30 September 2017

Foolproof Portfolios - Who am I fooling?

So you make a template--with instructions repeated on the template--and they still get confused. 

I mean, I thought portfolios could have been smooth sailing if I could have just shared a template on on Adobe Spark or Blogger or VoiceThread. I thought Google Slides might FINALLY be able to offer that perfect mix of customization and control for e-portfolios that I had been seeking since Glogster!

Benefits to a Google Slides portfolio:
  • Easy template sharing: assign  on Google Classroom and "Make a copy for each student."
  • Easy navigation: go back and forth to the parts you want to see or compare by clicking thumbnails on the left.
  • Easy media embedding: add images or even videos straight from Google Drive--which ALSO means I can play the videos on 2X speed again!
  • Easy display: with the new Google Sites, it was SUPER easy to walk kiddos through how to put their reading, writing, listening, and speaking slideshows together into one easy to make, easy to use site--IN the target language, I might add!

But Google Slides can't fix student error:
  1. Not sharing the videos they're trying to show me.
  2. NOT FOLLOWING THE FREAKING INSTRUCTIONS.
Now, I say student error, but when it's things that simple, I have got to be honest. Those are errors that can be solved with just a little bit of extra teacher input. After all, I'm the professional; I'm the one who's been doing this since Glogster was free. So I have to ask myself...

1. Did I give them enough time? 

I'm done trying to convince myself that they have "Plenty of Time at Home" just because I assigned it on Monday and gave them until Thursday. Man, I know "This isn't our only class!" is a whiny cop-out, but frankly, it's A) true and B) a signal that we should ALL be able to go home and breathe a couple of hours without looking at work (I'm looking at you, 2009 Laura Sexton).

And I know they should email when they have questions--some are getting pretty good about that. But they're 10th graders, and I need to remove as many obstacles to getting the help they need as I can by providing a little time on different days TO ask those questions is surely something I can provide if I really believe the portfolios are gonna do them some good (PS a 90% TL chill pill doesn't hurt here either.)

2. Did I make the instructions simple enough?

I was super pleased with how I pared down my expectations to a simple single-point rubric (even if it was more "soft skill" based than proficiency based):


Now these expectations do not have a 1-to-1 correlation with the templates or the instructions: I have an additional title slide that doesn't have a "criterion," and I called the slide to demonstrate growth "Revision" (because that's what they are supposed to put on that slide!). Some kiddos were expecting to see a slide for "Professionalism." I don't know, maybe I could switch a slide title or too, but I don't think this is where the real breakdown came in.



I think in my attempt to make the instructions uniform among the four communication skills, I added unnecessary complications. Providing the same link on all 4 templates to ALL of the ACTFL performance descriptors--that was just asking to get them to describe their interpretation in terms of presentational skills, especially when there are separate interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational PDFs online. Also, it might be a little tricky bouncing between general Novice and Intermediate descriptors and more precise AAPPL descriptors between self-evaluation and revision, so maybe I should wrap that into the reflection slide afterward.

3. Did I break down the process enough?

After 3 rounds of portfolios with kids who just LEFT THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE TEMPLATE-- without following them--I decided to walk the kiddos through each slide one by one by one. (Three rounds, I know. Who's the slow learner in this scenario?) I thought having them start the thing together--literally typing a title and inserting their first sample--and then just having the instructions right there for them was gracious plenty guidance. But who am I kidding? I am the reason the staff meeting can't just be an email. I skim, skip stuff, and generally forget. My colleagues laughed out loud when the new guy suggested I learn coding, just envisioning how scattered a code I produced would be.

The moral: How can I possibly expect something of sophomores that is still hard for me at 36?

It's the main reason that online classes--teaching or learning--are such an ordeal. I can write instructions until I'm blue in the face, but without the opportunity to attempt and get immediate feedback, learning is a crapshoot. Adding videos that said the same thing helped. But anything--ANYTHING--that is new needs time for them to attempt, ask questions, AND respond to feedback (and, you know GET feedback) before they are evaluated. Otherwise it's a soul-wearying gotcha game for everyone.

What's more, if I had had an intermediary step where students turned in every video they planned to use in a portfolio, I would not have had to request access to files the morning grades were due (I know, I know--it really isn't just the kids.)


So. Are Google Slides the answer to all my e-portfolio needs?

I think so. As long as I'm not fooling myself about what I need to do to make portfolios effective.

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