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Fostering reciprocal home and school relationships using e-portfolios Bateman, Wendy 2019-07

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i  FOSTERING RECIPROCAL HOME AND SCHOOL RELATIONSHIPS USING  E-PORTFOLIOS  By   WENDY BATEMAN B.A (Honours History), University of Ottawa B. Ed., University of Ottawa     A GRADUATING PAPER SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF EDUCATION  In  THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Early Childhood Education THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver)    July 2019   © Wendy Bateman 2019   ii  Abstract Grounded in Bronfenbrenner’s (1977, 1994, 2005) bioecological model of human development and Dewey’s (1916/2009) philosophy of democratic education, in this capstone project I examine how the inclusion of students’ voice and family engagement with electronic portfolios in a kindergarten classrooms encourages democratic practices and supports the sharing of power by way of fostering three-way, ongoing communication between educators, kindergarten students and families in a rural Ontario classroom.  Relationships are of crucial importance for creating democratic education where power is shared among all parties.  However, there can be many factors that hinder the growth of these reciprocal relationships.  Electronic portfolios offer a means of surmounting these obstacles to foster the three-way communication that is essential for families to engage in their children’s academic life.  A family information night slideshow presentation and a list of recommendations for educators are included as a means of connecting theory to practice and for offering educators a resource for using electronic portfolios.  I conclude with recommendations for research and school board level professional development on reciprocal relationships, student’s exposure to digital worlds, and electronic portfolios in the early years.   iii  Table of Contents Abstract .......................................................................................................................................... ii Table of Contents .......................................................................................................................... iii List of Figures .................................................................................................................................v Acknowledgements ....................................................................................................................... vi CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................1 Key Terms …...................................................................................................................................1  Context, Background, Rationale, and Importance ..........................................................................4 Rationale and Importance ...................................................................................................5 Overview of Theoretical Framework ..............................................................................................6  Introduction to the Review of the Literature ...................................................................................7 Purpose, Significance and Guiding Questions ................................................................................8 Guiding Questions ..............................................................................................................9 Summary and Organization of the Project ......................................................................................9 CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW ...............................................................................10 Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological Model of Human Development ....................................10 Dewey’s Philosophy of Democratic Education ................................................................11 Review of the Literature ................................................................................................................12 Student Voice ....................................................................................................................12 Family Engagement ..........................................................................................................15 Electronic Portfolios .........................................................................................................18 CHAPTER THREE: CONNECTION TO PRACTICE ................................................................23 Beginning the Journey as an Expert ..............................................................................................23 Bringing in Student Voice ............................................................................................................25 Experiences of Family Engagement as an Educator and a Parent ................................................29 iv  Challenges and Considerations Hindering the Implementation of Electronic Portfolios .............32  Time and Training .............................................................................................................32    Privacy Concerns ..............................................................................................................33  Need for Reflection ...........................................................................................................34 Family Information Night Slideshow ...........................................................................................37 List of Recommendations and Considerations for Educators using Electronic Portfolios ...........38 CHAPTER FOUR: CONCLUSIONS ..........................................................................................39 Reflections and Concluding Thoughts ..........................................................................................40 Limitations and Recommendations for Future Study and Practice ..............................................41 References .....................................................................................................................................44 APPENDIX A ...............................................................................................................................49 APPENDIX B ...............................................................................................................................57            v  List of Figures Figure 1 First Day of School .........................................................................................................28 Figure 2 Image from a Sample Portfolio ................................................................ .....................34    vi  Acknowledgements I would like to begin by thanking Dr. Mari Pighini, my advisor, for your support, guidance, and friendship during my journey.  You have shown me time and again that to be a great teacher you need to connect with your students with your heart and your head.  In addition, I would like to thank Dr. Iris Berger, my second reader, for your input in this finished product but also for your challenge to be a leader outside of my comfort zone.  I would also like to thank the members of my communities, work, home and education.  I have appreciated your support and good nature as I explored new ideas and worldviews.  I have truly enjoyed our many talks and look forward to many more. Next, I would like to thank my family and friends for their love, support and encouragement over the last five years.  I could not have completed my studies without you.  I would especially like to thank my cousins, Lana and Jacqueline, your support as a friend and a fellow mother has lifted me up when I doubted my choices.  Instead of judging or lecturing you offered a helping hand and I will be forever grateful.   Finally, I would like to thank my son, Daniel, for being a part of and for inspiring my learning journey.  Your patience and flexibility with me after late night writing sessions or during the many web conferences were the most wonderful support of all. 1  CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION In this capstone project I examine the use of electronic portfolios to foster reciprocal relationships, that is, relationships that involve a sharing of power between home, school and students in a kindergarten classroom in order to foster democratic education.  Democratic education involves a shift in the balance of power away from the educator as the source of all knowledge to a model where all parties (educators, children, families) are co-learners (Rishel & Zuercher, 2016).  Electronic portfolios are digital collections of artifacts sometimes containing reflections on student learning (see Key Terms below).  The actual content and form depend on the purpose and audience of the electronic portfolio (Barrett, 2004).  A strong relationship between home and school is important to promote the individual child’s development (Epstein, 1996; Gestwicki, 2013; Ma, Shen, Krenn, Hu, & Yaun, 2016).  However, many factors can prevent educators and parents from connecting on a regular basis (Gestwicki, 2013; McWilliams, 2011; Wanders, Mendez, & Downer, 2007).  Electronic portfolios are, for educators and students, a means of connecting and sharing with families (Ntuli, Keengwe, & Kyei-Blankson, 2009).  Key Terms In this section I define key terms to ensure mutual understanding in the capstone project.  The terms are organized in alphabetical order, including documentation, electronic portfolios, expert model, family engagement, kindergarten, parents and caregivers and relationships, home – school and reciprocal.   Documentation – Documentation refers to the practice of attempting to understand learning processes by observing and documenting children’s learning experiences as they take place in the classroom, for example, by means of photography, video-recording, and notes taking, and later sharing the documentation of the learning through different media (e.g., display, 2  slideshow).  According to the Ontario Ministry of Education’s (2015) monograph Pedagogical Documentation Revisited, when the documentation of children’s learning processes includes reflection and wonderings on the learning taking place by educators, children and/or families, it becomes pedagogical, which means the intentions are “to uncover the student’s thinking and learning processes” (p. 1), to allow time and space for reflection on the educator’s practice, and to further the goal of co-creating the curriculum.  (As an educator in Ontario, I referenced several documents from the Ontario Ministry of Education because they have been a part of my professional learning and growth.) (see Kindergarten below). Electronic portfolios (e-portfolios) – For the purposes of this capstone project electronic portfolios, sometimes referred to as e-portfolios, are online folders or collections that are shared with a student’s family.  They often contain samples of student work in the form of pictures and pictures of the child (Barrett, 2007).  Electronic portfolios are used to organize, display and share documentation. Expert model – The expert model refers to one where teachers and parents view the teacher as the only one qualified to contribute to the education of children.  They are the ones to pass out the information that parents and children must follow if they want to achieve success (Inglis, 2012).  In the expert model information about the child’s learning does not flow in both directions, and therefore children and families are not expected to contribute to their knowledge of the child’s learning.  Relationships are not reciprocal in the expert model because the power resides with the educator.   Family engagement – Family engagement takes on many forms.  The term “family engagement” differs from traditional family involvement which focuses on what the parents can do for the school (i.e. volunteering, attending meetings, participating in school events).  Family 3  engagement focuses more on how the family can be directly involved with the child’s education (i.e., supporting student progress through schoolwork and communication with teachers, collaborating with children to plan for their own learning) (Olmstead, 2018).  For the purposes of this project, it refers to the family’s engagement in the child`s development by participating in the sharing of ideas, experiences, and knowledge of the child`s learning both with educators, and with the child (Goodall, 2016).   Kindergarten – In Ontario, the province where this capstone project is situated, kindergarten is the first two years of school.  Children between three and six years of age attend kindergarten in Ontario (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2016). Parents and caregivers – For the purposes of this capstone project, parents and caregivers are the adults who are responsible for the care and nurturing of children.  