Behind Coppell ISD’s success with implementing digital portfolios are thousands of dedicated educators, and Nancy Garvey, the Director of Digital Learning at Coppell ISD. Because of her passion for digital learning and instructional technology, she was charged with the task to create the framework to carry out a digital portfolio program district-wide, K-12. This is her story of how she did it.
Coppell’s digital portfolio journey started in 2011, when they realized they needed a system to communicate and showcase the learning between students and educators. They also wanted a system that would track the growth of each individual, and the district as a whole. After hearing about digital portfolios, Coppell decided to look into them. At this point they were still figuring out what exactly a digital portfolio could do, and how it would impact learning at Coppell.
Over time, they uncovered additional reasons why they needed digital portfolios.
In 2015, Coppell started using 1:1 devices, each learner was loaned an iPad for the school year. When each learners’ work turned digital, and they weren’t going home with worksheets, or projects with comments written in red pen, a new challenge surfaced. How can parents and guardians see what their child is learning? Coppell needed to find a way to encourage community-based communication, so parents and other teachers could see the students’ learning.
Between 2011 and 2017 Coppell determined one thing: digital portfolios would play a major part of achieving their goals, but how would they decide as a district what digital portfolio tool they were going to use? This wasn’t an easy decision. It took Coppell a while to decide on which platform to use, since they wanted to be sure the digital portfolio met all of their stakeholders’ needs, and the tool could be used by everyone to help meet their individual goals. For a major decision like this, Nancy wanted to involve and elevate everyone’s voices, so she created Coppell’s Digital Portfolio Committee.
The Digital Portfolio Committee is a group of educators from all different grade levels and content areas across Coppell ISD. Elementary, middle, and high school educators from core subject areas, extracurriculars, and beyond, came together to make the best decision for the district.
After becoming clear about what they could achieve by using a digital portfolio, their next step was to create a purpose statement that resonated with all learners across all subject areas.
The purpose statement became the center of the entire initiative. Each of the reps took it to their campuses and used it to explain the why behind deciding to use digital portfolios.
After outlining their goals and defining their purpose, their next step was to select a specific digital portfolio.
During these discussions, educators throughout the district were using different EdTech tools to document their students’ learning—Google Sites, Seesaw, or bulb. One of Coppell’s goals was to have the district use one platform, with students using the same digital portfolio from K-12 to document their vertical growth.
Knowing everyone uses their digital portfolio in a different way to meet different needs, the Digital Portfolio Committee created their checklist of needs. This was the list they used to compare their options. Which platform would ultimately check off the most boxes?
They compared six digital portfolio tools with this checklist. The district identified the top three and started having conversations with each of the companies. In the end, bulb Digital Portfolios checked off the most boxes.
Selecting the platform was only a third of their work. Now they needed to train everyone. They identified the most natural place for digital portfolio training to start was during their back-to-school trainings. Dr. Angie Applegate, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, provides dynamic PD for all Coppell’s educators at the beginning of each year.
During these trainings, here are some of the ways Coppell used the time to train their district to use digital portfolios:
Train the trainer model – This was a 3-day learning experience with over 1,000 educators. The training spanned multiple days to ensure everyone was heard, and understood the why behind the initiative. Teachers, Librarians, and Digital Learning Coaches worked alongside other educators to train each other each day.
Group discussions – They formed groups by grade level and subject areas to talk about what the digital portfolios meant to each group. Getting the right people together to have these conversations was key to Coppell’s success.
Pre-built templates – They built templates for each grade level to help facilitate the learning and encourage the adoption of bulb. This was a way to get educators started with the digital portfolios right away and to easily distribute the information to their learners. Getting the educators and learners into the app from Day 1 is another reason Coppell believes they were successful in the district-wide adoption.
Throughout this implementation process, Coppell found the following five initiatives to be extremely helpful:
If you talk with Nancy about this experience she’ll leave you with two pieces of advice:
Coppell is finishing up their second year of using bulb. As they figure out what their new learning environment looks like for 2020-21, due to COVID, they’re brainstorming ways to further the use of digital portfolios in their district.
Since the templates were extremely helpful for the educators, they want to create more templates and amplify them by adding help videos, along with other resources. As they continue to use digital portfolios, they will continue to use them for reflection. One way Coppell will encourage more reflection in the upcoming year is through exit ticket templates. They will also have parents and guardians create their own account to see their child’s learning.
Coppell has big plans with digital portfolios. And we’re excited to see what they continue to do to maximize the benefits with parents, teachers, and the community.