New E-Portfolios Give Teacher Education Students an Edge

Friday, March 26, 2010

Like many graduating seniors, Doug Mormello, a Secondary Education and History dual major and a student teacher in the Burlington City (N.J.) School District, is in high-gear job-search mode. When he’s not designing lessons plans about the ancient Romans for his sixth-grade Social Studies class, Mormello is organizing his portfolio and searching for job leads.

This semester, Rider University’s School of Education launched a new initiative that is enabling Mormello and other students in its undergraduate and graduate teacher and professional education program to virtually share their experience and work with prospective employers. TaskStream, a Web-based system, enables students to create electronic portfolios and lesson plans, and to complete assignments. It also provides Rider’s School of Education, which is accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), with invaluable assessment tools.

“Our students are among the finest teacher candidates in New Jersey,” declared Dr. Sharon Sherman, dean of the School of Education.  “What we are doing is giving them the tools to showcase their skills and talents and network to find opportunities for teaching jobs and professional education positions.”

Suzanne Carbonaro, NCATE assessment coordinator, said the School of Education selected TaskStream because it was user friendly.

 “We were looking for a system that met digital natives and digital immigrants in the middle, so there was comfort on both sides, and we found that TaskStream fit the bill,” Carbonaro said. “Students can showcase their talents and their abilities by creating a Web site that best fits their personalities and those of the school districts.”

In addition, the system organizes student assessment information all in one place. The School of Education can use this information to improve the teacher preparation process and performance-based evidence with its accrediting agency.

“NCATE can virtually visit the School of Education by accessing key assessment information,” Carbonaro said.

When Mormello first started using the new system, he was immediately attracted to the e-portfolio section where he can upload his résumé, lesson plans and video clips of himself teaching.

“As I add to my portfolio, I can upload it online, and include the URL on my résumé. Instead of taking around this teaching portfolio, employers can instantly see my lesson-plan units,” he said. “Any prospective employer can look at my portfolio and watch me teach a lesson. Hopefully, it will definitely give me an edge in the job market.”

Students can purchase four-year and one-year accounts through the Rider University Bookstore. Carbonaro encourages students to purchase the multiple-year plans because it’s a tool that students will want to continue using as they enter the teaching profession. The system has high storage capability so there is no worry of overloading hard drives, flash drives, or storage cabinets.

Lynne Berman, a student in the Graduate Level Teacher Certification Program (GLTP), is currently student teaching fourth grade at Marlton (N.J.) Elementary School.

“TaskStream enables you to leave a piece of your portfolio with a prospective employer,” Berman said. “They can revisit your portfolio on TaskStream at their own leisure. Employers are looking for job candidates who are technology-savvy. It’s a plus in this day and age.”

Education students are not only marketing themselves using the electronic portfolio system, but they are learning how to use a new technology they can also pass on to their students.

“Think about the students who are growing up today. They have information at their fingertips through the Internet and their cell phones,” Carbonaro said. “Schools are getting there, but we have to actually train our teachers to meet their students who are on Facebook. They are on Twitter. We can use those platforms to teach.”

Rider’s School of Education will run its first Summer Institute for 21st Century Teachers beginning Monday, June 28, 2010. This series of workshops running through mid-July are targeted toward teachers, school administrators, preservice teachers and School of Education alumni.

The institute will feature interactive sessions that implement state and national standards through graduate courses and workshops facilitated by Rider faculty and partnering teachers on incorporating technology, building interdisciplinary connections and infusing global perspectives in the classroom. 

“These workshops are designed to take away the discomfort, so teachers feel really confident to use technology in a way that inspires learning in the classroom,” Carbonaro said.

For more information about the Summer Institute for 21st Century Teachers, please call 609-896-5033, e-mail summer@rider.edu.

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Dr. Sharon Sherman, dean of the School of Education