Monday, March 26, 2012

Paper or Electrons?

Lately I've been exploring ways to capture what happens in a dynamic conversation-driven lesson for  assessment later.  In my last several posts, I reported on several efforts to record lessons.  I'd also like to keep student portfolios.

(snip from an earlier post) Although I do collect writing samples, keeping a more dynamic portfolio in the classroom has been on my back burner for some time.  They need to be on paper because some students don't have computer skills (yet) and others have very limited Internet access.  Now that I'm bringing everyone online, though, they can certainly supplement with electronic records.  I think it would be good to take this to the students.  Let them decide what the portfolios should contain and how they should interact with them. 

Since I wrote the above, I've put together plastic file boxes for paper portfolios.  I was planning to introduce them at the beginning of April and use them for three months (to the end of our fiscal year), then reflect on the process.
A cheap plastic file box should work OK.

But just in the nick of time, I saw this post at Free Technology for Teachers (again!) reporting on an intriguing way to maybe have my paper and electrons too!  It's an app (and website) called Three Ring with a simple idea: use your smart phone or tablet to take a picture of a student's work and upload it immediately into a portfolio for that student.  You can create classes and organize students under them, tag the uploads, and add comments.  You can add student names or tags in bulk.  You can upload information from a hard drive.  It would be nice to be able to bundle up a student's work into a zip file for archiving or to send to the student when he or she has finished the class.  Although I'm not that big on printing things out, it would be nice to have that capability.  Maybe new features will come later.  For assessment purposes, just the electrons will be fine!  My students can put paper into their folders and I can photograph and upload it to their online files.  I can also (with their permission) snap samples from their notebooks.

As many other teachers are starting to do, I've been taking pictures of my boards before I erase lately.  So, why not create a portfolio for myself, too?  I added myself to each of my classes.  In the future, I can take my board pictures from inside the app and they'll go right into the correct folder with a date stamp and everything!. (You can edit the dates if you want.)

ETA:  As I was trying to create a library of tags for my classes, the web site seemed a little flaky.  It appears that this app/web site is brand new and still in beta form.  So, be a friendly user and give the developers feedback.  It has potential! 

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