Tag Archives: digital portfolio

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.

Reimagining What #Success Looks Like

Several of my blog posts this year have revolved around the theme of #success. How do we judge and measure our own child’s success and what does “successful” parenting looks like? How do we measure our success as a school today? What features might a “successfully reimagined” Parish have tomorrow?

Needless to say, I am proud that as a community we choose to pose these questions and, when seeking answers, take a much fuller and more nuanced perspective on what success means. We know our children and our School are more than a compilation of statistics, trophies and other metrics.

No effort we have made since 2009 demonstrates our belief in a more refined and meaningful definition of success than one of our signature programs: the Parish Practices and MyPanther digital portfolio.

ParishProfileHeadWe constructed the Parish Practices in 2010 as a statement of philosophy. Namely, we believe today’s students must secure enduring habits of mind if they are to succeed in tomorrow’s changing world. More important than what students know – how much content they can consume, regurgitate and forget – is what they CAN DO with what they know.

Given this, we wanted to define what a “definitively prepared” Parish student would be able to do as they left Parish, not just what they knew. For our graduates to lead and serve in the rapidly changing, globally interconnected world, it will be imperative that they hone these skills. Thus, the Practices were born.

But, how might we show that these Practices were more than just words? How could we capture students demonstrating their mastery of these skills in ways that went beyond traditional papers, tests and quizzes? Could we, in fact, chart a student’s journey to mastering these important habits of mind by cataloging samples of her work as she travelled through our program?

Our bold answer to these questions was the creation and design of the MyPanther digital portfolio. Few schools nationally have undertaken such an audacious task – attempting to capture authentic examples of an individual student’s learning across three divisions and fourteen grade levels. Now in our third year, with many challenging miles travelled and many more to follow, the seeds of this project are bearing fruit.

Most importantly, teaching and learning on our campus continues to transform. Our talented faculty increasingly designs lessons and assessments working backward from these skills. As a result, learning experiences have become more student-centered and engaging. We refer to this as putting students in the “do mode.”

do_mode

Additionally, MyPanther helps students develop a habit fit for the digital age. As articles like this New York Post example attest, the paper résumé is increasingly becoming extinct. When the Parish students of today tackle the world of tomorrow, they will possess a capacity to tell their story; to reflect on what they have done and how they did it; and to manage their digital identity in a technology-infused world.

Three years ago, our Lower School students began compiling work in their MyPanther portfolios, joined two years ago by their Middle School peers and this year by our ninth graders. A PreK student whose portfolio began in 2012 may, by the time he graduates, have as many as 89 artifacts in it! What an impressive and personalized testimony this digital portfolio will be. It will represent vividly the individual child’s journey to mastering skills which prepare him for a productive and meaningful life!