Thursday, December 23, 2004

Computer years?

If a dog year is equivalent to seven human years, what is the equivalent of computer life? 20 human years for every computer year? 25? I have a laptop that is showing its age. It hasn't worked right since it came back from repair a month ago. It freezes intermittently when I am typing. Apple blames the 3rd party memory that I say worked flawlessly for 18 months before this last trip in for repair. I think it has something to do with the keyboard or mother board. Thus, not much activity on this blog, and I am way behind on e-mail since returning from New Zealand. I guess I can blame the Holidays also. As I wrote earlier about my laptop addiction, it is really hard to be without a usable laptop. I have decided that I will need a backup when I get my new one, maybe during MacWorld. I've also asked Santa for a Bluetooth keyboard that will work with my PDA and my computers.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Home from New Zealand

This was an amazing trip, from my experiences in Melbourne, on which I have already blogged, to my experiences in New Zealand, which were both exhilarating and exhausting. First stop there was Christchurch, for a breakfast seminar and workshop on electronic portfolios and digital storytelling at Ultralab. Then a quick trip to Dunedin (which I found out was the home of Cadburys chocolate in the southern hemisphere!). There, we met with Janice McDrury and Maxine Alterio, the authors of the book on learning through storytelling in higher education. We had a wonderful conversation over dinner. Then, an early flight the next morning to Hamilton, with a change of planes in Wellington. Another lunchtime seminar and then an afternoon hands-on workshop in a computer lab at Wintec. Finally, time to relax, with a home-cooked meal. Saturday we were tourists in Rotorua, a city built on geothermal springs. Add Christmas shopping to the list of activities, and it was a very full day.

Sunday allowed me to repack my many purchases, and prepare for the trip home, while also enjoying a barbeque with the staff of Wintec. Monday morning we drove into Auckland, my fifth major city in New Zealand in five days. After the last of my shopping experiences on the main street in the Central Business District (CBD), I spent the rest of the afternoon with the staff at Unitec followed by a quick trip up One-Tree Hill, the highest spot in Auckland, to take in the magnificent 360 degree view. Then away to the airport for my flight home to LAX and Seattle.

Many thanks to Elizabeth Harnell-Young, Janette Ellis and the rest of the team in Melbourne for a well planned conference. I am very grateful to Stephen Harlow for making the trip to New Zealand happen, and his masterful job as tour guide and host. And finally, thanks to Chris Jager, International Representative to the ISTE Board, for her arranging the meeting in Auckland, as well as the brief tour up the hill for that magnificent view. I am so looking forward to coming back, and spending more time “down under” both in Australia and New Zealand. The people were so warm and engaged with both my ideas on portfolios as well as my work on digital storytelling. “I will be back.”

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

ePortfolio Australia conference

Thoughts after the end of the first ePortfolio Australia conference

I am so impressed with the Australians. They really get it! This conference is smaller than the EuroPortfolio conference, but there is a lot of energy. Many people understood what I meant about assessment for learning (as contrasted with assessment of learning). It was also fun to have people walk up to me and say, "I have your CD and this is what I've done!" I feel more and more like Johnny Appleseed, planting seeds and watching them grow. Also, I made contact with someone who is working with a consultant in the Seattle area and may organize another ePortfolio conference for teachers in Australia in August or September. I hope I can come back when it is springtime here!

I chose to visit the Fraynework digital storytelling center just a few blocks from the conference location which was at the University of Melbourne. I never knew this non-profit organization existed, but they have been doing digital media production for the last nine years, Established by the Sisters of Mercy, this organization has about 20 employees doing web, multimedia and video production for CD, DVD and the WWW. As I watched their "Lore of the Land" CD on Australian Aboriginal people's relationship to their land, I felt like I could have been watching Alaska Native people who have the same worldview.

As the director of the center talked the opening presentation on the second day, she talked about the purpose of portfolios to be both for personal as well as social transformation. While social transformation hasn't been central to my vision, I can see the power of helping tell the stories of those whose voice is rarely heard. I was very impressed with her emphasis on social transformation.

There is so much going on here in Australia that links electronic portfolios and digital storytelling. Access to the Internet is another issue. There is no wireless available to conference participants, although I can go upstairs and get enough connectivity to download my e-mail. I only have full wireless connectivity in my hotel room at A$5 for 15 minutes at a time. I am finding that restriction reduces my communication, but it is not as much of a problem as not having my computer. I can prepare items to e-mail or upload to my website, and wait for the few minutes when I can be fully connected, But it forces me to be organized for those few minutes online! It also makes my replies very short!

Friday, December 03, 2004

"Blog" top word

According to the Scout Report today, "Blog" is the top word of the year.
This week Merriam-Webster Inc, the company responsible for producing that venerable dictionary announced its top 10 "words of the year" list, with the immensely popular "blog" taking the number one place. The company compiles the list each year by taking the most researched words on its various Web sites...

Australia-Day 2

Arrived yesterday morning after traveling for more than 20 hours. After an afternoon nap, I had dinner with the local organizers of the ePortfolio Australia conference. Today, I met with faculty at RMIT who are interested in e-portfolios, primarily in the medical imaging program. There was one student present, who has been publishing his artistic works online, and his contribution was a valuable addition to the discussion. I also had an opportunity to see examples of some student portfolios (created with HTML authoring software), as well as some anonymous student feedback on the portfolio development process. They are taking the approach that the student should develop their own metaphor for their portfolio while including links to the program's required elements. The emphasis on creativity within an HTML format leaves the students freedom to express their personality, although in the survey many students complained about this lack of structure.

Our discussion focused on how to make the portfolio more than another assignment, to engage the learners in a more intrinsically motivating process and to see the relevance of their portfolios in the profession that they are preparing to enter. I further emphasized the "life skills" approach to using multimedia and web-based forms of communication in this century. But I also realized that I was talking to a small group that was at the cutting edge of portfolios at this institution. We have a long way to go to make the portfolio process accepted in the mainstream of formal higher education. But as we discussed, these activities are happening all around us, that if higher education doesn't start using some of these strategies, it will become more irrelevant to young learners in a digital age.

I am so impressed with the interest in digital storytelling here in Australia, with the Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI), Fraynework digital storytelling, and Once Upon a Time digital storytelling all here in Melbourne.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Ocotillo discussion

Posted today to Ocotillo Action Group Discussions Forum -> ePortfolio Virtual Guest Discussions:
I am so sorry that I will be on an airplane for the next 24 hours (to Australia), and I'm not sure what kind of Internet connection I will have when I get there, because I want to be able to participate in this discussion. Like David, I was in Vancouver earlier this month, and I am fascinated by the student perspective on their experiences with electronic portfolios. I agree with David's assessment that the current push toward using e-portfolios in the U.S. has elements of the "bandwagon" effect. In my work with Teacher Education programs across the U.S., the demands of accountability and accreditation have created a commercial environment that is, in my opinion, changing the nature of the portfolio, with less emphasis on intrinsic motivation to support learning and more extrinsic motivation as an accountability tool. At the Montreal ePortfolio Canada meeting, one of the representatives from the Minnesota ePortfolio project used the term, "poisoning the well" where learners are getting the wrong impression about portfolios from their only experience with one of the commercial assessment management systems. My colleague Joanne Carney found in her research that there were multiple dilemmas in electronic portfolio development, and the first was the "multiple purpose dilemma." But I digress...

The discussion so far has focused on how to engage learners in reflective activities that help them integrate their learning across courses and disciplines. I am anxious to hear more about David's research. A portfolio has a potential to support that reflective process, but learners need guidance from many faculty experienced in that type of learning...and who can model their own portfolios and folio thinking with their students. From my experience, few faculty have portfolios (other than tenure and promotion "files") and fewer still have electronic portfolios. I believe that before we can ask students to effectively use portfolios to support this type of learning, we need to get faculty engaged. That is what is so exciting about this conversation! For many of us, we didn't have these experiences in our own schooling; as with the integration of technology into teaching and learning, we have to learn as we go.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Laptop Addiction

One of the reasons that I haven't written a lot in my blog in the last four weeks is my three-week trip with sporadic WWW access, beginning with the EuroPortfolio Conference in France, and then sending my Mac laptop in for repair when I returned last week. I received it back today, and I cannot believe the sense of loss I felt during the week it took to get repaired. I still had access to computers at home and away... even a Windows XP laptop to warm my lap last week, and take on my trip to Vancouver. But it just wasn't the same as my Mac OS X G4 laptop. Then when my computer came back, the memory had been removed (a 3rd party upgrade!) and was sitting in little bags in the box. That was not the problem to be repaired! After I settled my anger down, and the man on the 800 number walked me through putting the memory back into the computer, I was back in business. My computer booted up, and there was the picture of my granchildren (my desktop background image). My anxiety slowly faded, and the laptop was comfortably back in my lap. Is there a 12-step program for laptop addiction?

