio that I came to understand it as a catalyst for communication, creativity, and collaboration.