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By Liz Manthey
At Sacred Heart, we are on a journey to incorporate new technology while preserving the one-on-one experiences that make a Sacred Heart education so valuable. We continue to discover new tools for connecting teachers with students and parents and educate with an appreciation of what the future will be. Over the past year, we have been implementing a five-year strategic plan which encompasses all four divisions of the school. Our first goal addresses academic rigor and innovation. One component of that objective is the design and implementation of digital portfolios for all students. A digital portfolio is a computer-based collection of a student’s performance over time. Portfolios make classroom learning more accessible to parents, teachers, and administrators and provide a window into a student’s learning and development. They are also wonderful conversation starters.
“The digital portfolio is a descriptive multimedia narrative of a student’s journey at Sacred Heart,” explains Headmistress Sr. Melanie Guste, RSCJ. “Like the scrapbooks of my day, it tells a glorious story that opens one to the deeper mystery of life through a collage of photos, awards and recognition, essays, reports, graphics, and video. Lasting a lifetime, the story is enriched with what we bring to it—year after year, it offers one more meaning and insight. It is a treasure and, indeed, priceless. We are glad to initiate this opportunity for our ASH students.”
In August 2017, the faculty was provided with professional development on digital portfolios and how to use them as tools to connect with students and parents. Digital portfolios expand on the repertoire of techniques available for engaging students in learning tasks and developing communication skills vital to 21st-century skills application, such as use of technology and saving projects, artwork, speeches, writing, and more to a digital platform. They also allow students to track and demonstrate their growth and unique perspective during their journey at Sacred Heart.
Parents are given increased access to their child’s work, which helps them to experience what’s happening in the classroom via a designated app. For instance, a teacher in Little Hearts can use her Android device to videotape a student working on an art project, singing, or reciting the alphabet and share it with her parents. Shannon Salmon, who teaches three-year-olds, explains, “In Little Hearts, we are using Seesaw for Schools to create digital portfolios for each of our students. Seesaw provides a variety of tools to help capture what the children are learning in the classroom. It creates a wonderful home/school connection, where parents see what’s taking place inside the classroom in ‘real-time.’ One of my favorite features of Seesaw is videotaping the girls as they work. I love how they are able to explain their work or what they have created in their own way.”
College Counselor Allie Pierson adds, “More and more, I am seeing a dependence on a digital representation of applicants in the college admission process.” Earlier this year, she asked Upper School students to digitally save two pieces from each discipline, including anything relevant in telling their “story." She counseled, “Consider it like you would a scrapbook.” Examples include research papers and projects, science experiments, speeches, graded papers, or anything a student is proud of or represents her learning. Mrs. Pierson tells parents that they may need to help their daughters by including art pieces, game footage, competitions, and recital pieces in their portfolios.
In today’s fast-paced world, just putting technology into students’ hands isn't enough. Students need to use it to demonstrate how and what they are learning and save it in a digital format which will assist them in how they are ultimately presenting themselves for college and the job market. Sacred Heart has always been on the cutting edge of educational developments.
When students leave Sacred Heart, they will take their portfolios with them, so it is crucial that they understand how to document their learning and be able to generate their personal vision, as well as demonstrate their work.
Early Childhood Division Head, Maria Schneider, explains Sacred Heart’s strategies for moving forward with the understanding that each division has different needs based on the ages of the girls.
- Little Hearts through Lower School will focus on showing student growth, as well as highlighting the uniqueness and special talents of each learner. Android devices were purchased for teachers to enhance the design portfolio creation.
- Middle School girls will all participate in a technology class that includes digital portfolio training. Teachers will empower students to design their own unique portfolios. Collaborative projects from the Innovation Lab will also be included in portfolios. Students will have access to Chromebooks, iPads, and laptops.
- In the Upper School, freshmen and sophomores will spend time in their computer applications class learning about Google Drive and digital portfolios. Juniors and seniors will work with the College Counselor and faculty members in the construction and design of their digital portfolios as a marketing tool. Upper School teachers will continue to work with students to help in the selection of pieces that could possibly be part of their digital portfolios.
- The Bridge, Spring 2018