Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Student-Led Conferences with Digital Portfolios

Student-led anything makes my teacher heart happy! When I interviewed for my new gig as Curriculum Leader, one of the questions was how I would implement Student-Led Conferences. I was excited that my new principal had a vision of school-wide conferences and got busy right away digging to find out all the ways they had been done. 

The first thing to decide was what our students would show their families at the conference. I wanted a portfolio of their work that they could add to. My vision, especially for our baby 6th graders, was their portfolio would contain all three years of their middle school days. Being a 1:1 Chromebook district made digital portfolios the obvious choice, but how? After trying several platforms, I went with a Google Site. It is super user friendly and all of our students were already comfortable with their drive and other Google apps. 


Next was to figure out how to get 1,007 students to create a Google Site! My teachers are the best and let me come into their classes to get students started. We went over their benchmark Scantron scores and added them to their portfolios as their first page. Students were impressed that they created their own website! I created a sample website that had all the criteria that was expected for theirs.


The portfolios were slow to start as students figured out how to add things and transfer photos from phones to their drive and how to NOT make something a footer. We had a lot of footers, which put that section on every page of their website! But it was fun to watch them create pages with work they were proud of! The requirements for the first semester were two activities or projects with an explanation for each class. We included PE and Electives but only required one thing for those. They could use photos, videos, slide decks, anything they wanted to show the work.

The first Student-Led Conferences were held in December and we had a good turn out for it to be the first one ever! Our amazing PTA had a hot chocolate bar that was very merry! Students had practiced their portfolio presentations in their Language Arts classes and were ready to share with their families. 




After the mid-year benchmarks, we had enough data to set goals for our state testing. We looked at their scores, quartiles, and their growth target. They really took ownership of their data and set goals for the big spring testing. Students were getting really good at Google Sites so we added in some fun things like drop down menus for their electives and slide decks they could use to present within their website. I also updated my example portfolio to make it easy to know the expectations of each page of their websites. You can see it here

The Spring Student-Led Conferences, with a lemonade social provided by our PTA, went better than our first but we still have lots to do to build them up. One comment from the family survey was, "He said we could see the presentation at home but he really enjoyed showing us around his portfolio." I think with the portfolios being digital, it is harder to get families to come since they can view them anywhere. I have been reflecting about how to get them to come! Especially since one family stated, "We talk all the time but this was more purposeful." All of the feedback was positive and they all thanked us for having it so they could see what their students do all day!

I am super proud of the portfolios and I can't wait to add to them next year! I love that our students have the tools to create amazing things. Now that students are comfortable with building the website pages, we will be able to do so much more. But the very best part is that it was all student-led!


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