Using Digital Portfolios to Enhance Students’ Capacity for Communication about Learning

Using Digital Portfolios to Enhance Students’ Capacity for Communication about Learning

Brian Kissel, S. Michael Putman, Katie Stover
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4341-3.ch003
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There is a clear consensus that students need to be proficient in the use of digital technologies to help them become knowledgeable participants in an era of global information sharing (International Reading Association, 2009). Acknowledging this, the current study was situated in the belief that writers, when engaged in online composition and the creation of digital portfolios, engage in processes that differ from traditional pencil-paper types of writing. A qualitative approach was utilized to examine student writing samples and reflections over a two-year timeframe as the students transitioned from traditional writing portfolios to those created and maintained digitally on a wiki. The results demonstrated that digital portfolios provide a platform for students to communicate, express their ideas, share their understandings, and collaboratively construct meaning with an authentic audience. Correspondingly, it also demonstrates the necessity of adjusting teaching practices to accommodate for conditions that arise from the unique opportunities presented by the digital environment.
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In the 21st century classroom, technology-infused texts are primary within the practices of today’s writers as they engage with ever-emerging tools to write in communicative, collaborative, and exploratory ways (Taylor, 2012). Students live in a world that is focused upon social interaction and new digital tools for communication have emerged, “changing ways of producing, distributing, exchanging and receiving texts” (Lankshear & Knobel, 2003, p. 16). Authorship now reaches wider domains and increases the potential for partnership and creativity as students have the opportunity to write for a variety of purposes and interact with an authentic audience (Merchant, 2005). In the world of instant information, planning, revision, and editing are often replaced with a quick draft and an even quicker push of the publish button. Writers have the capacity to post comments and publish instantly for an entire virtual world to read. In essence, the tools of writing have changed. The audience has widened. The result is a new generation of writers who have redefined what it means to be literate (Hansen & Kissel, 2010).

It is within this context that we acknowledge the need to know more about how young students use technology as writers; to understand how writing is a tool they use to communicate and collaborate. We must also know practical ways teachers can bring technology into their classrooms so students have opportunities to engage in communicative and collaborative acts as writers. This chapter seeks to address this need as we examine how fourth grade students used technology in their classrooms as a mode of communication and collaboration while moving from paper-based portfolios to digital portfolios, thus allowing a third-space for peers to digitally communicate with one another about their learning.

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