This definition does not require that they be the biological mothers or fathers of the child (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2016). Relationships  Relationships are an integral part of my capstone project, which is why I view them in two dimensions, home-school and reciprocal. Home-school relationships – The phrase home-school relationships it concerned with the ways schools and families interact.  This can involve many aspects of the interactions including the purposes for interactions and methods of interaction (Gestwicki, 2013).  This capstone project will focus on the way that information and power are shared between the home setting and the school setting (Ma et al., 2016).  Reciprocal relationships – Reciprocal relationships are those that operate in more than  4  one direction with all parties contributing and sharing in power (McWilliams, 2011; Rishel & Zuercher, 2016).  Reciprocal relationships, between teachers, children, families, are the central focus of my capstone project because it is these relationships that foster children’s development (Edwards, 2007).  They have also become a fundamental goal of my professional life as I have endeavoured to ensure all those involved in our classrooms were able to share their knowledge.   In chapter three, I will outline how reciprocal relationships came to be of such importance to me as an educator.     Context, Background, Rationale, and Importance  I have taught kindergarten for more than a decade now.  All my kindergarten teaching has been at small rural Ontario schools which until recently had populations of less than 150 students each.  Our school recently amalgamated with the junior/intermediate school in our community.  The local public primary school was closed, and an addition was added to the local public junior/intermediate school so that we would be one big school population under one roof (Foot, 2017).  We have a combined student population of about 300.  I teach in one of the two kindergarten classes at the school.  Our enrolment tends to fluctuate between 25 to 30 children each year.  I am privileged to teach alongside a Designated Early Childhood Educator.  My early experiences of the parent-teacher and student-teacher relationship very much followed a traditional model of the teacher as the expert (Inglis, 2012).  I wrote reports and met with parents to share information on their child’s learning and next steps.  This may have included digital pictures of student learning and the sharing of stories from home, but there was little reciprocity in the way of discussion and reflection on what the parents or their child saw in terms of their child’s learning.  The beginning of my journey as a master’s student followed shortly after the birth of my own son.  Although my relationship with parents and students had already begun to 5  evolve, these two events prompted me to question these relationships and my place in them.  I wondered about my position as the expert concerning the education of other people’s children when I did not always feel that I was the expert in my own child’s journey.  I pondered, if I was always the one in control of the knowledge and information being shared, how were children’s home learnings being valued?   Rationale and Importance The rationale for my capstone project refers to the changing nature of the relationships between kindergarten educators, families and students, especially in terms of the sharing of knowledge.  The phrase “parents are a child’s first teacher” was repeated at every prenatal, infant and toddler event I attended for my son.  Yet, as a kindergarten educator, I had rarely received this message, until I saw it recently portrayed in The Kindergarten Program (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2016) curriculum document.  In this document, that contains guidance for kindergarten educators on the importance of relationships in kindergarten classrooms, I began to see this value reflected in an official document that encouraged not only a family’s involvement, but also recognised their expertise concerning their child.  Although the growing understanding of the importance of parent and child involvement in a child’s learning is becoming a part of official documents, I have observed that many classroom teachers remain the undisputed expert on their students’ learning, with little input from the child or their family.  In these situations, the teacher is the ultimate authority making all decisions, including planning, documentation and assessment.  It is similar to the “boot camp” that Edwards (1995) described “where the teacher takes the role of ‘drill sergeant’” (p. 5).  MacDonald, Rudkowski, and Schärer (2013) asked us, as educators, how we can collaborate with families if we do not really get to know them.   Through conversations with teachers in the primary school where I teach regarding everyday 6  interactions with students and families, it has been my experience that teachers do not appear to grasp the importance of valuing the views of parents and children on the learning process.  To promote the child’s development in all areas, Edwards (1995) stated that it is desirable for education to be democratic, developing a sense of community, with the teacher taking on the role of the mentor.  Moss (2007) contended that schools and early childhood institutions can −and should− become spaces for democratic political practices.  This requires that educators give up some of the control in the classroom while spending more time learning who their students are and who are the families in their lives.  This sharing of power in terms of decision-making involves a transformation of relationships in the classroom (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013).  I found that these statements resonated with my own beliefs in terms of working with children and families.  As educators, we spend almost a full day in the same room with more than twenty individuals most the days of the year, and yet we give children little choice in what is being taught; nor do we consult the other people in the students’ lives for input on what they hope and desire for their children’s learning.  Furthermore, when making decisions about the learning to take place in the classroom I have rarely been encouraged by administrators, coordinators, or other educators to look at anything other than information I gather through testing.  Therefore, for the purposes of this capstone project, I decided to explore social constructivist theorists’ frameworks and, in doing so, gain a better understanding of a shift in the balance of power, as described next.     Overview of Theoretical Framework Social constructivist perspectives, and within it, sociocultural perspectives (Rogoff, Dahl, & Callahan, 2018) guide my capstone project.  In terms of social constructivism, I explored 7  Bronfenbrenner’s (1977, 1994, 2005) ecological system framework of human development and Dewey’s (1916/2009) philosophy on democratic education in my theoretical framework.   Within the social constructivism stance, a sociocultural perspective views child’s development in terms of the social and cultural interactions that are a part of a child’s world (Edwards, 2003; Fleer, 2002; Rogoff et. al., 2018).  Bronfenbrenner’s (1977, 1994, 2005) bioecological model of human development that was inspired by sociocultural perspectives, has guided my views on the development of the child and helped me understand how children learn and make sense of the world.   Bronfenbrenner’s theoretical framework clarified how the relationships, social systems and events that are a part of our childhood (directly and indirectly) affect our development. Also representing the social constructivist movement, Dewey’s (1916/2009) philosophy of education rejected the expert model where teachers are in a position of authority passing information and orders to their students in favour of a model where everyone is an active participant in their own education.  Dewey argued that education needs to be characterized by free communication between those involved.  In fact, according to Dewey, in order to be truly democratic, education needs to hold a purpose that is seen by all those involved to be in their interests.  In chapter two, I expand on these theoretical frameworks to illustrate the importance of reciprocal communication.  Next, I outlined the literature that will be reviewed to answer the guiding questions of my capstone project.  Introduction to the Review of the Literature In the review of the literature I examined three main sub-topics: family engagement, student voice, and electronic portfolios.  There has been considerable research on the topic of 8  family engagement in its many forms.  Inglis (2012), Ferlazzo (2011) and Ma, Shen, Krenn, Hu, and Yuan’s (2016) examined the changing nature of family engagement and the benefits for students.  I consulted Dahlberg, Moss and Pence (2007), MacNaughton, Smith, and Lawrence (2011), and Rinaldi (2006) about student voice to consider the importance of its inclusion in the kindergarten classroom.  Finally, I reviewed the works of Olmstead (2016), Finger and Jamieson-Proctor (2009) and Goodall (2016) on the topics of technology and electronic portfolios to see how they can be used to further family engagement and student voice. Purpose, Significance, and Guiding Questions The purpose of this capstone project is to examine what the expert literature has to say about the methods, benefits, and limitations of using electronic portfolios as a means of influencing the existing balance of power and sharing it with parents and students.  The significance of this capstone project is that it will allow early childhood educators, including myself, to explore ways of creating a democratic learning community (Edwards, 1995).  I expect the examination of the literature to further my understanding of what a reciprocal relationship between home and school means, the benefits of this kind of relationship, and what is needed to support this relationship.  Furthermore, I investigate the extant literature to identify strategies, as well as to articulate a vision that will guide me in my use of electronic portfolios in our classroom. The ultimate aims of the use of electronic portfolios are to share in the documentation of children’s learning, further the relationship between home and school and through the sharing of documentation foster what Dahlberg et al. (2007) refer to as democratic practice in the kindergarten classroom.   Guiding Questions  9  Drawing from the extant literature examining home-school relationships, what are ways to incorporate all of children’s, parents’, and teachers’ voices?  More specifically, what are ways in which the use of electronic portfolios may foster or enhance relationships in the ECE classroom? In addition, what are aspects in the use of electronic portfolios that could hinder the development of that relationship? Summary and Organization of the Project In this chapter, I outlined the theories that ground my capstone project, defined key terms, identified the rationale and purpose for my project and stated my guiding questions. In Chapter Two, I review the literature on the theoretical frameworks that ground my capstone project as well as the literature on the use of technology to further home-school relationships.  In Chapter Three, I share scenarios from my own practise and experience to connect theory to practise. In Chapter Four, I summarize this capstone project, including limitations and future considerations on the subject.   10  CHAPTER TWO:  LITERATURE REVIEW  As I outlined in chapter one, social constructivist frameworks inform my capstone project.  The theorists that will frame the subsequent literature review are Bronfenbrenner’s (2005) bioecological theory of human development and Dewey’s (1916/2009) philosophy of democratic education. Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological Model of Human Development According to Urie Bronfenbrenner’s (2005) bioecological model of human development, children’s development is a product of their interaction with others within their environments.  This theory places the child at the centre of a series of inter-related systems that at once influence and are influenced by the child.  Microsystems consist of the child’s personal interactions and experiences and are the closest influences (e.g., home and school).  Mesosystems refer to the relations of two or more microsystems involving the developing child.  Again, the importance of home and school is highlighted, in particular the relationship between home and school.  The exosystem refers to a setting that does not include the child but still affects the child because it influences the child’s microsystems (e.g., a parent’s workplace, a school board).  The chronosystem refers to time (e.g., the era when a child grows up) and the events that take place during their growth (e.g., their age when a traumatic event takes place such as a family death or a war).  