Tuesday, December 07, 2004

ePortfolio Australia conference

Thoughts after the end of the first ePortfolio Australia conference

I am so impressed with the Australians. They really get it! This conference is smaller than the EuroPortfolio conference, but there is a lot of energy. Many people understood what I meant about assessment for learning (as contrasted with assessment of learning). It was also fun to have people walk up to me and say, "I have your CD and this is what I've done!" I feel more and more like Johnny Appleseed, planting seeds and watching them grow. Also, I made contact with someone who is working with a consultant in the Seattle area and may organize another ePortfolio conference for teachers in Australia in August or September. I hope I can come back when it is springtime here!

I chose to visit the Fraynework digital storytelling center just a few blocks from the conference location which was at the University of Melbourne. I never knew this non-profit organization existed, but they have been doing digital media production for the last nine years, Established by the Sisters of Mercy, this organization has about 20 employees doing web, multimedia and video production for CD, DVD and the WWW. As I watched their "Lore of the Land" CD on Australian Aboriginal people's relationship to their land, I felt like I could have been watching Alaska Native people who have the same worldview.

As the director of the center talked the opening presentation on the second day, she talked about the purpose of portfolios to be both for personal as well as social transformation. While social transformation hasn't been central to my vision, I can see the power of helping tell the stories of those whose voice is rarely heard. I was very impressed with her emphasis on social transformation.

There is so much going on here in Australia that links electronic portfolios and digital storytelling. Access to the Internet is another issue. There is no wireless available to conference participants, although I can go upstairs and get enough connectivity to download my e-mail. I only have full wireless connectivity in my hotel room at A$5 for 15 minutes at a time. I am finding that restriction reduces my communication, but it is not as much of a problem as not having my computer. I can prepare items to e-mail or upload to my website, and wait for the few minutes when I can be fully connected, But it forces me to be organized for those few minutes online! It also makes my replies very short!

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