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.