Wednesday, December 13, 2006

EduTools ePortfolio Review

The WCET EduTools study of seven ePortfolio tools has been completed and is online:
In the Spring of 2006, EduTools and ePAC International undertook the review of seven ePortfolio products on the behalf of seven partner institutions or systems of institutions. In consultation with ePAC and the project partners, a set of 69 electronic portfolio features were identified and defined by Bruce Landon. Based on those features, reviews were conducted and completed in April 2006. According to the agreement with the partners, the feature set and reviews are now available for public use.

Friday, December 01, 2006

An Amazing Workshop

I am working in the Canby, Oregon school district this week, providing a two-day digital storytelling workshop using Apple tools. The workshop was amazing not because of what I did, but because of what the teachers were able to do in two days, and what they are equipped to do when they return to their schools. Every teacher has an iBook. Every school team represented in the workshop received an iPod with a microphone, a digital still camera, and a digital video camera with tripod. When the participating teachers opened their boxes, it was like Christmas! I was very impressed with the pace of the workshop. During the hands-on time after lunch on the first day, each team took a picture with their digital still camera, and observed how easy it was to upload it to iPhoto; they recorded a short audio clip with their iPods, and saw how easy it was to transfer that audio file to iTunes; then we opened iMovie and imported both of these files onto the timeline. It was so easy! Their assignment then was to finish their scripts and record their voice narration prior to the beginning of the second day of the workshop. In previous workshops, we've had to reserve the whole morning of the second day to schedule people through a single recording station in another quiet room. Using the iPods, they are able to record in their own homes. I am further impressed by the open network in this district, and their commitment to technology.

This afternoon was showtime, with the a total of eleven digital stories completed and shown to the whole group. I am hoping to get permission to showcase a few of them on my website. Every teacher has a blog, so maybe some of these stories will get posted online. It is refreshing to spend time in a district that values creativity and the power of narrative and voice in learning, not just focusing on the mandates of accountability. Of course, it helps that one of their leaders is a fellow Apple Distinguished Educator who is exploring different emerging technologies to enhance student learning! I hope to follow these schools to see the impact of digital storytelling on student learning and engagement.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Learning to Learn Portfolio Model

I just found this Learning to Learn Portfolio Model developed by Ian Fox, the Principal at Bucklands Beach Intermediate School, Auckland, New Zealand. This model provides a wonderful framework for thinking about portfolios in schools: Metacognitive Development, Assessment to Improve Learning, and Development of Home-School Links. His online paper, Learning to Learn in the 21st Century, provides further explanation of this model and how it is implemented in his school.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Model of Portfolio Differences

I spent last weekend in Boston with Evangeline Harris Stefanakis, where we set up plans to collaborate on several projects, including a Symposium entitled, "Researching Electronic Portfolios in Schools: The Role of Teacher Professional Development" that was just approved for the next American Educational Research Association (AERA) Conference (to be held in Chicago on April 9-13, 2007). We also wrote a paper responding to a recent news article about portfolios. Here is a brief excerpt from our paper:
The Nov 15, 2006 EDWEEK article headlines “Reacting to Reviews, States Cut Portfolio Assessments for ELL Students”. What a reactive mistake!!! It’s not about portfolios instead of state tests—it is about portfolios and state tests!!!
Dr. Stefanakis published the book, Multiple Intelligences and Portfolios, which contained a diagram which placed portfolios along a continuum of Learning and Accountability. We took that same diagram and added my chart on differentiating between portfolios used for learning and those used for accountability. I'm calling it the Stefanakis-Barrett Model of Portfolio Differences (between Learning and Accountability).

After discussing these differences, and the research behind the Assessment for Learning model, the article ended with the following:
We have an obligation to our ELL students to provide them with assessment strategies that will help them improve. If we don’t give all of our students the knowledge of how they can succeed, based on analysis of their own work that they can understand and use to improve their own learning, we are indeed failing them.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Updated WordPress Portfolio

This is an updated version of my WordPress online portfolio, from an earlier version of this program. The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than an hour, copying and pasting the information. I also experimented with the hosted version of WordPress for my portfolio.