Bronfenbrenner further expanded on aspects influencing children’s development and coined the terms proximal and distal factors or processes.  Proximal processes or factors consist of the reciprocal interactions over time between the child and the people or things in its immediate environment (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006).  In contrast, distal processes, are those that are not necessarily a part of the developing child’s immediate environment (i.e., in the exosystem).  For example, family financial status, neighbourhood, life events, and ethnicity are examples of distal factors (Bronfenbrenner, 1977).  For the purposes of this capstone project, I 11  focused on proximal processes that involved the developing child’s interactions with themselves, teachers, peers, family members and the materials in the classroom.  Bronfenbrenner’s emphasis on the importance of the child at the centre of interactions with its environment is also seen in Dewey’s beliefs on the necessity of participation for learning (Dewey, 1916/2009), described next. Dewey’s Philosophy of Democratic Education John Dewey was the leading voice in American philosophy during his time, which encompassed the early to mid-twentieth century.  According to Fesmire (2014), Dewey experienced great periods of change in his lifetime.  With a professional career that spanned three generations, he lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, and the beginning of the Cold War.  Dewey based his writings about democracy and education on the consideration of two elements.  The first element points at the importance of shared common interests in a group.  The second element refers to the continuous changes in the habits of the group/society that bring about more interactions across the group (Dewey, 1916/2009).  Dewey held that democratic education should provide the individual with an understanding of the importance of the shared interests of the group, and the tools to be a part of the changes needed for progress within the group.  Individuals need to be active participants in their learning and communication needs to be back and forth (Dewey, 1916/2009).  According to Brinkmann’s (2017) review of Dewey’s work, Dewey believed that people learn as a result of their experiences in the world as opposed to having an expert provide them with knowledge.  Dewey’s philosophy brought about change in education by arguing for a more active role of students in their own learning.  He believed that students learned through inquiry and experimenting with their interests and environment (Brinkmann, 2017).  12   This perspective is important for my capstone project because it provides a discourse or narrative that is very different from an education where the teacher is the expert sharing their knowledge with students, especially in that it involves a change in the communication and power relationship between student and teacher.   Review of the Literature  In the following section I examined the literature addressing relationships between home and school, the importance of valuing student perspectives and the benefits of using technology to support the inclusion of all voices.   Student Voice  I begin with a review of the literature reporting on the benefits of listening to student voice and how it can be supported.  To challenge the status quo, Dahlberg, Moss, and Pence (2007) examined early childhood and early childhood institutions through a post-modern lens, focusing on reconceptualizing the notion of quality.  The authors view the concept of quality as a “problem, something to be questioned” (p. 3).  They begin by underlining that although quality is very sought after in early childhood institutions, it is very difficult to define quality for all contexts.  The desire for “quality” as a feature of early childhood institutions moves away from democratic practice because it requires an outside expert to evaluate the institutions based on standardized criteria rather than evaluation based on dialogue within the community.   Dahlberg et. al. (2007) suggested that by replacing “quality” with “meaning-making,” which requires discussion and reflection to reach understanding, democratic principles, including diversity, multiple perspectives and context, are more attainable.  When the relationships between teachers, students and families are not reciprocal, operating in more than one direction with all involved having the opportunity to share their views on the learning process, the stage is set for power 13  imbalances (Dahlberg et al., 2007).  The authors conclude with an examination of pedagogical documentation as a learning and communication process which fosters democratic practice because it promotes diversity and the valuing of many perspectives, including children’s perspectives.  Pedagogical documentation allows both children and adults to participate in a forum where dialogue and reflection make the learning and practices of the early childhood institution become visible to the outside world.  It is also important that during these dialogues dominant discourses can be examined and challenged, which makes it possible for participants to see that alternatives are possible.  Building on the earlier work of Dahlberg et al. (2007), MacNaughton et al. (2011) considered how children’s voices can be listened to in early childhood settings. The Kindergarten Program (2016) statement “children are competent, capable of complex thinking, curious and rich in potential and experience” (Ontario Ministry of Education, p. 10) embodies a view that is prevalent in current thinking (MacNaughton, et al., 2011).  If we view children as competent and capable and having rights to express their views, then as educators we have a responsibility to listen to those views and to include them in the curriculum decision-making processes (MacNaughton, et al., 2011).  MacNaughton, Smith, and Lawrence (2011) wrote about the Consultation with Children Birth to Eight Project with the Australian government where they examined how young children’s voices could be included in policy that affected them.  The project included 16 children’s services represented by educators from each centre, as well as 137 children.  The project entailed a literature review of research on the benefits of including children’s voices and the methods of inclusion, three non-consecutive days training for educators at the centres and a data analysis of the information gathered from centres. McNaughton et al. (2011) concluded that that introducing children to democratic practices, such 14  as voicing their ideas, “helps them to build the skills and knowledge they need to be active citizens and gives them experience in participating in decision-making” (p. 12).  The valuing of student voice is important in classrooms because it represents the practice of democratic concepts, including the sharing of power, equality, diversity, and participation, echoing Dewey’s (1916/2009) posits about democratic education needing to include the active involvement of all members of the group and open communication within the group.  According to McNaughton et al., these are ideals that our children need to learn so that they can protect our democratic future.  McNaughton and her colleagues insisted that children are capable of and enjoy being a part of the consultation process.  If we want children to grow up with the skills to think critically and advocate for themselves and others, this is something they need to learn and experience.   In an examination of the Reggio Emilia approach, Rinaldi (2006) also emphasized the importance of sharing the documentation of learning processes with children and families.  The Reggio Emilia approach refers to the approach to children’s learning that was founded in the Italian city of Reggio Emilia, province of Reggio Emilia.  In Reggio Emilia, relationships, between child, parent, and educators, are a key focus in all aspects of organisation (e.g. communication, planning, classroom environments, staffing).  It is within these relationships that children develop and learn (Rinaldi, 2006).  Within the Reggio Emilia approach, there is an emphasis on the child at the centre of these relationships and their own learning.  Children are encouraged to be active participants in planning for their own interests and learning, as well as in the documentation of their learning.  Rinaldi emphasized that it is important for the educators to make a concentrated effort to hear what the child is trying to show them about their learning by assisting in documenting but also reflecting on the documentation from many observers.  Rinaldi further stated,  15  When you take a picture or you make a document, you don’t document the child but your knowledge, your concept, your idea.  So it’s more and more visible your limits and your vision about the child. You show not who that child is, but your thought. (p. 154) To counter this one-sided view of the child seen from the educator’s perspective, Rinaldi insisted that it is necessary to engage in multiple methods of documenting the child’s learning with multiple perspectives, the child’s, the family’s, and other educators’, examining that documentation. Multiple perspectives of documentation are key aspects of my Capstone Project because they allow for the many stories of the child and their learning to be heard, valued, and answered.  When the stories of their learning at home, at school, and in the community are documented and reflected upon by the child, the educators, and the families some of the many perspectives of who that child is and how they are learning are revealed.  Although the documentation can never present a “true” representation of the child, it can help in promoting understanding and challenging fixed ideas (Moss, 2007).  One platform that can be used to share these multiple perspectives of documentation is electronic portfolios.  Platforms that allow educators, families and children to post, view and comment on different parts of the documentation embody the kinds of reciprocal relationships that I wish to foster.   Family Engagement  In this section I examine the literature highlighting the benefits and the changing focus from family involvement to family engagement.  First, I examined Ma, Shen, Krenn, Hu, and Yuan’s (2016) meta-analysis of 46 studies where Ma et al. explored the connection between learning (academic achievement) and parental involvement in early childhood.  Using two-step screening methods, a total of 46 studies were selected out of a pool of 3407 studies.  The studies 16  were coded for features of publication and design, as well as parental involvement.  Five parent- involvement frameworks were used for the coding on parental involvement.  The findings from this review emphasized a connection between student learning and parent involvement.  In fact, family involvement was highlighted as more important than school and community partnerships in that student learning is strengthened more by the involvement of family members than from the creation of school/community initiatives.  The key aspects of family involvement were participating in school life, supervising work at home and connecting with the school to share information.  In terms of school and community partnerships, there were favourable results for academic learning when the partnerships respectfully and authentically included families. Although the authors focused on “parent involvement” and not on “parent engagement,” this study was selected considering that it was important to begin the review of the literature with a study that underlined the benefits of parents being involved.  I included this article because although they use the term family involvement the type of involvement highlighted as being most beneficial is referred to as engagement in other studies.    In his review about school-family partnerships, Ferlazzo (2011) examined the difference between family involvement and family engagement.  The author contended that although there are documented benefits to schools following a model of family involvement, the benefits are greater with family engagement.  Ferlazzo provided examples of projects and studies that have had success in moving away from “doing to” families and moving toward “doing with.”  Ferlazzo concluded that as schools embraced partnerships with families the sharing of power created more possibilities and posed questions for educators and administrators to consider when examining how their school invites families to participate including whether communication is one-way or two-way.  Mitchell, Foulger, and Wetzel (2009) explored family involvement and the 17  use of technology to support education.  Mitchell et al. stressed the importance of two-way communication in their article offering suggestions for educators looking to use technology to change how they communicate with families.  In moving to communication that is reciprocal there may be shifts that need to take place in the roles of the participants.  