It is almost frightening to realize how attached I am to this little computer... I spend more time with it than I do members of my family. But I also have to remember how much it connects me to the rest of the world: through iChat that kept me connected by voice to my daughter when she was living in Hungary and Alaska; through e-mail, that is my combination "to-do" list and professional communication tool; with my web publishing program, that helps me share my ideas with the world on my website; with my blogs for reflecting on my work and rarely (as in this post) on my feelings. I was able to function with those tools on other computers, since they had most of the same software or used web-based software, but it wasn't the same: a different keyboard means a lack of fluency when you communicate with your fingers (I've been touch typing for decades). I also find using web-mail to be less productive than using a desktop program where I have maintained e-mail files, many dating back for five years or more. Even though I made backups before I sent the computer off for repair, it just wasn't the same!

I'm planning to replace this laptop in the next few months, probably after I go to MacWorld, maybe even before Christmas. I've had this computer for over 2 and a half years, a record for me and laptops (I always wrote a new one into all my grants)! But I want a faster processor, larger hard drive, Bluetooth and a DVD recorder. I'm trying to decide which size to get: the small 12" screen which is even lighter and more portable, or the 15" screen, which is the one I have now... the size of the screen that works best with my middle-aged eyes. Whichever one I get, I know I will get just as attached as this one.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

UBC e-Portfolio Conference

Yesterday I provided the keynote address at the University of British Columbia's e-Portfolio Conference. The theme of the conference was "reflection is not a mirror, it's a lens." I modified my presentation from France and Montreal by adding new ideas on reflection, especially as it relates to the work of Jennifer Moon, James Zull, McDrury & Alterio (the storytelling researchers from New Zealand) and the foundational thinkers: Dewey, Habermas, Kolb, and Schön. It was exciting to be able to explore these ideas, and to share my own synthesis of the literature on reflection, before I related these concepts to digital storytelling and blogging.
Supporting Reflection in Electronic Portfolios: Blogs, Wikis and Digital Storytelling
This presentation will focus on the role of reflection in electronic portfolios and the tools for scaffolding reflection: blogs, wikis, digital stories and built-in forms. The presentation will cover a brief overview of the literature on reflection and learning (Schon, Dewey, Moon), including some new perspectives on storytelling as reflection on experience to improve learning (McDrury & Alterio), and the role of reflection in brain-based learning (Zull).
It was such a pleasure not to talk about assessment and accountability; it was so refreshing to focus on deep learning supported by reflection. I had a full hour for my presentation, and included more digital stories; it was nice not to feel so rushed, like the half hour that I was allowed in Montreal and France. Following my presentation, there were three panels: three faculty members from UBC sharing their experiences with reflection for transfer learning; three researchers discussing The Learning Landscape (David Tosh, Tracy Penny Light and Helen Chen by video conference); and a wonderful student panel. I understand that video of all of the presentations will be online soon.

This was the first e-portfolio conference that I have attended in the last three years that included the learners' voices. It was very validating to hear these students talk about their e-portfolio experiences. There were many ideas that the students expressed that echoed some of my concerns:
  • the commercial tool they used (iWebfolio) was easy to learn but not very creative...not something they would want to show to an employer
  • they questioned (resented?) receiving marks for their reflections... they much preferred a "pass/no pass" approach to evaluation
  • they needed extrinsic motivation to do the portfolio initially, but were starting to see the value in the process

These are challenges that the field needs to address: how to motivate learners to engage in the types of folio thinking that support deep learning. From those students, it was apparent that many were writing their reflections to meet the requirements of the assignment, to get the highest mark, not to really learn from their experience. Many wrote what they thought the faculty wanted them to write, not what they really felt. Perhaps that is another dilemma to add to Joanne's list: the motivation dilemma. These students mentioned that, in their busy lives with many other courses, they only wrote their reflections because it was required for a mark (an extrinsic motivator). Without that requirement, they would not have engaged in the reflection on their own (no intrinsic motivator), even though they got a lot out of the process when they were done. One student indicated that if an activity is not graded it is not valued. What does that say about the impact of evaluation on learning? I know this is the reality of schooling, and these comments came from adult learners who were very articulate. What does that say about trying to get adolescents to reflect on their learning? I think it calls for strategies that are more engaging for young learners. The process of reflection could become the process of filling in blanks on a web-based form. That just doesn't do it! We can do better than that! I think that is why my message about reflective digital storytelling is so well received.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Reflection on Reflection-1

For the last half of last week, I attended the annual conference of the Association for Personal Historians, a professional organization "whose members are dedicated to helping others preserve their personal histories and life stories." Here are a few thoughts I wrote in my PDA during the final session:
As I sit here listening to stories from others telling personal histories, I am reflecting on the differences between introspection in counseling and therapy (something I have limited experience) or personal development (something I have extensive experience, especially with my Fielding friends), personal history storytelling (something I am exploring now in APH), and reflection in portfolios (an essential part of my specialized expertise). It occurs to me that the process is essentially the same. What differs is the purpose and the audience. The emotional content of both is unmistakeable, although in academia we tend to ignore it. I think we should honor the affective side of learning, which shows up in our reflections. That is what is so powerful about storytelling - it gets to the level of what is most important in our lives.
Traveling on the long plane ride back to Seattle, I read more of Jennifer Moon's book on Reflection. She highlights four major theoretical roots of reflection: Dewey, Habermas, Kolb & Schön. I also provided the keynote address for the ePortfolio Canada meeting in Montreal on Saturday. Some of the comments made me think about the differences between:
  • learning portfolio and portfolio learning
  • assessment portfolio and portfolio assessment
The first term in each pair refers to product (portfolio is the noun), the second term represents more of the process (portfolio is the adjective). These two pairs remind me of a discussion in Kathleen Blake Yancey's book, Situating Portfolios. Some time in the near future, I will focus on the meaning behind that difference in terminology. In the meantime, I am preparing for a presentation on Reflection in Electronic Portfolios for the University of British Columbia next Friday, which will probably inspire much more reflection, and entries into this blog.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Summary of Online Tools Study

(Posted to the E-PAC and YahooGroups listservs)
This is a good opportunity for me to share with the E-PAC my "Online Portfolio Adventure" that I conducted this fall, prior to my trip to the EuroPortfolio Conference in France several weeks ago. When I showed some examples of my experiments, Barbara Cambridge recommended that I share my experience with the E-PAC. If you have followed my blog, this will be old news.

Since early September, I have been reconstructing a new version of my electronic portfolio using, to date, 17 different software, services or online portfolio publishing strategies. I started out be constructing an Excel spreadsheet with my favorite artifacts (all weblinks to documents already online), classified those artifacts into categories of competency, which was a constructivist approach to building my portfolio. Then I proceeded to construct my portfolio based on those classifications. You will find a running record of my experiments online at:

I tried Open Source software, commercial software (including Blackboard's Content System), free website builders, blog software, content management systems and some home-grown tools. I haven't finished exploring all that I want to look at, but you can read my reflections of the process (links to my blog) along with seeing the results using each of the systems (where the account is still active). I also downloaded each version where that option was available, and also stored the downloaded version on my website.

I have not yet drawn any conclusion from this exercise, other than to say that there are definite trade-offs between "ease-of-use" of the commercial data-base driven systems, and the creativity of the other tools that allow the portfolio developer more control over the "look and feel" of their pages. As an experienced computer user and web page developer, I was frustrated with the rigidity and "forms" or "template" approach of the commercial systems as well as the current version of the OSPI. I recognize that this will be important for novice computer users and students who need that type of scaffolding. However, I was looking for the capability of creating alternative pages of my own design in many of these systems, which did not exist. I also wanted to be able to see all of the artifacts that I had uploaded (my digital archive) and was surprised that at least one of the commercial systems did not let me see an inventory/list of my uploaded documents.

I also tried to provide a first look at various characteristics of these systems, including:
- Type of software
- Cost - and How much storage space is provided for the cost
- Who the license agreement is with: the individual who owns the portfolio, or the institution that has adopted/developed the software/service/strategy
- How the portfolios are hosted: centralized server or an institution's or individual's own server space

After going through this exercise (and I am still not done), I have made new friends (and probably made more than a few people mad), but I have learned a lot about what is available in the commercial and open source space. I have also discovered how very different the tools are, and how much the tools impacted the process as well as the final product/outcome. Activity Theory works!

