My students are finally finished up with their e-folios this semester. It is especially rewarding to see students who had me for Comp I finish off another semester using the folios.
I'm not going to lie; assigning and grading this folio was often plagued with problems, mostly because of students who are not comfortable with technology, frequently absent, too timid to ask for help or not used to keeping up with assignments.
The folio builds all semester long, so the students who struggled with this the most were the ones who failed to complete certain folio tasks at the outset.
I have been thinking of chucking everything but the "My Writing" tab and simply making this a writing folio. I think that is a great idea for Comp I, but this week has shown me how much students appreciate the well-rounded career-focused folio template. Here are some of the benefits, as expressed by my Comp students:
1. Weekly Summary/ Response blogging helped them decide what careers they don't want to pursue.
More than a few students have opened up about how they learned that nursing/ business/ education/ wasn't for them through the process of blogging about said career pathways. I am more interested in those students who don't know what they want to do, as this is natural and expected; besides the students who are most passionate about their academic goals are the non-traditional students who have been kicked in the butt for a couple of years and have their head on straight to come back to school and get things done.
2. Writing about their career helped them establish real career goals.
Through viewing other students' success, I noted that my students took healthy stock of their own academic investment. I had a lot of students admit their lack of volunteer work or even overall motivation.
3.Blogging helped them learn about their career field, especially in regard to the needs of RGV.
Some students mentioned that they learned more about their career in this Comp class through the weekly blogs and research assignments than classes pertaining to their major. I'm so happy that the assignments were relevant. Perhaps most interesting were the Humanities students' realization that there is little opportunity for volunteer, internships, or outlets in general for their creative work in the RGV. Another cool side effect was the discussion that naturally began during student presentations. One education major would mention some research they read, and a fellow education major would ask a relevant question or make a relevant comment concerning the research; it was rewarding to see an intelligent conversation birthed out of outside research my students were reading.
4. Their research engaged them in a real argument with respected professionals in their career field.
The pièce de résistance this semester was the "Researched Rogerian Letter" assignment, where students wrote a letter to an author from The New York Times "Room for Debate" webpage concerning an issue in their career field. The letter required them to research the author, reflect on them as an audience, read and annotate a variety of source material and utilize a Rogerian argument to communicate/ persuade the author on a certain viewpoint. My students were deeply nervous about contacting the author with their finished letters, but they did, and it got my students involved in a real argumentative discussion outside of class. Many even received follow-up e-mails from their NYT authors!
5. Blogging helped them become better writers in their career field.
Because of the perpetual practice of blogging on issues in their field, many students said they used the blogs to inspire papers in other classes, noting how the writing was done more quickly and efficiently than they are used to. They were building a small store of essay topics, complete with Works Cited.
What prompted me to create the folio in this way, and assign career-focused, argumentative weekly blog writing, was simply student-motivated writing. I've seen many presentations over the last couple of weeks, and I've read countless blog posts this semester, and I was ecstatic how student writing improved significantly through reading and responding to short texts on a regular basis, readings they chose.
I think some students are overwhelmed with so much choice at first, but they sooner or later realize that they are allowed to let their own interests and passions guide them. Most important, my students learned about themselves through their writing.
I am so pleased with the writing my students are doing. I laugh when my students "appreciate" that I only assign 2 essays plus the final; the truth is they actually write 7 separate essays in the semester, 2 of which require 3 drafts a piece (not to mention the summary/ response blog posts every Friday). They don't notice this because the writing builds on itself, becoming more complex, analytical and creative. Despite this, I am surely revamping the e-Portfolio template for the Fall of 2016, and I am most likely not going to use it at all in Comp II for the Fall, as those will all be online, and I will predominately use Black Board.
Below are some stand-out folios from this semester (all Comp II students, some high school students):