This idea is explored in greater detail through the following article by Inglis (2012). In a study of parent meetings in Scottish primary schools, Inglis (2012) examined the roles taken on by teachers and parents at the second yearly meeting between them.  Three Sottish schools in areas of average or low socioeconomic status were involved in the study.  In the first phase of the study fifteen parents and nine teachers kept diaries of events before, during and after the meetings.  Information gathered from the diaries was analysed and used for interviews.  Inglis also carried out observations of some meetings and a group interview of six students from each school.  The second phase of the study involved a questionnaire based on the findings from the first phase.  The analyses of the data found that each group took on specific roles, although these roles are changing.  The teachers were universally seen as the expert on the child’s education with the key purpose of the meeting being for the teacher to share information on the student.  There were indications this model was being challenged because of parental desire to participate.  The parents took on advocate roles.  Although they still viewed the teacher as expert, many were looking to arrive at a consensus at the meetings.  These parents viewed their input as equal to that of the teacher and would like more dialogue at the meetings.  The children were not present at any of the meetings.  However, they still saw the purpose of the meeting to be the teacher sharing information about them with their parents.  The children all expressed a desire to be involved in the meetings in some way.  This was a desire that challenged teachers’ and parents’ protectionist stances because they were concerned about issues of creating anxiety 18  and damaging self-esteem.  Inglis concluded with a call to schools to reconsider how meetings of this kind take place so that children can be involved and have their voices heard.  In the next section of the review of the literature, I examine both the benefits and some of the challenges of using electronic portfolios.   Electronic Portfolios  In a mixed methods study about parent involvement, specifically actions that include monitoring their child’s schoolwork, communicating with teachers and helping their child plan for their education, Olmstead (2016) focused on how technology can be used to increase parent engagement by supporting communication.  The research questions of the study centred on how teachers use technology to communicate with parents and the perceptions of both teachers and parents of the effectiveness of present practice.  Surveys were sent to two hundred and four parents of students between the ages of eight and eleven in one school.  Of these eighty-nine were returned for analysis along with teacher surveys given to all seven of the teachers.  In addition, one parent from each of the classes participated in a semi-structured interview.  Analyses of the results of the surveys and of the coding of the interview responses showed that technology can be used to foster parent involvement.  Specifically, proactive involvement (communicating with teachers, helping with schoolwork, keeping up to date on student progress) can be supported using technology, including email, social media type platforms, texting and websites.  Olmstead underlined that the results are particularly relevant to working parents who are having increasing difficulties making personal contact (in person or by phone) with schools and teachers.  Considering the value of technology to promote parent involvement the author recommended administrators to find ways to help educators combat the barriers of time and lack of training that prevent them from adopting new technologies.   19  Goodall’s (2016) literature review examined the literature concerning school-home communication with a emphasis on how technology can be used in this communication with the families of school-age children.  On the subject of communication, the research Goodall reviewed highlighted the need for clear messages to be sent and for those receiving the messages to be able to respond, although a response was not necessary unless the sender was looking for dialogue.  Findings from Goodall’s literature review fell into four main themes: communication, parental engagement, school-home communication, and the use of technology to support it.  The benefits of parent engagement to children’s learning were clear in the research reviewed with an emphasis on the importance of interactions between the parent and child.  Another important finding regarding parental engagement was the importance of parents believing that they can help their child learn (Goodall, 2016).  Communication between school and home is essential to build the relationships necessary to further children’s learning.  In this communication, Goodall highlighted some key factors, including the importance of two-way communication and the fact that simply because communication is taking place does not mean it is effective if parents do not receive the intended message.  Parents viewed group communications (e.g. newsletters, calendars, invitations to school events) as information sharing rather than as invitations to participate in their child’s learning.  In contrast, communication that focused on the individual child was viewed as more of an invitation.  There are benefits to the use of technology to bring about this communication with parents.  For example, the wider variety of materials that can be shared (e.g. videos, pictures) as well as the flexibility and convenience in parents’ busy lives.  Goodall concluded that although the use of technology to foster school-home communication can be very effective, the costs and possible equity concerns in terms of access mean policymakers 20  and schools should consider carefully what technology would work best for the families in their area.   In their case study of electronic portfolios used in an early childhood centre catering to children between the ages of two and five years old, Higgins and Cherrington (2017) examined the influence electronic portfolios had on parent-teacher communication.  One early childhood setting in New Zealand, which had been using electronic portfolios for two years was involved in the study.  The study was situated within a constructivist-interpretivist paradigm.  The participants in the study consisted of all seven teachers at the centre, 29 participant parents who were pulled out of 33 families at the centre, and 13 extended family members.  All participants participated in the first stage of the research, an online survey rating the usefulness of electronic portfolios in terms of communication, children’s learning and relationships followed by open-ended questions.  The next phase of the study involved the analysis of sample learning stories from the children’s electronic portfolios and a more detailed analysis of four of the electronic portfolios.  Two main themes arose from the analysis: The benefits and challenges of using electronic portfolios to communicate and the kinds of communication seen in the comments.  The benefits included the following: Families felt informed of their child’s learning, and transference of learning was reported from school to home as a result of shared stories and a wider variety options (notifications, inclusion of videos and photos, ease of access) with the online portfolios than hard copies.  Challenges included the following: Time for educators to follow up on comments or stories shared by families, and reluctance by contributors to comment on group stories and lack of links to learning in some comments (Higgins & Cherrington, 2017).  The kinds of communication ranged from one-way communication (giving praise to the child, thanking teachers) to two-way communication (asking questions, conversation, sharing further 21  information).  Higgins and Cherrington concluded that although the use of electronic portfolios strengthened the relationship between teachers and parents, they did not foster children’s learning unless the communication was both ways.    In Finger and Jamieson-Proctor’s (2009) review of the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in assessment the authors examined the many uses of ICT as an assessment tool with school age children.  For example, when the learning is specifically about technology, when the technology is used to showcase content, to record, collect, analysis and communicate data, to detect plagiarism and electronic portfolios.  Finger and Jamieson-Proctor stressed the benefits of electronic portfolios tools to promote deep learning and lifelong learning.  When student voice and reflection are included electronic portfolios provide rich potential for assessment for learning as students may document their own growth.  The authors end with a reminder of the need for educator education on the use of ICT for assessment and a call to educators to be conscious of the real-world technology skills that students will need in the future.   Ntuli, Keenqwe, and Kyei-Blankson (2009) undertook a qualitative research study to explore the perceptions of early childhood teacher candidates on the benefits and challenges of including electronic portfolios in the studies.  Recruitment letters were used to gain a sampling of participants for in-depth interviews.  The data from semi-structured interviews with four candidates was coded and analyzed using thematic analyses.  The participants all expressed a belief in the benefits of electronic portfolios as a means of storing assignments and to gain employment.  However, they all also expressed their concern over their lack of knowledge and training in how to use electronic portfolios in their profession.  Ntuli, Keenqwe, and Kyei-Blankson had final recommendations for both students and faculty to receive training in the 22  technical aspects of using electronic portfolios systems and in how to create quality portfolios.  The authors also recommended for a system to be used that would allow for students to have some creativity to personalize their portfolios.     The review of the literature highlighted the benefit of family engagement when it is understood as providing a more active role for families in the home-school relationship than the more traditional family involvement. It also highlighted the importance of student voices, reciprocal relationships, and the benefits of technology in supporting reciprocal communication with families and student learning.  In Chapter Three, I establish research-to-practice connections to promote reciprocal relationships between educators, families and students through using electronic portfolios.         23  CHAPTER THREE: CONNECTION TO PRACTICE In Chapter Three, I draw from the findings from the literature review and address my guiding questions concerning using electronic portfolios in the kindergarten classroom to foster reciprocal relationships and democratic practice in the classroom. Findings from the literature review that informed the connections from theory to practice are described below and include the organization and content of a sample electronic portfolio, a sample information slideshow presentation for parents, and recommendations and considerations for educators using electronic portfolios.  Throughout this chapter, I will recount my journey as an educator with electronic portfolios.  Through this recounting, I endeavor to demonstrate how I have used electronic portfolios in our kindergarten classroom to further the growth of reciprocal relationships by ensuring that all participants are given the opportunity to contribute.  This journey will include the many challenges and changes in outlook I have encountered as a part of my own learning process.  According to Shagoury and Power (2003), teacher research begins with the transformation of “wonderings into questions” (p. 2).  Along my journey there have been many pivotal points of wondering that have caused me to question the direction of my practice with electronic portfolios.  In addition to scenarios of our use of electronic portfolios, I will include examples of these points of wondering that caused me to question the relationships in our classroom and how we build them.   Beginning the Journey as an Expert  I echo Inglis’ (2012) findings about the specific power roles taken by teachers and parents in communication in that I began my electronic portfolio journey taking an expert position.  My first attempt at electronic portfolios was a blog format.  I would take pictures of student work or sometimes ask their help in taking pictures and then I would spend hours loading 24  these pictures onto the blog where they were labeled and coded so that parents could access their child’s photos.  Most pictures were of something the children had made or produced (e.g., a writing samples, art creation, drawings, etc.).  