Friday, July 27, 2007

ADE Institute 2007

I am finishing up a marathon experience with over 200 of my fellow Apple Distinguished Educators. From the hands-on sessions of Wednesday, to our field trip to the Defense Language Institute and Language Lines in Monterey, focusing on second language learning, to the 24 hour group project that replaced a good night sleep, all produced wonderful memories. We put together a team project that was awesome, and my batteries are charged again with enthusiasm and new energy. These educators truly modeled the combination of creativity and technology.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Their Space

Their Space: Education for a digital generation is a research report published in 2007 by Demos, a think tank in the U.K. This timely study focused on how children and young people use new technologies and tested their hypothesis: that schools need to respond to the way young people are learning outside the classroom. To quote from the Executive Summary (p.16-17):
In order to see change across the system, there needs to be a shift in thinking about investment from hardware towards relationships and networks. In the last ten years we have seen a staggering change in the amount of hardware in schools, but it has not had a significant impact on teaching and learning styles. So what does this mean for schools? It means that they need to really listen and respond to their users. Schools often fail to start in the right place – with the interests and enthusiasms of their students. They also need to recognise the new digital divide – one of access to knowledge rather than hardware – and start to redress some of the existing imbalances. Finally they need to develop strategies to bridge formal and informal learning, home and school. They should find ways that go with the grain of what young people are doing, in order to foster new skills and build on what we know works.
Well said. I hope this report gets more attention in the U.S.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Becta Research Report

Becta released their "Impact study of e-portfolios on learning"
The study was conducted by a team of researchers in the Learning Sciences Research Institute at The University of Nottingham led by Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young. This report presents the potential impact of e-portfolios on learning and teaching and is primarily aimed at policy-makers. This study provides eight case studies in the early stages of e-portfolio use from across the sectors of education, from primary school to adult learning. To quote the report:
E-portfolios benefit learning most effectively when considered as part of a system, rather than as a discrete entity.
This model from their report identifies the three distinct components of an e-portfolio system: the digital archive (repository of evidence), tools to support different processes, and different presentation portfolios developed for different purposes and audiences.

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.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

iPhone verdict -- not yet (for me)

I tried out an iPhone at the local Apple store, and decided not to buy this version, at least not just yet. It took me forever to type a URL into Safari (mostly because of my long fingernails!), but it would also raise my phone bill $20 a month. I'm not convinced that it would be as functional for me as my current Treo 680, where I can make the small keys work fairly well with my fingernails. If the iPhone would connect with a bluetooth keyboard, then I might find it more useful for email on the road.

I really want BT DUN (BlueTooth Dial Up Networking). My old Sony Ericsson T616 BlueTooth phone acted as a modem for my Mac laptop (at 9600 baud it was painfully slow, but I was able to download my email to my desktop computer, not to my phone). I've tried unsuccessfully for the last hour or so to make my Palm Treo 680 to do BT DUN (the website shows that I can, I downloaded the drivers but they don't seem to be working), but I can still download email to my phone and do minimal web surfing, if I need to (not often). So far the BT DUN option is not available on the iPhone at this time. So, it's not worth it to me to replace my 8-month-old Treo with a $500 device that will cost me more each month. I think it needs a few more features before it will do what I want to do. I am also waiting for the AT&T speed to improve. I bought one of the first Macs in January 1984, and it cost me a lot to keep upgrading it before I finally replaced it with a Mac SE (remember the 80s?). That experience taught me to wait for a later version of any new technology. They work out the bugs, expand the features, and maybe even lower the price.

As an Apple Distinguished Educator, I know I'll get a chance to play with one at our Institute in a little over a week. Maybe after that time, I'll change my mind, but right now, I think I'll wait for the next version.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Creativity and ePortfolios

I just spent the day getting caught up on TED videos. What an incredible resource on the most interesting ideas, all presented in 20-minute chunks! I was most impressed with the video of Sir Ken Robinson entitled, "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" I also remembered that I received a copy of the latest version of the National Educational Technology Standards for Students at NECC. These revised technology standards begin with Creativity and Innovation, followed by Communication and Collaboration, Research and Information Fluency, Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving & Decision-Making, Digital Citizenship, and lastly, Technology Operations and Concepts. Maybe now, portfolios will become more valued for the development and demonstration of these new standards, as they will be used in New Hampshire. The use of electronic portfolios to develop and demonstrate creativity in K12 schools is my new mission (and passion).

Friday, July 13, 2007

My Vision of a Digital Archive for Life

I recently had a meeting at the Center for Advanced Technology in Education, part of the Teacher Education Department at the University of Oregon. As a result of that meeting, I have started to expand on an earlier blog entry (Digital Archive for Life). Here is the executive summary of the paper, which is posted as a GoogleDoc. Comments are welcome. If anyone would like to collaborate on these ideas, send me an email. I intend to publish a polished version of this article in On The Horizon, a journal on Futures and Education.
In this article, I have outlined my vision for digital stories of development, or Online Personal Learning Environments which may eventually replace what we currently call “electronic portfolios” in education. Based on the concept of “lifetime personal web space,” this online archive of a life’s collection of artifacts and memorabilia, both personal and professional, has the potential to change the current paradigm of electronic portfolios, mostly institution-bound, and focus instead on the individual or the family as the center for creating the digital archive, which can be used in a variety of contexts across the lifespan, from schools to universities to the workplace. Finally, this archive can be used to develop personal histories and reflective narratives to preserve our stories for future generations. A possible scenario is followed by the challenges faced when developing this service for widespread dissemination.