In response to the growing discussion around iPad workflow, student curation, and portfolio assessments, I started to look at Why the conversation had shifted in this direction. In fact, my colleague, Greg Kulowiec, wrote an excellent post a few weeks ago about using Google Drive to create student portfolios. His detailed presentation and screencast walk through the workflow of curating student content into Drive, and then sharing it with teachers and peers.
While it has become apparent that empowering our students with iPads and other mobile devices unlocks tremendous potential to create, communicate, and collaborate, the still unanswered question is how do we determine that they have also gained greater understanding, reflected on their learning, and mastered content? Can these same devices support our students as they engage in those higher order processes? Will curating all of this content into a portfolio support this quest for higher understanding and allow students to connect with their own learning? Is there an app for that?
When I first started using Evernote, I saw it as a convenient note taking tool – especially since Google Docs could not initially be edited from an iPad. Evernote allowed me to start writing on my iPad (or iPhone) and then access it from my laptop later or share it with colleagues. Upon discovering the ability to email to Evernote, and combining that fact with the audio and photo note features, I started to see it as a powerful assessment and portfolio tool.
Teachers can create one notebook per student and then curate their projects by taking photos of physical assignments, sharing digital ones via email to the student’s notebook, recording students’ thoughts and reflections with audio, and typing additional notes for assessment purposes, to create a robust portfolio for each child. These student notebooks could then be shared with colleagues, peers, or parents.
While this may help teachers paint a picture of what students have created, it does not necessarily illustrate what they have learned. Just because students can create and curate their own content, that does not necessarily ensure that they consequently understand what it means for their own learning, how they should think about that information, or what they should do with the knowledge. Could Evernote as a portfolio tool also serve as a catalyst for metacognition, easily supporting student reflection on their own creation?
In October, I spoke with Jill Gough and Rhonda Mitchel at the Trinity school in Atlanta. They are implementing a curriculum based on the goal of teaching students to think of themselves more holistically as learners and then archive their learning based on five categories: communicators, collaborators, thinkers, knowers, and leaders. Not surprisingly, Evernote sat at the center of the process.
Beginning in the second grade, students receive an Evernote account which will follow them through to graduation after 6th grade. Upon the completion of projects, or the culmination of learning experiences, teachers then guide the students through reflection exercises in order to achieve that stage of “thinking about their own thinking.” This not only provides students with a way to reflect on the day-to-day, but also the ability to go back and see their own progress throughout their learning career. With this longitudinal approach, it will be possible for students to see their whole portfolio as an archive of student growth. (Rhonda and Jill will speak more about this in our January 24th webinar).
With more and more schools moving to a Google Apps environment and integrating iPads, Greg’s thoughts on using Drive for student portfolios is an excellent solution as it provides for easy collaboration, extensive cloud storage, and easy workflow, but I don’t see Evernote and Drive as mutually exclusive. In fact, Trinity uses both tools concurrently. They view Google Drive and Google Docs as the “messy space” for collaborating, creating, and curating work. However, Evernote remains reserved as a clean, quiet space designed for reflection.
Could another note taking tool serve the same purpose as Evernote? Could Drive? Absolutely! My thought is this: when we give students iPads or other devices and empower them as creators and curators of their own content, we also need to provide them with time, space, and direction to reflect on why they are creating that content, how it reflects on their own learning, and what they can do with that knowledge. In other words, in addition to leveraging iPads for consumption, creation, and curation, students can also use them to make those deeper connections.