Like many teachers, and as Inglis (2012) noted, in my communications with parents, through newsletters, phone calls, notes home, and conferences, I saw my main purpose as providing information to parents about my program and their child’s progress in it.  Although I was always interested in the stories parents shared about their child at home, I did not often connect those stories to the learning processes experienced in our class.  When I learned about blogs, I believed it was my responsibility as the teacher to use this new technology to share my expert knowledge of my students and what they were learning with parents.  It was also early in my journey as a kindergarten teacher.  However, I was in love with early learning and I felt that all these wonderful pictures of my students engaged in play would inspire and educate parents about the value of play-based learning and the amazing things I was teaching their children.  Two other wonderful journeys began for me at approximately the same time.  As I stated in chapter one, my son was born and shortly after that I commenced my studies in the master’s program.  These two events combined to inspire my first big wondering around my role in children’s education, as presented next.   Wondering #1 My son has very strong ideas of the world around him and likes to share his perceptions with me but is often nervous sharing with others.  I learned from my son’s interactions with others (family members, babysitters, childcare staff, and other children) that informing others of his ideas and feelings would make it easier for others to understand his actions.  As I stated in chapter one, his actions and sometimes reactions led me to question my position as the expert on other children’s learning.  My early courses as a part of the master’s program introduced me to Dewey and Bronfenbrenner.  It was 25    My exploration of electronic portfolios began because of my belief in my responsibilities as the “expert” teacher needing to educate the families of my students.  However, even though I found my confidence and belief in my position as the expert in that relationship shaken, I did still see the value of electronic portfolios as a communication tool.  In the next section, I establish connections with the literature on the topic of student voice and how it has been incorporated through our electronic portfolios. Bringing in Student Voice  As stated in Chapter One, the view of children as competent and capable is used frequently in recent curriculum and other professional learning documents (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013; Ontario Ministry of Education, 2016).  Children are not only capable of being a part of decision-making processes, but they also desire the opportunity to be included in these Dewey’s (2009) work about democratic education that introduced me to the concept that children could and should play an active part in the course of their own education.  This goes beyond giving children the choice of where they played or what they wanted to learn about.  It encompassed a sharing of decision making in terms of what learning was represented by the events of our classroom.  From Bronfenbrenner’s (1977, 1994, 2005) bioecological model of human development I learned that parents and families were much more important in young children’s learning even after they start school than I had understood previously.  These frameworks gave me a starting point to reconsider the learning that we were documenting through our blog.  It also inspired me to examine how others could join in that documenting, especially our students.   26  processes (MacNaughton et al., 2011).  Yet, based on my experience I would affirm Inglis’ (2012) findings that children are rarely included in discussions of their own learning, especially young children.  The shift for students to have more agency in the classroom, including decision making, requires that educators build reciprocal relationships in which power is shared (see Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013).  This sharing of power is for many schools, educators and students a considerable change.  If we are to truly “hear” student voices we need to let go of the total power that we hold over the planning, decision-making and documenting of student learning.  As Rinaldi (2006) stated, when we are documenting for the child, we are not showing the child but our perception of the child.  In hindsight, I now see that I have regularly made this very mistake of focusing solely on what I think is the important learning in my classroom.  When I look at the items I tended to highlight when I first began the process of documentation a clear focus on traditional math and literacy learning was present.  Although I have begun to move away from this focus, I had not considered the bias or preconceptions I revealed in my choices.  In doing so I have taken it upon myself to speak for my students; but in speaking for them, I am sharing what I think is important and removing their opportunity to share their own ideas on their learning.  I resonate with Rinaldi’s (2006) assertion in that educators need to value the learning that children share with us.   As I stated in Chapter Two, Dahlberg et al. (2007) and MacNaughton et al. (2011) highlighted the importance of student voice in inviting children to become active citizens skilled in the practice of democracy.  As I have explored co-learning with my students, I have become cognisant of their capacity to understand and challenge critical concepts, including gender, equality, bias, and conservation.  In my role as a teacher, I reflect that if we, as a society, want children to grow up with the capacity to think critically and advocate for themselves and others, 27  this is something they need to learn and experience early on.  In my next wondering, I reflect on a moment when I began to question why some people are more likely to question the “status quo” around choices that are made for them.  Wondering #2 I have lived most of my life in a small rural community.  Yet, I have only recently come to truly comprehend and question how many of the decisions for our schools and community, are made by someone who resides somewhere else.  When it was announced that our primary school would close due to a cost-cutting amalgamation with the junior intermediate school in our town, there was no uproar over the loss of a hub that had nurtured generations of our community members.  It was accepted as something that was “out of our hands” and “they weren’t going to listen to us anyway” (C. Maxwell, Personal communication, 21/06, 2015).  In contrast, when six months later this same announcement was made about a neighbouring school that has been slated for closure for a decade, the uproar came.  Concerned citizens, including parents, educators, and the local MPP voiced their frustration over the decision to close the school, as well as, the consultation process (Miller, 2017).  Echoing Sedgwick’s (2017) reflections on the considerable volunteer work that went into the campaign, including hours of meetings, planning and lobbying to bring about the successful conclusion, it was a true community effort.  Although there are many circumstances that are different in these two communities, I did wonder what led those families at the neighbouring rural school community to feel they had a voice when ours did not.  I was left pondering, “How do we change that?  Does our community need us to begin teaching democratic practices to our  28    Early in my journey with electronic portfolios, I began to include my students in the process of documenting their learning by taking pictures of their creations.  I taught them about including their first names so that I could give them credit (and get pictures in the correct portfolio), and only including themselves and their work so that we were not posting other people in their portfolios.  However, I never talked to them about content or their right to be a part of what was posted.  To have their voices heard is a right of children that was acknowledged in the 1998 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Unicef, N.D.). However, as a teacher I felt that I was granting my students this right rather than encouraging them to take it up (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013).  I had never pondered whether my actions were creating democratic practices in our classroom.  Was I truly listening to my students’ voice?  Or was I taking up student voice because it was popular (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013) and not as something that I was consciously thinking about?  Dewey (1916/2009) would have challenged our documentation process in that it was not truly democratic because although the children were actively participating in the collection of documentation, they did not have a shared understanding of the communication or reflection.  By encouraging children to share their voice through electronic portfolios, I hope to provide the opportunity that Inglis (2012) proposed for students to be included more in meetings and discussions around their learning.  My wonderings about fostering democratic practices in documentation and student voice in our classroom have been a central issue in how we have set up our electronic portfolios.  In the next section I students from an early age so that they understand we have a right to question the status quo?   In the next section, I will summarize and reflect on my journey with student voice and democratic practice.   29  examine family engagement and how electronic portfolios have transformed my views on the ways families can be a part of their children’s learning.   Experiences of Family Engagement as an Educator and a Parent  As I stated earlier, when this journey began my vision for the technology of electronic portfolios was focused on one-way communication similar to many of the schools Ferlazzo (2011) described as being focused on family involvement.  I was sending information to families, including calendars, pictures, articles, and newsletters which they could comment on if they chose; however, I was not providing a reason for them to respond to the information.  Perhaps, I was not making it clear that families could and were welcomed to contribute to the conversations.  As Goodall (2016) stated, dialogue (back and forth communication) was possible, though I was not actively pursuing it.  Ma et al.’s (2016) findings on the most beneficial aspects of family involvement resonated with me in that I believed we were fostering their suggestions: the first - participating in school life and valuing the second - supervising learning at home.  Conversely, I was not certain we were creating ways to accomplish the third - connecting with the school to share information.  Recently, I have begun pondering if this lack of intentional invitation on my part is a consideration for those families who do not participate with our electronic portfolios.  As my views on family engagement and two-way communication continued to evolve it was my experiences with my son regarding communication with his educators that once again sparked a new wondering about electronic portfolios.  In the next wondering, I reflect on my responses to the experience of exploring my own son’s electronic portfolio.   30    Wondering #3 When my son started kindergarten, I was in the relatively unique position of teaching in the classroom across the hall.  As a kindergarten teacher at the school, I also had a wonderful working relationship with both the kindergarten teacher and early childhood educator in his classroom.  Most days I had personal interactions with them that my son participated in or observed.  His teachers were using shared platforms like Google Drive to share their students’ pictures with families.  Due to board policy around sharing of images the Google folder is locked so parents can view, but they can not add images or comment on images.  The images often had a caption that identified the content.  Unfortunately, detailed descriptions were difficult because of the format.  As a kindergarten educator I usually felt I had enough knowledge to interpret the images that were shared.  Although I loved looking at the pictures of him, I found when I viewed them, I often had some information I wanted to share or ask of his educators.  Suddenly, I had moved from being the closest connection for my son’s learning, as Bronfenbrenner (2005) described a part of his microsystem, to being an outsider in the microsystem of his learning at school, viewing his learning through the lens of the educators in his classroom.  Rinaldi’s (2006) words resonated with me again, were they seeing my son or just their own ideas reflected in his actions?   Figure 1. First day of school picture of my son at his school from his electronic portfolio.  Image by C. Maloney (2017).  Image shared with consent. 31   My experience as a mother communicating regularly with my son’s educators was an enormous learning opportunity for me.  I found myself visualizing Bronfenbrenner’s (2005) inter-relation of the microsystems of school and home in the mesosystem as learning was shared from both systems.  