Monday, August 22, 2011

Teacher Action Research on ePortfolio Implementation

Last week, I was the external examiner on a Masters Thesis entitled, ELECTRONIC PORTFOLIOS: TOOLS FOR SUPPORTING THE TEACHER’S NEED FOR ASSESSMENT AND THE STUDENT’S NEED FOR DEEP LEARNING. I was given permission to post his final thesis. "The intent of this study was to examine how qualitative assessment in the form of electronic portfolios could be conducted to engage students in their learning." This action research focused on a small (N=12) group of mostly First Nations students in northern British Columbia, and was conducted by their teacher in his grade 11/12 Comparative Civilizations course over the 2009-2010 school year.

I found this study to be enjoyable to read, although a little repetitive. Chapter 6-Conclusions gives a concise overview of the case study plus his conclusions. This is a good case study of what a dedicated teacher can do on his own with almost no technological support. He literally bought flash drives for each student where they could keep their work stored in the classroom and create their Powerpoint-based presentation portfolios. In response to my questions to this researcher, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the process, and thought that in the future he would have students using a wiki to achieve the same goals. He kept a reflective (albeit, paper-based) journal throughout the process, and quoted from it throughout the thesis. Despite the technical issues, students gained a lot of technology skills, and he identifies these benefits:
...electronic portfolios support formative assessment by encouraging dialogue between the student and teacher that focuses on improving student work and is not emotionally threatening.    Electronic portfolios support deep learning by allowing students to demonstrate their strengths, set personal learning goals, identify areas needing improvement, and use feedback to improve their learning.
As part of his definitions, he further defined deep learning for his work:
Deep learning occurs in two ways. One way is when students learn how to manage their learning.    They develop the metacognitive skills that support self regulation of their learning. Students learn how to plan, monitor, and evaluate the success of strategies they used to complete learning tasks. The second way deep learning occurs is when students are able to take what has been learned and apply it to new situations.
Nicely done! This case study is a good example for teachers to use to conduct similar classroom-based action research on electronic portfolios, especially using more Web 2.0-based tools.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Google+ or Edmodo for online course support?

I am starting to develop the online courses for the REAL ePortfolio Academy for K-12 teachers, and I want to use tools that model strategies that K-12 teachers can use with their own students. While some are using Moodle, few are using Blackboard or many of the course management systems used in higher education. I found an interesting blog post on Selecting Appropriate Technology for Online Learning. The author used Bates and Poole’s SECTIONS model: Students, Ease of use, Costs, Teaching and learning, Interaction and interactivity, Organizational support, Novelty (newness), Speed. These are interesting factors to consider as I develop an environment to support collaboration in these online courses.

Last week, there was a very interesting Edmodocon, with educators from around the world presenting about the use of Edmodo in K-12 classrooms (recording now online). I used the tool several times this summer in workshops, and it has the look and feel of Facebook. I like the ability to set up private groups and sub-groups. From the online conference, I saw how teachers are using this environment for collaboration. The most interesting presentation was on Game-Based Learning and how to set up and award badges in Edmodo. The system keeps track of Students, Teacher Connections, Library Items and produces a Sharing Score. It would be easy to see the level of participation by individuals in a course.

I received my Google+ invitation in the first few days, but there wasn't a lot of activity for me to follow. I recently listened to a whole series of podcasts called, Google+ Today and I've also been following This Week in Google podcasts. I have set up my Circles (Friends, Family, Following, ADE, Ed Tech, ePortfolio Colleagues) and Sparks (android tablet, iOS, educational technology, reflection in learning, digital storytelling, electronic portfolios). I posted a question (about using Google+ as a tool to facilitate communication in an online class), and received some very interesting responses (notice the length and depth of the last response). I haven't tried Hangouts yet, but it looks like a really interesting alternative to Skype and Google Voice, especially with groups of 10. (I could care less about Games right now in Google+; I have enough games on my various devices to keep up my procrastination level!)

What about other social networking tools? A lot of schools block Facebook, and I am finding I prefer using that tool for personal networking with close friends and family. I also don't think Facebook has the tools for online courses (although they are adding Skype for one-to-one voice chats). My other favorite social tool is Twitter, but the 140 character limit, and the public nature of tweets, contributes to short conversations, but not to the rich dialogue that I experienced in my recent Google+ post. I find that Twitter is good for announcements and what Chris Betcher calls, "tiny bursts of learning." Until I started following Sparks in Google+, I was using Twitter instead of RSS feeds, to read what other people are reading and posting.

What are the differences between these tools? Edmodo is called "Safe Social Networking" that can be used in schools. Google+ restricts membership to those over 18. For that reason alone, I should focus my efforts on Edmodo... but I am intrigued by Hangouts: could they be used for collaborative discussions? It seems like a great way to create small, like-minded groups to support each other through the process of implementing ePortfolios. I want to be able to record these Hangouts, though, so I have more research to do.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Resources on Reflection

I recently found the following resources on reflection in the learning process:
There are other great resources on this wiki, worth a few hours of exploration.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

ePortfolio Workshop in a Montessori School

I just led a workshop at the Montessori Hale O Keiki school in Kihei, Maui. My slides for this workshop are below. The website to support the workshop:

The school has a Schools of the Future foundation grant, and will be focusing on the integration of individual ePortfolios in grades 4-8, with class or group portfolios in the primary years. On the first day of the workshop, we started using the Edmodo social networking tool and then we focused on collaborative writing using GoogleDocs; on the second morning, we set up individual teacher Google Sites. The school has purchased iPads and iPod Touch devices to use in the classrooms, so we explored using the cameras and StoryRobe to create short digital stories, which these teachers embedded in their Google Sites. According to feedback (PDF) from one of the participants:
I especially liked the “MyStory” activity with StoryRobe. What a simple tool, but so much fun! As I was walking around the Montessori Hale O Keiki campus snapping my shots, I thought that this activity could really lend itself well to students who struggle with language... I thought of the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”, and it is so true. What a fun way to share a little something about “who I am” with the world. I think that activities like this one can really help a struggling student with self-esteem and pride in their school work.
The participants left the workshop with a brief plan to implement this ePortfolio/storytelling process with their students. I am very interested to follow their progress. This is the first time that I have worked with a Montessori school, but I was told that my presentation very much matched their philosophy of learner-centered education.