My next task is to look at ePortfolio software built specifically for K-12 students (a much shorter list!). But that will be after I return from the Australia ePortfolio conference in December.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Reflections after EuroPortfolio 2004

Last Friday morning, I gave a keynote address at the second EuroPortfolio conference as well as chairing a session of papers as well as facilitating an open table group on digital storytelling. They kept me very busy! So on Saturday I spent a tiring but wonderful day along the banks of the Seine, walking from Notre Dame to the Eifel Tower. We dragged our computers with us and were able to find a small Internet cafe near The Louvre, where we were able to connect our computers to their Ethernet connection. I never found a wireless connection except at the conference center for two days. But I was able to stay connected the whole time I was in France. My next "nerdy" move will be to see if I can get my cell phone to work on roaming over here. If I start coming over here more often, I might take that step.

I am so pleased that my half hour message made such an impression on folks, especially the speaker who came right after me, Professor Bob Fryer from the National Health Service University, which provides professional development to the largest employer in the UK. I also liked his message as well. What impressed him was the affective nature of what I was saying about the role of storytelling in reflection. Of course, it never hurts to show a 2nd grade autobiography, or a graduate student's letter to a former teacher, or my own story of Choices on The Road Not Taken. We cannot ignore the emotional side of learning, since brain researchers tell us how critical is the affective environment. So I am even more convinced that my new message is right on target: electronic portfolios without digital stories of deep learning --without the learners' authentic voice-- are sterile checklists of skills. As I stated in my presentation:
If your eportfolios are just digital paper (text and images on the screen) you are losing a wonderful opportunity to really tell your story in your own voice. With the capability to add multimedia, audio and video, we can truly create an engaging environment to document the milestones of our lives.
I went on to talk about Story as Legacy. I asked:
What is your story? We all have a story to tell in our portfolios. These digital stories provide opportunities for a richness not possible in print. Some stories will represent the fresh innocence of youth, some will reflect the experiences of a rich life. The audiences might be worldwide, like the BBC Wales, but most likely the audiences will be small and intimate. These digital stories aren't just for professional development, or C.V. --they are our legacy for those who come after us...the stories of our lives we give to our children's grandchildren.
Just a note on technology- I wrote this entire entry on my Clie PDA while either traveling to LaRochelle on the bus or train, or sitting in the Paris airport waiting to board my flight home to the U.S. While I am not able to post to my blog from anywhere (YET!), I can write anywhere. In fact, as I reviewed some of the writings I have stored on my PDA, I realize how much of my best ideas were written using Graffitti!

I was also impressed with Australian Elizabeth Hartnell-Young's presentation on creating portfolios using mobile devices like cell phones, PDAs, etc. And after seeing the demonstration of the e portfolio system being built in Flash at the University of Wolverhampton in the U.K., with input forms sized to fit PDA screens, I am very excited about the possibilities in the next few years.

With the convergence of multiple technologies into mobile devices (i.e., cameras in cell phones and PDAs, voice recorders in high quality digital cameras and PDAs, digital photo storage in MP3 players) we will soon carry in our pockets all the tools we need to record in multimedia the "first draft" of our own personal histories.

And even though the current versions of the mobile technologies resemble the capabilities of the earliest digital cameras and digital audio recorders, I know the quality will only improve. That's what makes this whole field exciting! Even though my current Palm-based device wouldn't hold all of this entry in a single file, it was a minor inconvenience to have to open a second document. I am beginning to appreciate the "division of labor" in the technologies we can use in our e-portfolio and digital storytelling activities.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Future Planning Metaphor

This morning I heard a sermon on the TV in my hotel room near the Paris airport. It was the Hour of Power from the Crystal Cathedral. Robert Schuller's son talked about painting a map of your future in oils not in water colors. I was very impressed with this metaphor: with water colors, you need to be very precise and the results are fixed and permanent...nearly impossible to change; with oils, you can experiment, scrape off what you don't like, or paint over it after it dries.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Digital Divide and NCLB

In this entry, after a trip to Texas I expressed my frustration over the gap that is widening between the experiences of so-called "low achievers" who are forced into a very behaviorist mode of learning, when the high achievers in more affluent districts are engaged in more creative activities. When they called the bill "No Child Left Behind" they couldn't be farther from the reality that is happening now: those children who are being subjected to all of this drill and testing (assessment OF learning, not assessment FOR learning) are being deprived of the type of education that truly lights the fire of learning, rather than filling their "buckets" of knowledge. I am worried that in the name of NCLB, more children will be left behind the creativity gap.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Lycos' Tripod powered by Trellix

While visiting a university last week, and seeing how they had their students choose any free webspace to publish their portfolios, I saw one portfolio published using GeoCities. The ease with which the graduate student published their own portfolios motivated me to find other free systems.

In my search for more free web publishing sites, I stumbled upon Tripod powered by Trellix on a website sponsored by Lycos. After the struggles that I had using GeoCities with my Mac, this site was a breath of fresh air. It uses Trellix Web Express, "a complete, browser-based web site building tool and hosting platform for online communities." As my seventeenth completed portfolio, I was able to create a set of pages, add hyperlinks, and format the document as I wanted. I'm not sure about adding artifacts that aren't in HTML or image format, but the program has a page that allows uploading ten images at a time.

The free version of the system also allows 20 MB of storage, and has quite a few templates that can be used to build the website. I could also pick from a handful of pre-designed pages. It was very easy to customize the page, remove elements that weren't needed and add components at precise places on the page. There was no need for knowledge of HTML.

The website allows users to add a blog and each entry can be assigned a new or existing category. I also figured out how to link to the blog from the first page on the site. I did not figure out how to add the link to the navigation bar. If you can ignore the banner ads at the top of the page, this is not a bad free solution.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Effective Online Facilitators

Effective Online Facilitators is a new blog that I have joined, to work with a group of educators in Ohio who are learning to facilitate online learning, in a course taught by Jayne James. This was the first time that I created an entry using the "Blog This!" button on a Blogspot blog. What fun (but a little slow)!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

NJEDge Conference

I'm in New Jersey at the NJEDge Higher Education networking conference. In the keynote address today, we learned about students with high tech savvy and students with no tech skills sitting side-by-side in our university classrooms. We need to recognize that more and more of our students are entering our universities with web-development skills. So we need to build systems that let those students "do their thing" within a set of requirements or a model, while still providing a template or scaffolding for those students who do not have those skills. But we should develop a system that allows the learner to develop those web-based communication skills. Look at blog software as an example, with minimal formatting tools included. Students can upload their own HTML code or use the tools to construct their pages with the ease of a word processor.

I am starting to draw some conclusions about the systems, software, services and strategies that I have been exploring over the last month or so. I have to recognize the needs of institutions to build systems that don't require a lot of support. But I wonder if we aren't restricting the development of learners' information-age communication skills, by not giving them opportunities to construct free-form websites with adequate scaffolding by the system. Even though I didn't like the speed and anti-Mac nature of GeoCities, there is a model that allows individuality without having to know a lot of HTML. The same could be said for some of the CMS systems that I tried.

The dedicated online eportfolio tools that I surveyed each exhibit trade-offs between the flexibility inherent in an HTML-based tool with the relative ease-of-use but lack of creativity in a system built on a data-base. I will be developing a rubric or scales applied to each system, recognizing the “Trade-offs” and “Balance” inherent in the options available:
  • Creativity
  • Ease of Use
  • Cost/Storage & ROI
  • Features
  • Flexibility/Customization Allowed
  • Integration with Assessment System
  • Transfer & technology skill development

Sunday, October 10, 2004


It has taken me more hours to figure out this system than any of the others I tried. The interface is simple, but the version that I tried was somewhat restrictive. It didn't seem to have any way to just add a simple page. I really liked the list of "My Items" which listed every component of the portfolio, categorized by type of entry. However, there does not seem to be a way to categorize the items any other way, unless attached to another item, as I did with Competencies. The program does allow the portfolio to be exported in HTML format, but cannot be viewed publically without an invitation and password. It doesn't appear to have the assessment database in the background. It is an interesting program, but too structured for my taste. Still, I can see how if might be attractive for some institutions. One thing I did notice, when I exported my portfolio to a Zip file, iWebfolio published the HTML portfolio in frames, a violation of sec. 508 disability standards.

Nuventive has an additional program called TracDat, which is an assessment management system. At least the company has kept the two components separate, as I discuss in my "balanced model." I assume the two components talk to each other, but I have not looked at that system.

