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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Schools can learn from homeschoolers and focus more on student portfolios

Unschooling Rule 46 (#unrules46) is: The future is portfolios, not transcripts.

Many homeschooling families have developed portfolios as an alternative to transcripts. Rather than lists of "easy-to-compare" grades, high school aged children develop "unique-to-them" collections of curated artifacts that more accurately capture their passions and unique gifts.

Depending on the interest of the child, portfolios may include:
  • Published newspaper letters or columns.
  • Photographs of accomplishments.
  • Video clips.
  • Art, including stories.
  • Annotated pieces of code.
  • Letters of praise from various businesses or officials.
  • Ribbons or awards.
  • Records of business transactions.
  • Models or simulations.
A good portfolio may be less than fifteen (web) pages and should be able to be skimmed in less than ten minutes. But any interested party can learn so much about the individual. Portfolios may even be created each year, with a more edited "best of" compilation that is used publicly.

Pioneering homeschoolers have already nudged many leading universities to accept these portfolios as an alternative to reams of pasteurized and homogenized test results. This can only be healthy for the evolution of all college admissions processes. And the next frontier is sending portfolios as a critical input to (and competitive differentiator in) the job application process.

The real transition, however, will be when portfolios in the form of blogs attract proactive businesses and, gasp, even colleges. Competitive institutions, using "blog scouts" akin to sports scouts today, will reach out to interesting high schoolers and actively recruit them.

To prepare for the future, traditional schools will increasingly have to learn from homeschoolers. The area of portfolios may be a first place to start.

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