It’s been over two years since I started the GDS Class of 2013 Digital Portfolio Project and, although that didn’t go so well, it paved the way for this project and things are looking pretty good! I learned a bit from the 2013 project and I want to leave those pages up so I can compare the two.
The big difference between them is timing. I didn’t start trying to get the class of 2013 involved until the end (the VERY end) of their junior year. Although there was a bit of buzz about it at first, it died down quickly as soon as the school year was over. By the time they graduated, I only managed to get one student to put together a digital portfolio. She enjoyed it, but it was a much smaller, short term project than I originally envisioned and ultimately not that useful to her. While I do think retrospectives are useful, they don’t have the impact of a long term, intentional exercise in collection, curation and reflection. This time around I was able to start VERY early; the class of 2018 began their digital portfolios during Orientation in August 2014. It was a small start — all they did was build a folder structure in Google Drive which they can populate with work throughout the year — but the timing will make a big difference.
The next critical difference between the two projects is the level of participation among the students. With the class of 2013, timing prevented me from effectively getting them all involved. It was just too late in their high school career to implement a new program like this. By starting with a simple task at the right time, I was able to get 100% participation from the class of 2018. I haven’t changed all of their hearts and minds yet, but they all have the folder structure in place on their Google Drives and many of them have already started collecting work.
At the end of the 2012 school year, we did not have a Director of Technology at GDS and the only people who were invested in the 2013 Digital Portfolio Project were myself and Sarah Redmond, a beloved teacher of 11th grade English. This time around I have the support of a fantastic new Director of Technology, an awesome corps of student leaders, and 20 faculty members who, along with me, work as Ninth Grade Advisors.
The two years I spent obsessing about digital portfolios have enabled me to plan for this project, unlike the first project which I threw together in a fit of passion. The passion is still there, but I have been able to collaborate with more people and state my case more clearly to the administration. I also shifted my thinking from “digital-portfolios-as-objects” to the process of making a digital portfolio. This shift is emphasized by the simple structure in Google Drive and the importance of reflection in the Ninth Grade Advisor curriculum.