Saturday, October 09, 2004


One problem with having a lot of knowledge in this field is that I have been challenging the definitions of "ePortfolio" that I have been reading online. The following definition was published on the ePortfolio Australia website:
An e-portfolio is a web-based information management system that uses electronic media and services. The learner builds and maintains a digital repository of artefacts, which they can use to demonstrate competence and reflect on their learning. Having access to their records, digital repository, feedback and reflection students can achieve a greater understanding of their individual growth, career planning and CV building. Accreditation for prior and/or extra-curricular experiences and control over access makes the e-portfolio a powerful tool.
In the December 2002 issue of Syllabus magazine, Trent Batson gave the following definition:
Since the mid-90s, the term "ePortfolio" or "electronic portfolio" has been used to describe collections of student work at a Web site. Within the field of composition studies, the term "Webfolio" has also been used. In this article, we are using the current, general meaning of the term, which is a dynamic Web site that interfaces with a database of student work artifacts. Webfolios are static Web sites where functionality derives from HTML links. "E-portfolio" therefore now refers to databasedriven, dynamic Web sites, not static, HTML-driven sites.
My grandchildren would disagree. We publish their ePortfolios on CD-ROM and this year on DVD. Until this fall, my ePortfolio was NOT on the WWW. I would rather say that an ePortfolio is stored in an electronic container, whether it is a web-server, optical media (CD or DVD) or even video tape. An ePortfolio does not have to be on the web; a web-based or online portfolio, yes, but an ePortfolio is an electronic version of a portfolio (either electronic or paper) which Batson defined as "simply an organized collection of completed work." I also think that definition is incomplete; I would add that there are some characteristics that differentiate a portfolio for just a collection of work. The Northwest Evaluation Association developed this definition for K-12 education:
A portfolio is a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student's efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas. The collection must include student participation in selecting contents, the criteria for selection; the criteria for judging merit, and evidence of student self-reflection.
One of my concerns is that the public dialogue on electronic portfolios today is from the perspective of higher education, and that the PK-12 community is not involved. Decisions about standards for electronic portfolio systems are being developed by and for higher education, which will have a huge impact on the PK-12 community, but they are not included in the discussion.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

On the Road Again

This week I started traveling again, and will be on the road every week between now and the middle of December. The plans for a side trip to New Zealand have firmed up, so I will get to visit New Zealand before I come back from "down under." The focus of my trip to N.Z. will be storytelling in e-portfolios.

This week I visited another university that was wrestling with the issues of electronic portfolios vs. assessment management systems. I did my current presentation on Balancing “ePortfolio as Test” with “ePortfolio as Story”. They face the same accreditation pressures to use the ePortfolio for accountability, and they are very excited about digital storytelling. They are piloting several commercial programs, and I learned a lot while I was there about the pros and cons of hosting a system in-house vs. buying services, and what to look for in a system's Terms of Service. I am going back and collecting this piece of information from each commercial system that I tried. Reading the fine print on some of these systems is very enlightening. I can see another paper coming! One piece of feedback I got was that I spoke like an evangelist! Obviously my passion about this topic was evident.

I spent some time on the plane reading McDrury & Alterio's book, Learning through Storytelling in Higher Education. It is dense reading, but full of references to the literature on learning, reflection and storytelling. That book and Jennifer Moon's book on Reflection and Zull's book on The Art of Changing the Brain will be the main references that I will use in a presentation that I will be doing at UBC next month on Reflection in ePortfolios.

I decided that I was missing a component in my portfolios, that I will go back and add: my Future Learning Goals, or as it was called in one portfolio plan I saw on this trip, my Personal Mission Statement, based on the FranklinCovey Mission Builder (a very cool website). Adding that component will also give me an opportunity to refresh my memory about how each of these programs work. I am about ready to upload version #16 of my portfolio, and I have four more lined up to try. My goal is to get through all of these systems before I go on my three-week trip to France and the East Coast. But I have trips to New Jersey and Texas in between!

Saturday, October 02, 2004


Online portfolio #15 was developed by FolioTek by Lanit Consulting of Missouri. I have a more detailed discussion in my other blog. If your students have Macs, this is not a very good choice, since the program required IE 5.5 to use the editing tools, not available on Macs. There are some other issues in design, like the use of pop-up windows to preview the portfolio, and requiring a passcode to view the portfolio. Still, for Teacher Ed programs in Missouri, it has been custome-designed to meet state accreditation requirements.

Friday, October 01, 2004


I was able to experiment with the Portfolio component of College LiveText. I wrote a more detailed reflection in my WordPress blog. In summary, it is a pricey commercial system that is paid by the students, $79 per student up front for three years, without a shorter option available. There is not a lot of creativity inherent in the system design. It is essentially a standards-based assessment system that is marketed directly to administrators, and is especially attractive because there is no cost for an institution to adopt. But I sometimes wonder about programs requiring students to pay the full cost of their assessment management system.

Thursday, September 30, 2004


I was able to experiment with the Portfolio component of the Blackboard Content System. I was impressed with the use of WebDAV to upload and manage my files. I wrote a more detailed reflection in my WordPress blog. In summary, it is a very pricey commercial system if only the Portfolio component is used, but has other advantages as a comprehensive content system in a university.

Monday, September 27, 2004

TaskStream and others

I created online portfolio #12 using TaskStream, one of the first commercial systems, which began originally as a lesson/unit plan builder and rubric wizard for teachers. Their portfolio was added in the last few years, in response to the market. I know that the developers have tried to be responsive to the needs of their customers; they recently added a "folio assessment and data reporting system" to meet accreditation and licensure requirements, and are adding a video server in the coming year. I also know that they have used some of my ideas in their development...their matrix of artifacts and standards was code-named the "Helen Barrett matrix" during development. So, I decided it was long overdue for me to get my hands on this system.

I was impressed with the number of templates that were pre-designed for the presentation portfolios. If you don't know anything about HTML AND you have a Windows computer, this would be a very nice tool. However, as a Mac user, I had to use an HTML version of my documents to be able to get HTML code into the pages. And the coded links didn't work once I published the portfolio, so I really didn't need to use HTML at all.

My conclusion about this system is that it provides a very powerful set of tools for teachers and teacher education students. I have not used the other tools (Unit Builder, Lesson Builder, Rubric Wizard or the Communication tools) since I was only replicating my portfolio. I am also impressed that the system allocates 100MB of storage space, enough for all of the digital video that I have used in this portfolio (linked to other server space that I have). The system has a menu to "Manage Online Storage" and a way to inventory all of the documents that were uploaded. I can see why this is a very popular system in Teacher Education programs.

I briefly looked at the websites for the other commercial tools that market to Teacher Education programs (LiveText, Chalk & Wire, FolioTek) and other higher education tools (ePortaro, nuventive). Only one of them offers a trial version online to be able to try out their program (FolioTek, but it wasn't automatic...I am still waiting for a call from a sales rep). Chalk & Wire and LiveText advertise that they offer unlimited storage space for their customers' portfolios. The other websites don't indicate their storage limits.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Folio Live

I am now reviewing the commercial tools, and have just re-created my portfolio in McGraw-Hill's Folio Live, a tool specifically developed for Teacher Education. It took me about three hours to finish all of the entries using this program, because I chose to use the program as it was intended: a collection of artifacts with reflections.

The layout is very plain, with only four templates to select. The lack of flexibility in the layout was frustrating. Still, I can see that this tool would be useful for novices, especially if I used a pre-set template. There was absolutely no need to know HTML (unless you wanted to embed links in the narrative).

I really like the "Manage Artifacts" function, where I can see all of the artifacts that I have uploaded (my archive). I could also record my reflections on each artifact or an optional introduction (a caption), before viewing the artifact. However, there is no built-in way to reflect on a grouping of artifacts (a category). Under a category, there was only a list of links to the artifacts, with no option for meta-reflection, unless I inserted that overall reflection as another artifact.

The one feature that is very useful is Download Portfolio, which is designed to create a Zip file to download the portfolio to my hard drive. However, it did not work with Mozilla on my Mac (the folder was empty) but worked when I downloaded the Zip file with Safari. I had a complete version of my portfolio in HTML format on my hard drive. But on a Saturday afternoon, the program was very slow. I can see why this program is not very popular in Teacher Ed.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

MNSCU ePortfolio

This process is becoming "a-portfolio-a-day" as I try out different systems. Today, I explored the first tool developed for statewide implementation, the eFolioMinnesota hosted by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and developed by Avenet. It took me about three hours to finish all of the entries for my portfolio in this system using my browser, which was mostly a copy/paste job between the source code of my Mozilla portfolio and this system. I had to enter the HTML source from all of the pages, to get links into this system, because the system is not Mac-friendly...the editing tools do not appear in my browser (Mozilla).

I spent a lot of my time turning off the different sections that were pre-set in the template. Many of the items that I deleted were sections in my Vita (education, professional development, professional goals, etc.). The interface takes a little time to learn, a process that is helped by the tour that comes with the system. If you don't know anything about HTML AND you have a Windows computer, this would be a very nice tool. However, as a Mac user, I had to use Mozilla Composer to be able to get HTML code into the pages.

