Wednesday, June 23, 2004

I'm off to Europe

I'm looking forward to a trip to Europe: Sweden and Hungary/Austria/Switzerland. I will try to study the European use of cell phones. They seem to be a lot farther ahead of us.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

NECC 2004

I am writing this entry as I leave my 15th National Educational Computing Conference (my first was in 1989 in Boston, when ISTE was re-formed out of ICCE). I was still living in Fairbanks, working for the Fairbanks School District as Staff Development Coordinator, and had never heard of electronic portfolios. A lot has changed in my life since then. And a lot has changed in educational computing since then. The Internet and the convergence of technology is making a huge impact on how we learn using technology.

In 1989, I was blown away by laserdisc technology and interactive multimedia with HyperCard. I ordered a copy of the Visual Almanac that was developed by Apple's Cognitive Research group (or whatever it was called... headed by Kristina Hooper Woolsey). What was the big thing at NECC 2004? You're looking at it! Blogs, wikis and moodles. These were words I didn't even know until the last six months. What is interesting about the changes is that the Internet has profoundly changed the process of interactive multimedia, but it is still hypertext with digital video. It is just totally different when implemented on the WWW... and much more accessible, although the quality of the video is not nearly as good. But who knows how that will change as bandwidth increases.

I was impressed by the number of sessions that mentioned blogs. I even had a couple of teachers of the airport shuttle ask me what a blog was! And I was able to explain it! I don't think they saw the application to schools, but it was interesting that they asked.

I had some interesting ideas about emerging technologies for e-portfolios. Besides the use of blogs as reflective learning portfolios (like this one), I am interested in how we can use cell phone or PDA cameras to help capture still images of experiences. Is there a way to upload those images into a Mo-Blog? Is there a way to use a cell phone to record voice reflections that can be transmitted to the same Mo-Blog (or do I understand what that is?)? Another tool that we can use to record voice reflections is the iPod with the new microphones that can be added (but not to mine...I have the first one they ever made...5 MB! hint! hint!)

I saw the Blackboard e-portfolio. I am anxious to get my hands on it, since I know they are working with the IMS standards to make it interoperable. They have the right idea. It is a content management system, where learners can accumulate an archive of their work in a very natural interface (files and folders with meta-tags), much as I have already recommended. Then the learner can make any number of portfolios from the information in this archive, depending on their purpose and audience. I didn't see the assessment piece, but now that does not bother me at this point. I want to keep the assessment management issues separate from the reflective portfolio.

I am a little disturbed about the direction of e-portfolios that I saw (again) at this conference. The data-base approach is taking over, and the individuality of learners is taking a back seat. The e-portfolios I have seen are teacher/institution-centered, even though the philosophy of student ownership was espoused. This is an issue I want to explore further, from the conceptual framework of Activity Theory and Constructivism.

On the plane, I am reading The Art of Changing the Brain by James E. Zull (Stylus, 2002). It is taking me back to my dissertation days, when I was using the Kolb Learning Style Inventory and reading about his Experiential Learning Model. Zull quotes Kolb saying that "deep learning, learning for real comprehension, comes through a sequence of experience, reflection, abstraction, and active testing." (p.13)

Saturday, June 19, 2004

ISTE Assessment & Technology Forum

Today was ISTE's 3rd Assessment & Technology Forum that I coordinated as part of the PT3 Catalyst Grant that I wrote on behalf of ISTE. It was the best one that we did with the smallest attendance. Oh, well. I think we have established a good planning team, and we have an opportunity to continue working together. But I am going to propose that the format change. We started two years ago in San Antonio, with the first Forum, where we focused strictly on a Gallery Walk of electronic portfolios. Because we advertised the session as Assessment and Technology (and not just electronic portfolios) we received some valid criticism (like "there are other approaches to using technology for assessment than e-portfolios.") So last year in Seattle, we focused on a broader range of assessments, and continued that approach today. But we also lost an opportunity to delve more deeply into electronic portfolios.

