Tuesday, June 22, 2004

NECC 2004

I am writing this entry as I leave my 15th National Educational Computing Conference (my first was in 1989 in Boston, when ISTE was re-formed out of ICCE). I was still living in Fairbanks, working for the Fairbanks School District as Staff Development Coordinator, and had never heard of electronic portfolios. A lot has changed in my life since then. And a lot has changed in educational computing since then. The Internet and the convergence of technology is making a huge impact on how we learn using technology.

In 1989, I was blown away by laserdisc technology and interactive multimedia with HyperCard. I ordered a copy of the Visual Almanac that was developed by Apple's Cognitive Research group (or whatever it was called... headed by Kristina Hooper Woolsey). What was the big thing at NECC 2004? You're looking at it! Blogs, wikis and moodles. These were words I didn't even know until the last six months. What is interesting about the changes is that the Internet has profoundly changed the process of interactive multimedia, but it is still hypertext with digital video. It is just totally different when implemented on the WWW... and much more accessible, although the quality of the video is not nearly as good. But who knows how that will change as bandwidth increases.

I was impressed by the number of sessions that mentioned blogs. I even had a couple of teachers of the airport shuttle ask me what a blog was! And I was able to explain it! I don't think they saw the application to schools, but it was interesting that they asked.

I had some interesting ideas about emerging technologies for e-portfolios. Besides the use of blogs as reflective learning portfolios (like this one), I am interested in how we can use cell phone or PDA cameras to help capture still images of experiences. Is there a way to upload those images into a Mo-Blog? Is there a way to use a cell phone to record voice reflections that can be transmitted to the same Mo-Blog (or do I understand what that is?)? Another tool that we can use to record voice reflections is the iPod with the new microphones that can be added (but not to mine...I have the first one they ever made...5 MB! hint! hint!)

I saw the Blackboard e-portfolio. I am anxious to get my hands on it, since I know they are working with the IMS standards to make it interoperable. They have the right idea. It is a content management system, where learners can accumulate an archive of their work in a very natural interface (files and folders with meta-tags), much as I have already recommended. Then the learner can make any number of portfolios from the information in this archive, depending on their purpose and audience. I didn't see the assessment piece, but now that does not bother me at this point. I want to keep the assessment management issues separate from the reflective portfolio.

I am a little disturbed about the direction of e-portfolios that I saw (again) at this conference. The data-base approach is taking over, and the individuality of learners is taking a back seat. The e-portfolios I have seen are teacher/institution-centered, even though the philosophy of student ownership was espoused. This is an issue I want to explore further, from the conceptual framework of Activity Theory and Constructivism.

On the plane, I am reading The Art of Changing the Brain by James E. Zull (Stylus, 2002). It is taking me back to my dissertation days, when I was using the Kolb Learning Style Inventory and reading about his Experiential Learning Model. Zull quotes Kolb saying that "deep learning, learning for real comprehension, comes through a sequence of experience, reflection, abstraction, and active testing." (p.13)

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