The major advantage of WordPress 2.0 is that it has two ways of posting: a blog (organized in reverse chronological order) with categories (the Home link), and Pages (organized hierarchically and show by name on the main page menu in the template that I am using). What this means for the portfolio process is that the functions of a learning portfolio (reflective journal stored in chronological order) are published separately from a presentation portfolio, where the information can be ordered thematically. This is one of the best Web 2.0 tools I have used so far that covers the portfolio development process. Feedback can be provided through the Comments function of the blog, although I have turned them off on the portfolio pages.

Most of my artifacts were weblinks, but I was able to upload a few files (in the Portfolio-at-a-glance page) and easily link them to the page. The software lacks a folder system to organize the artifacts, something it would need to make it useful as a full-featured portfolio system.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Trojan Horse for ePortfolios?

I am currently teaching an online course on ePortfolios. In response to one of my articles, one of the participants raised the issue of developing a portfolio culture, and how to get a school district to adopt ePortfolios. I think he identified the real issues we face when implementing portfolios: how do we create a portfolio culture in a learning community? That question goes along with our approach to assessment: how do we adopt a system of assessment that emphasizes as much formative as summative assessment? In our accountability-driven system, there is a temptation to use more summative than formative methods. We can aggregate numeric data very easily; multiple choice tests are much easier to score. Portfolios are hard work. I think a mandated portfolio could be successful, as long as the implementation focuses on student learning (the story approach), rather than institutional accountability (the checklist approach).

I think the problem is that the predominant experience of educators is with these more summative (behavioral?) approaches, rather than the constructivist paradigm, which is where portfolios really began. Very few educators have experience using portfolios in their teacher preparation, and even now, I see a lot of incompatible uses of portfolios implemented in teacher education programs: the model of portfolios implemented with student teachers is not compatible with how their students would use them in schools. We aren't modeling appropriate practices.

How do we break this cycle? I recommend having administrators and teachers develop and maintain their own reflective portfolios, and create a collaborative environment where portfolios are used for collaboration and professional development, not only for high-stakes evaluation purposes.

This brings up a much larger issue... change. I published a web page called Professional Development for Implementing Electronic Portfolios where I include my recommendations, a discussion of the "Adoption of Innovations" (the Change Process) and a preliminary look at the competencies (both Portfolio and Technology Skills) to implement electronic portfolios. You will find some Resources for Professional Development as well as Recommended Professional Development and Readings... a graduate degree's worth of reading!

One thing I learned when I did my own dissertation research (on how adults teach themselves to use personal computers) I found that there is a simple formula about change: the benefits of a change must exceed the cost of that change, whether real or simply perceived. I think we will eventually reach a "tipping point" on the adoption of ePortfolios, but it will take a lot of small successes, with both grass roots advocates and top-down support to make it happen. But if there are enough of us who believe in the portfolio process, who are willing to model promising practices, and who are willing to tell our stories, then I think we will see some real change.

I once wrote in an article that stated, "Perhaps ePortfolios can become the Trojan Horse for integrating digital storytelling into the curriculum." What is the Trojan Horse for integrating ePortfolios into the curriculum? I think it is the evidence that we can collect that will show how portfolios can help improve student achievement, based on the model of formative assessment for learning. There is a research base from the Assessment Reform Group in the U.K. (Black & Wiliam) that supports this assertion (as I referenced in the article). I am also encouraging one of my colleagues on the East Coast to report her research, where the implementation of ePortfolios with ELL students in middle schools in New York City has led to increased test scores. According to her, the ePortfolios make it obvious to teachers where their students needed to improve, so that they can focus their remediation efforts. When her research is published, I will be the first to post it on my blog!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Online Course

Next week, I was asked to facilitate a one-week online class which I am calling Interactive Electronic Portfolios. I have been learning to use Moodle as the course management environment. I know, I'm pretty late trying this tool, since I was an early user of Blackboard at UAA in 1999. I just have not had access to a server or a reason to use it until now. It also helps to have an experienced guide as I explore the different tools.

I got so inspired that I bought new webserver space for two years to host the three URLs that I've owned for three years but have not used so far:, and The hosting service provided automatic installation of Moodle, WordPress, MediaWiki and Joomla, a content management system. This website is going to be a Dreamweaver-free site. I want to see what I can do with some of these open source tools on my own server space, without using any HTML authoring tools.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Web 2.0 explorations

Since I returned home, I've been online full time, learning new online Web 2.0 tools. A colleague from Australia introduced me to two new websites: Wet Paint (a new wiki that is based in Seattle!) and Protopage (an AJAX Start Page). I am using my Wet Paint page to plan a workshop in Melbourne next March. I am using my Protopage to emulate an aggregator for my new model of ePortfolio development, as discussed in my EIFEL conference keynote (small pieces, loosely joined).