I am going to pull together the agendas for the last two international electronic portfolio meetings where I have presented in the last year. I think it is time for the U.S. to sponsor a meeting that focuses on e-portfolios in the U.S., especially in K-12 and Teacher Education (ISTE's base). Educause and the NLII have held several meetings over the last three years, and have additional meetings planned at higher ed conferences over the next six months. There is no organized meeting on e-portfolios in K-12 education. I think it is time for some leadership in this area. I am wondering if there is interest in such a gathering over one or two days prior to the next NECC in Philadelphia.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Digital Storytelling Festival

I am attending the Digital Storytelling Festival in Sedona. Yesterday was the first day, with a lot of "sit and get", although there was a lot of good information. Last night, they showed most of the digital stories created in the Digital Storytelling Bootcamp during the first three days of this week. This is the same workshop that Dan and I attended a year and a half ago in Berkeley, and where we interned last February. Dan and I were amazed last night at the number of family stories. Out of 22 stories, at least 15 used family pictures to recall memories about a grandmother, a father, grandfather a favorite dog... I overheard that the Apple rep. was amazed at the number of family stories. This experience just confirms our assumption that there is a lot of interest in this area.

This morning, the first presentation was on experiential learning, quoting the literature of Kolb, Friere, Lewin, Dewey, Piaget. It reminds me of the book that I have at home, but haven't read, on The Art of Changing the Brain, that ties brain biology with Kolb's experiential learning model. I find it interesting that this field of digital storytelling has a lot variability of definition, just as I find with electronic portfolios. What I would call a nice digital video editing project (but not a lot of story, i.e., voice) these presenters are calling digital stories. This is the same variability I see in models of electronic portfolios. Another term that has been conveniently adopted to describe a wide variety of implementation.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Wiki started

Today, I started a wiki to explore the role of intrinsically motivating technologies in the development of electronic portfolios. These technologies include digital storytelling, blogs and wikis:

This is all part of my personal experimentation with various online technologies to develop components of electronic portfolios, including this blog. These strategies follow emerging research on using computer gaming software to make instructional programs more motivating. Perhaps some of these emerging tools might make a difference motivating learners to maintain their own e-portfolios.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Conference Proposals

I just mailed off a proposal to the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education's 2005 conference, which will probably be the last time I attend that conference, since I am retiring from the University of Alaska Anchorage some time in 2005. However, I felt it was important to at least make one last attempt to advocate for a balance between electronic portfolios and assessment management systems. The title of that presentation is: Competing Paradigms in Electronic Portfolios: Balancing “Portfolio-as-Test” with “Portfolio-as-Story” and the 30-word abstract is:
What differentiates electronic portfolios and online assessment management systems? Balance institutional need for assessment and accreditation data with teacher candidates’ need for storytelling: using reflection on experience to improve learning. AACTE2005proposal.pdf

While I was on a roll, I also submitted a proposal to the International Reading Association conference (where I have already been asked to lead a pre-conference technology institute on digital storytelling). I decided to submit a proposal entitled, "Digital Storytelling in Electronic Portfolios: Using Reflection on Experience to Improve Learning for K-12 students and Teacher Professional Development." The 25 word abstract is:
Digital stories are short video clips, with the learner’s voice, illustrated with still images. This highly-motivating strategy uses multimedia technology to engage learners in reflection. IRA2005Proposal.pdf

I just checked the program for the ePortfolio 2004 Conference in France in October 2004, and I see that Serge and Maureen have me doing part of the opening keynote entitled, "Transforming Schools and Teacher Education" plus a breakout session on the second day entitled, "e-Portfolios and Digital Storytelling." I am jazzed!

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Digital Storytelling Association

I just joined the Digital Storytelling Association. I was asked to describe my work and interest in Digital Storytelling. Here is what I wrote:
I have been researching and training on the development of electronic portfolios in education. We need to find strategies for portfolio development and reflection that are engaging for students. Too often, the portfolio and reflection become just another assignment that the students are not invested in. We need to find strategies that motivate learners intrinsically. Digital storytelling is one of them.

I believe there is a natural affinity between electronic portfolio development and digital storytelling. I am in the process of adding an article to my website entitled, "Electronic Portfolios as Digital Stories of Deep Learning" that focuses on emerging digital tools to support reflection in learner-centered portfolios

I am also interested in the literature on storytelling and reflection as a tool to support lifelong professional development (Schön, 1988). My most recent workshops on electronic portfolios have included a component on digital storytelling. The response has been very exciting. I’ve also piloted a two-day workshop on digital storytelling using iMovie, and the results have far exceeded my expectations.

