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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Meeting Up Halfway through Year Two

On Wednesday, January 28th, educators and staff from all three of our Learning Portfolio sites (Parsons Pre-College, DreamYard Prep High School, and the DreamYard Art Center) along with special guests from Hive NYC, Google, and NYCDOE met at Parsons to share our work and discuss common successes and challenges. This was the first time a majority of our educators were able to meet together and the creative energy in the room was truly inspiring.

Read on for more info and links to presentations.


 Meeting Overview

You may think that three hours is a lot of time, but when you are hearing about amazing work from about 20 educators - time flies! After some lunch and informal time to catch up, the Learning Portfolio group heard from Anne Gaines, Dean of the School of Art, Media, and Technology at Parsons. Anne reminded us how this project was started and why it's important for Parsons to be re-thinking portfolios for art and design and leading the charge into the future. Then Jessica and Hillary gave a short overview of the project and the agenda for the day. That led us into the main part of the session which was hearing from each of the sites - including seeing some examples of class and student blogs, hearing about best practices and challenges, and what's next at each site. We wrapped up with a group discussion that allowed us to cull emerging themes and questions that will come in handy as we start to work with our new evaluator - Julie Poncelet - from Action Evaluation Collaborative.


Presentation Highlights 


DreamYard Art Center

Our DY Art Center programs in arts and activism, visual arts and fashion each provide unique contexts for blogging and developing portfolios. The classes vary in length, teaching structure, and artistic discipline which create different challenges and opportunities. Moriah, our Fashion teaching artist, offered the presentation below with some common practices across the Art Center Programs, as well as examples of blogs from each class.

One of the things the Art Center educators found most helpful was developing a standard "First Five" lessons (see Slide 3). The educators developed an overview of the first five lessons for creating a blog and then modified it for each of their classes.

Moriah also showed how she offers a variety of kinds of posts her participants can create (see Slide 5, including Research/Analysis, Inspiration, and Works in Progress).

She also handed out some fabulous hand-drawn handouts (see photo) that explain the difference between a blog and a digital portfolio.

Parsons Pre-College Programs

Parsons ongoing work in Learning Portfolios spans beyond this partnership with DreamYard and has added a new level of learning for us this year. Below are slides explaining a couple of the other initiatives Parsons is undertaking including partnerships with Quest to Learn, New Visions schools in the Bronx, and NutureArt. They are also thinking about how to offer their resources and the Learning Portfolio approach to a wider audience online. We're excited to see how the Learning Portfolio grows at the Parsons sites in the coming year and to learn more from each other!


DreamYard Preparatory High School

The DY Prep team, led by the ever energetic and insightful Rudy Blanco, presented their latest work in a range of classrooms from math to English language arts to global studies. They highlighted their use of Google Apps in streamlining the digital content creation and blogging process, as well as how they are thinking about embedding and supporting digital literacy skills in the classes. Check out the presentation below for links to examples of class and student blogs and best practices.

And as a bonus, here is a video from educator Jessica Altounian in which she explains her and her co-teacher's multi-entry point approach to blogging in global studies. She uses "screencasting" to walk us through the Google interface - which is a tutorial technique Rudy is eager to employ more for sharing best practices and digital literacy how-to's at DY Prep.

Big Themes Emerge 


After the three presentations we talked about common themes that were emerging, as well as questions and challenges that were bubbling up. Here are a couple of the key ones:
  • Blogs as formal and informal publishing spaces
    • We had a long discussion about writing, grammar, and whether the blogs our young people are creating are for a personal or public audience - or something in between. While we all agreed that we should be teaching our young people how to write using good grammar, we also acknowledged that writing for the web can look different from other forms. Key to this debate will be helping teachers and young people understand their audience when posting or creating portfolios and learning what kind of writing is most appropriate. 
    • We also recognized that with blogging and digital publishing there is a lot of potential for encouraging editing and iterating on posts and projects. This is something we should develop more supports and examples around in the future.
  • Creating a clear trajectory and awareness of possible applications for the learning portfolios 
    • This is something we need to make more visible to our young people. We are interested in being more clear about how an assignment can grow into a blog, then grow into digital portfolio. We also need to get better at explaining why you'd want to create a blog or portfolio. It might be for an assignment, for personal reflection, or to apply to a job or college, but it needs to feel authentic and relevant.
  • Supporting more student agency and ownership of learning portfolios
    • One of our goals with this project has always been to help young people have their own space on the web to share their learning experiences. Right now young people are creating blogs for each class they are part of, but moving forward we will have to figure out how to support young people in creating a site that can move with them into college and adulthood and not be class, program, or organization specific. Also we are interested in creating more channels for youth voice and feedback in this project to make sure what we are asking them to develop is relevant to their needs and something they want to work on.
  • Creating more digital literacy skill building support 
    • Across the board, teaching and learning digital literacy skills remain one of the biggest hurdles for the project.  DY Prep especially has been great at creating supports alongside the project - via their 9th grade technology class and the development of a MOUSE Squad.


Next Steps 

Over the next four months, our Learning Portfolio educators will continue to develop student blogs and portfolios in their classes. We will continue to document their progress and best practices in hopes of sharing it out to the larger Hive community (and beyond) this summer. Stay tuned for updates!

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