Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The "Hook" at Pt. England School

I'm in New Zealand visiting Pt. England School in Auckland, where they are implementing Google Apps and Blogger and where they worked with to develop a brand new Google add-on called Teacher Dashboard, a tool that provides a lot of support for a teacher managing a classroom full of student GoogleDocs accounts (and soon Google Sites and Blogger). On Tuesday night after school, I participated in a meeting of the school's "hackers": a group from the larger Auckland community who have gathered together (over food and beer) almost weekly over the last 18 months to support a systemic approach to implementing technology in the school cluster:

This group began when the principal, Russell Burt, sent out an email: "Hackers wanted!" They have been working through all of the issues of implementation. On Tuesday night, they reworked their Design Principles: I was impressed with their vision for the project, and the "open source" nature of their development. This group of creative people came together to solve a take on a challenge, and the results are stunning!

There are plans to share the school's wifi throughout the entire school community, mostly on light poles (keep in mind, this is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Auckland, where there are few computers and little or no Internet access in homes). Observing the systemic approach as well as the implementation of netbooks for students beginning in Year 5 (9-10 year-olds) is also impressive; their parents will be paying NZ$15 a month for these netbooks which eventually will be going home with the students. The program plans to support these netbooks for only three years... they realize that the technology will be changing a lot, and the devices will need to be replaced!

I am observing classrooms where students are blogging using Blogger on a regular basis (,451), even the Year 1 students (5 years old) have blog entries dictated to teachers in a class blog: (the students were so pleased when we commented on their posts).

If there is one thing I have learned in this school is that if you want the impressive gains that they have made in the poorest schools in Auckland (see their research report linked below), you need visionary leadership, a group of teachers that is willing to take on the challenges, but who are also well-supported with PD and equipment, and a "can-do" attitude. Every teacher has a Macbook and a netbook; in addition to the student netbooks, every classroom has at least five iMacs (of various vintages...I even saw some 10-year-old "jelly bean" iMacs in Year 1 classrooms). As you can see, this school cluster is a great example of what can be done with imagination, some extra funding, and leadership (can't emphasize it enough)! Thanks to fellow ADE Dorothy Burt and everyone at Pt. England School for making us feel so welcome!

Here is a link to their research reports:
Summary: The Project definitely provided a motivation for writing, an improvement in audience awareness and purpose and in presentation skills. Other school interventions also had an impact on literacy achievement; however the Project has provided a purpose and enthusiasm for literacy.
The students of Manaiakalani were provided with a “hook” (e-learning outcomes published in on-line spaces) which gave these decile 1 students a voice to be heard globally. Subsequently, participating in the Manaiakalani Project enhanced their literacy, engagement, oral language and presentation.
With the advent of netbooks in 2011, schools are starting on a new and innovative initiative that, with careful planning and implementation and adequate support and funding, could be the key to 21st century education in New Zealand.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

EdWeek Article on Technology & Testing

Several months ago, I was interviewed by a writer for EdWeek about the role of Technology in Assessment, and the potential for using e-portfolios. Her article was published in the Technology Counts 2011 publication, which can be downloaded as PDF. Here is what she said about e-portfolios:
Examining E-Portfolios
In the meantime, some teachers are using technology tools to create performance-based student assessments, such as e-portfolios.

Helen Barrett, a former professor at the college of education at the University of Alaska Anchorage, has spent the past 20 years researching strategies and technologies for e-portfolios. Such portfolios provide a collection of student work and require students to reflect on their work and progress.

"What we want to do is help learners not only be much more aware of their own skills and competencies as they relate to standards or a rubric, but also to be able to reflect and write on that," Barrett says. "An e-portfolio should be more of a conversation about learning than a one-way presentation about learning."

Having students take ownership of their portfolios is essential to maximizing the potential of the evaluation, says Barrett.

"We need to get students intrinsically motivated about developing the portfolios," she says. "It's not the kind of routine assignment where teachers tell them what to put into it and what to write."

E-portfolios provide students an opportunity to beef up their self-assessment skills and become more familiar with different types of technology, Barrett adds. Students can embed videos and images in their e-portfolios, and they can use blogs or podcasts to reflect on their work.

Mobile devices add another dimension to e-portfolios, allowing students to reflect "at the moment the learning takes place," Barrett says.

Embracing e-portfolios brings a level of authenticity to the assessment that students typically do not experience, says G. Alex Ambrose, an academic adviser at the University of Notre Dame and the founder of EdVibes, an ed-tech consulting firm.

