Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tech Talk on Learning Portfolios at BBI

I just listened to an Eluminate session conducted by LearnCentral and TechTalk Tuesdays. The guest presenter was Lenva Shearing, Deputy Principal at Bucklands Beach Intermediate School (BBI), in New Zealand, where I was privileged to spend a couple of weeks last March. A summary of the webinar:
Look at the pedagogy, vision, implementation and effects on learning that personal reflective portfolios can provide. This session will not discuss the tools that might be used, but the pedagogoy  behind personal reflective portfolios.
It was fun to see how the ePortfolio process at BBI has evolved over the last few months. What I appreciate about their approach is the emphasis on goal-setting, learning and feedback, and their inquiry model of teaching, based on the EYP philosophy. Even though there was not an intention to discuss the tools used, questions can't be avoided when ePortfolios are being demonstrated. I see that BBI has moved from the Ning platform to store their video, to using divShare, one of my favorite online storage sites. Lenva demonstrated how teachers are using this tool to store and embed their audio feedback on student work. Even though the demos of student portfolio videos were difficult to follow, Lenva's description of BBI's philosophy and practice is a worthwhile contribution to the larger ePortfolio dialogue.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Top 5 Back-to-School Tech Tools

Read Write Web published the results of a survey: Teachers Pick Their Top 5 Back-To-School Tech Tools
  1. The iPad: Mobile Learning (or tablets/netbook mini-lab) bringing mobile hardware in the classroom for 1-to-1 learning
  2. Twitter: Real-Time Information (a microblogging tool in the classroom, to communicate with parents and the community, and as a part of a teacher's own professional development and personal learning network)
  3. Google Apps for Education: Cloud-Based Collaboration
  4. Blogs: Student Portfolios
  5. Sharing and Collaboration Tools: 21st Century Teaching and Learning (i.e., Wikispaces, VoiceThread, and SlideShare)
Not surprising results, since the survey was widely re-tweeted.  I will be teaching an online course for Seattle Pacific University this fall, entitled "Issues and Advances in Educational Technology" for teacher candidates in their graduate program. I team-taught the class last fall, and I learned a lot about this state's technology standards, and some of the emerging technologies. We chose not to use Blackboard, but the Web 2.0 "open" tools that are available to everyone: Google Sites, GoogleDocs, Google Groups, Etherpad, delicious.com, etc. Each graduate student at SPU uses Wordpress.com as their bPortfolio, so they wrote a weekly reflection on their learning in each class. The students will also produce a digital narrative, and collaboratively develop an online resource on some element of integrating technology into their teaching specialty. I am looking forward to updating the course with some of these current findings, but I think the course design from last fall needs only a little tweaking.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

ePortfolios: Concept, Process, and Product

I believe ePortfolios are CONCEPT, PROCESS, and PRODUCT.

I have lately been presenting about the CONCEPT of "Balancing the Two Faces of ePortfolios": (process vs. product, workspace vs. showcase, learning/improvement vs. accountability). The international community is recognizing this perspective, since my concept map/diagram has been translated into Spanish, Catalan, Japanese and Mandarin! Unless we recognize the importance of both approaches to ePortfolios, I believe it will be more difficult to realize the practical contribution of ePortfolios for supporting reflection and lifelong learning. As an ePortfolio community of practice, we need to be clear about the multiple purposes for developing portfolios, and the multiple strategies that can be used... and not constrain our thinking by specific tools or products or narrow purposes. The development of ePortfolios can help build lifelong habits of reflective practice, but I fear that the process is in danger of being hijacked for accountability purposes (see The Accountability/Improvement Paradox:  --a higher education perspective, but there are comparable viewpoints in K-12).

My working portfolio, that documents the PROCESS of my learning/growth over time, is my digital footprint through my website, my blog, my Facebook account (mostly "friending" my family members), my Twitter posts (@eportfolios), etc.: my personal learning environment (PLE) that I contribute to and learn from on a regular basis. This "portfolio-as-PROCESS" is a powerful environment for lifelong learning and reflection, with digital media adding a contemporary boost to an ages-old process. I also agree that smart phones and other mobile technologies (i.e., iPad, tablets) are going to be an important direction for more widespread adoption. This aggregation of my online presence is how I construct my digital identity, using tools across the Internet, where I store videos in YouTube or blip.tv, images in Picasa or Flickr, presentations in slideshare.net, documents in scribd.com or googledocs, etc. (What I am missing is some type of database or tool where I can keep a record of links to all of these resources with meta-tags -- right now, I use a googledocs spreadsheet.) It is this process paradigm that constitutes the "everyday-ness" of ePortfolios in a highly interactive environment.

Every once in a while, I add an entry to one of my presentation portfolios (organized in one of many tools that I have explored) which represents a significant accomplishment in my professional life. This "portfolio-as-PRODUCT" has a specific purpose and audience, organized thematically using a specific authoring tool, such as Mahara, Google Sites, eFolio, or any one of the commercial tools. I spent years studying many of these tools for creating presentation portfolios, and I came to the conclusion that many of these systems are often institution-based, created within a finite time frame (i.e., a school or university program). Once a learner leaves the institution, with a few exceptions, the presentation portfolio remains behind or unchanged in an HTML archive: frozen in time as an artifact of that institutional experience (much like my tenure portfolio in PDF on a CD-ROM from 2002). I wish I could find data on the percentage of students who continue to pay subscription fees on commercial systems; my assumption is that it is fairly low. That is why I am an advocate for learners to own their own online spaces to publish their own presentation portfolios (i.e., Google Sites, WordPress, Weebly), or for the commercial providers to adhere to one of the standards, such as LEAP2A to allow portfolio content to be migrated between compatible systems... another argument for open Web 2.0 systems.

I am trying to finish my book over the next two months, so these ideas are front and center in my consciousness. I am looking for more stories of using Web 2.0 tools to create ePortfolios across the lifespan, in and out of formal education. I also maintain a couple of Google Groups that focus on Researching Web2.0 Portfolios and Using Google Apps for ePortfolios in K-12 Education.
(My post to eportfolio_conversations@googlegroups.com, facilitated by Coach Carole in Australia)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another digital storytelling workshop

Back from my European vacation (Amsterdam and a Baltic cruise with my mother and daughter... three generations in a standard stateroom... at least we had a veranda for extra space!). On Monday and Tuesday this week, Erin and I conducted a digital storytelling workshop with more than 20 teachers, counselors and the principal of a middle school/high school in a small town in Washington state as part of their Navigation 101 program. This is the third Nav 101 school in Washington where we have provided this training. The size of the workshop, and the diversity of the group meant that we were training on Macintosh (iMovie6HD), and several versions of MovieMaker (XP, Vista, 7). Erin took the Mac group and I stayed with the Windows group, who were actually using iMacs that booted to Windows XP (as Erin said, it just didn't seem right!). But the tech person said that the Mac hardware was the most reliable!

Despite the fact that the teachers accounts were blocked from access to Flickr and websites for royalty-free music, they were able to produce some very moving stories, many of them about family or friends. I was most impressed with their very tech-savvy principal who was a full participant in the workshop at the beginning of a very busy school year! She shared her story in her blog. I hope they will get students producing digital stories during this school year to support their student-led conferences. Here is the blog of a teacher in the school, with his digital story about the life cycle of a salmon! This is the first digital storytelling workshop that I have conducted where not only one but two of the participants posted their stories to YouTube on their own, even though I encourage individuals to publish their own stories when the workshop is over.