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.
This event will build upon the Autumn computing conference by inviting subject leaders to reflect on their year in the role, sharing their successes and challenges. It will also introduce new ideas, tools and approaches through talks and practical activities led by members of the CLC team, with opportunities for attendees to share their own expertise and experience. Over the course of the conference activities will touch on the three main areas of the computing curriculum: computer science, digital literacy and information technology. We will also feature advice and examples illustrating the use of technology to support blended learning.
Combining forces for the first time, the Connected Learning Centre and More Than Robots have created a session for teachers, youth organisations, researchers and policymakers interested in the digital provision of creative arts for primary aged pupils.
This interactive and inclusive meet up will include inspiring examples of how technology can be used to support learning in music, visual art and drama in person and online at home drawing on our experiences as Tate Exchange associates and our partnership work with a range of cultural institutions.
This informal event is an opportunity to discuss real examples of what does/doesn’t work, meet colleagues from other sectors working on similar challenges and share useful research, news or updates
The morning will include case study presentations followed by a Q&A. There will also be an opportunity for a rapid sharing round for launches, project updates or requests for help and a short break to avoid zoom brain drain.
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.