Thursday, February 24, 2011

Passion, Self-Directed Learning and Total Talent Portfolios

10 Ways Technology Supports 21st Century Learners in Being Self Directed by Lisa Nielsen
New York educator and super-blogger Lisa Nielsen posted a very interesting blog post on the Technology & Learning Advisor Blog. As Lisa introduced her post, "Life in the 21st century provides a whole-new world of opportunities for self-directed, passion-driven, personalized learning." Here is a summary of her ten points. (I provided the details on one of the items, for obvious reasons!)
  1. Personal Learning Networks
  2. Tweet to Connect with Experts
  3. Skype an Expert
  4. Free Online Educational Resources
  5. Online Learning
  6. Authentic Publishing
  7. Use YouTube and iTunes to Learn Anything
  8. Passion (or talent) Profiles
  9. Develop Authentic Learning Portfolios When done write [sp] ePortfolios can be a powerful tool that not only helps remind students of all their accomplishments, but it also enables them to share these with the world.  In the 21st century, creating an ePortfolio is free and easy.  Student simply select a container (blog, wiki, website, Google site), decide how they’d like to organize it, and then post their work.  I strongly advise against using any paid for portfolio site.  It is important that students have ownership of their own work and that it can travel with them wherever they are.  When it comes to ePortfolios, Helen Barrett is the go-to person.  To learn more, visit her blog where she shares fantastic ideas.  
  10. Empower Students to Assess and Learn Themselves 
I also loved her earlier blog post: Preparing Students for Success by Helping Them Discover and Develop Their Passions where she says:
The Total Talent Portfolio focuses on student strengths and "high-end learning" behaviors. Although the teacher serves as a guide in the portfolio review process, the ultimate goal of the Total Talent Portfolio is to create autonomy in students by turning control for the management of the portfolio over to them. Students visit their portfolios often updating the selection of items to be included, maintaining and regularly updating the portfolio, and setting personal goals by making decisions about items that they would like to include in the portfolio. Teachers use the Total Talent Portfolio as a means to differentiate instruction and effectively group students. The students love having a Total Talent Portfolio because they know it’s their personal roadmap to making their dreams come true, whatever they are.

The students use their Total Talent Portfolios to help them pursue engaging activities in areas of deep personal interest. When discovering and exploring passions is the objective few teachers find their student have short attention spans. In fact quite the opposite. These students know what it’s like to be in a flow (the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.) and how to do so for real purposes.
Dr. Renzulli's article, linked from this blog post, clearly articulates "A Plan for Identifying and Developing Gifts and Talents." I love it! THAT's what a learning portfolio should be all about!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

