Monday, November 01, 2004

Reflections after EuroPortfolio 2004

Last Friday morning, I gave a keynote address at the second EuroPortfolio conference as well as chairing a session of papers as well as facilitating an open table group on digital storytelling. They kept me very busy! So on Saturday I spent a tiring but wonderful day along the banks of the Seine, walking from Notre Dame to the Eifel Tower. We dragged our computers with us and were able to find a small Internet cafe near The Louvre, where we were able to connect our computers to their Ethernet connection. I never found a wireless connection except at the conference center for two days. But I was able to stay connected the whole time I was in France. My next "nerdy" move will be to see if I can get my cell phone to work on roaming over here. If I start coming over here more often, I might take that step.

I am so pleased that my half hour message made such an impression on folks, especially the speaker who came right after me, Professor Bob Fryer from the National Health Service University, which provides professional development to the largest employer in the UK. I also liked his message as well. What impressed him was the affective nature of what I was saying about the role of storytelling in reflection. Of course, it never hurts to show a 2nd grade autobiography, or a graduate student's letter to a former teacher, or my own story of Choices on The Road Not Taken. We cannot ignore the emotional side of learning, since brain researchers tell us how critical is the affective environment. So I am even more convinced that my new message is right on target: electronic portfolios without digital stories of deep learning --without the learners' authentic voice-- are sterile checklists of skills. As I stated in my presentation:
If your eportfolios are just digital paper (text and images on the screen) you are losing a wonderful opportunity to really tell your story in your own voice. With the capability to add multimedia, audio and video, we can truly create an engaging environment to document the milestones of our lives.
I went on to talk about Story as Legacy. I asked:
What is your story? We all have a story to tell in our portfolios. These digital stories provide opportunities for a richness not possible in print. Some stories will represent the fresh innocence of youth, some will reflect the experiences of a rich life. The audiences might be worldwide, like the BBC Wales, but most likely the audiences will be small and intimate. These digital stories aren't just for professional development, or C.V. --they are our legacy for those who come after us...the stories of our lives we give to our children's grandchildren.
Just a note on technology- I wrote this entire entry on my Clie PDA while either traveling to LaRochelle on the bus or train, or sitting in the Paris airport waiting to board my flight home to the U.S. While I am not able to post to my blog from anywhere (YET!), I can write anywhere. In fact, as I reviewed some of the writings I have stored on my PDA, I realize how much of my best ideas were written using Graffitti!

I was also impressed with Australian Elizabeth Hartnell-Young's presentation on creating portfolios using mobile devices like cell phones, PDAs, etc. And after seeing the demonstration of the e portfolio system being built in Flash at the University of Wolverhampton in the U.K., with input forms sized to fit PDA screens, I am very excited about the possibilities in the next few years.

With the convergence of multiple technologies into mobile devices (i.e., cameras in cell phones and PDAs, voice recorders in high quality digital cameras and PDAs, digital photo storage in MP3 players) we will soon carry in our pockets all the tools we need to record in multimedia the "first draft" of our own personal histories.

And even though the current versions of the mobile technologies resemble the capabilities of the earliest digital cameras and digital audio recorders, I know the quality will only improve. That's what makes this whole field exciting! Even though my current Palm-based device wouldn't hold all of this entry in a single file, it was a minor inconvenience to have to open a second document. I am beginning to appreciate the "division of labor" in the technologies we can use in our e-portfolio and digital storytelling activities.

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