Students can go on to use what they've gathered in e-portfolios to apply to college or use in a job interview, says Ambrose, making the portfolio meaningful beyond the school walls.

Most K-12 schools, however, have not used e-portfolios to evaluate student performance, he says, partly because of "the culture of the school from the administration to the parents. They're just not ready for the technology."
I met Alex last October when I made a presentation at a conference at Notre Dame. I disagree partly with his last statement; in my opinion, it is not just the technology that the school culture is not ready for (many students and their parents use the technologies I mentioned)... it is the portfolio pedagogy as well as the current emphasis on high-stakes testing for student (and teacher!) evaluation. I also have concerns about using e-portfolios for high-stakes evaluation... it would create an Opportunity Cost in the way we implement portfolios for accountability vs. portfolios for learning/improvement that I talked about at the 2009 Assessment Conference. I propose a balanced approach with student ownership of both the process and the product.

I talked to the author of this article again this week, where she is preparing another article just on e-portfolios.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Yola as free online portfolio tool

As part of the online course I am teaching for New England College, I am experimenting with free online web development tools. Yola is another one of the tools supported by Salt Lake City Community College. This is the 39th tool that I have used to re-create my electronic portfolio. The process moved fairly smoothly. The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than two hours, copying the information from my Weebly portfolio where I had the URLs on the page (and the links). All of my other artifacts are web links.

The real advantage of Yola is the many different tools, gadgets and widgets available: Flickr Gallery, Flickr Search, SmugMug Gallery, YouTube Video, File, MP3 Player as well as custom HTML and password-protected pages. A custom domain name can be purchased for $29.95 a year. The Pro (paid) version includes a custom domain name and other design features (for $99/year... a little pricey). I created a Table of Contents on the upper left side of the page (the Navigation, with links to each section on the site, which automatically shows on each page. I am impressed with this tool). I was able to create this hyperlinked set of web pages, with no knowledge of HTML.

This program would work well for a presentation portfolio, and Yola would work well if the goal is a learning portfolio, with interactivity and feedback through the blog. Each blog entry can have comments added (using a 3rd party program) and can have categories in addition to tags (like WordPress), and any page can be hidden in navigation menu.  The whole site can be password-protected. Of the two tools, I like the free version of Yola better. I don't know how the premium versions compare.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Weebly as free online portfolio tool

I will be teaching an online course for New England College on Portfolios in Professional Writing, and I revisited my Online Portfolio Adventure, recreating my portfolio in Weebly. This is one of the tools recommended and supported by Salt Lake Community College. Weebly is the 38th tool that I have used to re-create my electronic portfolio. The process moved fairly smoothly; I lost new pages several times, and there wasn't an obvious "save" button (the tool saves automatically). Weebly allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than two hours, copying the information from my Google Sites portfolio where I had the URLs on the page (and the links). All of my other artifacts are web links. Placing images wherever I wanted on a page was more complex, compared to Google Sites.

The real advantage of Weebly is the many different tools, gadgets and widgets available: Photo Gallery, Slideshow, File, Flash, Google Maps and YouTube Video as well as custom HTML. The Pro (paid) version has an Audio Player, Video upload, embedded documents, and password-protected pages. I created a Table of Contents on the upper left side of the page (the Navigation, with links to each section on the site, which automatically shows on each page), although there were no sub-pages for site organization. I am impressed with this tool. I was able to create this hyperlinked set of web pages, with no knowledge of HTML, although it helped when I had to use Custom HTML to add Embed codes for videos from my YouTube,, and Google Video accounts.

This program would work very well for a presentation portfolio, and would also work well if the goal is a learning portfolio, with interactivity and feedback through the blog. Each blog entry can have comments added with moderation, and any page can be hidden in navigation menu for privacy purposes. Weebly has an Education version, where a teacher can manage a group of student accounts. The Premium account cost ($39.95) plus the cost of a domain name ($33.95/year for two years) makes it much more expensive than GoogleApps.

