Bringing the teaching portfolio to the 21st century with OneNote

Today’s post was written by Sonia S. Kalwaney, Science and ESL teacher.

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This picture might conjure feelings of stress combined with mild hysteria. Maybe the mild hysteria is just me. Yet, this was the former scene I faced when I received word of another interview. As a Long Term Occasional (LTO) teacher vying for a coveted contract position, an interview is always a blessing when the call arrives. The excitement of another job, school, group of colleagues and teachers/students to meet is soon overshadowed by the competition I face.

As I sit with my tea and my pile of teaching examples, resources, awards, professional learning examples, qualifications, student work, thank you letters, resumes, Ministry documentation and even multimedia projects, I know these documents are all important in an interview. But how am I to “fit” them all into a folio case, let alone a 30-minute interview? Furthermore, I know I should be organizing this according to the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) standards of practice (SOP) so that when questions undoubtedly arise, I am not flustered as I rifle though pages of work looking for the right document to showcase.

Last year, I got tired of this constant battle of “updating” my teaching portfolio only to find it bulging at the seams. The legal sized documents and oversized student work needed to be folded, shrunk or even dismissed to allow me to carry the mammoth binder. This is when I decided to put my passion for technology and education to good use and created my digital portfolio using OneNote. I tried a few different formats—for example, a Wikispace (that did not allow me the user control I needed), a website (that seemed daunting and expensive), Google Share technology (that seemed okay at first but did not provide the organization and collaboration aspect I needed). This was frustrating and often led me back into the safety of my paper portfolio.

Then my vice principal asked me to complete a teacher performance assessment (TPA). This was a perfect opportunity to expand my use of OneNote, which I was already using in my classroom to create my teaching portfolio.

The image below is the first page of my OneNote Teaching Portfolio, which is organized into subfolders that represent the OCT SOPs. Within each SOP, I included great examples from my portfolio and even my digital collection. I was able to create the entire portfolio over one very motivated weekend.

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One of my favorite examples of how this format helped me connect my theory to practice was with my 9th grade Applied Science class. The students were building an electronic game board for a summative project. They used their knowledge from an Electricity unit to build a circuit board and then taught other students about it in the Astronomy unit using the board game. Although I often integrate units, this was the first time I can say it wasn’t as stressful as it was in the past.

I am now able to showcase my understanding and practice of the requirements of the Ministry’s Growing Success document for assessment and evaluation. This document states that we are to find a triangulation of data though the use of student products, conversations and observations to create a valid and reliable assessment of the student. This is what I am sure we have all come to know of as the assessment for learning.

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I am also able to record observations as students work on creating final products. In this example, students were in the research and building phase of the Astronomy unit. One student indicated that she was tired of “just reading” and wanted to paint her board game. I interviewed her at this phase as she described her progress so far, which I was able to document in OneNote.

I was also able to create a video recording that allowed the student to reflect on what she had learned from the experience and how she worked collaboratively. Taking this metacognitive approach, she seemed to really enjoy the process and expressed a feeling of confidence and sense of resilience I had not seen in her before.

Finally, I was able to take a picture of the final project, which allowed students to take their projects home to enjoy, instead of me asking to keep an example that would not fit into my portfolio!

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OneNote has also allowed me to take this idea of getting “a glimpse of my classroom” a step further, allowing a holistic view of my classroom. I include pictures of my lessons and resources (my Jenga blocks would break my portfolio) along with a reflection to allow a potential employer a glimpse into my classroom without having to be there. A video can also be included, which is something I am working on now.

Finally, OneNote makes it very easy to share the hyperlink to my employers. I can allow them to edit this document and leave feedback for me or just have the viewing option to ensure my work stays unedited. I have received a great deal of favorable feedback about this format. There have been no problems with access to my board in the Peel District School Board (PDSB), which has OneNote in its suite of student and teacher application options. Even without this access, the online version of OneNote allows viewing and editing access to anyone with the link.

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During my last interview, I brought in my computer instead of my mammoth portfolio. After the interview, I sent the link to potential employers. I received some accolades for this format and I secured a position. As I move forward, I am hoping this technology can continue to help me gain meaningful, exciting and enjoyable experiences in my teaching career.

—Sonia S. Kalwaney