My conclusion about this system is that it meets the goals of its original funders (the Department of Labor) for an expandable resume, accessible to all citizens of the state of Minnesota. The addition of documents to the system was limited (with only 3 MB of space provided), and no way to inventory all of the documents that were uploaded. As an online resume or an employment/marketing portfolio, it is very usable system. However, the system would need additional components to support a reflective, lifelong learning portfolio.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Planning High School Portfolios

I received another inquiry today from a graduate student:
I am a graduate, post-bach student at ... Our program requires that we complete a service learning project, which will benefit out site school. ___ High School has a student who is incredibly interested in developing an electronic portfolio that will showcase her work, in order for her to gain acceptance into a electronic gaming program at the school of her choice. The school is behind her 100% of the way, and has also decided that it would be a good initiative to make it a requirement for seniors, in order to graduate. __HS wishes to write the creation of electronic portfolios into the school's curriculum-that is where my grad cohort comes in. We have offered to help this student successfully complete a portfolio and then go further to write curriculum that will include putting together an electronic portfolio, for each student during their four years of high school. I was wondering if you have any advice...
Here is my response:
Regarding the requirement for all students in a high school to put together an e-portfolio, I would go slowly and carefully address the support requirements. If this student is creating a portfolio to show her technology skills (to get into an electronic gaming program), my guess is that her technology skills surpass the average student in the school. Do not assume that just because she can create her own portfolio (you did not say what tools she would use or how she would publish her portfolio), that the average student would be able to create a similar portfolio. Rather than work with a single student, you need to look at a small cohort. As a grad student, you should know that it is difficult to generalize from a "n" of 1.

I always ask 4 questions when planning for implementing portfolios:
  1. Where are the portfolio requirements introduced to students, including purpose and audience?
  2. Does the curriculum support the accumulation of artifacts in a working portfolio (i.e., not just a lot of quizzes and test scores)?
  3. What kind of support is available to help the student develop their presentation portfolio for graduation?
  4. How will the portfolio be assessed, who is responsible, when in the program will the portfolio be assessed?

I believe that electronic portfolios begin with a digital archive of a learner's work, so you need to figure out the digital storage requirements. I recommend a content management system (CMS) that provides an easy way to inventory the stored artifacts. Then, the CMS can be used to develop a presentation portfolio, without having to learn HTML. Students need to get into the habit of saving their work in a digital format.

If I can be so bold, I don't think a group of college students should develop a new curriculum to implement portfolios in a high school. To be successful, the teachers in that school need to retain ownership of the curriculum and should be able to identify opportunities in the existing curriculum where artifacts can be collected. Portfolio development should be a natural part of the program, not an add-on or a separate curriculum. Where you can help is with identifying the technology support needs and showcasing practices that can be easily integrated into the existing program. If changes need to be made in the curriculum, these should be initiated by the teachers and school leadership.

The literature on change also points out five elements of change:
Vision, Skill Development, Incentives, Resources and an Action Plan. You can help build a Vision by helping to develop models of what is feasible as well as possible. You can help with Skill Development by identifying strategies for training in technology as well as portfolio strategies. The school leadership needs to identify the Incentives, Resources and develop an Action Plan.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Plone ePortfolio & PLP

I took the advice of one comment in this blog, and explored the use of Plone, an open source content management system. I downloaded the Macintosh version to my laptop, but have not tried it there yet. My ISP does not support the Zope server, so I could not load it on my server space. However, I found a free Zope/Plone server in Europe that allows 10 MB of online space for non-commercial use. I uploaded my portfolio documents to this site. Now, I am trying to figure out how to make it visible without a password.

It is a relatively easy system to learn, although it doesn't convert URLs in the text to links (I had to upload HTML code from documents that I had created in Mozilla). I was impressed that it automatically created a web page with links to documents that were stored in folder. I can see real possibilities for using this system for portfolio development.

I also used a customized system, the Personal Learning Plan developed by David Gibson through the Vermont Institutes. The program is designed to be used with a set of standards, rubrics to evaluate the documents, and feedback from an advisor. When I published my portfolio, the system automatically added those extra blank sections at the bottom of each page. The program was relatively easy to use, but I only used a small part of what it was designed to do.

Weekend at Skywalker Ranch

I spent the weekend at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in California, as a new Faculty Associate for the George Lucas Educational Foundation. To say that this place was impressive would be an understatement. From the Inn and the apartments that make up the lodge to the main house where we had dinner and a special movie in the private screening room, it was a magical weekend. We also did some good work, helping GLEF make its wonderful resources more accessible to Teacher Education.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Digital Life

Jeremy has again written a very insightful piece on recording life stories in digital format, preserving the memories of our lives for a very small audience, probably our descendents to read at some future time. I really appreciate how well he expressed some of my own thoughts. As I stated in my GLEFFA entry:
After I retire from the University of Alaska Anchorage, my husband and I want to begin providing training to "baby boomers" and senior citizens on using digital storytelling to preserve their memories and life stories for future generations; our mission statement: "using today’s technology to tell yesterday’s stories to tomorrow’s generations." The current popularity of scrapbooking and genealogy all indicate that there is an interest to preserve these memories. But those who study genealogy know that we can find the dates and facts about a life, but stories that are not preserved are lost forever. Everyone has a story to tell. Digital storytelling is one way to preserve and share our family legacies.

Here is an opportunity for schools, as well, to bring this digital storytelling process to their communities, to match young people who have the technology skills with older people who have the stories to be preserved. Then, we can truly become a community of lifelong learners who share our knowledge and wisdom with each other.
This reminds me of the weblinks in my blog entry on the Jane Pauley show and specifically the Story Corps program. The Smithsonian Institute has set these booths up, and participants must agree to preserve their stories with them. But still, it is a great opportunity to create a CD audio recording. The process is very interesting: two people go into this booth and have a conversation for 50 minutes. They walk away with a CD. Imaging the kinds of 3-minute digital stories you could build from that process!

My daughter had a very precious hour that she tape recorded with her grandfather, who has since passed away. We have the clips digitized, and will eventually build several digital stories. I have collected hours of videos of my granddaughters, and have put together quite a few clips. My goal this winter is to develop a DVD for the family for Christmas presents (don't tell!). We also have a great aunt who just passed away, and I am building a digital story for her family memorial service.

So storytelling, like learning, is lifelong.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

BlogWave Studio

I started to experiment with BlogWave Studio for .Mac accounts. Until I get my serial number, I won't be able to post the entries online. However, I am impressed with the user interface, the built-in image editor that picks up images from my iPhoto Library, and the flexibility in building different types of pages and paragraphs within a document. It also allows categories and tabs to separate postings under each category. The website has short video clips that demonstrate the various functions, a very nice "Atomic-learning" type of training, without sound. I am anxious to get the full working version. The company has a very strict licensing process, requiring the name of my .Mac account (I have two) plus the serial number of the computer where the software will be installed. A lot of security for a $20 program!

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

TypePad ePortfolio

I re-created my electronic portfolio with TypePad, a blog service using a version of the Movable Type (MT) blogging software. I had to adapt to the blog organization schema (reverse chronological) so I entered each of the pages in the reverse order that I wanted them to appear. MT allows categories, but not subcategories, but it will allow posts to have multiple categories assigned. There are several things I liked about this system.
  • Uploading documents, with an automatic link created to download said document, was a breeze. Too bad I can't get a listing of all of the documents that I have uploaded. That would make it a very useful tool for archiving artifacts uploaded in a learning portfolio.
  • The ability to set up multiple folders on the site, so that I could have a portfolio section and a blog section, without interfering with the postings in each folder. I could also set up multiple versions of a portfolio on the same server.
I would like to get the free version of Movable Type set up on my own server space, to be able to play with it further. I just need to deal with its difficult installation process working with my ISP. I can wait until my TypePad trial subscription runs out.

I will continue to recreate my online portfolio for the next few weeks, to prepare for an article that I plan to publish in a journal. I am keeping track of the various versions on my website.

Mozilla Composer and WordPress

It took me a couple more hours each, and I tried out two more tools for publishing my e-portfolio online: Mozilla Composer and WordPress, a blogging program. I chose Mozilla because the software is free, and cross-platform. The program was an improvement over the older Netscape Composer, and had many nice features. I found that when I copied contents of pages with weblinks with the browser, Mozilla Composer maintained the hyperlinks. I had to manually date the pages, and create links to the index page. But generally, it was easier to use than Geocities, and gave me a basic set of hyperlinked pages. I also created a PDF archive of this site with Adobe Acrobat's Open Web Page feature (version 5).