Thursday, October 19, 2006

PodPals in Budapest

I am in Budapest, visiting my daughter who teaches English in a high school. I visited her classes several days this week. These students are in a tourism and culinary arts high school. In one class, the students who are learning to become tour guides are going to start podcasting. I introduced them to both ePortfolios and podcasting with We are looking for students in other parts of the world who would like to become "podpals" with them, showcasing their conversational English skills, while talking about Budapest.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Creating PodCasts with GarageBand

I just finished two digital stories/podcasts using Apple's GarageBand, and I am really jazzed! This is such a cool tool, and I am relatively pleased with the results. After taking a half-day workshop at Camp Podcast in Vancouver, B.C., I felt confident enough to tackle this software.

The first podcast I completed was a new story called Changes, which I wrote to help me come to terms with a major change in my life. I recorded the story in my tried-and-true Sound Studio program, imported the audio into a track in Garage Band, and proceeded to add images at appropriate places on the Podcast Track timeline. The quality was not nearly as good as iMovie, but it was much faster, since I needed to finish the story in a day for a presentation. I also wanted to include audio from GB, and I was pleased with some of the music loops that were included there.

The second podcast that I completed was the keynote address that I did at the ePortfolio 2006 conference held in Oxford last week. I used my new iPod with the Belkin microphone to record my speech. Just started recording and lay it on the podium in front of me. When I was through, I had the audio of my entire presentation. I brought it into GarageBand. I also took my PowerPoint presentation and changed the page layout to square dimensions (required by GB's podcast track), which did a remarkably good job of adjusting the text on the slides. It squashed the pictures, though, but not that noticeably. I saved the entire slide show as JPEGs in a folder. Then, I put markers into the timeline for where each slide would start. When finished, I went back to the beginning and began adding the images onto the Podcast track. For the half hour keynote, it took me about an hour, twice through the audio. I have now posted it online for the world to hear.

There are many ways to create a narrated slide show. This was the easiest that I have tried. I also have downloaded a piece of software called ProfCast that I will need to try very soon.

Monday, October 16, 2006

EIFE-L Conference 2006

I just left the fourth annual EuroPortfolio conference sponsored by EIFE-L. My keynote presentation on the second morning was entitled, Voice and Interactivity in ePortfolios: Digital Stories and Web 2.0. It was based on two articles that I have on my website: Authentic Assessment with Electronic Portfolios using Common Software and Web 2.0 Tools and Purposes of Digital Stories in ePortfolios. I will post the podcast of my presentation here when I finish editing it, adding my slides.

One of the things I emphasized was the need for “every day-ness” or how we can make ePortfolio development a natural process integrated into everyday life supporting Lifelong and Life Wide Learning. I also mentioned Social Learning, or how we can integrate ePortfolio development with what Vygotsky told us about learning as an interactive social activity. I also mentioned that the Architecture of Interaction (Web 2.0) allows a Pedagogy of Interaction (ePortfolio 2.0).

I took the opportunity to create a new graphic that describes a "mash-up" of different Web 2.0 tools that could be combined together for a powerful ePortfolio system, using a variety of online tools that students might already be using. These are generic tools or types of digital documents that can be created by any system. The important components are interactivity and multimedia.
ePortfolio Mash-Up

I discussed three emerging Models for Portfolios
mPortfolios (Mobility)
iPortfolios (Interactivity)
Digital Stories (Voice) facilitating Individual Identity, Reflection, and Meaning Making.

Thanks to my friend Evangeline Stefanakis, I showed that Portfolios are Lived Stories and that the real power of the portfolio is personal by showing the story that I am currently living. It was a risk, but the response was gratifying.

