Demonstrating Definitive Preparation

When MIT made this announcement in the summer of 2013, it certainly garnered attention.  The notion that a top tier university would welcome applicants to submit a digital “maker” portfolio in addition to their standard application broke the mold.  Formerly, only art institutes asked prospective students to share demonstrations of their training and competency.

Will Parish seniors be in an advantageous position one day as they share an artifact from their MyPanther e.portfolio as part of their college application? It is too early to tell. When I met with the Deans of Enrollment at some of the country’s top universities in the fall of 2013 (See Mr. M’s Excellent College Adventure), most told me that they did not foresee their application process absorbing the additional volume created by digital submissions. Still, who knows? A decade ago many admissions officials would not have accurately predicted the significant implications online applications have had on college admissions.

I can suggest with greater certainty that the MyPanther e.portfolio offers a rich testimonial to the powerful habits of mind our students master as they journey through Parish. This effort will recalibrate how our community defines what success looks like in student learning. Evaluating what students produce, not just what they achieve in letter grades or standardized test scores, will lead to a more substantive and nuanced discussion of success and preparation.

Here is a glimpse of some major features of MyPanther:

Digital Identity

ParishProfileAboutMeMyPanther promotes student ownership of their digital identity. In addition to housing a student’s work samples, the e.portfolio will eventually enable her to catalog the on and off campus activities that define who she is becoming.

A Variety of Artifact Demonstrating Ongoing Mastery of the Practices

MyPanther chronicles a student’s evolving mastery of the ParishProfile Practices. Our teachers have designed incredible learning experiences which affords a student choice in how he demonstrates what he knows and what he can do. Focusing on learning endeavors that go beyond paper and pencil tests promotes student engagement.

Example – 2nd grade Insect Project: On this 2nd grade artifact page, the teacher articulates how the learning endeavor (designing an imaginary insect including its characteristics and habitat) aligns with the Practices. The Practices in bold represent the ones most emphasized in the learning experience and the assignment challenged our young learner to prototype a design before completing a final product:

ParishProfile_InsectProject

Example – 7th grade Cell Project: As students grow older, not only do they experience variety in the ways they can demonstrate their knowledge and skills (uploading writing samples, pictures, videos, slideshows, etc.), they also have more choice in which work samples they select to upload into their MyPanther. In the video below, a 7th grade girl demonstrates her understanding of cell structure using a “real-world” object (in this case a decorated donut) and its ingredients to create an analogy. In addition to her comprehension of the science concepts (see also the written reflection as it relates to the Practices), the student also honed her writing and technology skills in this task as she created the project video:

Increased Student Ownership and Reflection on Learning

MyPanther also promotes student reflection. When students take time to consider the purpose of an assignment, what skills it developed and what they learned from doing it, we combat the “memorize, regurgitate, repeat” cycle which has too often characterized the school experience.

ParishProfile_ShortStoryExample – 9th grade First-Person Short Story: This ninth grade student has uploaded a piece of first-person fiction writing which, in part, has taught her that when developing a product for public consideration one needs to “edit, edit and edit!”  Read the completed short story (or artifact).

It should be noted that this artifact demonstrates that the MyPanther will have traditional work samples, such as this piece of writing, in addition to digital representations of more hands-on projects.

For parents, MyPanther offers an opportunity to engage. While primary management of MyPanther rests with your child, you can take advantage of the e.portfolio to understand in vivid terms the powerful learning your child experiences as they journey through Parish.

If I don’t see you on campus before Spring Break, I hope to see you soon after.

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