E-portfolios: Helping kids in hospital to celebrate and share their learning

Emma Fraser

Emma Fraser is a teacher and the head of literacy at The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne Education Institute. The Institute works in collaboration with young people, families, schools, and education and health professionals to ensure that children and young people continue to engage in learning and remain connected to their school community throughout their health journey. In Personalising learning with e-portfolios we heard about The Institute’s plan to implement the use of e-portfolios, now we have a lovely update on their progress.

Earlier this year…

you heard from our Head of Teaching and Learning, Lauren Sayer, about The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne Education Institute’s plan to implement the use of e-portfolios. The idea was to further develop evidence of learning activities in which students take part while learning at the hospital, so as to facilitate a smooth transition into the next stage of their education and lives upon leaving the hospital. We promised to keep you updated on our progress, so you will be pleased to hear that our teachers have been busy using Evernote as a tool to track and assess student progress, share learning insights and reflections and link students back to their home schools, as seen in the case studies below. This flexible learning technology has also become a valuable internal communication and reflective tool; linking teachers within the hospital.

Credit: Children at school, by Lucélia Ribeiro

A day in the life of The Institute

During the course of a given day there are two early years group learning sessions, four primary group learning sessions, and two adolescent group learning sessions. Use of a flexible learning tool has allowed our teaching team a way to share their work with each other instantly, and has enabled subsequent planning for sessions later in the day. This is also the case when teachers are working on projects together, and can use it as a central storage location for all work relating to that project.

A writer’s notebook program

This year we have begun a writer’s notebook program to generate an interest in writing. Each student is given a notebook to keep. Students are encouraged to write daily entries; both in teaching sessions and when they are alone in their rooms. Students can collect artefacts, write observations, record experiences, memories, narratives, and understandings of the world in these notebooks.   The implementation of e-portfolios has been an effective way for our teachers to ensure that we capture the students’ writings from these notebooks.

The inpatient music program

Becky Hall, one of our primary school teachers, runs a music program with inpatients, and she feels that use of a cloud-based learning tools has allowed her to provide authentic links between music and literacy, focusing on drawing out the creative elements of the writing process using students’ notebooks. Just recently, Becky’s learning sessions for the week focused on teaching students how to create mood in a piece of writing, using music as a prompt for inspiration. Her students were taught how to play a song, focusing closely on the lyrics and they were then encouraged to recreate this song using a journey of their own as the focus. Students listened to various pieces of music and then wrote their narratives thinking about the mood of their journey, paying particular attention to the use of descriptive words and setting the scene.

Nikita, a student who participated in this learning experience, used her writer’s notebook as a way to plan, and create her song. Evernote was then used to showcase Nikita’s progress throughout the week. Her learning intentions from each session, class discussions, work samples and reflections were all captured and made available to her classroom teacher. The flexible learning tool was particularly useful in this instance because Nikita was unable to complete this task entirely in hospital, however during her recovery period at home Nikita finished and was able to send her narrative back to Becky. This was attached to her e-portfolio and has subsequently been forwarded to her regular school.

So much more than learning

Another teacher, Alexandra Klazinga, has been working with Josh for the past two years. Josh has had periods both on the wards and recovering at home. Josh and Alexandra have been building his e-portfolio consistently during this period. Originally it was used to document Josh’s learning journey so that he could review and reflect on it, as well as share his work with his teacher and his peers at school to maintain school connectedness. It also helped him to see that the work he completed at the hospital had a purpose and was important to his classroom teacher. Since January, after losing his vision, Josh’s e-portfolio has become more of a storage point for his completed work, for the benefit mostly of his classroom teacher. She has used the documentation contained within it to assess Josh’s current strengths and weaknesses, and to plan for his return to school in Term 2.

The beauty of sharing

Early childhood educator, Sonja Fea, has also found e-portfolios useful in her work with Rhys, a six year old, who is enrolled with Distance Education Victoria. Sonja has created a portfolio as a way to share Rhys’ learning within the hospital environment with his teacher at Distance Education. Sonja has been documenting all of Rhys’ sessions, focusing specifically on the areas of literacy and numeracy. This work is then shared with his Distance Education teacher who reviews and assesses the work samples and then provides feedback to Sonja. This in turn informs Sonja’s next teaching action, to ensure that Rhys is achieving all of the standards required by Distance Education.

Figure 1

Figure 1 shows an example of the interdisciplinary nature of one his sessions; a numeracy lesson focusing on one-to-one correspondence and phonetic awareness using images of different food beginning with the letter ‘s’. Sonja finds that e-portfolios are valuable tool which allow her to reflect with Rhys before, during and after learning sessions to gain an understanding of his progress.

Celebrating and valuing children’s work

As a teaching team, we agreed that the use of e-portfolios is holistic and personalised in its approach to the student’s learning and education, age and development appropriate, flexible and future-orientated, based on the student’s strengths with a focus on potential and shows evidence of student learning to schools and families. The three case studies described above demonstrate the flexibility offered by e-portfolios in the way they are used to suit individual needs and help with the transition between learning environments. The teaching team are finding that the platform that they used does not meet the needs for all students. Becky, who runs our music program has found the lack of video function difficult, for example, as this is a way she captures the student’s learning. Sonja also relies on film and video in her teaching, as this is a way to capture the role playing aspect of her learning sessions. Overall, it was agreed that using e-portfolios has enhanced the learning experience for not only the students but also the teachers of the RCH Education Institute, and has been a great way to celebrate and value all children’s work.

Do you have an e-learning success story to share? Then please contact eWorks.