What happens when a school works with a developer to co-create the perfect product for teachers, children and parents? We look at how KC Snijders School did just that – and what teachers and edtech companies can learn from the process.
Portfolios are commonly used in early years education to record observations and progress in early learning goals. In 2015, KC Snijders primary school in Rijswijk, near The Hague, decided that it needed a digital portfolio to replace its paper portfolio system that often fell apart or got lost. Rather than picking a product off the shelf, teachers at KC Snijders school worked with an edtech company, Bordfolio, over five years to co-create a product specifically to meet the needs of the school.
The result is a digital portfolio that is fully in tune with the school’s ethos and that children and teachers alike are completely comfortable using. For Snijder’s, the digital portfolio is an important part of the school’s approach to developing children’s independent autonomous and personalised learning. Each day the child logs into the portfolio and chooses what activities they would like to do – for example, from three options such as sand, playing with blocks or doing maths with a teacher – and records these within the digital portfolio. Teachers are able to monitor the choices that children make, talk to them to find out why there are gaps in the activities that they choose and address reasons why, for example, a child may not go to a certain space in the school to do activities there. In this way they use the portfolio to have in-depth discussions with each child, for example, finding out if a child doesn’t want to work in a certain classroom area because they are afraid, they don’t like the teacher or their friends aren’t working there.
Children ask teachers to take pictures for their portfolio and tell the teacher why – they may be proud of what they’ve done or want to show how they have improved what they were making. The teacher writes down the child’s explanation, which is an important part of the personalisation process.
Each activity is tagged with a learning goal that is part of the school and national curriculum. These include objectives such as ‘I like to learn’, ‘thinking in small steps’, ‘being creative’, ‘I can learn new things’, ‘I can read a story’. Photographs in the portfolio are used as prompts to help children explain their learning, for example what happened, why they liked an activity and what they want to learn next.
For KC Snijders’ teachers, having experienced the frustration of other edtech companies not asking what they wanted in terms of functionality in a digital portfolio product, working directly with Bordfolio made all the difference.
Good communication between the school and the company was a key success factor. Rather than simply coming up with new features they think teachers will want, the Bordfolio team always tests the idea first with the teachers and gets feedback about what is and is not useful. They also work with an awareness of the school day, scheduling any development work that would result in down-time for outside school hours.
The Bordfolio developers had a clear intention to make the entry level for using the technology very low and so little specific technological training was needed. They also listened to teacher feedback that some other portfolios had too many options – for example, having to make 10 clicks before being able to upload a photo – and simplified all processes where possible. Teachers, children and parents find it easy to use.
During the Covid pandemic home learning period, the developers made a number of changes at the request of teachers at the school, such as enabling teachers to set assignments for children and supporting videos of teachers explaining to children how to do the assignments. Teachers used these explanation clips to connect with pupils to explain what was involved in an assignment, which helped take some of the pressure off parents. Parents became used to uploading photos of their children’s learning process and work. Bordfolio also improved the comment functionality so that children are notified when they log in if there is a comment or feedback on their activities they can access.
More generally, the move to remote learning and then to blended learning was much smoother than it might have been as children were familiar with the system. Since the return to the classroom, parents have continued to upload independent learning from home, marking a permanent change in linking learning at home and at school.
Teachers report that the children’s sense of ownership is a key advantage of the digital portfolio approach. The portfolio forms the basis of discussions between children, teachers and parents, and children have been more open and ready to talk to their parents and teachers about their learning since using the portfolios.
As a result, the portfolio has increased the sense of connection between home and school with parents seeing the benefit of the school’s approach to learning through active engagement with the portfolio. While, at first, some parents find it difficult not having grades, they enjoy seeing the positive evidence of their children learning within the portfolio. There is a heightened understanding and trust between children, teachers and parents about what goes on in the classroom and parents now see the value of sharing the learning that takes place in the home.
For Bordfolio, the work with KC Snijders has led to a product that it now sells to schools across the Netherlands.
KC Snijder’s experience offers some lessons on good practice for the design of personalised edtech solutions and the effective implementation of personalised learning strategies.
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Our large funded programmes offer free courses, events and multimedia resources to develop the skills of school leaders, teachers, students and the whole school community. Our current projects include BlendEd, which helps teachers, school leaders and other educators design effective teaching and learning that makes the most of digital technologies.
The maths forum provides an opportunity for maths subject leaders to share their expertise and investigate new opportunities for digital technologies to support maths teaching and learning in class and online at home. The forum combines discussion with colleagues about school-wide progress in mathematics, with hands-on activities led by a CLC teacher, demonstrating how technology can be used to support maths. Activities will include programming in Scratch 3, which offers a practical way to illustrate and explore key mathematical concepts such as shape, space, position and direction.
Discover how digital technology can change the way we assess pupils’ work. We will demonstrate how teachers can use technology to monitor, evidence and respond to pupils’ progress in school and learning online remotely, and how pupils can use technology to present and reflect on their learning. We will outline a range of approaches to help assess and evidence learning across the curriculum.
Special project in collaboration with First News Education
For a third year, building on two successful previous projects, we are once again partnering with the children’s newspaper First News, fellow member of the national Making Sense of Media and News Literacy networks. This special project with a literacy, PSHE and citizenship, as well as computing focus, highlights our specialist interest in this important aspect of digital and critical literacy.
The News Project will enable participating classes from year 5 to immerse themselves in news and current affairs using First News and the Bett award-winning First News iHUB, which will be provided free of charge during the school-based part of the project over a six week period. Under the guidance of their teacher, pupils will be supported in their development as a community of fully informed news readers. Classes will test their new critical skills and knowledge in the culminating virtual celebration event which will include a news competition and team-based critical literacy and editorial activities. After the event, schools will be able to use the resources from the day in their school.
The project will launch with an introductory CPD session for teachers to set the context, demonstrate resources and to plan for the school-based activities.
Initial CPD session - Thursday 21st October 4pm-5.00pm.
Project work undertaken in school - October and November.
Special event - Thursday 25th November 9.30am-2.45pm.
The CLC is once again partnering with the Garden Museum to offer a partnership project for KS1 pupils (primarily suited to Yr2). Located next to Lambeth Palace on the bank of the Thames, the museum has an inspiring collection that provides the ideal stimulus for young learners to explore the world around them.
Pupils will use technology alongside the museum’s collection to explore the wonderful world of seeds.
The Garden Museum has a large collection of seeds and tools that pupils will engage with.
These half-day sessions will take place at the Garden Museum.
There is a limited number of dates available, so please book early to avoid disappointment.