To be honest, I didn’t realize that the whole project was due to finish when I completed my last lesson with my student. I did struggle a lot at the beginning, especially the brief one part, as I’ve never heard about e-portfolio before. I even questioned my ability to accomplish this project. At the same time, the platform we were using, WordPress, also gave me a hard time when I tried to get familiar with its not-so-friendly system. Definitely, there are tough moments I was facing to and at the end, I can say, I gained more than I expected through this experience. Here are those things I want to reflect on:
1. Why do I need e-portfolio?
“An e-portfolio is a purposeful aggregation of digital items – ideas, evidence, reflections, feedback et, which presents a selected audience with evidence of a person’s learning and/or ability.” (Effective Practice with e-Portfolios, 2007)
I didn’t know what was e-portfolio before this paper. I mean, yes, I know what is portfolio. But the kind of portfolio I knew can only be linked with design and art students until I put my hand on it. Basically, for me, electronic portfolio is pretty much like a blog but focuses on one subject, like translation, photograph, in my case, language teaching, and so on. The essential idea of this e-portfolio is to record the process and provide actual evidence of my achievement of the project. And most of all, I can reflect on the whole process and to see my improvement.
“E-portfolios can support student advisement, career preparation, and credential documentation; the sharing of teaching philosophies and practices; department and program self-studies; and institutional and program accreditation processes.” (Lorenzo & Ittelson, 2005)
My e portfolio provides me an opportunity to constantly present my work and share with those who are interested. When I received comments and discussed with my classmates on WordPress, I also obtained new ideas from the discussion. Meanwhile, their attention on my project encouraged me to carry on my work and I gain self-achievement as well. Obviously, it’s been a valuable learning tool for improving my teaching skill.
2. Why do I need reflection?
There are 2 kinds of reflections as Edgar Schon (1983) describes: reflection in action, which is happening during the event, and reflection on action, which is looking back after the event. I believed that I have experienced both of them.
During this 8-week project, I’ve been keeping recording all my work and reflecting on each lesson. I could see how it helps for my next plan. For example, no matter how well I prepared before the class, there are always unexpected responses from my students. Obviously I can’t just stop to write them down, so I recorded the whole class. Usually, after I looked back to what had happened, I analysed how did that happen, why my student responded in that way and what I did wrong in that situation, I could see the whole picture more clearly and got a better solution.
Sometimes there was a new idea suddenly popped up when I felt “um … this doesn’t work, ok, let me try another way.” Alternatively, the student might come out some good suggestions. All these unexpected teachable moments and ideas, after I put them into words, organised and studies, it could be effective methods applied in the next lesson. However, not all the minutes could be perfectly recorded. I did miss out some ideas when I just had them in my mind and forgot to write them down afterwards. My reflection not only helped me to ask questions but also guided me to change my instructional practices so they can be more effective.
3. What did I learn from my project? – Technology
Language teaching is not something to me. However, using Internet technology to teach character is my first try. Not to mention about computer and Internet, my teaching resources are heavily based on Google and YouTube. They are the basic tools to display teaching materials to my students. With no doubt, these powerful search engines provide massive information in front of me, and this is crucial for a teacher, who needs to make various lesson plans.
There are new media technologies involved in my project. Laptop, iPad and smartphone are the basic devices. I used iPad to record conversations and smartphone to take pictures to showcase how my lesson looks like. After the audio was transcribed and pictures were uploaded, a report of my lesson was clearly presented on WordPress. Cloud drives and web instant messenger, which come in my last lesson, played an important role to assist the student achieve his learning purpose. Although this has never been used before, I found it’s much efficient than other methods in terms of making student getting engaged in class.
During my 45-minute class, I can see how current technology was well integrated with teaching and learning.
However, sometimes technology just doesn’t work well in a green hand, like me. I had come across a few moments when the Internet stopped working, the clip I prepared before cannot be opened, my laptop accidentally collapsed, the photo failed to be uploaded. The worst was WordPress suddenly shut down before I saved all my work. These were the times when I thought I couldn’t finish this project and nearly gave up. The lesson I learned from them was the importance to have a backup plan each time and save my file every 5 minutes.
4. What did I learn from my project? – Teaching concept
From my point of view, teaching and learning are related with each other.
I did not just teach what I knew to my student, at the same time, I learned new knowledge as well. In my first class, I focused on the history of Chinese characters. In order find interesting materials to assist my class, I did a lot of research on Internet.
It was a surprise for me to discover all those blogs, articles that related to pictogram. As an experienced Mandarin teacher, I’m quite confident about my knowledge of the Chinese character system. However, my discovery showed me a new world. I learned that for some words there is more than one original meaning, and some simple words have an interesting story behind them. There was a time, when I couldn’t answer the questions raised by my student, I could feel the challenge. However, instead of avoiding those questions, I suggested discovering the answer with him. I enjoyed the process to find out answers and to reveal the history behind these characters. Therefore, this project is not only a showcase for my work; it is an experience to further my knowledge as well.
Last but not the less, I want to apologise for my poor English to all my E-portfolio readers, especially Karen, who had to tolerant my spelling and grammar mistake as my lecturer. I’m still working on my English, and I wish I could make my improvement in future.
Effective Practice with e-Portfolios (2007). Retrieved from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/publications/effectivepracticeeportfolios.pdf
Lorenzo, G. & Ittelson, J. (2005) An Overview of E-Portfolios. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli3001.pdf
Schon, E. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner. Basic Books New York