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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

ePorfolios Blogs and Audience Response Systems at Back to School Night

I must say that many back-to-school nights are a bit painful.  For those of you who are not familiar with this, it's an evening where you go to the school (without your children) and the teachers tell you a little bit about how they will approach the year.  This year, I attended three different back-to-school nights for my three children (elementary, middle school and high school). 

Most teachers hand a sheet with all the information they plan to present (which is good because there are often lots of links and other helpful information).  And then they proceed to walk through it.  I'm sure most of you can relate.  You are sitting there while the teacher reads what's on the sheet to you.  You could have got the sheet delivered to you and then just visit the teacher another time.  Of course, I'm not exactly the best audience and there's no Session Hopping available at back-to-school.

I believe that many teachers will tell you that it's equally painful going through from their side.  My wife used to dread both back to school and open house nights.  Not sure how my mother felt (a school teacher for 35 years).  I should really have asked her before I posted this.  But my guess is that she didn't really like it that much either.  The nice thing about being a professor is that you never saw parents except on rare visits (shake their hand, exchange pleasantries) and at graduation.  You never had to do a presentation to them.

So while I was really dreading having to do three different back-to-school nights, I must say there were two very pleasant surprises.  And, just in case any of the other teachers who have my children in their class this year read this, I must say this whole year was an exceptionally good back to school night.  Still there were two standouts.

ePortfolios and Blogs

My oldest daughter, a freshman in high school, has a fantastic teacher, Ms. Gerber, for Honors English.  Ms. Gerber has the class creating ePorfolios and Blogging as teaching tools!  I honestly almost fell out of my chair when she casually mentioned this.  And I was struck by the stares of the other parents who clearly had no idea what she was saying.

Now I know that many of my fellow bloggers who come from education will be saying "no duh, Tony" this is happening all over the place.  But it's a bit different when you see it really being applied.


As an example, the students watched the courtroom drama 12 Angry Men.  Ms. Gerber asked the students to post comments in the class blog: Assignment Two.  Certainly, seeing what the other students said in their responses is a great thing.  There wasn't much interaction among the students as in Assignment One.  But it was still good to see answers.  And it was funny to see my daughter say:

I used to have a feeling I would be a good lawyer, because I have a lot of arguments with my dad, but now I'm not so sure. If that's what it's like in a courtroom, I wouldn't last very long!

Ms. Gerber also has started the students on a journey of creating an ePorfolio using Google Sites.  They aren't much to look at yet, but having recently run across a few examples of ePortfolios that students have pulled together across several years – I'm sure that it's a great idea to have them starting on one now.


I'm quite curious what recommendations people have around how to effectively create an ePortfolio that will help you get into college.  Currently, my daughter's portfolio is oriented around Years and Subjects.  That doesn't seem right to me, but maybe it doesn't matter at this point.  Any pointers?

Audience Response System

The other pleasant surprise was Mr. Luke Olesiuk, at the middle school.  He teaches math and went through all of the normal stuff that all the teachers do.  However, he made it quite enjoyable because he used an audience response system in the classroom and presented most everything that way.  As we walked in, he provided each parent a clicker.  It's from TurningPoint Systems – see it below:


Then he spent what I have to believe was a fair bit of time designing his presentation.  Instead of saying, my goals for the year are X, Y, and Z.  He would put a question on the projector that said - "My goals for the year are all of the following except one of these …" and he would list X, Y and Z and at least one funny response.  I was surprised how effectively it kept everyone engaged.  Most parent intentionally would get wrong answers (at least I hope), but it gave him opportunity to talk through why those were the goals or whatever.

Truly he turned something mundane into something fun.  And he ended exactly on time (used a timer in his hand to track).  Clearly he spent time designing this out, but the result was great.  It made me think that with the advent of audience response via web solutions, this is going to make in-person presentations a lot more interesting in the future.  Quite topical given: Narrowing Gap between Face-to-Face and Online Presentations and New Presenter and Learner Skills and Methods.

The only drag was the following note that we received:

Parents - I'm still missing Clicker # C14 from Back-To-School night last night...if you accidentally borrowed it after the presentation yesterday, please send it back with your student on Monday. Thank you!

Amazing that he doesn't lose them with kids, but does with parents.

Maybe if Turning Point Systems sees this post they can send him a new one. :)


Lisa R. said...

I love that your children have teachers that are using technology - CORRECTLY - and engaging parents in the same ways that they work with students. Encouraging students to document their work online gives them a living, continuous journal of their experiences that will last much longer than the notebook journals that I hated to write. Incidentally, my third grader hates doing it, too.