ITSC Conference Reflections

I spent three days in Portland at the ITSC 2011 Conference. They built an app, which linked to a mobile-friendly website. I don't normally go to a conference where I am not presenting, but I was fascinated by the program. I enjoyed the following sessions/workshops:
  • Canby SDs iPod touch & iPad 1:1 Classroom Implementations - I plan to visit this district, where every 3rd grader in the district gets an iPod Touch. They have shown some dramatic increases in literacy and math scores of students in classrooms using these tools. Notable links: Main wiki on iPod use, Using iTunes as a Digital Portfolio. I was especially impressed with the story Joe Morelock told about how students post goals for the week with Corkulous - a cork board app ($4.99). A student creates a collection of cork boards, building small portfolio on device. Students set weekly goals in one color, show accomplishments in another color.
  • Rethink, Relearn: What it means to think, learn and design curriculum with Dr. Roger Schank. I attended this conference because he was one of the keynote speakers and I have his book, Tell me a Story. I enjoyed the opportunity to work with Jackie Gerstein and another educator from Oregon, where we explored a lot of ideas around how students can find their purpose and passions. We entitled our GoogleDoc, "Everyone has a story" and we compiled a lot of resources on daily reflection, goal setting and how do we help students find their “spark?” A spark is something that gives your life meaning and purpose. It's an interest, a passion, or a gift. What do you bring to the world that is good, beautiful, and useful?  It was a very exciting morning.
  • This looks interesting with Alec Couros and Dean Shareski - Lots of new apps and websites:, Instapaper,,,,,
  • Beyond Search with Lucy Gray - Learned lots of new ways to search Google. I especially liked which is powered by Yolink. Google Search LessonsLucy's slides in Slideshare
  • Mobile Learning in Your School with Ira David Socol (he helped his son create This was a good opportunity to learn from other educators about why and how to use mobile phones in education: let students choose their own device (SODs -- Student-Owned Devices). Start with calendar, use mobile organization of the day. I learned how to email reminders from Google Calendar. Other links we explored:, We explored Dragon & Vlingo (voice to text) which doesn't work well with children's voices. He talked about MITS Freedom Stick (4 GB flash-based Freedom Drive-- some use MP3 player) which contains mobile versions of Windows open source software. Build mobile websites:, Use mobile devices to make sense of things - map where you are, upload to Flickr - Flickr on your Mobile (How to Access Flickr Through Your Cell Phone) Read more: How to Access Flickr Through Your Cell Phone |
    It is all about power for unempowered people.
  • Closing Keynote: Cognitive Processes that Underlie Learning with Roger Schank. I intend to get his book when it comes out next fall: Learning 2.0 from Teachers College Press. I took voluminous notes in Evernote. Some of the key ideas:
    • We learn from experience - which experiences affect memory? (memory is dynamic)
    • Case-based reasoning - how it relates to me
    • Learning is the abandonment of old scripts
      change by experience - what makes experience memorable: emotional reactions, satisfaction goals, surprises, deep involvement in developing a solution, catastrophic failure.
    • Education must be defined as guided practice (death of "you will need it later")
    • Education must be about helping students achieve truly held long term goals [reinforcing the need for student goal-setting]
    • Education should be designed in order to match student goals with societal needs - start with a well-defined goal (one that the student wants to achieve)
    • Education must focus on the non-conscious mind. If you have a motivated learner, you can teach then anything.
    • Education should enable the satisfaction of curiosity
    • Many ideas on how to change teaching: art of teaching is art of assisted discovery
    • John Adams' purpose of education: learn how to live and how to make a living... and it should be fun!
    • Provide an education allowing students real choices. The real goal should be getting students to think for themselves.
    • Curriculum should be organized around Cognitive Processes: modeling (constructing a model of the world), judgment, prediction, causation, diagnosis, evaluation, experimentation, negotiation, describing, influencing, teamwork, planning.
    He make me think deeply, and reinforced my passion for storytelling in learning. The research-based concepts he raised would revolutionize education, if he could get leaders to listen to his ideas. His Story-Centered Curriculum article provides a glimpse of what is possible; also his White Paper (PDF). His keynote was a great ending to the conference.
I am really glad I came to this conference. There were a lot of sessions on GoogleApps that I did not attend, and I had to make a lot of choice about which sessions I should attend, but I think I chose what I needed at this time. I have new ideas to integrate into my upcoming presentations next week. I also took the opportunity to visit a teacher in Portland, who is doing exciting work using Evernote for student portfolios in grades 3-5, but I will save that reflection for a future post, especially if I decide to go back to Oregon to visit Canby School District classes.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Watson and IBM’s Deep Question Answering (QA)

