Documenting our Open Portfolios Workshop in Pittsburgh

opp_group-snapshotThinking about spending a few inspiring fall days in Pittsburgh? We did! Along with approximately 60 other educators, administrators, practitioners, and even a few researchers—from K-12 and higher education, we offered a second Open Portfolios workshop last week on Nov 15–16, 2016 in the grand city of Pittsburgh. The sun was shining, and we gathered together with participants from Western Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and a few more regions to simultaneously talk shop, wax philosophical, and determine the intricate details of portfolios, documentation, and the surrounding practices.

Building off of the first well-received portfolios workshop that we ran in Feb 2016 in the Bay Area, this workshop—made possible by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and in collaboration with IDeATe at CMU and the Remake Learning Network—plunged participants into a series of sessions across 1.5 days. These sessions covered a number of topics, some obvious in their purpose and some a little more subtle. Throughout both days, these experiences were ones that they could repeat with students or fellow teachers, that they could draw ideas from, and/or encouraged them to debate differing ideas and perspectives.

opp_portfolioslideRight off the bat, we asked participants to both experience and think about the ease of documentation amidst maker-centered learning and projects; we explored the available tools and platforms for helping to facilitate the creation of portfolios; participants dove into examining examples of existing youth portfolios and tackled seemingly simple questions like, “Is this a portfolio?”. We also spent a lot of time in discussion, thinking about the inherent challenges in documenting work, debating the value of showing process vs product, considering the value of portfolios for reflection and sharing for any age, and attempting to understand how portfolios can affect decisions made in regards to college and career.

On Day 1, we had an additional delightful opportunity for Professor Marti Louw’s CMU students in her fall Learning Media Design course, who have been working all semester on a connected project to Open Portfolios, present their preliminary prototypes. Students showed off an enormous depth of understanding—and findings—based on their own research and analysis of the problem space and how various stakeholders, including some teachers in the room!, relate to the issue.

Tournament thumb wrestling is a must.
Tournament thumb wrestling is a must.

Day 2’s work refocused on the key takeaways from our previous conversations and asked participants to plan out next steps, however big or small. Some had found like-minded colleagues from their hometown to collaborate with; others found long-lost relatives (really!); yet others reaffirmed their actions as a school team or district team.

With a group of educators from such a concentrated regional area, we’re excited to see the level of impact that collective conversation and connections can make! And we hope that participants near and far will continue to help us push this work forward together, sharing all insights along the way.

In the spirit of documentation, we gathered a variety of pictures, quotes, and tweets, shared here and below. For even more information, check out the #openportfolios hashtag on Twitter, and learn more about the Open Portfolio Project at

And last, but not least, our workshop marked the pre-release (and now official release!) of our Practical Guide to Open Portfolios. Take a moment this Thanksgiving break to read through it, mark your next steps, and document your family gathering and turkey dinners!




2 responses to “Documenting our Open Portfolios Workshop in Pittsburgh”

  1. Laura Reasoner Jones Avatar

    Just completed a new page on our GEMS website showcasing the OPP and our plan.

    1. Keyana Stevens Avatar
      Keyana Stevens

      Laura, this is great work! Thanks so much for documenting and sharing with the community.

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