GoEnnounce – Student Digital Portfolios as an active learning tool

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Goennounce — Student Portfolios

What is it?

GoEnnounce is a web-based software platform that was created by Melissa and Meghan Davis, that allows students to maintain a digital portfolio. Unlike some digital portfolio tools, it provides an easy way for students to upload and store digital artifacts including documents, images, video, and audio.

Key features

GoEnnounce is more than just a storage system. Throughout the platform, GoEnnounce provides school/district administrative management over the interface and functions. Additionally, by default, how the platform responds and presents itself to students changes as students move from young elementary learners (GoEnnounce recommends their platform for grades 3 and up) to middle to high school. This provides students a scaffolded experience that is both built-in and customized by the school. For example, schools manage lists of tags that are used by students to tag artifacts posted to their portfolios. This facilitates ease of use by allowing students, teachers, parents, (and others given access) to easily find artifacts by topic, class, theme, or however the school organizes its tags. Additionally, schools can determine who can see a student’s portfolio from just the student and her teachers to a fully public portfolio. Students can also limit access within the spectrum allowed by the school.

A key differentiator, GoEnnounce requires that all artifacts uploaded into a student’s portfolio include a reflection. Students must stop and consider what she will write about each artifact as well as which tags are appropriate. The artifact and reflection are then accessible and viewable by those with access privileges, and those people can comment back. The interface of GoEnnounce is a mix of LinkedIn and Facebook. Teachers can also leave rubric-based feedback to provide formative/summative assessment feedback as appropriate along with text comments. This feedback is only visible to the teacher and the student. Schools have the capacity to upload their own rubrics for assessment purposes.

GoEnnounce’s platform automatically scans all reflections and comments for inappropriate language. If it detects it, the platform will prompt the user to reconsider their choice of words, and it will not allow a post to be submitted. When a user has edited the entry, and the platform does not detect anything inappropriate, the submit button will then be available. Nonetheless, GoEnnounce recognizes that more moderation is necessary and maintains staff members who read and review all submissions, flagging or removing anything deemed inappropriate. Anytime content is removed, a “Behavioral Notification” is issued to the student regarding why that content was taken down and notifications are sent to the school contact along with a screenshot of the content to facilitate a conversation with the student. GoEnnounce sees these as teachable moments.

Additionally, GoEnnounce’s team of moderators may see language or other indications that a student is distressed or anxious about something. While this isn’t necessarily cause for removal of content, GoEnnounce’s team will issue a “Cause of Concern” notification to the school. These early warnings can help schools reach out to students to provide support to students as appropriate. Notifications are visible to authorized teachers and administrators in the Classroom Dashboard.

Wait, there’s more! GoEnnounce provides Digital Citizenship lessons for both elementary and secondary use. Lessons for elementary school focus on essential digital citizenship skills while also teaching the use of the platform.

The platform also provides the capacity for students to create fundraisers. While not a central feature of the platform, some students do use the functionality to help raise funding for field trips, sports trips or other activities. Like other aspects of the platform, schools can enable or disable this feature as it deems appropriate.

GoEnnounce Through the Lens of SAMR

GoEnnounce’s feature set, while simple to use, allows for an active learning experience. For schools who are using traditional paper-based portfolios, GoEnnounce goes well-beyond digitizing the storage of artifacts. And for schools that are currently using a tool like Google Drive as a way to store digital artifacts, they too will find that GoEnnounce adds game-changing features, and it’s use incorporates thoughtful action into what may have previously been a mundane task of filing away an artifact into a digital storage platform.

Screenshot of GoEnnounce platform

There are many purposes of a digital portfolio tool — most obvious is the easy storage and recall of digital artifacts that represent a student’s work and achievements. This facilitates a more broad assessment opportunity for teachers as opposed to the more traditional “grading” of individual tests, quizzes, and assignments. As a digital portfolio, GoEnnounce does an excellent job of providing a platform that houses content, allows for tagging of artifacts for findability, and built-in assessment and commenting features for authentic feedback to the student.

When compared to paper-based portfolio, almost any digital portfolio tool is going to show augmentative characteristics. The capacity to easily house and display different types of media, tagging, searching, rubric assessment, and commenting are all available, and leverage what technology brings to the table. 

Where GoEnnounce goes above and beyond, and hits upon a higher level of modification of usual practice is the simple act of requiring a reflection for every artifact. It puts into practice a core digital citizenship skill — challenging students to stop, pause, and think before posting. Because GoEnnounce limits each post to a single artifact, and for each artifact, a reflection, students are asked to consider what they are posting and why. While the automatic screening of the text in a reflection may prompt a student to reconsider their word choice, teachers are encouraged to comment back to students in the platform if a reflection needs more thought or an edit.