The proximal processes of how D. was interacting with language, ideas and others in similar ways at home and at school supported his growth in these areas.  This experience of participating in dialogue concerning D.’s learning and Bronfenbrenner’s mesosystem between home and school have grounded my goal of ensuring that families not only have an opportunity but also a reason to interact more with myself, our students and our classroom.  One method of promoting this two-way communication is through an information night where families are invited to visit, have some help signing into the electronic portfolios for the first time, and learn about why we use portfolios and how they can participate.  In Appendix A, I have included a sample slideshow on electronic portfolios to share with families.  In the next For example, after viewing figure 1 above, from his first day of school, I remarked to his educators that a physiotherapist friend had advised me not to let D. sit in a W position because it was bad for his hips.  I was lucky that I saw them each day and could share this kind of information easily, yet it took me more than a week to remember to share it.  I began to wonder about how other families were sharing information with us in response to the images we sent them.  Did they find this a simple process?  Did they want to have more opportunities to share information?  As Ferlazzo (2011) challenged educators and administrator in his review of schools moving from family involvement to family engagement, were we sharing power with families?  Or were we continuing to “do to” instead of “doing with”?    32  section I examine some of the challenges and considerations for using electronic portfolios to build reciprocal relationships. Challenges and Considerations Hindering the Implementation of Electronic Portfolios  In my journey with electronic portfolios I have used a wide variety of platforms (e.g., blogs, Google Folders, virtual classrooms).  Each of these systems had its benefits, considerations, and challenges.  However, there were some challenges and considerations that were a part of all of them.  In the next section, I will focus on three main areas or challenges that need to be considered while working with electronic portfolios, time and training, privacy concerns and the need for reflection (see Appendix B for an expanded list).    Time and Training  I echo Higgins and Cherrington (2017) and Ntuli et al.’s (2009) recommendations concerning the need for time to comment regularly on portfolio posts and for training on specific platforms for educators using electronic portfolios.  As with the educators represented? in the above cited studies, one of the most important aspects in my journey has been the need for time and training in how to navigate the technology around electronic portfolios.  Although I am aware that technology seems to change in the blink of an eye in my experience changes in our use of technology are much slower.  It took six years from when I asked the first information technology coordinator I worked with about technology that would allow young students to document their own learning until the company we presently work with included children in their testing to create an app that was physically geared to young children.  In this app the buttons for picture taking and recording are near the edge of the tablet screen so they can reach it while holding the tablet steady with two hands.  At the present time, we are waiting on a parent portal 33  to complement our student portfolios.  In a recent conversation with an IT coordinator I was informed that it will take three years just to set up the Toronto District School Board because of the amount of planning and preparation that is needed in adding all of the parents to the system (B. Jewell, Personal Communication, 25/03/2019).  In those six years my own learning has been constant in this journey.  I have had to learn new technology as well as new ways to use the technology with which I am already familiar.  From my own experience in using electronic portfolios, I have become aware that moving to a system of electronic portfolios can be very time consuming to start and educators need to make sure that they give themselves that time to learn and set up their platform.   Privacy Concerns  One of the key aspects that has dictated what platform we have used for our electronic portfolios and how they are used is the issue of privacy concerns.  The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (2018) states that information collected by government about individuals must only be made available to those individuals.  This raises many concerns in terms of what information is collected, who can view it and where it is stored (i.e., online data stored outside of Canada).  There are many different apps and programs available to educators that wish to share pictures and multimedia texts with families.  However, not all of these are equal when it comes to regulations concerning data.  I often recommend to educators wishing to start electronic portfolios that their first conversation should be with their organisation’s IT department.  Here they will find out what apps and platforms are approved by their organisation.  Our school board has a few platforms that are approved, including the Ontario Ministry of Education virtual classroom in which our electronic portfolios are embedded (Hastings & Prince Edward District School Board, N.D.).  However, there are far more apps and platforms that are 34  not approved because their rules and regulations around how data is collected, how is it stored, and who owns the data do not meet with our regulations.  For example, all data from sites that we use must be stored in Canada.  This is one of the reasons that our school board discourages educators from using social media sites such as Facebook to house electronic portfolios.  In addition to considerations of what platforms to use educators should consider what information they are sharing.  During one of my first years as a kindergarten teacher my students performed a song about penguins at a school assembly.  Two hours later I attended a meeting with another kindergarten teacher in a neighbouring town.  She complimented me on how cute my students’ performance was.  I was quite stunned by this because I had not even recorded the song myself.  A visiting parent had recorded the song and posted on Facebook without asking permission or consent from staff, students or their families.  Information travels quickly on the internet and especially for families who have chosen not to post images of their children this is a big concern.  Mistakes or misunderstandings in this area can be very damaging to the relationships that we are trying to build with families.  In our classroom children are encouraged to take pictures of their work and learning and sometimes we take pictures for them.  However, we do not ever post pictures of one child in another child’s portfolio even though our school permission forms allow it.  The danger is too great that not everyone takes seriously the need to respect the children’s and families’ digital profile wishes, as artist/singer Raffi Cavoukian (2013) exposed in his popular book titled “Lightweb, Darkweb”. Need for Reflection  The final consideration I examine regarding electronic portfolios is the need for reflection about on the documentation that is included in electronic portfolios.  On this subject, I concur with Higgins and Cherrington’s (2017) findings that educators need to make sure they are taking 35  time to respond to family comments, but also to reflect on and share the learning that is taking place in the images they are posting.  When this reflection is taking place, with all parties involved, the learning is deep and rich, echoing Finger and Jamieson-Proctor’s (2009) considerations about the benefits of electronic portfolios.  When we were using Google Folders to house our electronic portfolios the ease of taking pictures and the lack of a means of sharing reflections resulted in large folders that housed a considerable number of photos.  However, my learning in more recent years has led me to question whether those portfolios added greatly to our students’ learning.  At that time, we showcased them to parents but there was no method of having them send comments or reflections.  We examined them at reporting time, but did not return to them, alone or with students, on a regular basis.  They were great digital art galleries of often unnamed works where visitors interpreted the learning based on their own ideas.    The platform that we use now lends itself to reflection and dialogue on student learning including all parties.  Although there is a considerable space for everyone to post many images or multimedia texts features are included that highlight the learning and allow all parties to add their perspective on the documentation.  Posts that educators, students, or families feel are of importance can be starred so that they remain at the top of the portfolio for ease of access during reflection and discussion.  The recording of student comments allows students who have not mastered written language to contribute.  This is a vast improvement on the speech to text features we have used that have resulted in a long string of garbled letters.  There is an area where families can add comments and an area where educators can provide feedback. This type of features allows for the multiple perspectives on documentation to which Rinaldi (2006) makes reference and underlines the difference between simply observing children and using 36  pedagogical documentation which Dahlberg et al. (2007) highlight.  Examples are provided next in Figure 2.     Figure 2. Image from a sample electronic portfolio highlighting the features of our electronic portfolios.  Image by W. Bateman (2019). Image shared with consent. In its inclusion of student audio files, teacher feedback and parent comments this platform allows for the two-way communication that Goodall (2018), Higgins and Cherrington 37  (2017), and Olmstead (2016) stressed in their recommendations.  However, the opportunity for two-way communication is not enough, as Goodall (2018) contends, for dialogue to take place there must be a response.  Modeling and inviting reflection from families is an important step in creating that dialogue.  In the next section, I briefly describe my sample slideshow for a family information night to introduce electronic portfolios.   Family Information Night Slideshow  The slideshow presentation (see Appendix A) was created to be a part of a family information night to introduce electronic portfolios to the families of kindergarten students.  For many of these families this may be the first child in the school system or the first child who has used electronic portfolios.  The purpose of this slideshow is to introduce to families the idea of sharing the documentation of their child’s learning journey through kindergarten.  I begin with a viewing of Chimamanda Adichie’s (2014) TED talk on “The Danger of the Single Story” that is followed by the sharing of some examples of what might be “single stories” of our children.  I include Adichie’s TED talk to introduce to families the importance of multiple perspectives in children’s learning and to challenge my position as the expert in their child’s learning as I began to question in chapter one.  This TED talk is, in turn, followed by a brief examination of the why, what and how of electronic portfolios in our classroom.   First, I will outline the reasons that we choose to include electronic portfolios to support growth in our classroom.  Second, I will examine some of the many kinds of documentation that can be used to observe learning.  The slideshow concludes with the how including an introduction to the features of our electronic portfolios.    38  List of Recommendations and Considerations for Educators using Electronic Portfolios In addition to the slideshow presentation, I have compiled a list of recommendations and considerations for educators seeking to use electronic portfolios.  During my journey I spent a great deal of time experimenting with technology that did not help me realize my goals.  There was considerable learning from this experimentation; however, I believe that learning could have been accomplished much more efficiently.  The purpose of this list is to give educators who are new to electronic portfolios some guidelines on where to begin their journey and where to get help along the way.  I also hope to outline some of the issues that they will need to consider as they progress in using electronic portfolios.   In Chapter Four, I address my guiding questions, reflect on my journey and discuss the limitations and potentials for future research.     39  CHAPTER FOUR: CONCLUSIONS   In this capstone project, I have focused on the importance of reciprocal relationships involving all parties in the kindergarten classroom and how using electronic portfolios can build these relationships.  