One of my goals when I started using digital portfolios in my 6th grade class was to improve communication with parents, and though I have my students email their parents every time they add an update, I’m not sure how often they look at them. Parent-teacher conferences seemed like a great time to show off the work and reflection that my students have been doing this year, and I’ve had some of the best conferences ever because of it.
Concrete Examples of Learning
Each students’ digital portfolio contains artifacts: videos, embedded Google docs, snapshots of the learning process, student-created image slideshows that show the steps in the process up to creating a final product. We try to use all the digital tools at our disposal to document the learning process. With these, we’re able to demonstrate a student’s growth and learning in ways that just weren’t possible with traditional portfolios. The portfolios contained mostly qualitative data (although some quantitative was included, like spelling assessments), so artifacts of the learning process that aren’t final, completed projects are included. For example, students have chosen to add snapshots of anchor charts in the classroom and used these as one piece of evidence that they are starting to implement a strategy, along with a snapshot of an annotated reading passage. My favorite example is a student included a video of himself attempting (and failing) to explain his process for solving a problem (complete with the student recording it in the background saying “Dude–I don’t think guess and check is a valid strategy here”), and then explaining how he can improve in his reflection. Not only did this provide parents with concrete examples of the learning process, they also provided a glimpse into their child’s self-reflection and growth. During the conferences, I was able to use these artifacts to discuss progress with parents and demonstrate student learning and growth.
Promoting a Growth Mindset for Students and Parents
When I talk to colleagues about trying to promote a growth mindset amongst their students, parental expectations are often a hurdle. By setting up our digital portfolios so they were a documentation of students’ growth and progress over time toward specific goals, I was able to communicate to parents the importance of perseverance, self-reflection, and positive self-talk in the learning process. Rather than the conversation focusing on what the student wasn’t doing, the conversation was focused on what they were doing and the progress that they had made, however incremental it might have been, toward their goals. That shift in conversation, I think, relates to the transparency that comes from the digital portfolio. Parents have access to artifacts of student learning, as well as what the students learned from the experience (in their own words). That’s a pretty powerful combination.
Overall, I think that the digital portfolios made for a better set of parent-teacher conferences this year, both because of what my students created and what parents were able to take from them.
How have you used your digital portfolios to facilitate communication with parents?