We so often see schools providing Digital Citizenship instruction, but what we lack are authentic ways to allow students to practice the behaviors that we want to see. GoEnnounce is exactly that opportunity. GoEnnounce challenges students to not only stop, pause, and think before they post, it asks them to reflect upon each post. Students can’t simply post a photo with no context. At an appropriate age (chosen by the school), schools can enable student commenting so that students can see each others’ posts and provide comments back to their peers. Again, GoEnnounce provides students an opportunity to communicate in an effective and positive way with each other in a controlled environment.

The modification to the usual practice is effectively a “twofer”. While students are performing the more “mundane” tasks associated to maintain their digital portfolio, they are also provided with important practice opportunities to demonstrate good digital citizenship.

Finally, there are a couple added bonuses that set GoEnnounce apart from other platforms. GoEnnounce recognizes that student-created digital products are the property of the creator (the student). When a student graduates, ages up or changes schools for whatever reason, the student’s portfolio remains available to the student at no cost. The student can continue to share their portfolio with friends, family, potential colleges, or whomever they choose. If the student wishes to add more content, GoEnnounce does offer a very low cost option for students accounts that are not sponsored by a school.

 

Use case example

Many districts are moving or have moved to a proficiency-based curriculum model where formative assessment is the key. For any district that is or has moved in this direction, they know that the challenges are numerous. Chief among them are shifting the mindset for who is responsible for the learning, how learning is assessed, and how progress is documented and tracked.

GoEnnounce can play a significant role toward meeting those challenges. To be clear, GoEnnounce does not claim to be a standards-based assessment tracking system. However, by providing a platform to easily capture both reflections from students and the artifacts of their work and progress, it facilitates all of the challenges noted above.

In the early years, schools can leverage the digital citizenship lessons provided by GoEnnounce to both teach students how to use the platform, learn about what it means to be a good digital citizen, and a place to practice those skills. All the while, students are capturing moments of reflection and artifacts of their learning and progress. 

Students are, especially at this age, extremely malleable. We know that students “learn to do school”, and any habits that students carry with them into middle school are very likely taught by us, the educators, and by their families. At the same time, they are being influenced increasingly by the Internet and social media, even in their elementary school years.

By establishing, as a norm, that students choose the projects they find most valuable, reflect upon their learning, and for students to recognize the learning that takes place through the process of completing assignments and doing projects, we establish early that the student owns their learning. Yes, educators and schools are vital and of course maintain responsibility, but we also know that when students (and parents) are invested and actively engaged, the learning process is better. Further, GoEnnounce coupled with digital citizenship lessons and authentic practice establishes a norm of behavior that we want to see in ourselves and our students. Finally, by leveraging GoEnnounce to capture student reflections and learning artifacts, we now have the basis for engaging parents in the process as well as facilitating portfolio assessment for teachers. Both are usually hard to do, and GoEnnounce will make it easier.

As students age into their secondary years, the on-going process of capturing student reflections and artifacts, ideally, is completely normalized. At this age, a district could decide to expand the sharing capacity of the platform. In the elementary grades, the district may have limited sharing of portfolios to teachers and parents only (and grandparents and other family as chosen by the family). This walled-garden approach allows students (and the parents) time to become accustomed to how the platform functions, encouraging their student, and interacting with teachers about their student’s progress. In the middle grades, the district could allow the students to see their peers’ portfolios including the capacity to comment about each others’ work to each other just as teachers and family have been doing so during the elementary years.

We know from experience and anecdotal evidence that when students publish their work, especially to their peers, they are more thoughtful and do better work. Here, a little peer pressure is a good thing. Additionally, by allowing (and perhaps requiring) commentary to peers, the school can facilitate more digital citizenship skill practice in a safe and closed system. Educators and GoEnnounce’s automated and human moderators can monitor activity, block inappropriate comments, and ultimately, teach good online behavior. By 7th grade, students are turning 13, and most kids will have social media accounts that lack any sort of age-appropriate moderation, and can quickly and easily spiral out of control. Throughout this process, schools can continue to leverage the secondary-aged digital citizenship lessons as well.

Finally, as students enter high school and students begin extending themselves into the larger world through internships, jobs, interscholastic sports, scholarships, and college admissions, their portfolios become a valuable avenue to share about themselves, and their skills. Districts can open up the capacity for students to share their portfolios with selected outside people or even open to the public. High school students have, under this scenario, had at least six years of instruction and practice on how they interact with their peers online, how they reflect upon their own learning, and how they present themselves to others.

Further, GoEnnounce allows high school students to create alternate profiles where they can hand select which content from their portfolio they wish to share on an alternate profile. These alternate profiles are assigned unique URLs that a student can then share with employers, scholarship applications, or perhaps college applications.

What may seem like a utopian vision for how kids will own their own learning, know themselves, and be good digital citizens. For these students, growing up with these ideas and behaviors as the norm, it will simply be “how to do school” for them.

 

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