The WordPress portfolio was basically a set of blog entries with links to artifacts posted to the web. I could not upload documents from the authoring mode, but I still have a lot to learn about the program. I like the categories and subcategories for organizing the entries, although I had a few problems with the order. With the categories, this type of program has possibilities for portfolio development. I wonder when this open source software will become multi-user.

Monday, September 13, 2004


I spent way too much time tonight, re-creating my e-portfolio using Yahoo's GeoCities. Here are my reflections on the process of re-creating this electronic portfolio. In reality, this is the third tool I have used to publish my e-portfolio on the Web. The first version of my new e-portfolio was published using a portfolio system developed by the Maricopa Community Colleges. The second version I developed used the Manila system in use by Fairleigh Dickinson University. I decided to use my Yahoo Geocities account to set up a third version.

It took me about five hours to finish all of the entries using the GeoCities PageBuilder, which was mostly a copy/paste job between the most recent version of this portfolio (on the FDU website) and my web browser. The Yahoo PageBuilder was very slow, froze many times, and I had to restart several times. Plus, I had to use a Windows laptop and download Firefox to be able to even begin the task. I think I should have created the files in Dreamweaver or Composer and upload the raw HTML files. It probably would have been faster. But I wanted to learn this system, to see how it works. If there is no other system available, and the user doesn't know HTML, it might be OK, but I realized how much I needed to draw on my understanding of web page development to complete this version.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Transformational Technology?

In an interesting refereed journal article, these authors report on a study conducted after graduate students participated in a blog at a university in Australia. Their conclusions:
In short, blogs have the potential, at least, to be a truly transformational technology in that they provide students with a high level of autonomy while simultaneously providing opportunity for greater interaction with peers. A blogging tool would be a valuable addition, therefore, to any LMS.

Williams, J. B. and Jacobs, J. (2004). Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20(2), 232-247.

Friday, September 10, 2004

FDU ePortfolio System

I decided to complete the ePortfolio that was set up for me by Fairleigh Dickinson University. It took me about two hours to finish all of the entries in the Manilla-based portfolio system, which was mostly a copy/paste job between my first portfolio (on the Maricopa website) and my web browser. Not too bad for 20+ entries. I had to refresh my memory about how to make links to internal pages, something I did not have to learn in the other system.

It is clear to me that most of the work involved in creating an electronic portfolio is in collecting (digitizing the artifacts), selecting the appropriate artifacts, and reflecting why those artifacts were selected and what they mean about my learning and growth over time. The actual time it takes connecting the artifacts and reflection with hyperlinks and publishing an electronic portfolio using any system is a small percentage of the total portfolio development time.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Maricopa ePortfolio system

In my WordPress blog today, I provided feedback to the developer of Maricopa's ePortfolio system. I spent about eight hours yesterday constructing a new e-portfolio for myself, using this tool. Here are the thoughts I had about the system, after "sleeping on it" (rather briefly, if you follow the time stamps!).

Rather than publishing the rather long entry, I just made a link to the entry above. This is the first of many systems that I want to use, to construct an electronic portfolio. Now that I have about 20 artifacts identified, all with URLs, I have the contents of the portfolio (artifacts with reflections, categorized by groups of competencies). My Portfolio-at-a-Glance (PDF) provides the framework that I can use for future examples.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Blogger model for ePortfolios

As I was setting up another blog, using Blogger, and marveling at how easy it is, it occurred to me that the Blogger model might be developed for e-portfolio construction. Blogger is currently a free service from Google, and an individual can either use the Blogspot hosting site to hold the files, with ads added to the top of the page, or change the publishing settings to FTP the entries to my own server, without ads. I can attach files and images, which are stored in my server space. The entries are stored chronologically, but other blogging software allows categories and subcategories. The software handles the organization, but the files are stored in my own server space. Albeit, I pay for my domain name and server space on an annual basis, but I am not using even half of my space allocation.

Why can't there be a similar type of software, similar to Blogger, that allows me to choose a different form of organization? What needs to be added to Blogger? Categories and sub-categories plus a tool to inventory the attachment files, to be able to use them in other entries. Right now, I think they can only be used in the original entry (unless I manually enter the full URL of the file). Word Press allows Categories, but the organization within each one is still chronological, the most recent on top. Perhaps that is not terrible for a portfolio, but I would like more control over the organization.

Of course, I could use a web publishing service, like Yahoo's GeoCities, to create static web pages, but there are limitations with the amount of free storage space. I really like the ease-of-use that I have with Blogger or Word Press, or any of the other blogging tools I have tried. Perhaps I am asking for a hybrid between the Open Source Portfolio and the open source Word Press blogging software.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Educause Review

In the latest issue of the Educause Review, there are four articles that are very interesting:

These are very interesting articles that highlight emerging technologies in higher education. With some adaptation, they also can apply to K-12 education. In fact, the first article on blogging begins by describing the use of blogs in a school in Quebec, that I recently found.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Storytelling on TV

I just finished watching the Jane Pauley show, which focused on personal storytelling. The first part was an emotional story of a woman with ALS who was telling her story for her very young son. I wish they had given more tips on how to tell these stories, rather than just showing the examples. I got a lot more out of the non-profit Story Corps program, which maintains a small soundproof booth in Grand Central Station where two (or three) people record a 40-minute CD for $10. There are many excerpts from those recordings on their website, which also has some great resources for interview questions and recording tools. The third example was the 100-word autobiography project sponsored by the Washington Post. That sounds like a great tool to limit the length of digital stories. Several examples shown on the show looked like classic digital stories told with still images. The show's website mentioned the SOLEIL LIFESTORY NETWORK -- Turning Memories Into Memoirs® and the Center for Digital Storytelling, but not the Association for Personal Historians, which is causing some angst on their listserv. So storytelling goes mainstream!

Blogging tools

I spent a lot of time yesterday setting up different free blogs, to try them out. I have a free LiveJournal account. I set up a 90-day trial TypePad account that I linked to one of my URLs currently not in use. I also sent an e-mail to Will Richardson who runs the Weblogg-Ed blog. It appears that they are using Manila, and I have two administrator accounts where I could experiment. Dan Mitchell set one up for the ADE Bloggers, and a university in New Jersey is letting me play with their system. I also set up a couple of wikis, using SeedWiki and Swiki. I realize now that I need to set up a page where I can keep track of all of the log-in pages, my account name and my password.

What I find confusing as I learn to use these systems is the different strategies for editing. With Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, and TypePad (the hosted version of Movable Type), you edit the blog in a different URL from the URL where you view it. I find myself using tabs in Mozilla to move back and forth between the editing window and the "public face" of the blog. The wikis I use both edit in the same window where they are created, which makes that an easier interface. But as I discussed with Joanne last night, we both find seedwiki's user interface to be more difficult. That is why I want to try swiki. The one advantage that LiveJournal has is the availability of client programs to make entries without using a browser, or being online. I downloaded xjournal for Macintosh OS X. I also see that there is client software for my Palm, that also interfaces with most of the blogs I currently use. I may spend the $10 to see if that can make a difference, especially when I am away from my computer (which is hardly ever!).

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Technology Acceptance Model

I just found a paper online (PDF) that I think can inform the adoption of portfolios. The authors discuss the Technology Acceptance Model, that relates perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use with a person's attitude toward using, behavioral intention to use, and actual use of a system. There are other factors, as well, including self-efficacy and cognitive absorption, as discussed in this excerpt:
Agarwal and Karahanna (2000) further developed the concept of self-efficacy to analyze the relationship between self-efficacy and perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. Adding the cognitive absorption construct, they further modified the TAM model from Agarwal’s original study (1998). The three aspects of cognitive absorption research are the personality trait dimension of absorption, the state of flow, and the notion of cognitive engagement. The study was done using the World Wide Web and university students. PLS was used to establish the nomological validity of cognitive absorption. The hypotheses that cognitive absorption is a significant predictor of perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use were supported by the results. They also found that playfulness and personal innovativeness have strong significant effects on cognitive absorption. (p.4)
I thought the point of playfulness, absorption, state of flow and cognitive engagement were key constructs that could also apply to the development of e-Portfolios.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Professional Development Guide

I am starting to build a guide for professional development to implement electronic portfolios in a college, school or district. I am almost embarrased that I did not address this issue before now, with my background in Staff Development and my graduate studies in Human Development.

I am addressing several components of professional development: Adoption of Innovations (C-BAM and Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations); Competencies (Portfolio and Technology Skills); Resources for Professional Development.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Portfolio Competencies

What are the competencies necessary for effective development of portfolios (either paper or electronic) that support lifelong learning? Competencies are described as knowledge, skills and abilities, attitutdes or dispositions. Can we build a competency model that describes these competencies, so that we can build professional development to help learners effectively use portfolios to support lifelong learning?