Earlier last week, we watched IBM's Watson super computer beat two human contestants at Jeopardy. I actually think Watson won because it was faster at pushing the buzzer. Albeit, the performance was an impressive display of IBM’s Deep Question Answering (QA). On Thursday, IBM announced a partnership to apply this technology to medicine. The partner, Nuance Communications, Inc., also developed Dragon Dictation for iOS devices, and voice recognition for other mobile phones. Imagine "Watson-to-go" on a smart phone: speak the symptoms along with text-based data, and have Watson produce a diagnosis. As explained:
Watson's ability to analyze the meaning and context of human language, and quickly process information to find precise answers can assist decision makers, such as physicians and nurses, unlock important knowledge and facts buried within huge volumes of information, and offer answers they may not have considered to help validate their own ideas or hypotheses.
How could this technology be applied in education? Could we feed in the URL to a student's rich e-portfolio, along with the criteria we would like to assess, and could Watson give us feedback around a variety of criteria? Or would we want this capability? Would it help teachers pinpoint areas for development in written language? What about analysis of some of the 21st Century Skills, especially Inventive Thinking—Intellectual Capital: Adaptability/Managing Complexity and Self-Direction; Curiosity, Creativity and Risk-taking; Higher Order Thinking and Sound Reasoning. Is this the type of complexity that the QA technology could be designed to analyze? Or is this assessment and analysis task too difficult, even for Watson? Perhaps with the Gates Foundation's emphasis on Learning Analytics, and the upcoming Learning Analytics & Knowledge Conference, February 27-March 1, 2011 in Banff, Alberta, there will be some development in this area.
Learning analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Calgary Teachers Conference

Today I presented a keynote address and a follow-up workshop on teacher portfolios at the Calgary Teachers Conference. Here are some tweets from the participants:
  • That's my mom! RT @geekteacher Barrett is brilliant! @eportfolios #CCTCA #CCTCA2011
  • @eportfolios Thanks for two great sessions, and our chat over lunch! I hope we stay in touch! Safe Travels! -Monti
  • "I stopped following RSS feeds, and began following people!" @eportfolios (Dr.Barrett) re: #twitter #CCTC2011
  • @CCTCA2011: It's a shame @marcprensky and @eportfolios were running at the same time! Don't make us choose!! :) #CCTC2011
  • RT @geekteacher: I'm shocked & disappointed that so few people are attending @eportfolios keynote. #CCTC2011 / It's a small dedicated group!
  • #CCTC2011 @eportfolios is presenting on different types of portfolios; showcase, mobile, presentation, expressive, blogging.
  • Barrett is brilliant! @eportfolios #CCTCA #CCTCA2011
  • What, so what, and now what - Q's to ask in the process of eP development. @eportfolios @CCTCA2011
  • Key to learning from an ePorfolio is dialogue - need for collaboration @eportfolios @CCTCA2011
  • eP's can help students explore life purpose & goals, personal & prof identity @eportfolios @CCTCA2011
  • The power of a portfolio is personal! @eportfolios @CCTC
  • Much to learn about how students approach their eP's - @helenbarret @eportfolios @CCTCA2011
  • I'm shocked & disappointed that so few people are attending @eportfolios keynote. #CCTCA #CCTCA2011
  • Looking forward to @eportfolios (Helen Barrett) keynote. #CCTCA #CCTCA2011
 It was interesting to look at the program and see the number of presentations for up to 11,000 teachers, although I'm not sure all of them were there. Reminds me of the in-services I used to do in Fairbanks in the 80s, putting on a conference for teachers who often don't get to attend big national conferences. Now I am spending an unexpected night near Calgary airport due to canceled flight home. Travel on this trip has been weird: a two hour flight, but I had to take my passport! It is also interesting to hear concerns about storing data on U.S. computers (something about Patriot Act???). I encouraged use of mobile tools and reflection, of course.

Based on feedback, I'd like to put together a resource to support scaffolding reflection in K-12 schools, especially elementary, focusing on past, present and future tense:
  • Past: Looking back over a collection of work and find the themes/stories (retrospective)
  • Present: Reflection in real time (capturing the moment, using a variety of tools to capture text, image, audio, video)
  • Future: Goal-setting (from reviewing work, what are goals for future learning?)
I am suggesting that a group of teachers gather together virtually to brainstorm and share strategies for guiding student reflection; it was a question that came up at the end of my keynote. This process would be tool-neutral, although I am exploring how to use mobile devices to "capture the moment" or reflect in real time, which will be the focus on my ISTE workshop in Philadelphia in June.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

