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Dave Moscarelli, Rhode Island's 2015 Teacher of the Year and Ponaganset's digital portfolio coordinator and technology integration coordinator, shared insights about the school's 15-year collaboration with Richer Picture to implement digital portfolios to improve instruction, student engagement, and meaningful, future-focused teaching and learning.
As ideas and tools become a part of the daily life, schools need to revisit the beliefs that made them excited. Ponaganset High School, serving the towns of Foster and Glocester, Rhode Island, exemplifies the kind of commitment needed to sustain and extend innovation. Ponaganset was one of the nation's digital portfolio pioneers when it began this work in 2002. Even as policies and devices have changed over 15 years, the school's goals for its use of portfolios have remained steady.
Ponaganset's work with portfolios began as District, school, and teacher leaders believed for a more student- centered approach and to strengthen the districts commitment to infusing technology into the classroom. Such belief lead to rethink schoolwide expectations for the school was up for accreditation and the state of Rhode Island was beginning to move towards proficiency-based graduation requirements.
Richer Picture started planning digital portfolio implementation with Ponaganset High School in 2002 as a pilot process with a few classrooms, and then expanding until all teachers and students were involved. The class of 2007 was the first to graduate using digital portfolios to demonstrate their readiness to graduate, Richer Picture- Ponaganset collaboration has been focused on professional development in order to establish critical habits of mind and agreements among Ponaganset's educators on a few key points:
What students should know and be able to do as Ponaganset High School graduates What is the digital portfolio's purpose and impact on assessment Provide clarity among teachers and students about knowing what work is "good enough" to be included Ensure that technology is suficient and accessible To change a school culture, make portfolios valued and valuable Since the digital portfolio project's start also coincided with the school's development of schoolwide expectations and rubrics, the portfolio work dovetailed with the faculty's conversations around strengthening assignments. The results were accelerating conversations around what the school community meant by high- quality, portfolio-worthy' student work.
Dave Moscarelli noted that engaging the faculty on the development of classroom assessments was critical. Most teachers would probably consider the work required to use portfolios to be an extra thing, But they're the linchpin," he notes. Teachers are going to provide the high quality assessments and adapt them over time, They re going to be doing scoring calibrations to make sure that the process is fair. They're going to be leading portfolio reviews and trying to use them as a tool to get to know the kids better."
The portfolio review was one of the first major milestones for the portfolio initiative, Moscarelli states. When the first senior class had to present their portfolios as a graduation requirement, the review represented a public statement: this is part of what we do here at Ponaganset, and it is both a requirement and a celebration.
Portfolios are now the cornerstone of Ponaganset's school culture, which values transparency and a common commitment to high standards for all students, Richer Picture's digital portfolios have made student work as important as other milestones, such as test scores or report cards. Now, students at all grade levels complete portfolio reviews or senior exhibitions.
The key to sustaining the innovation, Moscarelli suggests, is to focus not on the technology but on the educators. 'The more engaged the faculty are, the better the system will function, The faculty are also going to be the cheerleaders of the system with the students they're going to be the ones who show the students why this matters. "
"In the first few years, the cultural lift is significant," Moscarelli continued. "Ensuring that the faculty feel really confident is massively important. Faculty ownership really matters. We collaborated with Richer Picture to make the system work for us, and our faculty had great suggestions about adapting the site. Some of the early critics became the greatest advocates because they were
What it takes:
Lessons from Ponaganset
Are you at the start of strengthening your school's commitment to student-centered learning through thoughtful. tech-driven personalized learning? David Moscarelli and David Niguidula point to several takeaways from the sustained collaboration between Richer Picture and Ponaganset High School that can help.
Find a champion
At the start and throughout, Ponaganset has had school and district leaders that valued and strongly supported digital portfolios, This persistent focus led to the necessary technical resources and advocacy that, over time, pushed obstacles aside
Build teacher buy-in
David Moscarelli and others recognized the value of portfolios and were willing to this and work differently. This produced the critical mass needed to get whole faculty on board. Richer Picture's high degree of customization and deep understanding of teaching and learning played a critical role in the work of developing teachers' trust.
Devote human resources
Administrators invested in the human resources needed to push the work through, allowing some of Moscarelli's time to be used to support digital portfolios and supporting all teachers to use their time to become experts.
Develop technological resources
Ponaganset was able to get started with a small pilot project; as the project met with some success, school and district leaders were able to consistently build up the school's technological infrastructure through grants and other funding sources. Now, the school has a 1-1 computing environment and suffcient bandwidth for all students to be online,