There are some exciting developments and new tools that were shown at this conference. Every year the field matures. I did not have a chance to attend the "plug-fest" on the first day, so I was limited in my observation of the technical developments. Elizabeth Hartnell-Young will be researching the use of Nokia mobile phones in ePortfolio development in schools. I also learned that there is another ePortfolio conference planned for Asia in March. Here is the schedule:
March 19-20, 2007 - Hong Kong
March 26-27, 2007 - Melbourne, Australia
March 29-30, 2007 - Wellington, N.Z.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

PDP and ePortfolios

I am attending the first conference on "Researching and Evaluating Personal Development Planning and e-Portfolios" near Oxford, England, sponsored by the Centre for Recording Achievement. I worked with this group over two years ago, and their development is very evident in the time since 2004. They define PDP (Personal Development Planning) as
"A structured and supported process undertaken by an individual to reflect upon their own learning, performance and/or achievement to plan for their personal, educational and career development." Dearing (1997)
The way that ePortfolios are used, to support the PDP process, provides a different purpose for portfolio development. Whereas portfolios in the U.S. are often adopted for institution-centered assessment and accountability purposes, the planning goals in the U.K. provide an institution-mandated student-centered approach, which is very refreshing. Each institution can implement the PDP program in individual ways, so there are examples that focus on accountability; but for the most part, student learning appears to be central to the process.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Digication Spotlight

I recently tried DigiCation Spotlight, another ePortfolio tool. This was the 21st tool that I have used to re-create my electronic portfolio. The process moved pretty smoothly. All URLs had to be converted to weblinks (it did not happen automatically). The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than an hour, copying the information from various online portfolios.

There is no data management tool, to aggregate assessment data. Therefore, this tool might work for formative assessment (providing teacher and peer feedback on student work) but not for summative assessment. The tool does not allow comments (as in a blog) or collaborative writing (as in a wiki), so its utility is really as a presentation portfolio. At the present time, the tool does not allow exporting the portfolio as a stand-alone archive. The real advantage is the price. At the present time it is free to the first 1000 users in a school.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Video iPod

I just bought a new 30 GB 5G iPod that plays video. This replaces a five year-old 5 GB 1G version and a two-year-old 40 GB 3G version that I gave to my daughter. I also bought the Belkin TuneTalk voice recorder that connects to the bottom of the iPod. The cable that connects the iPod to a TV was also ordered. I loaded my music and then learned how to convert all of my movies so that they would play on the iPod. Works great through iTunes. I've also uploaded a few of my photos, but will organize more of them into folders in iPhoto, and then upload the folders. I also downloaded iWriter that lets me create interactive content that can be uploaded to the iPod, my .Mac accounts, or just a folder that can be uploaded to any web server. It has an iPod preview window so that the content and navigation can be checked. I intend to see how I can incorporate these tools into the development of ePortfolios. The first project that I will develop will be an iPod version of my last paper, Purposes of Digital Stories in ePortfolios. A new learning opportunity! I will post the first project here.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Purpose of Digital Stories in ePortfolios

I just published another online document, looking at Purposes of Digital Stories in ePortfolios. Where I have examples of digital stories, I have provided web links. If you have examples that you would like to share, send me a link and an e-mail, giving permission to post the link on that page.

Perhaps ePortfolios can become the Trojan Horse for integrating digital storytelling into the curriculum. Most ePortfolios today are digital paper: text and images only. Digital Stories can humanize any model of ePortfolio using any type of ePortfolio tool. Digital Stories add VOICE to electronic portfolios. Digital Storytelling is also a motivating strategy for involving students in their own learning using 21st Century tools of engagement.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

E-Learning 2.0

There has been a lot of buzz coming my way about Web 2.0 and its impact on education. Stephen Downes discussed e-Learning 2.0, a term that does not refer to the numerous course management systems that are more about teaching than learning. What is the comparable tool to support lifelong self-directed learning, like eBay for online auctions, or Amazon for books (and a lot more now), or iTunes for music (and now video), or MySpace for social networking? It's more than using blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, podcasting, digital storytelling, ePortfolios to support learning. It's really the synergy between all of these applications. It's also access to a variety of learning resources through intelligent search engines. In the 1980s, I remember the adult learning literature talked about people who would function as "learning brokers" while today we could look to the Internet to fill that role. Is it possible to create such an online environment to go beyond the minimal goal-setting function of 43Things.

