CC BY-SA 2.0

Claim your own growth

Photo: Grow by David Joyce on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I learn a lot in conversation with others. I learn so much blogging. There are some insightful people who take their time to read me and respond to what I say. This post was initiated in one such exchange with my friend Scott Johnson. Reminiscing on my learning a few months ago when attending the Edtech Team Brazil GAFE Summit, I poured out what resonated with me regarding the use of portfolios and how they fascinate me. Scott chimed in with the following words:

Clarissa, I’m interested in the portfolio idea as a form of claiming our efforts as authentically won plus as a tool of being a conscious learner. Sometimes we need to remind others that we are serious about our growth.

There’s so much packed in those two sentences.

Life is not easy, and professional development is most definitely an effortful endeavor. It requires commitment, a vision, and a purpose. We learn so much on the way but so many of us end up not keeping track of our development by engaging in some kind of self-reflection. To me that’s the true purpose of a portfolio. It’s a way to track your progress, to take stock of what you’ve learned. But it is only when we engage in reflection, when we actually examine the curves and the paths we chose to take along the way that we are able to attain a more concrete sense of achievement, of development. It is your reflecting on your own development that makes you aware of your own learning. And I guess that openly engaging in that reflection and declaring yourself to the world impacts your self-image and your self-worth more deeply than we might perceive if we go about our lives in auto pilot, just reacting to whatever experiences happen to us along the way. Being aware of your own achievements makes you care about achieving anything to begin with.

It is all about reminding yourself and the world that you are serious about your own growth. That you care. And that you purposefully work for it.

This blog is my portfolio. Here I have shared so many reflections on what has happened to me along my way of professional and in so many levels my personal development. This is my way of claiming my little bit of space in the world. As my friend Scott put it:

Clarissa, in art class we did portfolios to demonstrate that we had some claim to a place in the world. Not just dreamy and lost in ourselves but tangible actors with presence. This was very hard for some I think they had never been asked for THEIR thoughts and as students we were used to only being asked for what others thought.

Tangible actors with presence. Engaging in self-reflection and declaring our learning and our worth to the world is powerful. Forming our own opinions about ourselves is powerful. Asking ourselves the questions that enable us to dig deeper and find our hidden talents, our voices.

How do we come to feel worthy to put ourselves out there? To show what we can do? Some are confident and just blast ahead but that leaves a lot of students behind. And even confident people can hesitate when they feel less than competent. How to remove the barrier of not being “good-enough-yet” might be possible with a portfolio where a student can see their path and understand it as growth from effort?

I believe that we come to feel worthy to put ourselves out there by leaning on people who care, who believe that we all have something unique to contribute to the world. I believe that we all need to go through the “not-good-enough-yet” feeling and conquer it – not be paralyzed by it. Going through that process is an important part of your growth. We need a support system, a group of people who are willing to start the reflection process. We need other people to read us and talk to us about our reflections. That’s how we grow.

How can we start a culture of self-reflection on one’s own professional development? I guess we need to value our own answers to questions like What have you achieved so far? What are your goals? What is your vision? If we want to create a portfolio culture among our students, we first need to inspire and support teachers along the way. We need to create a sandbox for teachers to feel as learners and engage in building their own portfolios. Teachers need to experience first-hand the empowerment that comes from claiming their own growth.

Thank you, @scottx5 , for taking the time to talk to me here.

Looking forward to hearing from you, and from whoever feels they have something to say on all this! That’s how we grow.

The EdTech Team Brazil Gafe Summit

So.
This is a hindsight post. You might be finding this a bit awkward but trust me, there’s a good reason for that. The EdTech Team Brazil Summit featuring Google for Education (São Paulo, May 16 and 17, 2015) was certainly the most intense learning experience I’ve had this year. We spent two days attending great sessions and networking with other passionate professionals and educators who were eager to share and connect. My group (Carla, Samara, and Sílvia) put together a long Google doc in which we recorded the ideas and insights we got attending the sessions. Going over it now, half a year later, I am reminded of the exhilarating feeling of learning something new all the time. Talk about real flow.

If I were to forget every detail of the summit and be left with a single word or feeling, it would be EMPOWERMENT.

I learned how empowering it can be for a student to have the opportunity of creating a solid digital portfolio that showcases his talents and achievements. A well-cultivated digital portfolio will follow a student for years, even into his academic and professional life. What a wonderful and rich addition to one’s résumé a strong portfolio can be. These ideas were discussed in Holly Clark‘s inspiring session Rethinking Assessment with Digital Portfolios, where she also shared some practical tips on how to help students build their portfolios, as well as how to enhance learning by means of self-assessment. Again, the word that comes to mind is empowerment. If done right, growing a digital portfolio may actually become a sort of map for the student to find his calling. It could be the beginning of one’s life work.

