Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Correspondence on Digital Archives & ePortfolios

I received another message from Mike Caulfield in reference to a previous dialogue that we had:
Recently there’s been a rather vigorous discussion in my part of the blogosphere about what we’ve been calling the “Inverted LMS”

The idea is pretty simple – let students blog in wordpress or another blog (as in your portfolio examples) and let them tag specific entries with a “portfolio” tag. Then use an RSS aggregator to pull those entries into the institutional blog, where they can be categorized organized and saved for institutional assessment.

A friend at Univ. Mary Washington has been looking into this arrangement for making multiple classes out of single student blogs (although not for eportfolio, yet)[Tech details here]

The LMS is “inverted” because rather than creating spaces for classes and filling them with students, he starts with the student as the atomic unit, and through category tagging and aggregators build the class piece – class or course is an attribute of something a student says, rather than the box in which they say it…

The neat thing about this is that the students can truly own their own reflective space, and only cede a portion of it as a portfolio. This encourages the student to see the portfolio piece as just a part of a larger ongoing process of reflection and story-telling. And it allows them to do it in a space they own – one that stands outside arbitrary divisions of class, subject and school vs. work vs. personal interests.

Anyway, I’d be glad to hear your thoughts on it. As you can see, one of my main concerns intersects with yours – that we make this process student-centered, not assessment centered, and that we develop this as a habit in them, not as an assignment.
First, there is nothing wrong with assessment, as long as it is student-centered, or benefiting student learning. But too often, the term is mis-understood, and used to mean "evaluation" or "accountability" or another purpose that is more institution-centered. A student doing self-assessment is engaged in a powerful process. Rather than calling your idea an inverted LMS, why not call it a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) or personal learning space. I discussed this briefly after the New Zealand ePortfolio Conference. As I look at how (mostly young) people use MySpace or FaceBook or most blogs, they are often using these online spaces not only for social networking, but also for identity production. I also received another message today from Nathan Garrett of Woodbury University a Claremont graduate student, who was commenting on my blog entry and Digital Archive for Life paper:
On a theory level, I have been heavily influenced by Donald Schon’s view of the reflective practitioner, and have been making my way through Dewey’s work. I am particularly interested in the “learning to be” part of education, helping new students to understand the way a practitioner thinks in their discipline.

At heart, I am interested in the development of systems to connect people and allow them to express themselves. I am particularly interested in distributed systems loosely coupled together that, as you put it, “allow a thousand flowers to bloom.” I see a lot of potential for technologies like RSS and open ID to aggregate and distribute people's identities. I think that one of the largest issues surrounding distributed systems is control and safety; how do we let users control their own identity in a truly distributed system? My own research at Claremont has shown that students deeply care about having the ability to limit access, but also have an imperative to establish themselves by making their work better known. Experience with my own families’ blogs and early attempts at photo sharing have really highlighted this issue for me.

Ultimately, I'm trending towards the view that the system we will end up with will use RSS to expose content, tags to organize it, and open ID to selectively share content with certain people. The organizing systems would be crucial, and probably needs to be open source for broader adoption (and easily copied or imitated by commercial companies, whose competition and adoption would be crucial).
The challenge I see is raising the awareness of the potential for using these more open systems, and to provide models that show how they work in practice. I can see this working well in higher education, but my current interest is in K12 schools and in families, where the concern for security is paramount. We need more research at all levels of human development, to validate some of these theories.

Yesterday, I purchased the Freedom Writers DVD. I had seen Erin Gruwell last February at a conference, so I knew the story and had watched the video many times on my cruise and on some flights this spring. But I was able to focus more on the commentary and the underlying meaning of this movie. Erin Gruwell's students used writing as a tool for liberation and self-identity, first in their hand-written journals and later in the computer lab. They didn't call these journals "blogs" because they weren't online (at least not in the movie) and there was an emphasis on anonymity. However, that same process is experienced by many young learners, as they use many different types of Web 2.0 technology for self expression. This movie provides an example of a talented teacher who challenged and channeled these writing efforts to a positive outcome in these young lives; it shows the power of reflection and storytelling to change lives.

1 comment:

Cris said...

Dear Helen,
Your post reflects well my position towards educational technologies and the way they should be used to get the most of those who learn. It is the learners that we, as educators, should be concerned about. I am all for the open side of cyberspace. This is what motivates people the most and isn’t it also the “core mission” of the so called Web 2.0?
We can get so much more from what the web has to offer. Why do we keep ignoring its potential? Are we afraid?
Engaging learners in activities in which they can express themselves, develop their digital identity and their own space, and, above all, maintain it for as long as they wish is the BIG plus of the connected world. Sometimes, I have a hard time understanding why people still argue about having closed environments that are restricted to a certain number of people, and where information is kept almost as a secret. This is in no way coherent with the reality of our learners and neither is it compatible with their needs and requirements as individuals, who aspire to develop their own voice and establish connections that might go beyond their typical, traditional learning environment. And isn’t that how we act in our daily life? Why should school then be different (disconnected?!) from our daily routine? Shouldn’t it be an integral part of it instead? I think what we need is to focus on situated, contextualized activities that will enable meaningful, and more personal, learning opportunities.
This slide here ( http://www.slideshare.net/stevenw/iwmw-2007/10 ), by Steven Warburton, exemplifies well the difference between a closed, still teacher-centred environment (Bb, for instance) and all the panoply of prospects in which dynamic, personalized and collective learning opportunities can be take shape.