I have posted a wiki page to add to my preliminary list. A wiki is different from a blog, since anyone who opens a wiki page can edit it. I am going to announce the page on the eportfolios listserv and invite people to contribute their ideas.

Olympics Reflections

I'm sitting here watching the Women's Marathon and remembering other recent Olympic events I'm struck with the similarities with the issues of e-portfolios and accountability. As I talked with a colleague about the issues at her school, I realized that we were talking about the e-portfolio development process as both a balance beam and a marathon. The balance beam represents the narrow path we traverse, between the needs of the institution for an accountability system to document students' assessment OF learning, and the needs of the learner for a way to tell the story of their own learning, and to use feedback on their work for their own development. It is also a marathon, where the learners need to pace themselves, conserving themselves for the long run, so that they don't burn out before they meet their goals. This metaphor was very vivid today, with the British woman, who kept up with the leaders for the first 20 miles, but then broke down and did not finish, whereas the American woman ran her own race, turning on the speed at the end of the race, coming from behind to win the Bronze medal. It looks like I have another metaphor to add to my website.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Assessment Symposium

If school districts are looking for good professional development to design programs of assessment for learning, I highly recommend the symposium sponsored by Dr. Anne Davies of Connect2Learning in Courtenay, British Columbia. I was invited to be a resource person at this symposium last July (and discussed it previously in this blog). I just found out that next summer the dates will be Friday, July 22 - Wednesday, July 27, at the Kingfisher Resort, a little piece of heaven on Vancouver Island. From last summer, I thought those who attended as part of a team got more out of the symposium than those who came by themselves, although it was a great experience for everyone.

I spent a lot of time reading and reflecting after my week on what Doug Snow called "Assessment Island" and I realize how much I gained from that experience. I had discovered the work of the Assessment Reform Group in the U.K. in my own web search in preparation for ISTE's last Assessment and Technology Forum in June, where I started emphasizing the assessment "OF and FOR" learning distinction. I realize now that I only understood the concept on a surface level. The days that I spent at the Symposium helped me to start internalizing that concept.

Research questions

Today I received another e-mail message from another graduate student looking for some research questions related to electronic portfolios:
A couple of years ago I heard your presentation at the University of Illinois in Champaign and the value of electronic portfolios still intrigues me. I am now a doctoral student wrestling with the best way to define my topic,conduct the literature review and identify the need for the study.

My thoughts still need direction and focus, but I am hoping your expertise will provide guidance. My Question: In what ways can electronic portfolios provide credible evidence of student achievement for accountability?

This question comes from my concern regarding the over reliance on testing to assess student performance and progress. I am also concerned that students are getting the wrong message, that tests are more valued than their ability to perform/demonstrate their competencies. I am also concerned that the business community will be disappointed when students show high achievement on tests but are still not the workers they desire.

Any guidance you are able to offer is greatly appreciated.
My response:
I agree with some of your statements (about high stakes testing) but I am concerned about using portfolios for high stakes accountability. I am going to give you some reading assignments:
  • This blog (be sure to go back and read from the beginning last May, and read all the direct links to my articles, websites, etc.)
  • All of the articles linked from my page on assessment FOR learning:
  • You will also find a list of research questions on my website,
  • Also read the book on student assessment from the National Academy of Sciences: Knowing What Students Know. You can find it on the web
I believe that using portfolios to meet the demands of the high stakes accountability movement will kill the strategy for learners. The whole issue of purpose for assessment is discussed in some of the entries above, as well as motivation for maintaining the portfolios as a lifelong learning tool.

I think the point is that we need multiple measures, with as much recognition given to classroom-based assessment (i.e., portfolios and other measures) as given to those "snapshot" standardized tests. But teachers need a lot more professional development in appropriate uses of these classroom-based assessment measures. Portfolios are wonderful tools for documenting growth over time for the learner and local stakeholders. One of my articles discusses the difference between an online assessment management system and an electronic portfolio. Another identifies the differences between portfolios used as assessment OF learning and those that support assessment FOR learning.

Thursday, August 19, 2004


I know it's been out there for a year, but I just found Alan Levine's tutorial on blogging, called BlogShop 2.0. Very impressive, Alan. Why didn't I find it when I was starting my journey into blogging last spring? He has a posting about "Blog-folios" and a link to an e-portfolio created with Movable Type.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Reconciling divergent needs

I received an e-mail today from Steve Lang, whose background is educational assessment and psychometrics, discussing the challenge of balancing summative and formative evaluation, as well as the implementation process.

My response to him included a discussion of the ideas represented in this image and other issues, too lengthy to include in this blog entry.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Australia and New Zealand

I just received the invitation to participate in e-portfolio conferences in Melbourne (December 6-7) and in New Zealand (dates to be determined, but before December 15). I am really excited! I have not been to Australia (or below the Equator, for that matter). The folks at Eifel who are sponsoring the ePortfolio 2004 conference in France are putting together the tour.

Sunday, August 15, 2004


Interesting that the GLEF Faculty Associates group is using Blogger as a forum for getting acquainted. I added my vision to the discussion. Interesting that they are using the same blog engine that I am using, although they are using the blogspot hosting site. It will be interesting to see how other members of the group respond to the blog process. I also learned something new with the GLEF blog...I didn't realize that there could be multiple people posting to a single blog using Blogger, like we did with Manila at Camp Apple.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Multimedia Blogs and e-portfolios

Reading our ADE blog site, I see that there is some discussion in the blogsphere about adding multimedia content into blogs and the potential for digital portfolios. Fellow ADE blogger Dan Mitchell wrote, "What it takes is someone to create the tools that permit bloggers to create, edit, and link other media types with the same facility that current blogging tools provide for text-based blogging. All the better if it can be done entirely within the browser.
And what better company to take the lead than the company that already has all the best tools for creating these media? Yes, you know who I'm talking about.

My response:
I think what we need for this to happen is an environment to maintain a collection of documents (a digital archive), in any web-accessible format, and to be able to access that archive and construct any type of multimedia presentation linking to any number of those documents. Right now, I can upload documents into my blog, but there is no easy way to meta-tag those documents as they are stored, nor is there a way that they could be retrieved easily.

I think we need an authoring environment with an interface like most of the iLife suite, that allows quick access to any type of multimedia artifact. The problem with the iLife software is that these are silos that are beginning to talk to each other (like being able to see the iPhoto and iTunes libraries in iMovie). But I can't combine media types in a single archive and I do not always want to create a digital video file. Sometimes I want to produce a presentation, sometimes a web page, sometimes a mind map. And my .Mac account isn't the answer.

Book proposal revised

A good productive day or more with my co-author on our book proposal. We have a pretty good outline. Now we need to find the right publisher. Just a short summary of our book:
This book is a guide for all those who seek to make wise decisions about electronic portfolios. We seek to help teachers, administrators, policymakers, software designers— recognize their assumptions about the nature of portfolios, consider the implications of their portfolio decisions, and confront the dilemmas associated with their choices about portfolio purpose, audience, technology, and the use of the device for high-stakes assessment. This book will look at how these new technologies and accountability mandates have impacted the portfolio development process.

Electronic portfolios are now riding a wave of popularity, bringing both exciting and disturbing changes to the process. These emerging technologies show signs of changing the very nature of the portfolio concept. The commercial marketplace has produced technological products that are being sold to administrators based on institutions’ short-term accountability mandates, often without regard to the potential to support the lifelong learning needs of students. Will learners experience the power of the portfolio process as a learning tool, or will the institutional adoption of electronic portfolios to meet high stakes accountability mandates supplant the needs of learners? Will we lose the power of the portfolio as a story of learning to the use of the portfolio as a way to check off a long list of standards? Or will the power of the technology help learners tell the story of their learning in ways not possible on paper?

Friday, August 06, 2004

Planning documents

Last spring, I provided feedback to Kathryn Chang Barker on a document to provide a Consumer Guide to ePortfolio Tools and Services. This document is aimed more at organizations who are seeking server-based systems and/or services, not at individuals who want to build electronic portfolios using common desktop software. But it is a good companion to my April 2000 article in Learning & Leading with Technology called, "Create Your Own Electronic Portfolio: Using Off-the-Shelf Software to Showcase Your Own or Student Work." I also developed a Word document to help individuals answer specific questions at various stages in the electronic portfolio development process.

iPods for ePortfolio storage

After Camp Apple, and the Duke University announcement about iPods for every freshman this fall, I realized that an iPod could be used to maintain a digital archive of student work and their electronic portfolio with lots of multimedia artifacts. Storage problems solved!