In this final chapter, I address the guiding questions, share my personal reflections and consider limitations in the research, as well as possibilities for future research. In consideration of the first guiding question, “Drawing from the extant literature examining home-school relationships, what are ways to incorporate all of children’s, parents’, and teachers’ voices?” the findings from the literature reviewed indicated that valuing of all voices requires a shift in the roles taken on by all parties.  This shift involves a sharing of power between teachers, children and parents in terms of documenting of learning and decision making.  An important aspect in this sharing of power is two-way communication, which is a significant feature in our electronic portfolios.  As I shared in Chapter Three, the two-way communication that is available through our electronic portfolios allows for parents to share important information (as I have about my son) with educators and children to be a part of sharing their own learning (as my son is learning to do when he documents his learning).  In the next section, I consider this feature and others as I address my second guiding question.  In terms of the second guiding question, “More specifically, what are ways in which the use of electronic portfolios may foster or enhance relationships in the ECE classroom?” the findings from the literature reviewed indicated that electronic portfolios support relationships, especially with busy, working families, when it provides two-way communication and flexibility in time and media.  Goodall (2018) stressed that communication is key for home-school relationships.  However, just because processes are in place to communicate between home and school does not mean the message is being received.  As I reflected in Chapter Three, there is a 40  need for on-going two-way communication involving sharing and reflecting by all parties involved so that a clearer understanding or consensus can be reached.  Although electronic portfolios support relationships by allowing this communication there can still be difficulties with their implementation.  Next, I examine some of these difficulties while addressing my third guiding question.  In terms of the third guiding question, “In addition, what are aspects in the use of electronic portfolios that could hinder the development of that relationship?” the findings from the literature reviewed indicated that the need for educator training and time to use the technology properly, comfort levels for all, including comfort with privacy protocols and the reflective inclusion were all aspects that contributed to the most beneficial use of electronic portfolios. Reflections and Concluding Thoughts As I write my concluding reflections, I am aware I do not believe my learning journey with electronic portfolios has come to an end.  I believe I am just embarking on the next leg of my journey.  This next section of my journey will involve sharing my learning and passions about using electronic portfolios to build relationships and create democratic spaces where power is shared between all parties.  As the French philosopher and social theorist, Michael Foucault (1988) stated “as soon as one can no longer think things as one formerly thought them, transformation becomes both very urgent, very difficult and quite possible” (p. 155).  As I stated in Chapters One and Three, I began my journey with electronic portfolios believing that I held a position of knowledge and expertise.  Along the journey I have become aware that this is not a position that I hold or desire to hold.  I have come to understand that the family involvement that I was promoting was much more powerful when understood as family engagement (Ferlazzo, 2011; Ma et al., 2016).  It has become important for me to notice am I sharing power with my 41  students (Dahlberg et al., 2007; MacNaughton, et al., 2011) and their families (Ferlazzo, 2011) by honouring their contributions to the learning process.  I now realize that what I was looking for in my journey with electronic portfolios was a deeper sense of community in our classrooms, and with the families of our students, as we all travel together through our learning journey.  Furthermore, I have come to believe that our community of learners, which would include all members (educators, families, children) as active participants in the process of learning (Edwards, 1995), needs to extend to my colleagues.  When I began this capstone project, I had not planned to do a workshop for educators.  The list in Appendix B resulted from the many conversations I have had with educators in recent months regarding electronic portfolios.  It was created as something to share with the educators asking me questions and to consolidate my thinking.  I have lately been thinking that I should consider a workshop for educators similar to the one I plan for families. Limitations and Recommendations for Future Study and Practice There is considerable research on the changing relationships between educators and families (Ferlazzo, 2011; Inglis, 2012) and educators and students (Dahlberg, et al., 2007; MacNaughton, et al. 2011; Rinaldi, 2006).  However, I was unable to find any research that examined reciprocal relationships that included all three main parties in the kindergarten classroom relationship, educators, families and students.  Given the dearth of research examining reciprocal relationships, research on classroom practices that foster both, family engagement and student-voice together would be beneficial for educators.  This is especially true for educators seeking to build democratic communities within their classrooms.  In addition, it has been my experience that at the school and school board level the benefits of reciprocal relationships are not fully understood.  Professional development on these benefits and how to build relationships would be very advantageous for all involved.  Personally, I believe that I would benefit from 42  additional study on the subject of student agency.  Through the review of the literature, and in particular Moss (2007), I have come to understand that what I have been referring to as student voice might be students’ agency.  In the future, I would like to reflect more critically on whether I want to focus on listening to students’ voice or to focus on including them as significant contributors to conversations and decisions in the classroom.   At the same time, it is not yet known what the long-term effects of students’ electronic portfolios are.  As I shared in Chapter Three, the dangers are often not truly comprehended by families and educators alike.  Additional investigation is needed to ascertain what these long-term effects might be so that young children can be protected and educated about the choices made for their electronic portfolios.  In the meantime, and as a recommendation for practice, educators would benefit from professional development on students’ exposure to digital worlds.  This is an important consideration for school boards as children spend more and more time online.  Finally, when I began my research on electronic portfolios, I found a dearth in the extant research.  Although this has changed in recent years, the available literature on electronic portfolios has a dominant focus on high school and teacher candidate students, with limited research on early childhood.  With the growing popularity of electronic portfolios in the early years further study examining if the benefits and challenges are similar for different age groups is recommended.  Furthermore, comparing some of the features of popular platforms to find out if some features are of greater benefit than others would be relevant for educators intending to use electronic portfolios.  This would be especially important for educators looking to use those features to build relationships with families.  Although there is a policy for sharing student photos in my school board, at present, there is no clear policy for the use of electronic portfolios 43  in my district.  As a recommendation for practice, it would be important for school boards to have a clear policy in place for educators using electronic portfolios to promote consistency (Goodall, 2018), and, following a recommendation from our school district IT Coordinator, to provide guidance regarding some of the concerns around electronic portfolios (B. Jewell, Personal Communication, 25/03/2019).  .     44  References  Barrett, H. (2007). Researching Electronic Portfolios and Learner Engagement: The Reflect       Initiative. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 50(6), 436-449.  https://doi.org/10.1598/JAAL.50.6.2 Brinkmann, S. (2017). John Dewey: Science for a changing world. New Brunswick: Transaction           Publishers. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). The ecology of cognitive development: Research models and  fugitive findings. In K. D. Arnold & I. C. King, (1997). College student development and  academic life: Psychological, intellectual, social, and moral issue, p. 295-336. New  York: Garland Pub. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994). Ecological models of human development.  In International Encyclopedia of Education, Vol 3, 2nd. Ed. Oxford: Elsevier. Reprinted in: Gauvin, M. & Cole, M. (Eds.), Readings on the development of children, 2nd Ed. (pp. 37-43). New York, N.Y.: Freedman. Bronfenbrenner, U. (2005). Making human beings human: Bioecological perspectives on human       development. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications. Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (2006). The bioecological model of human development. In: R. M. Lerner (ed.) Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 1. Theoretical Models of Human Development (6th ed., 793-828). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Cavoukian, Raffi. (2013). Lightweb Darkweb. Canada: Homeland Press. Dahlberg, G., Moss, P. (2005). Ethics and Politics in Early Childhood Education. London: Routledge. 45  Dahlberg, G., Moss, P., & Pence, A. (2007). Beyond quality in early childhood education and care: Languages of evaluation (2nd Ed.). London: Falmer Press. Dewey, J. (2009). Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. United States: Feather Trail Press. (Original work published in 1916).  Edwards, C. (1995). Democratic participation in a Community of Learners: Loris Malaguzzzi's  philosophy of education as relationship. Lecture prepared for "Nostalgia del Futuro: Liberare speranze per una nuova cultura dell'infanzia," an International Seminar to consider the educational contributions of Loris Malaguzzi. University of Milano.  http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1014&context=famconfacpub. Edwards, S. (2003). New directions: Charting the paths for the role of sociocultural theory in       early childhood education and curriculum. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood       4(3), 251-266. Epstein, J. (2010). School/family/community partnerships: caring for the children we share. Phi Delta Kappan. 92 (3), 81 – 96. Ferlazzo, L. (2011). Involvement or engagement? Schools, Families, Communities, 68(8), 10-14. Fesmire, S. (2014). Dewey. London, GB: Routledge. Finger, G., & Jamieson-Proctor, R. (2009). Assessment issues and new technologies: eportfolio possibilities.  In: C. Wyatt-Smith & J. J. Cumming (eds), Educational assessment in the 21st century: Connecting theory and practice (63 – 81). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. Fleer, M. (2002). Sociocultural assessment in early years’ education – Myth or reality? International Journal of Early Years Education, 10(2), 105–120. 46  Foot, D. (2017, May 24). Work to Begin in June on expansion of Marmora Senior Public School.  Quinte News. Retrieved from https://www.quintenews.com/2017/05/24/work-begin-june-expansion-marmora-senior-public-school/148236/ Foucault, M. 1988. Politics, Philosophy, Culture: interviews and other writings 1977–1984, Edited by: Kritzman, L. New York: Routledge.  Gatwick, C. (2013). Home, school & community relations (Eighth ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Goodall, J. S. (2016). Technology and school-home communication. International Journal of    Pedagogies and Learning, 11(2), 118-131. Government of Ontario. (2018). Freedon of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Queen’s  printer for Ontario. Hart, M. (1990). Critical theory and beyond: Further perspectives on emancipatory  education. Adult Education Quarterly, 40(3), 125-138. Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board. (2019). Virtual Learning Environment.   Belleville: Ontario. Higgins, A., & Cherrington, S. (2017). What's the story? Exploring parent – teacher communication through eportfolios. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 42(4), 13-21.  