Through the process of recreating this portfolio, I also updated my Google Sites portfolio, which is really my favorite version to date. I think my 2006 Apple iWeb portfolio is the most attractive, but very difficult to update, so it is frozen in time, with lots of broken links!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

NCCE Workshop and Presentation

Here are my slides for my hands-on workshop this morning (Creating ePortfolios using GoogleApps) and presentation this afternoon (GoogleApps ePortfolios) held in Portland at the Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE). I was disappointed that they scheduled my workshop during the same time as the keynote address by Dr. Yong Zhao, which took place during the latter part of my workshop time. I noticed that about half of the participants left my workshop after the break... I hope it wasn't a reflection on the workshop, but the last half was mostly hands-on time)! If I had not been leading the workshop, I probably would have left as well! I heard the keynote was very good.
Selected tweets with #NCCE2011 hash tag:
  • Creating another Google Site with Dr. Helen Barrett at the NCCE Conference 
  • PORTFOLIO: ePortfolios with GoogleApps,
  • PORTFOLIO: GoogleDocs - Create a Document to describe our own portfolio
  • PORTFOLIO: Level 1 Workspace: Collection of Artifacts in the Cloud
  • PORTFOLIO: 3 steps in setting up an efolio: 1. Storage in GoogleDocs, 2. Reflect in Google Blogger, 3. Presentation GoogleSites
  • 10 Ways Technology Supports 21st Century Learners in Being Self Directed,
  • PORTFOLIOS: GoogleApps for Education is awesome. It's free. Can take up to 6 weeks to get it set up, though
  • PORTFOLIOS: Great Article! Keeping it real. Ideas for Schools, Educators, and Students,
  • PORTFOLIO: Balancing the two faces of ePortfolios, <-- VERY COOL GRAPHIC :)
  • PORTFOLIO is both process and product
  • PORTFOLIOS: students need to reflect in multiple formats, not just print.
  • Helen Barrett shared two stories: 1. Students burned upon graduation 2. Student offered a $50 reward for her lost portfolio Hmmm
  • Power and Portfolios: Best Practices for High School Classrooms, GREAT BOOK!
  • The more structured the portfolio the less ownership students have
  • ePortfolios help the learner find their voice
  • ePortolios should be more about talking not telling. A CONVERSATION OR DIALOG!
  • Helen Barrett at TED Talks:
  • Dr. Barrett... hyperlinking leads students to a deeper understanding 
  • Using The Renzulli Learning System to Support Differentiated Instruction,
  • KNOW THYSELF this was carved at the temple at Delphi
  • PORTFOLIO: Is it a structured assessment portfolio? a learning portfolio? etc. Decisions need to be made FIRST!
  • Ask the question what the purpose of the portfolio. There are many purposes. Ask, 'who owns the portfolio?' Who keeps it?
  • Portfolio 3.0:
  • ePortfolio in 21st Century: Introduction to e-Portfolios from JISC's Lis...
  • ePortfolio Definition:
  • Is this the first Portfolio? Leonardo da Vinci:
  • Portfolio: One Word, Many Meanings - definition depends context
  • Simon Sinek Profile:
  • Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action,
  • Helen Barrett quote: "Reflection is the heart and soul of ePortfolios not the technology"
  • Another good eportfolio resource 
  • Check out this SlideShare presentation : Aaeebl slc feb11
  • Oregon is the first state to adopt GoogleApps for all k-12 schools.
  • Dr. Barrett is THE expert of portfolios - so lucky to have her presenting at #ncce2011
  • Helen Barrett's slideshow:
  • Morning Session: HA73 - Create ePortfolios using Google Apps,
I am impressed with some tweeters who add value to my presentation, adding additional links and information! Thanks!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Keynote at AAEEBL Western Regional Conference