Of course, this should not be the only place a student's work is stored, but it is a very portable medium for organizing work, and will enable more efficient storage of large multimedia projects, especially during construction, when video is not compressed. Access to data on a firewire or USB 2.0 hard drive is much faster than on a network, CD-ROM or DVD.

I bought the Griffin iTalk microphone to go with my new iPod. The quality of the audio recording is marginal, better with my Radio Shack computer microphone that I can plug into the iTalk. At 8 Mhz, probably not the quality needed for digital storytelling. But with this add-on, learners could record self-reflections on their work; teachers could provide audio feedback to their students. I just bought the device last week, and haven't had a lot of time to play with it. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

iChat with Class

I did an online iChat with a class in Fresno last night. Most of the questions asked were very insightful (with a summary of my response):
  • What is the advantage of all the work required to do a portfolio electronically? (there isn't if you are only doing text-based portfolios... for me the real advantage is two-fold: adding multimedia elements, especially video; and communication, better able to share the portfolios with a wider, but intentional, private audience)
  • What do parents think about electronic portfolios? (I've never really asked them...even though I have done several presentations on family involvement in e-portfolio development. I only have experience from my own family, but I imagine the parents at Mt. Edgecumb, a boarding school in Alaska, appreciate seeing their children's work; but the motivation behind the question had to do with confidentiality of information, which is another reason that I am not a fan of web-based portfolios for children)
  • Can I do this with very little technology access, like a single mobile computer cart in a high school? (frankly, no... unless you can leverage the technology that is in homes, which was not likely in low-income communities)
We also used Tapped In to send web pages (type "/project URL" in chat window) to each participant logged in to the chat room. It worked on previous ocassions, but last night, I found it to be too distracting (based on the chatter in the chat session), and I think in the future, I will create a single web page with all of the links I want them to visit in a short time frame.

Learner Engagement

I try to keep my personal life out of my blog, but I will make an exception this week, since I am working with my grandchildren on their e-portfolios covering the last school year (3rd grade and Kindergarten, respectively). My older granddaughter (age 9) wanted to learn how to scan, so we are having a great time together, digitizing her work, using digital camera and scanner. This week they are both coming over to my place, when we will figure out how we are going to organize their portfolios, but the older one will be much more engaged than in years past. She remembers some of the things we did last year, including typing reflections into iPhoto on each artifact instead of writing them out on sticky notes, and doing "cool" titles in iMovie. So, more good times together to come! We are going to try new tools for organization, like Kidspiration. More new things to learn! It also tells me that the power is in the process and the relationships that are enhanced! They could not do this alone, and I would not put in this much work for just anybody's child!

I appreciate the new resource I found online in the ERADC forum on Engagement Theory. I also need to find my book on Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, since I think that has a lot to do with learner engagement as well.

Just found two new articles on portfolio assessment in teacher education, published by Education Policy Analysis Archives at ASU:

Monday, August 02, 2004

Home for a while

I've been traveling more than I've been home this summer. I have no trips on my calendar for August, but that may change soon. I'm going to work with Joanne on our book project, I'll probably go to Eugene to work on the extension of my PT3 grant, and I may go to LA. But otherwise, it will be a slow month! Even though I was on vacation for three weeks in Europe, it was a "bus driver's" holiday... we never stayed more than three days in one place at any time. Then, practically as soon as I came home, I was on Vancouver Island for the Connect2Learning Assessment Conference, then to Cupertino for the Apple Distinguished Educator "Camp Apple."

I was home for less than two days, and then off to Columbus, Ohio, for the Council of Independent Colleges Teaching and Learning Mentors Institute, where I led a conference strand on electronic portfolios for the first afternoon (an overview of electronic portfolios in higher education), a full day hands-on in a lab (ePortfolios with Office, Digital Storytelling with MovieMaker2), and the last morning (Balancing ePortfolio as test with ePortfolio as story). It was gratifying to hear people tell me how much better they understood what ePortfolios were (and were not). It was an exhausting three days, including the trip home on Friday afternoon so that I could be back to enjoy the weekend at our cabin in the woods.

I am hoping that Joanne and I can get re-energized on our book writing. AERA preparation took a lot of our time this spring. I did not submit a proposal to this year's AERA on purpose. It will be in Montreal, and I probably won't have travel money under my grant. I am also being very cautious about which conferences I send proposals. I am considering an education conference in Hawaii in early January, right after New Years, because it would be a good excuse to go to Hawaii. Haven't been there in years.

I received a call from the person helping to organize the ePortfolio conference in France. My keynote is on the second morning, not the first (I guess that is OK) and I get to name my topic. I suggested "ePortfolios: Your Digital Story of Learning." Then I can incorporate a lot of my focus on digital storytelling. But it looks like they don't have anyone interested in doing a breakout session on digital imagination! I also suggested that they organize a showcase session where individuals could show examples of their e-portfolios, much like we do in the ISTE Assessment & Technology Forum Gallery Walk.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Home from Camp Apple

It was an inspiring four days. I learned so much about blogs, and using Userland's Manila. It was also an opportunity to spend four days with a group of people with the same values, at least when it comes to learning and technology. It is apparent to me that the tools are very close to being ready. I downloaded and installed the update to iBlog, but haven't tried to use it yet.

When I had an opportunity to share my professional achievements, I said, "showing learners how to use technology to tell the story of their learning, whether through e-portfolios, digital stories, or blogs." My highlighted personal achievement was working with my grandchildren to help them develop their e-portfolios.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Camp Apple Project

Today, we chose the teams we would work with on a group project. There were many that interested me, including electronic portfolios and several different digital storytelling projects. But I decided to join the small team working on Blogging! I am learning so much about using Userland's Manila for maintaining a group blog. It had many elements of a wiki (it was set up so that we could edit each other's posts). I also spent some time finding links on blogging in education. I can see many possibilities for using a tool like this for a learning portfolio.

I had downloaded iBlog last week, so I installed it today. Then I read about another tool that is an update to iBlog, not free ($20). It's called Blogwave Studio for .Mac. Both tools are integrated with some of the iLife tools, which is a good start. More experimenting ahead! I'm not sure I want to change tools so early in the process. I am pleased that we have a blog set up on the ADE Community. Maybe we can interest more ADEs in sharing their thoughts and activities using this tool. The time is late!

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Apple Camp

I'm in the first full day of Apple Camp with Apple Distinguished Educators, after a day of travel. Up early this morning to provide a 90 minute iChat teleconference with the Florida Deans and Directors....all before breakfast! Being with fellow Mac users who are devoted to lifelong learning is always a high! I'm hoping to make connections with others here who share my interests on creating new tools to support our content management needs for e-portfolios. The vision I saw this morning was very encouraging (but I probably shouldn't say any more in a public environment being under non-disclosure). The conversation with Linda Roberts is exciting.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Day 3 Assessment Workshop

After spending more time on Sunday working on my latest paper, and adding more ideas on Assessment FOR Learning, I have shared my new chart with others. I am trying to compare portfolios used as assessment OF learning with portfolios that support assessment FOR learning. Today I am sharing examples of e-portfolios and digital stories with participants in the workshop. The feedback I am getting is very positive. Teachers see the advantages of digital storytelling and portfolios used as assessment FOR learning. I'm not sure this distinction is used in higher education.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Day 2 Assessment Workshop

After the second day, the fog is beginning to clear. I won a copy of Anne's book on classroom-based assessment, which I plan to read this weekend. I also received an e-mail from a colleague about a new article posted to the ERADC website about blogging in e-portfolios. Since the authors quoted my article on "Electronic Portfolios as Digital Stories of Deep Learning" I decided that I had better finish it. So, I took a few minutes and polished it a bit. It still needs some more work, but from the readings at this meeting, I now had the link to Rick Stiggens article that explains the assessment crisis and the difference between assessment OF learning and assessment FOR learning. I can now work on adding that piece to my presentation to the Florida deans and directors next week.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Assessment FOR Learning Workshop

I am participating in a very interesting workshop on Assessment FOR Learning led by Dr. Ann Davies from British Columbia. The process is very engaging and the ideas that are being discussed are enlightening. I was so pleased when the first resource person, Dr. John Gardner from Ireland, presented the Assessment for Learning model from the UK, the one I found online as I was preparing for the Assessment and Technology Forum in June. It is almost as if there is serendipity in the air. We even received their CD-ROM and a printed copy of the "sunrise" chart on Assessment for Learning.

I had an opportunity to make a short presentation on international perspectives on electronic portfolios. But mostly I talked about my concerns about the direction that e-portfolios are taking related to high stakes accountability and I presented my "balanced" model. It was delightful to get to know Doug again, after years ago and his work on the Scholastic Electronic Portfolio. I am so pleased that he has the same concerns that I have. I am looking forward to the next four days.