A student’s learning journal

"And so, what we did in unit 3 was this..."
“And so, what we did in unit 3 was this…”

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about what we cover in our limited F2F time in preparation for a semester online. In a comment on this post fellow tertiary teacher Laura Adele Soracco wondered if it would be possible to see a sample of the students’ portfolios in Mahara. It then occurred to me that this might also be interesting to other teachers, and well worth sharing in a separate post, but I felt a bit reluctant about asking the students to share what they’d thought was going to be read only by a group of classmates with…well, anyone, really. Then I remembered one of last year’s students, who had added a Creative Commons licence logo to her portfolio page early on in the course.

Luckily, it transpired she hadn’t just been experimenting with the logo and was still willing to share her portfolio page. A few words of context first. The portfolio is part of a compulsory online course in writing skills for second-year communication science majors, whose L1 is for the most part Croatian. They were required to keep a learning journal and record their expectations at the beginning of the course, as well as their reflections after each of the eight units over a four-month semester. It is perhaps worth noting that this particular student had prior experience in running her own blog, which I think was not the case with most of the other students. I leave it up to the reader to decide how much of an impact this might have had beyond the initial couple of entries.

I should also note that some of the text is in Croatian – very little, true, but this could be confusing if you are looking for earlier entries. You can click through to the second page at the bottom of the first, directly above the Creative Commons licence logo.

And so, without further ado, I present the e-portfolio page of Ms Beatta Lovrečić! I want to thank Beatta for allowing me to share her page on this blog and hope that it will be interesting to those of you who are (considering) working with e-portfolios.

Please click here to view the journal.

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8 thoughts on “A student’s learning journal

  1. Hi Vedrana

    I really enjoyed reading through the portfolio you shared, thank you very much for this chance! It was especially useful for me to see how you responded to the student’s writing and how your communication continued. Really like the idea of such a journal.

    A couple of questions: in your experience, what level of language proficiency do you think is minimum to get students started? (my guess is about B2) How do you present the idea of Creative Commons to students? Do you do that at all? (you mentioned that this student had had prior blogging experience though) Did you give any specific task to choose/make images to reflect what they were writing about?

    Thank you (and your student!) for sharing and making me think!
    Zhenya

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    1. Hi Zhenya,

      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to tell us what you thought of the journal! I’m glad you found it useful – I like to see what goes on in other teachers’ classrooms as well. It gives me ideas, makes me think (as you pointed out) and sometimes just reassures me that I’m not completely on the wrong track. 🙂
      In answer to your questions: the minimum language requirement for this course is B1, although the majority of students are usually B2 and a couple are C1, which obviously makes things easier in that as the instructor you don’t feel as if you have to focus primarily on error correction. I was a bit concerned about this when we started online: the fact is that in a traditional environment students wouldn’t read as much of each other’s writing, so weaker students probably don’t feel put on the spot as much. However, it turns out I needn’t have worried; I never got the impression that anyone felt shy or intimidated because they were at a lower level. I think this is where having supportive classmates helps.
      It’s interesting that you should ask about Creative Commons. I _have_ thought about bringing this up with the whole group, but as the students’ portfolio pages are private and no one has yet said they wanted to share them with readers outside the course, I haven’t addressed the issue. Beatta added the license logo entirely of her own accord; if she hadn’t I most likely wouldn’t have asked anyone if they minded making their work public. I agree about the importance of copyright as a topic – perhaps I also feel a little as if there are courses other than this one where students should be discussing it.
      Finally, the images. These were completely optional, and several students didn’t include any. But quite a few did, and they could choose what they liked. I found it interesting – as someone who includes only static images to illustrate my writing – that animations were pretty often used.

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      1. Thanks for the reply Vedrana! Re Creative Commons: I think I will keep thinking about whether or not to bring this up (on a writing course?) and whether or not a student’s (e)portfolio may become their first step towards public writing/blogging/networking, etc.? BTW, do they ever do peer portfolio reviews on your course? Have tried it on a teacher training course but never with language students. Thank you for brining up this topic!

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        1. Another reason I didn’t want to get into Creative Commons was because we use the portfolio primarily as a (personal) learning journal. It has a host of other features, most of which are perhaps more suitable for public viewing. I add links to pages explaining what e-portfolios can be used for (aside from journals), but I guess I thought that maybe the majority would not be ready to develop a public portfolio as undergrads. I think I’ll give this a little more thought now – thanks for the idea.
          As for peer portfolio review – no, we haven’t done that. We do a Workshop activity (this is Moodle’s peer review activity) during the course, when the group has already gelled a bit and covered the importance of constructive feedback. It’s a great idea, though.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Hana Tichá

    Hi Vedrana,

    Wow! Thanks for the opportunity to peek in one of your students’ portfolios. I found the language and the overall style very natural and humorous. Apparently, she really enjoyed writing the journal. I could even picture her polishing her nails light-heartedly. 🙂 And yes, I think that her prior experience in writing a blog is obvious. Also, judging the way she addresses you, you clearly managed to create a very good relationship with your students.

    To me her English appears flawless and I believe it’s you who’s entitled to the credit 🙂 I think it must be challenging to teach someone whose level of English is so high. It requires a lot of extra knowledge and practice. And I know you’re absolutely suitable for his job. Well done Ms VVE 🙂

    Hana

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    1. Hi Hana,

      Thanks very much for taking the time to read Beatta’s journal and to tell us your impressions. I was really pleased to have a student in the group who had blogging experience, although I think this may have stood out more in the very beginning. Towards the end of the semester there were several students whose journals would have made excellent blog material. I’m sure reading Beatta’s entries also helped with that.
      It’s interesting that you should mention the student-instructor relationship: last year I had several students in the group who had taken my Academic Writing course the year before. That was a F2F course, so I wasn’t sure if there would be any noticeable difference in the rapport I had with students I’d taught F2F and those I’d only met briefly before we went online. Beatta is one of the latter. My impression now is that there _is_ a subtle difference (surprise, surprise), but very good rapport can be created online – as with members of the ELT community. 🙂
      I would love to be able to take the credit for Beatta’s English, but to be honest I’m happy if the course contributed in some way to her language proficiency. As you pointed out, it can be real challenge to teach someone who is at B2 or above. Actually, it can be challenging if the person thinks they’ve learned everything there is to know, but this was certainly not the case with this student, as she always created learning opportunities for herself.

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  3. Hi Vedrana,

    I can’t believe it’s been so long since you posted this on e-Portfolios and I’m just now truly getting around reading it. I’m planning an English composition course starting at the end of September, and your experience with this came to mind. Thanks again for sharing! I really like the idea of an e-portfolio for reflections on the class materials. Seems like a useful place to interact with your students and a great way for them to see their progress. Have you used ePortfolios before to collect longer assignments as well?

    Hope you’re having a fantastic summer!

    Laura.

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    1. Hi Laura,

      I’m glad you remembered the post and came back to it! The course has run three times since I posted this and I’ve introduced a couple of changes, primarily to do with encouraging greater interaction between the students. I was particularly happy with having students as assistant mods last semester and keep meaning to write up a post on that – I should really get around to it before classes start. Anyway, in answer to your question, no, the only feature of Mahara we consistently use is the journal, so the texts in there are all journal entry length. We’ve so far only used Moodle assignments for longer pieces of writing. Over the last academic year we’ve been using Kaizena for feedback on those – based on your recommendation – and that has been excellent! So practical and really gets the students involved. I think I said thanks on Twitter at some point for introducing me to it, but in case you missed it – thanks! 🙂

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