NZ Guidelines for beginners

The Ministry of Education in New Zealand has just published its second edition of Digital Portfolios: Guidelines for beginners (PDF). This publication provides a basic overview of ePortfolios specifically for K-12 schools. In the first section of the publication, there are descriptions of the history, distinguishing features and advantages, and definitions/descriptions of a digital portfolio. It also outlines the possible contents of a portfolio, benefits and outcomes of an ePortfolio approach (with a specific discussion of reflection & blogging); Planning for success, Objectives, pedagogy, ownership & audience, important criteria; and Tools – what’s out there? The last section of the publication has responses to a questionnaire provided by 11 schools. For those K-12 schools interested in getting started with ePortfolios, this is a good resource.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Portfolio Process in your Pocket

Here is the first draft of an article for a newsletter entitled, Is the Future of ePortfolios in Your Pocket? (It is the title of my upcoming keynote address at the Western AAEEBL Conference.) I would love some feedback on the paper, which was drawn from previous blog entries and my mPortfolios Google Site. I have been reading a lot of online articles about mobile computing in the last week. Here is a quote from Why Mobile is a Must from T.H.E. Journal:
Kids today are captivated by the personalization and socialization of online tools--the ability to build large networks of friends; share their thoughts, feelings, and goals; and communicate as they wish. Students have become so invested in mobile devices that our society has coined a new term for them--digital natives--to represent their having only known a world where all of this is possible. And not only is it possible, it's possible anytime and anywhere, via a plethora of devices and widely available cellular and WiFi networks.

The upshot is, these digital natives now have in their hands the tools to shape their own education in once unimagined ways. They have the ability to interact with other learners at their convenience, with differences in time and place presenting no hurdle. They can research, on the spot, any topic of interest. And they can capture the moment, whether it's in a picture, a video, or a blog entry.

Another article in T.H.E. Journal focuses on the national survey Speak Up 2009, Drill Down: Mobile Devices in Education, where they quote parents:
  • Parents see the use of mobile technologies in schools as a means of increasing student engagement (43 percent) and preparing students for the working world (41 percent).
  • The most often-cited instructional benefit is mobile devices' ability to extend learning beyond school hours.
  • Only 12 percent see no significant educational benefit to mobile devices.
The Speak Up 2009 reports are available for download, and are interesting reading. I imagine the 2010 report, when it comes out, will have even more of an emphasis on mobile learning. The latest ISTE Publication, Learning & Leading with Technology, has several articles on mobile technologies in learning: "The Whole World in Their Hands" and "There's an App for This!" It seems like there is a convergence of thinking about mobile devices in education! In a week, I will be attending the ITSC conference in Portland, where I plan to attend some interesting sessions related to these issues (and the AAEEBL conference is the following week). Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Upcoming trip to New Zealand

My daughter and I are going to Auckland, with a side trip to Fiji on our way home over her Spring Break (it's a good way to use all of the air miles I earned last year!). We will actually be gone two weeks, but with travel time and the last four days in Fiji, we will only be in Auckland for nine days. We will be spending a week in the Pt. England School, to see how this primary school is integrating Google Apps, Blogger, ePortfolios and Teacher Dashboard into their program. We are going to guide some students and teachers through the digital storytelling process. I am finishing up my book, and need to spend more time in direct observation of a primary school. According to their technology director:
We are an Apple school with iMovie happening all over the place.  And are rolling out our very first 1:1 on Linux  Netbooks this week.  The idea being that they use their Netbooks for all their Google apps work and jump on the iMacs to create their movies, music etc.  Unfortunately our cohort do not have access to iAnything in their homes - welcome to NZs poorest community :) Highly creative though....
I hope to make a short visit to BBI to see how they are doing as well. I spent more than a week in that school last March. This year, they are integrating iPads into their intermediate school.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Democratic Revolution in Egypt

Over the last year, I have been communicating with a graduate student who is trying to study and implement electronic portfolios in Egypt. Although I have not heard from him over the last three weeks, I have been thinking about him while watching the cable news channels. Waking up to the jubilant celebration, I decided to send him the following email:
I have been watching the television reports of the revolution in Egypt and thinking of you. I just wanted to say how impressed I am with what I am watching. You must be so proud about what is happening in your country. I don't know how involved you have been, but I wish your country great success in building a democracy.