With regard to preparing an ePortfolio for college admission, years and subjects is a good start, as it shows the growth and development over the years. To stand out more, perhaps she could organize Academics, Extra-Curricular Activities, Community, Fun, Etc. (with more interesting titles, of course!)? This highlights the areas that admissions officers make evaluations on, while giving her the freedom to build and express herself within each area as she sees fit. Don't forget the resume!
- @DoktaDivah, Instructional Technologist and Veteran Academic Advisor

Chris Davis said...

I am amazed and happy to hear that some public schools are using Audience Response Systems to help keep parents (at back to school nights) and students engaged. I have used an ARS in presentations I have given and I believe it can help your preso become more engaging.

I would also like to share another way to use “audience responses” in a presentation without having to use the hardware needed with the TurningPoint solution. Check out which includes Live Audience Polling by using SMS text messages, Twitter, or a website to vote. The audience uses their cell phone or goes to a website on their laptop during your session to vote. Another way is to follow the method explained in this post “Free PowerPoint Twitter Tools” - I am curious – what other ARS tools do you use?

Harold Jarche said...

Most interesting, Tony. It's always educational to look inside the walls of our academic institutions.

My story this year is that both of our sons in high school have not one single course that uses the web. Not even a list of assignments or resources, let alone something interactive for learning.

Tony Karrer said...

@Lisa - thanks for your thoughts on this. Seems like good advice. And I'm sure we'll change things up over time.

@Chris - I've not used live ones, I've used a bunch in online presentations. But with things like polleverywhere, it seems like it will be much more feasible to use them live.

@Harold - that's quite surprising. Our entire district pretty much requires that teachers post assignments, calendar items, etc. online. Otherwise, how would us parents know what our kids are supposed to be doing in their classes. :)

Janet Clarey said...

I have children in elementary, middle, and high school. I also some nice things going on - blogs, smartboards, and e-boards. This statement sticks with me though:
"And I was struck by the stares of the other parents who clearly had no idea what she was saying." I'm seeing this gap get wider faster. You? (When I said "I blog professionally" at a training meeting, an instructor actually said 'what does that mean?'. How - in today's day and age when even you're local coffee shop is on Twitter can you not know what a blog is...or put 2+2 together and figure out 'professional blogger.)

Tony Karrer said...

@Janet - great to hear you are seeing the same thing. And that you have the same age kids. :)

I agree with you that this gap is getting wider faster. You and I are on the early adopter end of this.

To me, the problem is that we've built our education assumptions around the idea that you learn the core metacognitive skills you will need for the rest of your life in school/college. You don't need to retrain on these things. You might add on a bit. But now things change so fast that there's something else that's needed here.

I don't honestly see what the answer is beyond some level of wake up calls.

Sue Waters said...

I'm sadden by the fact that globally I support educators in the use of blogs with their students and yet my own children aren't given these opportunities at their schools.

They also aren't being taught any digital citizenship skills at all. Fortunately they have a mother who can teach them these as opposed to most parents.

Tony Karrer said...

@Sue - this post is not quite having nearly the effect I intended. I was thinking how great it was that my daughter was getting this exposure. I wasn't thinking about the fact that this is not being done elsewhere.

But let me turn this a bit. As a parent, what resources should I go look at if I am a bit technology savvy and I want my child to create a portfolio. (This will help answer my other question.)

Sue Waters said...

Sorry Tony I was really pleased for you and daughter while frustrated at my own situation (long day).

The reality is at the moment there is a wide interpretation of eportfolio. A large portion of our clients sign up for our service to use Edublogs Campus as Eportfolio with their students; each are doing it differently.

Can you clarify -- do you want resources so that you can work on this with your daughter or to share with her teacher? Asking because the resources I might recommend for you would be different from perhaps what I might suggest to the teacher.

Tony Karrer said...

Sue - sorry that I added to your long day. :)

I'm looking for resources for me as a parent. Assume that I didn't have a teacher who was helping her to create an ePortfolio. What should I go read to help my daughter?

Sue Waters said...

No problem as my days are always long. Looking after blogging platforms is sort of like looking after new born babies :)

I'm assuming that you've already started by reading Dr Helen Barrett's work since her work is the most common place educators start.

Then I would also check out how Sarah Stewart posts on ePortfolio because she has been reflecting on their use for professionals.

simulation games as an elearning paltfom said...

This is really amazing to see schools updating to the latest information technology trends. I can see a growing trend in schools for using simulation games for letting kids not only to learn the theory, but also to play and gain some experience.
Universities and large organizations combine ePortfolios in their class rooms as well. You may see business simulation games as a leading trend as well, when dealing with schools wish to be more technology-friendly.
I believe that in the 3 years from now you will be surprise to see the old format of coming back to schools.
I've attached some article on elearning as for serious games (a phrase refer to acquire knowledge by playing), take a look The CEO Game: e-Learning Platform .
Take care, Nim.