In my a-ha moment in this session, I wrote:

Digital portfolios are all about digital citizenship and building their (students’) personal brand online. The stuff they curate shows who they are. It teaches them about design. (Friends don’t let friends use word art **lol**) Students need to learn to purposefully populate what they have associated with their name online.

I also learned the empowerment that comes from the connections we make, and what we learn from people who share a common passion. Being immersed in this edtech environment has taught me a lot about what I’m going to call the edtech ethos, that is, the characteristics and behaviors of a specific group of professionals. These guys were all about learning by doing, discovering new ways, hacking new paths. And they were also about the pleasure of sharing something they just learned with the person sitting next to them. Feeling that everyone has something to bring to the table is empowering, indeed.

In hindsight, the experience I had in this event inspired me to push forward in my professional projects as an Ed Admin. I basically learned that wonderful things can happen when you bring together a group of people who share a common passion and a purpose: to learn as much from each other as possible so that we can impact the people who make us teachers who we are: our students.

The next stage of our Google Classroom project was major. We went from 12 to 50 teachers using Classroom in our school. That happened a couple of months after the Summit. I can’t help but feel that we’ll be seeing more ripples become waves after this awesome learning experience.

A ripple that has become a wave…

mywhy

Google Hangouts: Not Your Regular Test Validation Meeting

An important component of the assessment design cycle is validating the instruments, and to that effect we count on the group of teachers working with that particular level/course. This collective validation process used to take place in the form of a traditional meeting which took place in our school’s Main Branch, usually in a room big enough to accommodate a group of around thirty teachers (sometimes more).

I’d already been adopting some group work dynamics in order to optimize the use of time, hopefully enabling teachers to make the best of the experience of collectively analyzing the test. In a nutshell, I wanted a productive, pleasant atmosphere where not only the outspoken individuals had a go at critiquing and sharing their views. I wanted all of them to feel comfortable enough to voice their concerns and suggestions to tweak the assessment instrument at hand. Teachers worked in small groups of five to six people, appointing a spokesperson who would be in charge of communicating the group’s opinions/suggestions regarding the test.

That had been working quite well. So, it occurred to me: they worked so well within their small groups, usually sitting with fellow teachers from the same branch, who have been sharing their experiences on a regular basis. I couldn’t help but wonder if we could make the validation process even more practical. That was when I had the idea to try out Google Hangouts for Test Validation Meetings. This is how we did it.

Let’s Hangout

Teachers were asked to attend the Validation Hangout at their branches; therefore, they worked with small groups of fellow teachers with whom they connect/exchange every day. They appointed their Hangout representative/spokesperson and went about their business of analyzing the test.

Adjustments along the way

The three Hangouts we had this semester were two-hour-long events. In the first Hangout, I took the groups through the test exercise by exercise, asking them to look at one part of the test at a time. That ended up being as time consuming and noisy as a regular meeting.

After getting some feedback from them, which they gave via a Google Form Survey, we decided it would be best if I gave them about 40 minutes to work on their own first, and only then start gathering their feedback. That worked better. (That and using the mute button to lessen the noise, of course!)

However, the third time around was the best, indeed. We decided groups should be given even more time to look over the entire test before the feedback-giving stage. I gave them an entire hour, and it really paid off. The feedback stage ran more smoothly and rather fast.

Project Success

  • Convenience: teachers were free to attend the Hangout at a branch of their convenience, which most of the times meant the branch closest to their homes;
  • Capacity for collaborative self-management: teachers had to organize the analysis process themselves, preparing to report their impressions and suggestions to the Course Supervisor (yours truly) and the other branch groups in a clear and concise manner;
  • Agency and accountability: they worked hard to convey their opinions and provide pertinent suggestions, relying on the expertise of their own groups;
  • Voice: working with smaller groups of familiar faces made the more reserved people comfortable to speak their minds, something which tended not to happen with the large face-to-face traditional (very loud and somewhat messy) meetings;

And, last but not least,

  • Modeling innovation: teachers had the chance of trying out a new tool which they might find useful for other professional development opportunities.

This is an experience I would certainly like to replicate in the future, and which I would recommend other admins try out with their teaching staff.

What’s next?

Hangouts for Professional Development and innovating the adjacent possible.