ePortfolio Tools

During this weeks Play-testing 2 assignment I had the opportunity to explore various eportfolio tools to see how I might benefit from, and integrate them into my classroom as an educator. I chose three different tools as possibilities of where to house my personal eportfolio. These included a website, a wiki and a proprietary tool.

First I choose to explore Weebly (example below), which is a free web-hosting service. Weebly is extremely user-friendly and easy to customize with many different designs to choose from to fit your liking. It provides ribbons at the top of the page with visuals and titles for each option of the customizing and editing pages so that you know exactly what you are choosing before you choose it. Simply drag the design element you wish to include on your page and drop it where you want it to appear. It’s that easy! This tool would be hard to mess up as you begin to use it. You may also add any type of media to your page if you wish. Then, when you are ready, you just click the “publish” button. You may choose the name of your weebly website and it will tell you if a personal website to host on is available so that “weebly” is not included in your URL. This website also has the option of adding “editors,” which are other people you have allowed to edit your website. Another bonus…Weebly also automatically creates a mobile version of your personal website!

weebly1

I choose Foliotek (example below) to explore what a proprietary tool is like. Foliotek is a free electronic portfolio web application. For my inital attempt at creating my eportfolio I was a little confused but was able to figure it out fairly quickly. Editing anything on your portfolio is very simple; just click in the field you wish to change and start to type. Text formatting is easy as well. They have provided a ribbon at the top, similar to what you see in Microsoft word. Included in that ribbon is a place titled “Files” where everything you have uploaded is stored. Foliotek makes it easy to edit and create pages, or do anything else you need to do, once you learn how to use it. Similar to Weebly, Foliotek has a place in the top ribbon titled “Gizmos” which provides visual representations of tools you may want to include in your portfolio to help you add outside content. This can be anything from simple images to feed from your twitter account. When you are ready to “share” there are several options for how to do so. You may share publicly and you are provided with a public URL as well as buttons to share on social media. You can also choose to share privately which allows you to invite users, via email, to view your portfolio for a period of time. A last option is to join a community on the foliotek site and just share your portfolio with that community. You may add contributors to your foliotek account, giving them access to contribute to your portfolio by adding content. They may not, however, change any content that you have already included in the portfolio.

foliotek

 

In exploring a wiki I chose to use PBworks (example below). PBworks is a commercial real-time collaborative editing system whose basic features are free and more advanced features come with a fee. In trying out the free version which only offers limited customization I personally do not like the plain, boring look of this tool but it does serve its purpose of hosting a portfolio in an organized manner. There is no option of making it more visually appealing. What you see is what you get and it’s not easy on the eyes. However, PBworks was also user-friendly, like weebly. I think this would be a good option for someone who gets distracted by lots of colors or doesn’t want too many options to choose from as far as customization. If you don’t want any of the bells and whistles, just straightforward information with a basic look, this is a great option. This site allows you to add users who can access your content.

pbworks

 

I also think it would be easy to use a blog to make an eportfolio. In my mind a blog is very similar to the Foliotek and Weebly resources. On the blog you could just make new pages for each part of your eportfolio. Had I not played with Foliotek and Weebly I wouldn’t mind using a blog to host an eportfolio.

I think that Weebly is the tool for me simply because it seems to fit my personality best. I prefer the way it looks and “feels” as you read it. I think that a prospective employer would definitely be impressed if they were able to view this to get to know more about me and my competencies regarding teaching. Weebly would also be a great tool for my students to learn. I believe it is the most user-friendly of the three and still provides a professional look. The visuals provide a “what you see is what you get” affordance that would be beneficial for children of almost any age. This would also be the easiest to explain to students because of those visuals. I could see myself incorporating Weebly into my classroom. It would be a great resource for parents to keep up with what is going on in the class, to get my contact information, view homework assignments and due dates. They could also utilize the RSS feed so that new information goes straight into parents inboxes. I also like the “online poll” option because that would  be a quick and easy way for students to answer a homework question to encourage them to think about what’s been discussed in class.

Any one of these tools would serve as a great environment for students to be intimately involved in one another’s learning. These are virtual environments that promote collaboration. I believe that the more students collaborate and reflect on each other’s thoughts, the deeper and more meaningful the learning will be, making it more memorable as well. This is a great place for students to practice constructive criticism as well. Having the chance to be respectfully critical of other students work and challenge others to think more deeply will encourage maturity in their thinking.

