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!).