Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A new keynote topic

I've just sent the following description to the EuroPortfolio conference for my keynote at their next meeting in Cambridge, England on October 27, 2005:
Title: E-portfolios: digital stories of lifelong and lifewide learning
Description: The potential of e-portfolios to support lifelong and lifewide learning is limited only by our current technologies, limited experience, and narrow vision. Let's imagine what could happen if every citizen was issued personal web server space that they would own for a lifetime? This Digital Archive for Life (DAL) would provide space to store the raw materials for e-portfolios, archives of family records, genealogy and digital stories, autobiographies, child development data (such as digital versions of New Zealand's "Plunket books"), evidence of personal and professional accomplishments, and all kinds of personal information. From cradle to grave, see examples of how we could store and celebrate the results of lifelong and lifewide learning.
This keynote will give me an opportunity to focus on a variety of developments that are already taking place, like OurMedia and other websites that offer more limited free webspace, such as this blogging service! I can also share more of our digital family stories. In a half hour, I won't have time to share my thoughts on the importance of reflection, storytelling and deep learning, but I'll make sure I model it!

A Week on Vancouver Island

For the last six days, I have been on Vancouver Island, participating in a Symposium on Assessment for Learning sponsored by Anne Davies of Classroom Connections International. I participated last year in a different capacity, but this year, I came with a project to complete in this "hothouse" environment. It has been an excellent transition to my new role in K-12 education. The week also takes me back to summer sessions in Santa Barbara with my graduate program: intense, rejuvenating, high task but also high touch. I realize now that I miss those opportunities for intense learning, that I came for one reason, but am leaving with other perspectives. I realize how much I get out of these experiences with people who share similar philosophies and values. Of course Kingfisher Lodge is a lot different from LaCasa, but both places now provide many pleasant memories.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

A New Article

The first of three EDUCAUSE reports, titled "An Overview of E-Portfolios," is now published at:

According to one of the authors, George Lorenzo, the second and third reports on e-portfolios - one on teaching and learning and another on institutional e-portfolios - are near completion.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Final N.Z. Report

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to New Zealand, taking this opportunity to reflect on my last two days. My conversations with the Ministry of Education on Tuesday were very interesting. In my first meeting with the tertiary (higher education) group, we talked about the need for coordination between the various sectors. We also talked about the potential for using Interact, which I will be following the development with great interest. There was some discussion about Moodle, but I didn't know if an e-portfolio component was under development, like with Interact. We emphasized the importance of building a digital archive that would follow a learner across the different sectors.

My meeting with the early childhood people was most interesting. They shared with me their curriculum materials (I took home a notebook, CD and DVDs, which I still need to read/watch). We found a lot of common ground. They showed me some of their "learning stories" and I showed them excerpts from my granddaughter's e-portfolio. I also showed them some digital stories and we talked about the possibilities with some of their early childhood centers. Many of those learning stories contained digital images plus text, so I explained (very briefly) the process of taking digital images and turning them into short videos with narration (digital stories).

On Wednesday, I met with a group at the University of Auckland. They were intending to use the Open Source Portfolio, and we had a long discussion over lunch about the philosophy of portfolios (purpose, audience, student-centered vs. institution-centered, etc.). When I made the statement that electronic portfolios should begin a birth and last a lifetime, one member of their group immediately said, "I agree!" From then on, our conversation focused around the need for compatibility across educational sectors (echoes of my discussion on the previous day). They mentioned the "Plunkett book" that every child in New Zealand receives at birth from a visiting nurse, where their growth and development is recorded. There was a lot of energy in our discussion around the digitization of the contents of that book, even imagining the potential for digitally updating those records using wireless technology like the delivery truck drivers have now!

We also talked about Donald Norman's concept of the "information appliance" and the direction of the iPod/Palm/iPaq/PDA technologies. We did a lot of visioning and also discussed the upcoming semantic web, something that I really need to study in more detail.

I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. What is intriguing to me is the potential for these visions to become a reality in a country the size of New Zealand. Of course, the infrastructure requirements need to be addressed, especially that seamless digital archive of a learner's development/life work, from cradle to retirement and beyond. Reminds me of that article in Educause that I mentioned in an earlier blog entry.
Beyond the Electronic Portfolio: A Lifetime Personal Web Space
Rather than limit people to the e-portfolio model, why not develop a model providing a personal Web space for everyone, for their lifetimes and beyond?