I am convinced that self-efficacy and self-directed learning are essential to democratic principles, and in a small way, electronic portfolios can be part of that process. Understanding oneself, and showcasing achievements are important to building self esteem. I see Egypt as a country that has suddenly discovered its national self-esteem, as shown through the video news reports. It is a good metaphor for what can be achieved by individuals with electronic portfolios!

Digital media was an important part of your national revolution; it can also be part of individual transformation.
I received the following response a few hours later. The English may not be perfect, probably due to imperfect translation software, but the feelings are obvious!
Thank you for your interest about me my dear Egypt
Taste that freedom has a taste very, very, very special in the same as any human being on the face of the earth ..........
I wish Mint always be my free in everything, as America ... Freedom in education .... Freedom in religion ... Freedom in the economy .... Freedom in everything .....
And I hope to be able to exploit the historical moment of spreading the culture of the use of technology in education, individual and through e-portfolio....
Thank you once again for your interest ....... and I ask you the freedom and all of the earth

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

NCCE Presentations

I will be presenting at the Northwest Council for Computers in Education (NCCE) in March 2011:
  • 3-hour Workshop: Create ePortfolios using GoogleApps (March 3, 2011, 8:30-11:30 AM Oregon Convention Center)
    Oregon was the first state to adopt GoogleApps for all K-12 schools. These powerful tools are ready-made for creating and maintaining electronic portfolios by teachers and students. Learn how to create  artifacts using Google Docs and Picasa, a reflective learning portfolio using Blogger, and a showcase/assessment/presentation portfolio with Google Sites.
  • 1-hour Presentation: GoogleApps ePortfolios (March 3, 2011, 2:15-3:15 PM)
    Oregon was the first state to adopt GoogleApps for all K-12 schools. These powerful tools are ready-made for teachers and students to maintain electronic portfolios. Get an overview of creating artifacts using Google Docs and Picasa, a reflective learning portfolio using Blogger, and a showcase/assessment/presentation portfolio with Google Sites.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Using SMS in the e-portfolio process?

I am following an EPortfolio Conversations Google Group, where a question was raised about collecting evidence of informal learning rather than formal education. One response: "Start with SMS [on mobile phones] - its the morse code of the present generation...and it works." Here is my response:

Being a Baby Boomer, and only learning about SMS from my kids and grandkids, I need to learn more about how we can use SMS in ePortfolio development. I am doing a workshop at ISTE in Philadelphia in June entitled, "Hands-on mPortfolio Development with iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)." In all cases, there is a Web 2.0 website where we will post the artifacts and reflections "in real time".

Although smart phone ownership (Android, iOS) is growing, these tools are not widely owned by teenagers. Where does a student store SMS messages online? I know my teenage granddaughter updates her Facebook page with her "feature phone" but that is not an option for most schools. I am looking for the practical applications, because I am getting inquiries from educators in the developing world, where the plain old mobile phone is the tool students have available for Electronic Documentation of Learning? In my opinion, that is the first step in building an ePortfolio: collection of artifacts (in text, images, audio, video) and reflection on experiences/artifacts (in any of those same formats).

Maybe we could learn from what Google is doing in Egypt right now: providing local telephone numbers to call; the service simply delivers a link on Twitter so you can hear the actual voice message! In the U.S., Google Voice messages can be saved as MP3, and imperfectly translated into text. (I heard of one teacher who sits in his car--his quiet recording studio--and records his reflections as a voice message in Google Voice.) What else? I am looking for a blog-like tool that can be updated by a plain mobile phone. What Web 2.0 tools, besides Facebook, are accessible from SMS? After a little research, I found instructions for posting from SMS to Blogger and WordPress, but it looks like this service is only available within the USA. I suppose Posterous would work as well, if the message comes in as an email. You can also use SMS to post to Twitter.