At the end of last year I tested out using Evernote as a tool for building e-portfolios. You can read about it here. If you’re not super familiar with Evernote you might want to start with reading that post.
After testing Evernote for about 3 months I was impressed by the flexibility and variety that it provided. As with most things I do in the classroom I try to figure out how to give the kids more ownership, not only in the process, but in the product as well.
This year I am lucky enough to have one iPad per student in my classroom. I decided that each student will have a dedicated iPad. To me this just makes sense for a couple of reason. First, some of the Apps we use keep track of student progress so they would need to be on the same machine each time they used that App. Second, it has been my experience that when the students start creating content during “free time” they often like to revisit, remix, revise and remake things over and over again.
My initial thoughts were to install Evernote on each iPad, create a class account for each student, and then “share” the student portfolio “notebook” that I had created for them. That way they would be able to add content to the notebook just as easily as I could without having access to any of my other Evernote notebooks. The one issue I could see with this approach is that students could easily add content but they could also just as easily erase content. This frightened me tremendously!
I pondered for a bit and then the lightbulb went off. Why not use Skitch as and avenue for kids to add content.(Read more about how we use Skitch here.) By using Skitch I could create a “one way” street where kids could add but not remove content. They would still be able to see their whole portfolio when we met every couple weeks to conference on their progress. All I had to do was open Skitch on the students iPad, log on to Evernote from withinSkitch and bing bang boom they were ready to go!
I talked to the kids about the idea of a digital portfolio and at first I don’t think they fully understood the concept. As we progressed through the first few weeks of school and they learned more about the iPads, and in particular Skitch, things started to make more sense. We started simple by taking pictures of stuff that interested them. We would then import these photos to Skitch and explore the features of the App. They quickly learned how easy it was to find something they liked or were proud of, take a picture of it, pull it up in Skitch and send it to their portfolio.
Once they learned how to send content from their iPad to my computer using Skitch things started to solidify in their minds. As the weeks have progressed the kids have learned more flexible ways to get examples of things they are proud of into their portfolios. One day the kids were working on a handwriting App called “Wet Dry Try” and were very proud of the progress they were making. They wanted to find a way to show the progress they had made in this App and add it to their portfolios. There is a neat feature on an iPad/iPod/iPhone that allows you to take a screen shot. If you simultaneously press the “Home” and “Power” button a screen shot will be saved in the camera roll. The kids just pulled up the screen in the handwriting App that displayed their progress, took a screen shot, opened this picture in Skitch, and then sent it to me. If this sounds tedious and a bit confusing… it’s not. A five year old can do it in 30 seconds. Even better they can use the “add text” feature in Skitch to add their name or as the year progresses a comment or reflection on why they want to add a particular peice to their portfolio. (Evernote will allow you add audio directly from within a note as well. This can be a useful way for students to articulate why they feel a piece should be included in their portfolio.)
When you chose to send a note from Skitch to Evernote it auto generates a “title/subject” which I have taught the kids to erase and then insert their names. That way I can keep track of which notes are coming from which students.
After the students send me a note I can simply add some tages and drag it into their portfolio/notebook. Of course I will continue to add content and assessments as I see fit. I’m excited to have found a way to involve the students more in the process. I also hope this process will increased student ownership in their portfolios. I feel we’re off to a good start in both respects!
To read more from teachers using Evernote as an eportfolio check out the wonderful Miss Night’s (@happycampergirl) post “Scrapbook is not a verb: How to Use Evernote for Student Portfolios“.
For more great apps like “Wet Dry Try” check out kindergarten teacher extraordinaire Matt Gomez’s (@Matt_Gomez) post: “Apps We Use In Kindergarten“.
Are you using something different to make digital portfolios and would like to share? Please comment below.
***Update** I have a new post explaining some changes that have been made to Skitch and Evernote as well as updated procedures for dealing with these changes.