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.