Saturday, February 24, 2018

Empowering Student Voice and Choice in the Library

Pictured above is how I use ClassroomScreen to keep kids on track with directions and how much time they have left to complete their learning goal.

My first school year in Texas and back in Elementary School after 12+ years at the high school level is more than half way over! It has been a fun yet challenging adventure. I started off the school year using a center rotation system so that I could work with smaller groups of students to teach a wide variety of skills. You can read more about how I run centers in an Elementary School library HERE.
Now that this routine has been established and the majority of "basic" skills I wanted students in grades 3-5 to master have been achieved it is time to switch things up to empower even more student voice and choice while also continuing to teach technology skills, digital citizenship, support the curriculum, and more.

While students K-2 will continue learning in center rotations, 3-5 students have begun their first steps towards creating digital portfolios. I have been presenting about digital portfolios for at least seven years after having discovered Dr. Helen Barrett's Electronic Portfolios website.

Then I was fortunate enough to work my last two years before retiring from Alabama in the Madison City School District with visionary and digital portfolio advocate, Daniel Whitt.  Daniel has successfully implemented digital portfolios for students 3-12 with the help of school librarians and others.  In fact, librarians & teachers Missy KingSara Baragona, and Ashley Strode are presenting at ISTE 2018 on Monday, June 25, at 9:00–10:00 am to share what Madison City Schools has been able to accomplish with their digital portfolio initiative.  You can access Daniel's digital portfolio files any time HERE.

Before jumping right into building our digital portfolio websites (we are using Google Sites) I wanted to give my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students a chance to reflect on themselves since their digital portfolio home page is their "introduction" to the world.  While I would encourage high school students to write an About Me introduction (example: Sean Neal) I felt that the age group I was working with could better express themselves through an "All About Me" assignment.  Rather than simply printing out the All About Me worksheet I found online, I created my own All About Me in Google Drawings.  Then I pushed this out to students using Google Classroom so that each student had their own copy to work on.  This way I wasn't only letting them reflect in preparation for their digital portfolio home page, I was also teaching kids how to use Google Drawing.  Since I would be out of town during this time I used YouTube Live to record my lesson for my substitute to play.

So far so good! I've been really pleased with the creativity students are showing in completing this task.  Take a look at this one done by a 3rd grader!

One motivator for students to work diligently on the tasks we will do while building or digital portfolios is the ability to have "free" time after successfully completing each task or goal.  "Free" time includes access to makerspace activities like our BB8 robot, games, LEGOs, arts & crafts, Bloxels, VR and AR, Merge Cube, OSMO, coding activities, working on homework, reading, relaxing and listening to music, socializing, etc.  In other words, as long as students are doing something school/library appropriate once they have completed their task they have the rest of their classroom time to do what they choose to do.

The reaction from kids has been extremely positive and it feels good to see the kids so excited about this change.  I also love that as we build our digital portfolios it will be something teachers can start using in their classrooms and with parents during parent/teacher conferences to highlight student accomplishments.

Be sure to follow the Winkley Library on social media to stay up to date with this new adventure!


  1. Would you be willing to share your Google Drawing Template for the "All About Me" activity?

  2. Thanks for sharing your great information.


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  5. Thank you for sharing your ideas. I look forward to reading more of what you do.