Those possibilities press so many of my hot buttons: e-portfolios, digital stories of deep learning, digital family stories, autobiographies, etc. I feel so privileged to be a part of these conversations. I am so thankful for this opportunity. I look forward to continuing this dialogue with educators in New Zealand. It is so exciting to follow what is possible when there is a will, and not too much bureaucracy to get in the way!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

A Wonderful Week in N.Z.

I have been in New Zealand for a week, and my head is just spinning! First, I participated in the ULearn05 conference in Auckland during the first three days last week. It reminds me of the special quality of our early Alaska computer conferences. It was a special treat for me to reconnect with Ian Jukes as well, who was a favorite presenter at our early Alaska conferences. I enjoyed sharing my passion for digital storytelling, both in a hands-on workshop and in my closing keynote address on Wednesday afternoon. I was really impressed with the special Maori ceremonies that opened and closed the conference. I just wish I understood what was being said.

On Thursday, I traveled to Christchurch, and had a short meeting with the developer of Interact, about the portfolio tools that he is building into this open source learning management software. I am very interested in the development of this software. I had downloaded an earlier version of Interact and placed it on my own server space, since the requirements were simply PHP and MySQL. I am anxious to see the next version of the software, which he hopes to have ready by the term starting in August. On Friday, I met with the Christchurch College of Education, and by the end of the afternoon, I had more converts to doing digital storytelling as part of e-portfolios.

On Friday evening, I flew to Dunedin for the weekend. I spent many hours this weekend with the authors of the book on Learning through Storytelling in Higher Education. My head is still spinning from our wonderful conversations this weekend. I will be thinking about our dialogue a lot over the next few weeks. For the first time, I made a presentation to nurse educators plus some hands-on e-portfolio activities in a computer lab, and showed a lot of digital stories. Yep, more converts to digital storytelling! It became apparent that health care professionals can use digital stories in their practice. It was very special to talk about reflection at such a deep level with these "experts" on storytelling in learning. Today we had more dialogue and I showed more digital stories. Their observations about the poetic quality of many of these stories confirmed my own impressions, shared at the Kean conference in June.

I have returned to Christchurch, preparing for three more days of meetings before my return home. This has been a magical trip. There is something very special about the people of New Zealand! I hope to come back on a regular basis!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

One Portfolio for Life?

There is a movement in Europe and in Canada to create "E-Portfolios for Every Citizen by 2010." There is also a discussion of "one portfolio for life" which evokes many reactions. My initial response was to separate the one "digital archive of my work" for life, and the multiple presentation portfolios that I might develop for different purposes and audiences throughout my life. I know there is an effort to build systems that integrate all aspects of our digital lives, or as Serge Ravet expressed it,
  • My digital clone - A digital representation/extension of my self – my eSelf
  • My work companion - A tool blended into my learning/working environment
  • My butler - A service provider to one’s self
  • My dashboard - An informative display of the state of my skills and knowledge
  • My planner - A tool to plan my learning
  • My IPR management assistant - A tool to value and exploit my personal assets
An educator from New Zealand sent me a link to an entry from her blog, discussing issues around digital identity:
In time our e-portfolio record of learning might develop into a massive “learning identity construction” digitized database “A real celebration of learning across a lifetime” that would make today's efforts seem mute, silent screen versions in comparison.

The tension in this extrapolation is that it is not unlike the “consumer identity construction” information databases that can already reveal our predilection for hanging out in wine bars and txting lovers at the end of the day.

The e-portfolio might be likened to "wiki for data from a security camera, VISA card statement and mobile phone bill", in that both allow the construction of digital identity.

And both might misprepresent the complexity of what it is to be human through representing identity as data.
My concern, in our rush to jump on the bandwagon of "a portfolio for all" and "portfolio as digital identity," we are missing the essential purpose of portfolio as a concept and process as well as product. By broadening the concept of the portfolio, we may be thereby weakening its use for learning. Once again, I remember Catherine Lucas' cautions about portfolio use, especially "the weakening of effect through careless imitation." The broader definition of portfolio also serves to confuse the issues.

I recently heard about assignments in an "electronic portfolio class" where students were asked to create an electronic portfolio for a dog or a cat! If the "heart and soul" of a portfolio is reflection, how can you create a portfolio for a dog or cat? It seems to me that they are creating more of a digital scrapbook than a portfolio. Again, the problem is with definition. A portfolio is a personal document, not a documentary. That class sounds more like a website development course, which just furthers the confusion of what an electronic portfolio really is.