The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 3 - Page 25

25

The Power of Online Portfolios for Young Children

The vision behind Fremont Elementary School where I teach in Springfield, Missouri, is to innovate, inspire, and inquire through means of blending technology, flexible seating, flexible learning schedules, and learning through the inquiry process by exploring new questions with hands on activities. As a fourth year teacher, I was apprehensive about how this would benefit young learners. I wondered if this learning environment would be too overwhelming, but I was also excited to jump into this new approach to learning and discover the outcome.

One of the greatest learning tools that the students at our school have been offered is 1:1 technology. All students at our elementary school have their own Chromebook to use in the classroom and at home. This was my first experience with kindergarteners and Chromebooks. As scary as the idea of giving 65 kindergarteners their own personal computer sounded to me, our students jumped right into the use of this device and have been extremely successful.

One of our favorite technology tools that we have used in our daily routines is Seesaw. This program is a student-driven online portfolio that enables students of any age to independently document what they are learning at school and share it with their teachers, parents, and classmates. Within this program, students can take pictures, record videos, draw, write, and so much more. As my principal expressed, “Seesaw is an influential documentation tool that allows the students to take charge of their own learning and see their capabilities. It gives them something to be proud of!”

At the beginning of the school year, we struggled with finding a purposeful and meaningful activity for the students to work on independently before we officially got the day going. Each morning the students come into the classroom and start their morning routines that include taking out their Chromebooks and folders, hanging up their back packs and eating breakfast if they have not already done so at home. For the students who complete these tasks quicker than others, we needed an engaging and relevant task for them, and Seesaw was the perfect solution.

We are currently finishing up an inquiry unit about community helpers and community safety, and we thought Seesaw would be the perfect way to document what they have learned. For the past few weeks our kindergarten students used this portfolio to draw a picture on their touchscreen Chromebooks of a specific community helper and write or record something they have learned about this community helper for their morning activity. The students love this activity, and we like it too, because it is a task that is directly related to our unit of study. We also like the way this program differentiates for students ready for writing. For example, instead of recording something they have learned, they can type or write on their drawings.

We recently had student-led conferences and once again took advantage of this amazing online profile. We had the students find a quiet spot in the classroom to record a video of themselves counting from 1-100. We used this recording to show their parents student’s counting capability. It helps the parents see what they can do, but also helps students set their own goals to work towards. As we were recording, I was watching a student’s video with him. In his video he counted from 1-39. After the video was complete he looked up at me and said, “I can do better and next time I’m going to count all the way to 100.” I loved his determination and I think the fact that he was able to see what he did and set a goal was powerful.

As I reflect and look back on whether or not using this tool in my classroom environment was successful, I am pleased at the successful outcomes we have achieved with our Chromebooks. Finishing up a long week of parent-teacher conferences and watching the excitement in the eyes of my students as they shared their success with their family was powerful and has motivated me to discover more technology tools to try that will enhance the ownership of learning!

Erica Hatcher is a fourth year kindergarten teacher in Springfield, Missouri, currently working on a master's degree in literacy. She has a passion for teaching and integrating new technology tools into her classroom to enhance student engagement and get them excited about learning.

By: Erica Hatcher