After I retire, I want to begin providing training to "baby boomers" and senior citizens on using digital storytelling to preserve their stories for future 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. Digital storytelling is one way to share our legacy.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Selecting ePortfolio Software

Today I received another request for recommendations for e-portfolio software in a K-12 school. I probably get one request a week, and my answer is always, "It depends!" In the last month, I have received messages from several commercial companies who have software or e-portfolio services for sale. A major need in this field is for a "Consumer's Guide" to Electronic Portfolios. Kathryn Chang Barker of FuturEd presented the first draft of such a Guide at the LIFIA conference in Vancouver (B.C.) last April, based on her previous Guide to providers of Distance Learning. I thought her guide had some problems, since an e-portfolio is very different from a distance learning environment; a portfolio is more individual-centered compared to an institution-centered distance learning program or service. I thought her Guide did not consider the "common tools" approach to developing e-portfolios. There are many strategies for creating e-portfolios, and her document appeared to help consumers select e-portfolio online SYSTEMS, rather than using common desktop tools. However, it is a good supplement to my article published in Learning & Leading with Technology in April 2000, which addressed using common desktop tools.

I think there are some underlying philosophical issues that need to be addressed before decisions about which approach or software to use. I believe that electronic portfolios can have multiple purposes: as assessment tools to document the attainment of standards (a positivist model--an assessment portfolio); as digital stories of deep learning (a constructivist model--a learning portfolio); and as digital resumes to highlight competence (a showcase model-- a marketing/employment portfolio). These models are often at odds, philosophically, with each other. While administrators often implement electronic portfolios for the first purpose (the assessment portfolio), the students usually view this portfolio as something "done to them" rather than something they WANT to maintain as a lifelong learning tool. A portfolio that is truly a story of learning is OWNED by the learner, structured by the learner, and told in the learner's own VOICE (literally and rhetorically).

I haven't found a commercial electronic portfolio system or software package that meets my definition of a learning portfolio, although there are a few web server-based systems that come close. I started this blog because I wanted to explore using a blog as a reflective journal with artifacts... as my own learning portfolio. Most commercial systems have been designed to appeal to administrators' needs for assessment data (in higher ed, we call it "deanware") based on a positivist model.

This philosophical discussion is further elaborated on my website in three recent publications: Electronic Portfolios as Digital Stories of Deep Learning (not finished, and thus not online yet)
Competing Paradigms in Portfolio Approaches (a work in progress)
Differentiating Electronic Portfolios and Online Assessment Management Systems

I am very concerned that the current crop of commercial tools are "perversions" (Lee Shulman's term) of the portfolio concept. I am concerned that in the name of high stakes assessment, we are losing a powerful tool to support deep learning. I am concerned that that we are losing the "stories" in e-portfolios in favor of the skills checklists. Portfolios should support an environment of reflection and collaboration. It is a rare system that supports those multiple needs. That is why I often advocate for three interconnected systems: an archive of student work, an assessment management system to document achievement of standards, and an authoring environment where students can construct their own electronic portfolios and reflective, digital stories of learning.

Essentially, electronic portfolio development is a content management process with reflection on learning represented in the stored artifacts. There are two major directions in electronic portfolio development. One path uses generic tools (GT) such as word processors, presentation software, HTML editors, multimedia authoring tools, portable document format (PDF), or other commonly used productivity tool software found on most desktop computers. The second path uses an "information technology" customized systems approaches (CS) that involve servers, programming, and databases. In the article that David Gibson and I published online, we discuss the pros and cons of each approach and the quality issues under each environment: (

My assumption is that educators want a system that is very open, and allows for multiple purposes, so that learners can develop a portfolio that meets THEIR goals. I have seen effective use of Userland's Manila content management software as an open environment that is very close to a GT approach in a web-based environment. While not specifically an electronic portfolio program, the software allows the accumulation of a digital archive of artifacts (called "gems" and "pictures") and allows the user to build a series of web pages (called "stories") using those documents. I have other examples highlighted in my "paradigms" article noted above. I welcome comments about choosing appropriate technology tools to support the portfolio development process.