Tuesday, October 12, 2004

NJEDge Conference

I'm in New Jersey at the NJEDge Higher Education networking conference. In the keynote address today, we learned about students with high tech savvy and students with no tech skills sitting side-by-side in our university classrooms. We need to recognize that more and more of our students are entering our universities with web-development skills. So we need to build systems that let those students "do their thing" within a set of requirements or a model, while still providing a template or scaffolding for those students who do not have those skills. But we should develop a system that allows the learner to develop those web-based communication skills. Look at blog software as an example, with minimal formatting tools included. Students can upload their own HTML code or use the tools to construct their pages with the ease of a word processor.

I am starting to draw some conclusions about the systems, software, services and strategies that I have been exploring over the last month or so. I have to recognize the needs of institutions to build systems that don't require a lot of support. But I wonder if we aren't restricting the development of learners' information-age communication skills, by not giving them opportunities to construct free-form websites with adequate scaffolding by the system. Even though I didn't like the speed and anti-Mac nature of GeoCities, there is a model that allows individuality without having to know a lot of HTML. The same could be said for some of the CMS systems that I tried.

The dedicated online eportfolio tools that I surveyed each exhibit trade-offs between the flexibility inherent in an HTML-based tool with the relative ease-of-use but lack of creativity in a system built on a data-base. I will be developing a rubric or scales applied to each system, recognizing the “Trade-offs” and “Balance” inherent in the options available:
  • Creativity
  • Ease of Use
  • Cost/Storage & ROI
  • Features
  • Flexibility/Customization Allowed
  • Integration with Assessment System
  • Transfer & technology skill development

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