Rob is a teacher at Trillium Charter School in Portland, where he primarily instructs students aged 8-11. He has been working to develop online portfolios with students for the past six years and has taught in private schools, traditional public schools and public charter schools for the past 15 years.
I use Evernote, Everywhere:
- iPod Touch
E-Portfolios: a student’s project warehouse and progress tracker
I started teaching 15 years ago and that is when I first came across this concept of a ‘portfolio.’ A portfolio is a storehouse for projects, writing pieces, art, and performances. It can be used by students, teachers, and parents to document what they’re doing (either day-to-day things or through their best work or improvements they’ve made). I see portfolios as a way to hold onto and think about what you’re doing.
Initially, I had my students create paper portfolios. They would keep a binder and at the end of a project, they’d go through their school folders and pick out their best work or compare two pieces that showed growth.
We had a bin where we’d put these documents and at the end of the year, they’d have 10-20 pieces that they’d take with them into the next school year. The problem with paper portfolios — beyond the fact that they take so much room — is that a lot of this work would never see the light of day. If it’s up to the teacher to be responsible for a student’s paper portfolio, it rarely gets used.
After spending years with paper portfolios, I’ve transitioned this concept into digital form, and have started to implement Evernote as the primarily system for creating portfolios in my classroom.
Evernote as an portfolio system
I was using portfolios with limited success and spending a lot of time on them, until Evernote came into the picture.
When I first started researching options, I was coming across a lot of companies that were really expensive, charging a lot for each student’s use. I also knew that we needed an app for mobile devices that would make it easy to capture and document paperwork and I wasn’t finding that in most of the tools I was evaluating. Evernote was free, had an app for virtually every device, and we could get started right away.
After creating accounts for the students [learn more about how to get set up in the Portfolio Forum discussion] capturing and organizing information became insanely easy. Here is how we are using Evernote in the classroom:
- When our school first decided to use Evernote, we set up demos with the students to show them how to use Evernote. At their age, students familiarize themselves with technology really quickly and naturally. A few picked it up immediately and started teaching their fellow classmates. Getting everyone up to speed didn’t take a lot of time.
- Before setting students up with Evernote accounts, I created a set of guidelines for the students so they knew what kind of things to put into Evernote. We also discussed the kinds of tags that they should be using, so we’d all be on the same page.
- Students started asking, ‘How can I put this into Evernote?’ I set my classroom up with a Lexmark Pro scanner so students are able to immediately capture their work and send it to their Evernote portfolio. They can also capture using any number of mobile devices where they have Evernote installed. They’re even able to access their work on their iPod Touch in class.
- When a student comes up with an interesting strategy on a whiteboard, I have them write down their name next to it and take a picture of it, or record them explaining what they came up with. Great ideas are saved to Evernote to show progress over the course of the school year.
- I’ve actually started emailing parents with these progress notes immediately after I capture them. I’m able to show the parents that their kid had a great growth moment or did something they’ve never done before. The real-time sharing was appreciated not only by the parents, but also excited the students.
- The final ‘piece’ of the portfolio work is, of course, sharing. For our Spring conference, we asked students to have one example of work from each area (math, writing, art, kinesthetic) to share with their parents. The students actually taught the parents how to use Evernote at our conference by familiarizing them with their portfolios.
Parent/Teacher conferences and Evernote
Students started documenting their work in Evernote in September and in November, we had a parent/student conference where I met with parents to discuss their kids’ progress in school. When I sat down with the parents and their kid, I would simply type their child’s name into Evernote, pulling up every single thing I had documented. This way, I was really able to tailor our conversations to a lot of specific details related to their child.
Real-time sharing to show progress
With Evernote, I’m able to show parents their kids’ progress in school in real time. They don’t have to wait for report cards. Evernote has really changed the way I’ve been thinking about report cards all-together. With Evernote, we’re constantly documenting what students are doing and sharing this feedback with parents.
Evernote for Lifelong Learning
One of the most important reasons for using Evernote as a portfolio system is that it allows students to take their portfolios with them, even if they are no longer at Trillium. Evernote takes the documentation, reflection and sharing out of the hands of teachers and puts it in the hands of the students, who can continue the process. Instead of keeping a box in their parents’ basement of everything they’ve done, students are now able to virtually carry these milestones with them wherever they go and therefore, watch their progress as learners, improve themselves, and continually add new and relevant pieces of work.
Evernote for Portfolios Webinar
Want to learn more about ways to use Evernote as a portfolio? Join Evernote and Rob for a presentation and discussion of the story behind using Evernote as a portfolio at school.
Are you an educator? How are you using Evernote with your students? Please share in the comments.
More Evernote for Schools posts:
- Evernote For Schools Site: Resource for Using Evernote in Education
- Student Ryan Kessler Transformed His Workflow, Raised His GPA and Left His Textbooks at Home (Back-to-School Series)
- Evernote for Schools – Education Series Roundup
- Evernote for Students: The Ultimate Research Tool – Education Series
- Evernote at School: The Montclair Kimberley Academy’s 1:1 Program, plus Q&A Webinar