Here are the slides for my presentation on Monday, February 28, at the AAEEBL Western Regional Conference, held at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. I really liked their theme: A Life of Learning: EPortfolios for Education and Beyond. Of course, I captured some of the #11waaeebl tweets (these are less than half of the tweets... a prolific group of tweeters!):
  • #eportfolios How can we use the tools students have in their pockets to capture the moment? - Helen Barrett
  • Barrett capture and storing evidence: mobile phones to capture
  • Barrett Balancing two faces diagram is here:
  • Barrett video on mobile technology
  • Barrett suggests Pink's "Drive" to identify intrinsic motivations for reflective learning in ePortfolios.
  • Barrett advantage of mobile is ability to capture the moment with technology-blog, mobile phone, etc.
  • Barrett create environment that allows people to find their voice, explore their purpose through choice
  • Barrett Pink's studies on intrinsic motivation choice and voice makes difference on dev. his website:
  • Barrett-eportfolios should be less about talking; should be more about conversation rather than presentation
  • Digital Dossier project [video] illustrates centrality to our identity.
  • Barrett "we don't learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience." quote of Dewey
  • #eportfolios -- Helen Barrett says that it is reflection that makes all the difference -- A dialog about learning is key!
  • portfolios are tied closely to the ideas of Kolb's experiential learning model (expanded by other theorists).
  • Barrett referred to JISC model
  • Barrett social networking is a significant part of upcoming generations' lives
  • #eportfolios Listening to Helen Barrett talk about "Is there a portfolio in your pocket?" Great conference!
  • Barrett Social networking: connect (friending), listen (reading), respond, commenting) share (linking)
  • digital dossier video (here it is with comments from @teach42)
  • Digital Dossier -for more go to harvard center that compiles a lot of information
  • RT @idaj: Barrett's reference to 5 reasons your online life has replaced your resume is at
  • Digital Dossier: photos of kids which are uploaded to flickr, FB, email, multimedia messages, with info
  • Barrett noted that there's a high school in Canada ? who are developing their Digital Dossier
  • Barrett says a signficant number of toddlers already have a presence on the internet--wow!
  • Barret's reference to 5 reasons article-the article is at
  • Barrett article from Forbes: 5 reasons why your online presence will replace your resume in 10 years
  • Barrett quotes drucker: success in knowledge economy comes to those who know themselves-"
  • Barrett: in sum, eportfolios as a way for all to get better sense of who they are
  • Slides for Helen Barrett's keynote, "Is the future of ePortfolios in your pocket"?
  • Barrett-summarizing b. Cambridge ePortf: support deep learning, reflection development, integrative, self directive and lifelong
  • 4 pilars-- portfolio as mirror (self-awareness) portfolio as map (self-direction), meta cognition, and self-monitoring.
  • Barrett self-monitoring-responsibility to construct meaning; be reflective and think critically, reflective journals in eport.
  • #11waaeebl Barrett- meta learning-awareness of learning and different approach, deep vs. surface learning; help learners recognize success
  • Barrett-self-management as goal of eportfolio provide a map, e.g. set goals for future learning
  • Barrett self-awareness focuses on understanding prior knowledge; eportfolio can be a mirror
  • portfolios can provide a sense of ownership, but also support reflection for lifelong learning
  • Barrett discussed diagram of lifelong learning with 4 pillars, self awareness, self monitoring, self management, meta learning
  • Barrett because ownership engenders feelings of pride & sense of accomplishment
  • Barrett-purpose for portfolios: overarching purpose is to create a sense of personal ownership over one's accomplishments...
  • Barrett-eportfolio support many diff processes; celebrate learning, personal planning, transition to courses, emplym, assessment
  • Barrett social networking (e.g.FB & Twitter), used to collaborate, facilitate employment, etc.
  • Barrett ePortfolios have been used almost 2 decades now for variety of purposes
  • Barrett: portfolio: concept, philosophy, process, etc. DiVinci was one of the first keepers of a portfolio
  • Barrett said the DaVinci was the first keep of the portfolio historically
  • Barrett- when we use the word portfolio, be sure to use an adjective in front, e.g. learning portfolio
  • Barrett prtfolio has differnet meanings-some as concept, philosophy, process, pedagogy, product, tool
  • Barrett today's theme, among other things, is mobile technology and some social networks
I was impressed with the breakout sessions that I attended during the day. I found out that Salt Lake Community College provided support for students to create their portfolios in one of three different online tools:,,  They created tutorials for students in each of the sites: Weebly, WordPress, Yola. Very impressive! I also heard from University of Washington Bothell Campus who are using Google Sites.

In a panel on Transitions from K-12 to Higher Education:Eportfolios and Admissions, one of the college admissions director mentioned that an electronic portfolio could show that a student could perform the 3 C's: Create, Collaborate, Communicate.

In the panel on Transitions from Higher Education to Work: Eportfolios and Employment, there are employers present who had interesting comments about using eportfolios in job applications and hiring:
  • the differences between academic portfolios and showcase/career portfolios... and differences between disciplines; 
  • the importance of professional/career portfolios; 
  • involve career services in convincing students of the value of building a portfolio; 
  • helping students learn how to present themselves; 
  • helping students make the connection between academics and careers; 
  • smart kids bringing iPads into interviews to showcase specific achievements!
This was a very interactive conference (especially the panels and table discussions on the second day). Westminster College did a great job of putting together this conference.