Inglis, G. (2012). Reconstructing parents' meetings in primary schools: The teacher as expert, the      Parent as advocate and the pupil as self-advocate. CEPS Journal: Center for Educational  Policy Studies Journal, 2(1), 83-103 Ma, X., Shen, J., Krenn, H. Y., Hu, S., & Yuan, J. (2016). A meta-analysis of the relationship 47  between learning outcomes and parental involvement during early childhood education and early elementary education. Educational Psychology Review, 28(4), 771-801. MacDonald, M., Rudkowski, M. & Schärer, J. (2013). Lingering discourses: Jean Jacques Rousseau’s 18th-century images of mothers, fathers, and children. Canadian Children, 38 (1), 21-28. MacNaughton, G., Smith, K., & Lawrence, H. (2011) Hearing young children’s voices:    Consulting with children birth to eight years of age. Children’s Services Branch ACT    Department of Education, Youth and Family Services. Retrieved from  https://www.children.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/1065100/under5report.pdf McWilliams, R. A. (2011). The top ten mistakes in early intervention in natural environments-  and their solutions. Zero to Three, 31(4), 11-16. Miller, T. (2017, February 3). School Closure Concerns in Madoc. The Belleville Intelligencer,   retrieved from https://www.intelligencer.ca/2017/02/03/school-closure-concerns-in- madoc/wcm/113b609d-7209-7f0f-8b30-683ed5a7c7d8. Mitchell, S., Foulger, T. S., & Wetzel, K. (2009). Ten tips for involving families through internet-based communication. YC Young Children, 64(5), 46-49. Moss, P. (2007). Bringing politics into the nursery: Early childhood education as a democratic practice. Working Paper 43. The Hague, The Netherlands: Bernard van Leer Foundation. Mukherji, P., & Albon, D. (2018). Research methods in early childhood: An introductory guide (3rd ed.). London; Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications Ltd. Ntuli, E., Keengwe, J., & Kyei-Blankson, L. (2009). Electronic portfolios in teacher education: A case study of early childhood teacher candidates. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37(2), 121-126. 48  Olmstead, C. (2013). Using technology to increase parent involvement in schools. Techtrends, 57(6), 28-37. Ontario Ministry of Education. (2013). Capacity Building Series, K-12- Student voice:   Transforming Relationships.  Secretariat Special Edition #34.  Ontario Ministry of Education. (2016). The Kindergarten Program. Retrieved from  https://files.ontario.ca/books/kindergarten-program-en.pdf. Rinaldi, C. (2006). In dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, researching and learning (1st   ed.). New York; London: Routledge. Rishel, T., & Zuercher, D. K. (2016). Reciprocal-relational teaching: Culturally-responsive   pedagogy in the Pacific Islands. The International Schools Journal, 36(1), 48. Rogoff, B., Dahl, A., & Callanan, M. (2018). The importance of understanding children’s lived experience. Developmental Review. 50, 5-15. Sedgwick, K. (2017) Meanwhile at the Manse.  Retrieved from  https://atthemanse.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/now-its-on-us-to-celebrate-our-school-and-to-work-for-it/#comments Shagoury, R. E., & Power, B. (2003). The art of classroom inquiry: A handbook for teacher-researchers. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann. Unicef. (N.D.). Fact Sheet: A summary of the Rights under the Convention on the Rights of the   Child.   Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/crc/files/Rights_overview.pdf.   Wanders, C., Mendez, J. L., & Downer, J. T. (2007). Parent characteristics, economic stress and  neighborhood context as predictors of parent involvement in preschool children's education. Journal of School Psychology, 45(6), 619-636.   49  Appendix A  Workshop for Families on Electronic Portfolios  Figure 1. Slide 1    50   Figure 2. Slide 2  Welcome -Thank you all for coming.  This workshop is a result of many years of investigation in the literature and professional experience with electronic portfolios.  It is also based on my studies as a part of attaining a master’s in early childhood education. Over the last ten years I have been on a journey of discovery.  I have discovered that electronic portfolios are more than just a means of collecting pictures of students and their work. They are a tool for building relationships and supporting deep learning.  During this workshop we will explore these ideas, as well as, introduce you to the features of our classroom electronic portfolios. Tonight, will be a very informal night so feel free at any point to stop me and ask questions or share your wonderings. Overview facilities (exits, washrooms) 51   Figure 3. Slide 3 Watch the first 4 minutes of the TED talk.  As Chimamanda Adichie states there is a danger in seeing people as a single story.  Think for a moment about a story that you have already shared with us about your child. Or perhaps one that you wanted to share but have not yet.  When we do not hear these stories from you and instead rely on only our perspective of your child the picture is one sided and incomplete.  The danger in this situation in that we may miss the opportunity to learn about their strengths and growth outside of school.  Our hope is that through our Virtual Learning Environment and our electronic portfolios you will have an opportunity to share those stories so that we do not fall into the trap of seeing your child as a single story.  Next, we will take a few moments to share why we believe electronic portfolios are an important aspect of our classroom culture. Then we will share what kind of learning can be shared in these platforms and finally we will share with you the how of the platform that we use, The Virtual Learning Environment.   52   Figure 4. Slide 4 There are many reasons for us to use electronic portfolios with our students.  Today I will only focus on three main reasons: Family engagement, student voice and sharing the documentation of learning.  Family engagement, more than any other factor, is necessary for children’s success in school. However, it can be difficult to maintain that level of engagement with very busy lives.  The VLE provides many features, which I will outline later, that will help you to be an active part of your child’s school life. Student voice is a term used to describe how children can contribute to their own learning and decision making in the classroom.  Through student voice children can truly show us their understanding and to learn skills they will need in the future. If we want children to grow up with the skills to think critically and advocate for themselves, and others, this is something they need to learn and experience.  Sharing the documentation of learning - When we as educators are the only ones documenting students learning we run the risk of not really seeing the child as a whole person. We see them rather as that single story. In contrast when you, their family, and the children themselves are sharing the learning we see the children in many ways.  53   Figure 5. Slide 5 When it comes to documenting the learning of our children it is important to recognize that there are many ways that children share their learning with us.  There are also different perspectives for interpreting documentation (Rinaldi, 2006). It is important that we examine these different perspectives. For example, I will share some posts from a sample electronic portfolio of images from my son.  The first image is from his first day of school. He educators shared this as a nice picture of him independently playing with mirrored blocks. As his parent I appreciate that view. However, I am also drawn to the fact that he is sitting in a W position which a physiotherapist shared with me is bad for his hips.  Both perspectives have value and it is important to consider both in planning for his learning. The second image is a picture that he asked to be shared of some stickers that he had sorted and arranged in rows. The back and forth conversation in this post shows how educators and families can both share their interpretation of the learning.  We encourage you to share posts of learning at home and comment on post that come from school so that we can work together to make decisions on your child’s learning.   54   Figure 6. Slide 6 We will now give you an opportunity to explore the Virtual Learning Environment and practice posting to your child’s portfolio.  Using your own devices or one of the laptops provided we will walk through each of the items listed.  We will begin by accessing the VLE using a variety of devices.  If you are connecting through the school board’s webpage you will scroll down and click on the VLE symbol at the bottom of the page.  When the login page opens you will enter the username and password that we have given you.  From here you can access your child’s portfolio, the course home page, and the carousel of online educational games and activities.  Next, we will have you post a picture to your child’s.  You will click on the symbol of the leaf that is labeled Portfolio.  At the top of the next page will be a blue button that says, “Add to Portfolio”.  Click on the button.  It will ask you where you wish to load the file from.  You will click from files and select an image.  Next you will give that image a title and save it.  Last you can make a comment describing why you or your child wanted to share that image.  Next, we will give you an opportunity to comment on a post already in your child’s portfolio.  You can choose either a picture from your device or one from our iPads to load.  We will finish by showing you how to adjust your notification settings.  We will go step by step but be sure to ask questions.   55   Figure 7. Slide 7  Figure 8. Slide 8 56   Figure 9. Slide 9     57   Appendix B  Recommendations and Considerations for Educators starting to use Electronic Portfolios   1. Consult your IT department - It is important to begin by consulting with your IT department for several reasons.  To begin with you will have to adhere to any regulations that your board has regarding platforms.  For example, in some boards certain platforms are not allowed because of privacy issues.  Secondly, they will know platforms being used and who is using them. 2. Make friends - Find someone (or a few people) using electronic portfolios in their setting. See if they are willing to share information and advice about their experiences.  There is a lot to learn and if you do not have to do it on your own it will be more efficient. 3. Obtain approval - Discuss the platform you choose with your administrator.  Especially if you are using a new platform be sure to get approval from your administration.  You do not want to set up a platform and then find that your administration does not support you using it.  Also, it can take considerable time to set up and learn a new platform.  Your administrator may have funds to offer you release time to work with IT and set things up.   4. Know your families - Make sure that you have an idea if your families will be able to access your platform.  If it is app based, is there an Android and an Apple app?  If it is a web-based platform do families have internet access?  Is it easy for families to access? All your work will be wasted if families are not able to access. 5. Consider digital footprints - Be sure to review your board’s policy on sharing digital images.  But also consider you own and your students’ families’ beliefs and understanding of the sharing of 58  images.  This should include spending some time teaching the children about digital footprints and internet safety.   6. Give yourself time - Be sure not to launch the platform until it is completely ready.  This may include needing to teach your students how to post if you are including their voices. Also, in the initial phase schedule specific times that you will work on the portfolios. 7. Plan - It is important to have a plan of how you will track portfolios to make sure that no child gets missed.  Some children will love to participate and instantly take ownership of their portfolios.  Others will not be interested or may need a little support.  Your platform may have a built-in method of seeing who is posting.  In our class we have a Google Keep checklist and check off each child’s name when there is a post to their portfolio.  This allows us to see whose name is not checked off.   8. Celebrate the small steps - Do not expect that the first year you try electronic portfolios every family will be checking daily.  New technology and programs take time.  Families will need reminders of logins and passwords.  You may even need to work out a system to let families know about recent postings (i.e. a note or sticker in communication book). 9. “How to avoid getting “stuck””- Remember that technology and board policies are constantly changing.  Unfortunately, you may find a platform you love and then it may no longer be available.  Again, consult with your IT team.  Sometimes features that are not available can be added or recommendations can be made to the software company. 

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