Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Using Think.com for K-8 Portfolios

Think.com, a free service for K12 schools by Oracle, is the 19th tool that I have used to re-create my electronic portfolio. I am impressed by the ease of entering data. All URLs are automatically converted to weblinks that open in a new window. The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than an hour, copying the information from various online portfolios, including my Mozilla portfolio, where I had the URLs on the page (not just links). I easily uploaded my only file artifacts (on the Portfolio-at-a-Glance page).

This is the first tool that I have used that adds Interactivity to the portfolio (other than the blog tools). The software allows these forms of Interactivity:
  • Message Board - Invite people to post a message on a page
  • Ask Me - Answer questions (about anything)
  • Debate - Pick a topic and have a debate with others
  • Vote - Have an election or poll on a page
  • Brainstorm - Invite others to share their ideas on a page
I am very impressed with this interactivity, since it makes an electronic portfolio a socially-constructed document. The tool also allows the addition of "Stickies" that can be added by anyone and deleted by the page owner. The Stickie can be used for providing formative feedback as a portfolio and its artifacts are developed.

There are also five types of "Media and More" that you can add to a page:
  • Pictures - Upload your favorite GIFs and JPEGs
  • List - Make a list of assignments or other things
  • Mini Pics - Add artwork to a page from the Mini Pics gallery
  • Multimedia - Upload Music, Movies and Animations
  • Files - Upload files from Word, Claris Works and other programs
I noticed that when I used the List tool, I was able to add external web links (which turn the title into a web link), but when the links are followed, the site is opened in the same browser window. When a URL is added to a page, the link opens a new window (and the portfolio remains open just behind). That is my preference, so that when an artifact is opened, the reader can close the window and easily return to the portfolio, rather than using the Back button.

The only downside of this tool is the ability to export the data for use outside the system. All readers must be members of the Think.com community to be able to read the portfolio, which is very appropriate in a K-8 school environment (and why I don't have a link to the portfolio here). Think.com is available as school accounts only and the principal has to sign the AUP agreement with Oracle. There is also no data management tool, to aggregate assessment data. Therefore, this is a great tool for formative assessment (providing teacher and peer feedback on student work) but not for summative assessment. But that's not a bad thing in K-8 schools, where we have plenty of accountability measures, but need better online tools to facilitate formative assessement strategies.


Kevin said...

Hello Helen! I found your post while researching portfolios and coincidentally we are planning/hoping to launch Think.com this year in our school. I am curious however as to what controls the site provides for user-entered content. We currently use Wordpress for blogs in our district, and while it's not a portfolio tool, it represents our first foray into Web 2.0 technologies. Think.com will be another, but, I need some clarity on content moderation before moving ahead. Wordpress' ability to moderate all content is key to our use of the software, FWIW. Thanks!

Helen Barrett said...

I think the teacher can control all of the student files, but you would need to check directly with Think.com about the controls available. I have not used it with young children. I just think it would work well, assuming there are the protections. It is a closed network. Only members can see what is created in Think.com.

conniehendrix said...

Think.com has a list of words it filters. A teacher can go in and add words to that list. Teachers are also *required* to review content of student entries.

My experience has been that a few students will visit strangers' sites and leave inappropriate stickies. Somehow, since they don't know that person, they assume they are strangers as well. I've usually received emails from the teachers of those victims and been able to follow up.

You can't actually revise student work, but you can deny them access and of course, send them messages. All authors can choose to make work available or not to your own group or all of Think.com.