Upon reflecting about how to best utilize a professional educator portfolio I see how much potential such a tool has. We are no longer limited to the “recommended 1-2 page” resumes of the past. We now have an opportunity to get creative and customize a technological resource to display our competency in our field. We are able to show who we are, what we have accomplished and what we can do. There’s only so much you can do to get creative with 2 sheets of 8.5″ x 11″ paper. Now the possibilities are endless. People in any profession could use any of these tools for their own portfolios. I don’t think it matters if you are a photographer, fashion designer, interior designer, architect, artist, teacher or student. I believe this just depends on personal preference more than the purpose of the eportfolio. Each of these tools allows for you to customize to your own liking to fit the purpose your portfolio serves (although you may have to pay for optimal customization). I’m not positive, but I don’t believe that PBworks would work in any context because it cannot be customized with backgrounds, different colors, images wherever you want them, etc. PBworks is very plain and boring. You don’t have any options for making it more visually stimulating besides changing the color scheme and adding a logo. For professions that are purely visual I would think PBworks would be one to steer clear of.

At first glance this assignment seemed very overwhelming because this is all new to me. But when I starting playing around with the different tools the assignment started to make sense. I am happy to have the opportunity to explore these technologies and will definitely use them in classes I teach in the future. I want to provide my students with the opportunity to explore how easy these resources are to create, and share the benefits of using them.

http://lborukedtech.weebly.com (example of website)

http://lboruk.foliotek.me/ (example of a proprietary tool)

http://lborukedtech.pbworks.com (example of wiki)

Tech Play 1

If I were to create a blog to use in a middle school reading classroom I would want to utilize it to introduce and reflect on a new book that the students will read. For example, if I were to assign Hatchet by Gary Paulsen as the reading, we would begin by reading the back cover together and reflect on what we can infer from the short summary read. For their initial blog post I would ask them to hypothesize about what they think Brian will go through to survive the wilderness. I would provide questions for them to answer to get their juices flowing. I think a blog would benefit them because they could see each other’s posts and respond to one another in a discussion type format. Once we start the book I would continue to utilize the blog from start to finish by asking more questions for them to reflect on and post their responses for the class to see. This would provide everyone a chance to be heard and respond to each other which is something that is not always possible in the classroom. I think the biggest advantage of a blog like this is that some people find it easier to contribute to a discussion when they have time to think about what they will say. The pressures of being embarrassed to talk in front of other students are somewhat decreased when you use a medium like this. That’s an affordance of what a blog offers students.

hatchet

Considering Bloom’s verbs, the desired level of thinking would be synthesis and evaluation. First, students are asked to hypothesize before reading the book. Then, throughout our time reading they will be asked to discuss events in the book, argue for or against decisions that Brian makes, evaluate whether or not they think his survival strategies are good (or could have improved), etc. These are higher level thinking strategies that are extremely beneficial to student’s academic growth and maturity.

Bloom

This type of pedagogical stance would be interactive instruction because it relies heavily on discussion and sharing among students on the blog. The entire class would be required to contribute by posting their individual thoughts. I could also allow group work in class and allow one member of the group to post what the group discussed during class. This allows the students to have more time in class to actually discuss the topic and they are still able to share what their group thought about a topic with the class without taking time out of class.

While there are many advantages of using a blog as a teaching method there will always be the possibility of some of the students not having easy access to computers and the internet. Of course the amount of assignments that I choose to use the blog with as individual homework would depend on such a factor. I think this is where the group work becomes more important because if they were to work in groups in class and then contribute to the blog from home there’s more of a possibility that at least one student has access to a computer at home. This tool is worth using because it’s important for students to know how to use and understand different forms of media, such as a blog. It’s important for them to feel comfortable and confident using today’s technology. This type of instruction would be something new and different and I would do everything I could to make it fun for them. I would hope that using technology in such a way would be a motivating factor for them to want to pursue higher education. I wouldn’t want this to be too labor intensive outside of class. I would probably introduce the unit by have the class help me customize the blog and do initial posts as a large group so that they can see how to do it. I would also utilize computer lab time for students to make their individual blog posts to help those who don’t have such easy access to a computer.