Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Message from "down under"

I had a great 3-way Skype conference this morning with my husband and my daughter connecting us across two oceans and three different continents! I was just getting up (7 AM on Wednesday in Melbourne), it was lunchtime for my husband in Seattle (noon) and my daughter was going to bed in Budapest (9 PM) on Tuesday! The audio was awesome! I am so excited about this technology, that allows any groups to communicate over the Internet for free. The impact on relationships is powerful.

I'm writing this entry from Adelaide in South Australia, near the beginning of a tour "down under" beginning with a private school in Melbourne for two days, now working with the Government of South Australia, Department of Education and Children’s Services, at an ePortfolios for Professional Development conference. On Saturday, I head for Brisbane where I will work with Queensland University of Technology and the ASCILITE conference (more on that to come). I will then go to the ePortfolio New Zealand conference in Melbourne.

I was just blown away by a digital story told by a teacher here in Australia, who reads this blog. He bought the microphone that I recommended in an earlier blog entry. And his digital story about his ePortfolio journey was heartwarming and engaging. A wonderful surprise! I know this blog is being read, at least by a few people. When I explored David Tosh's Elgg blog, he mentioned that this blog was listed on some list of the top 20 educational blogs. I must resolve to make more blog entries, not use my travel schedule as an excuse!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Motivation, Social Networking and ePortfolios

While at the NERCOMP ePortfolio Users Group meeting earlier this month in Poughkeepsie, one of the participants brought up the issue of student motivation and the popularity of Facebook on his campus. He wondered how to make ePortfolios as popular as Facebook. The value of this site, as well as its competitors, MySpace and Friendster is that they are social networking spaces. They are also voluntary, and Facebook accounts are available through many universities. They are just starting to move into high schools, but the privacy issues are very different because of the age of the participants. The Facebook concept is somewhat unique. According to Facebook's founder, audiences "want to build community around what they're consuming." According to an article in MarketSense:
"What drives the site is an offline dynamic and culture around it." What he means is that the Facebook communities revolve around a particular school. He can walk out into the school grounds and see everyone he knows in the Facebook. It's a closed community in some sense.
I also wonder how we can make ePortfolios more intrinsically motivating... more of a "want to" rather than a "have to" experience. The interface has to be engaging, and easy to use. Perhaps the environment needs to contribute to building community. There has to be a reason to return on a regular basis. Facebook claims that 70% of its users log in daily! The founder of Facebook is a Psychology drop-out from Harvard, not an IT major. Maybe that's what we need in the ePortfolio community: more developers who understand human nature than those who understand technology. My recent experience tells me that the technology can get in the way.

One of the principles I found in my dissertation research over 15 years ago is a simple equation: the benefits of any change must exceed the cost of that change. With the Internet, the benefits have become obvious and motivated a lot of the population to learn a whole new set of skills... and spawned a whole new way of life and conducting business. We are glimpsing the benefits for learning and schooling (I purposefully separated those two terms), using ICT to facilitate the teaching and learning process (another purposeful distinction). But learners need to see the benefits for developing an ePortfolio. We need to look at human nature to find that motivation. That's why I think these social networking tools, including blogs, have motivated young people to get engaged with them, but the goal isn't the use of technology... it is the connection to other people. That is the challenge for the ePortfolio movement today...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Assessing Personal Portfolios

Today I received the following e-mail message:
Our Teacher Education dept. is having students keep one portfolio according to INTASC standards and then a second one that the students will organize and create for themselves. We have rubrics created for the first portfolio, but are wondering what you would recommend concerning how we would assess the portfolio they create for themselves.
Here is my response:
Why would you need to assess a portfolio that the students create for themselves? Why not have the students self-assess their own portfolio? They should have set some goals for their own portfolio. Did they meet those goals? How would they improve it? How will they update their portfolio as their "living history of a teaching/learning life?"

You know, then we treat a personal document, like a student's own portfolio, like any other assignment (such as assessing it), then they tend to have that same type of attitude toward it... just another assignment, or hoop to jump through (like their INTASC portfolio). Their own portfolio should be theirs to assess. If anything, you assess their self-assessment. Of course there will be some students that only work for a grade, and won't put much effort into anything that "doesn't count." Sadly, they are a product of our extrinsically-motivated education system. So if you must, only assess it as completed (Pass or "Not Yet"), with no quality indicators, other than those determined by the students themselves. Hopefully, they can be shown that their portfolio is meant to be their own "story" of their journey to become a professional educator. And we hope that in their own portfolio, they are modeling a lifelong learning strategy that they will share with their own students.