Here are a few websites that I found googling around the web:
Knowledge on Demand, an EU-funded project from Greece around 2002 (pre-Web 2.0)
Teachers Pay Teachers and the article that says it aims to be the eBay for educators
Web 2.0 has hit Business Week.
Edu 2.0 just recently launched.

All of these sites contain a piece of the puzzle, but nothing rises to the level of those other websites that I mentioned above. So what should be part of an online environment to support lifelong self-directed learning. What is the "killer app" for lifelong learning?

Wikis in Education

I am starting to explore more of the uses of Wikis in education. This web page came from the WWWTools for Education listserv, which originates from Australia. This website provides a wealth of great resources. Here is another article that just came out by David Jakes, Wild about Wikis.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Comments from eMail

I received the following comments recently from Mechelle M. De Craene, a Special Ed./Gifted Ed. Teacher in Florida, and graduate student. She recently published this article on Digital Storytelling: A Practical Classroom Management Strategy for working with middle school students.
I think portfolios are so important for educators, especially for special education teachers because so much information can be gleaned from portfolios that just doesn't show up on standardized testing.

In special education, so many life changing (e.g. regular or special diploma track) decisions are made by age 14, which are usually based upon state test, grades and IQ scores that don't truly capture the essence or potential including the uniqueness of every learner. I've used portfolios in the past to advocate for students with special needs to be mainstreamed into general education course so that my students may graduate with a regular diploma.

Additionally, equally important is the student participation in the portfolio process. It's a great way for students to self-reflect and see their growth. Plus, parents love portfolios of their children's progress.
And from another e-mail after she read my Web 2.0 article:
read your article and it is excellent!!!!! I especially like the comparison sections...especially Assessment of Learning vs. Assessment for Learning. It shows the evolution of the web and it is clearly defined. It is a great resource...especially the tool choices. Thank you for sharing that with me. : )

The great thing about Web. 2.0 is it fits more in line with our natural interactive nature. As machines become more and more intelligent they will compliment man's natural hierarchical (cognitive) and social needs systems. Have you read the book On Intelligence? It is an amazing book.

Hence, eportolios are great because they are not stagnant. They are dynamic. Also, wouldn't it be cool if students could take their eportfolios with them from teacher from year to year (ie..grade to grade)? That way teachers could look for various learning patterns in work presented though out a child's school years and build upon it. It would also be wonderful if we could access eportfolios via the web for each student, this would be especially useful for migrant children who move from town to town. Wow! There are so many wonderful things that are evolving. The pedagogy is truly in exciting times
Well said, Mechelle!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Web 2.0 Tools for ePortfolios

Picking up again, after my blog entry while in Salzburg, I started working on a new web page (and potential workshop) that would focus on using Web 2.0 tools for ePortfolios. This web page started initially as a handout for a workshop at the KIPP conference in New Orleans earlier this week, that I co-facilitated with one of my REFLECT teacher leaders. In this workshop, we provided an audience of primarily middle school teachers with an overview of authentic assessment and hands-on experience with two different approaches to doing electronic portfolios, first with Word/Excel and then with TaskStream. The experience gave them two ends of the e-portfolio spectrum: the most basic tools, and the highest end tool. We then provided them with resources to continue exploring these options, including information from and a 30-day trial account with TaskStream. We got very good feedback on the form that we built into TaskStream (modeling its instant data collection and aggregation features). I was pleased with this workshop, even though I thought it should have been a full day with the hands-on activities. Working on the agenda, I learned from my co-facilitator about WikiSpaces and, which I have already written about in this blog!

While researching this entry, I came across some more interesting articles about the impact of social networking sites (like MySpace) on college admissions and employment. I have written about this issue in a prior blog entry. I recently heard about 6th grade girls who were suspended for posting negative comments about their teacher on MySpace. As mentioned in the Business Week article, "there is no such thing as an eraser on the Internet." Perhaps instead of ignoring (or blocking) these websites, schools have a role in educating students about the long-term consequences of their actions (or postings). At the very least, parents should be educated about both the positive and negative implications of some of these new online services, that are attracting adolescents by the millions. (I just found Wired Magazine's MySpace Cheat Sheet for Parents.) In the last month, I heard that MySpace is now the #1 website on the Internet in terms of visitors. How can we replicate the intrinsic motivation of these social networking sites in the service of learning, while protecting students from the negative impacts?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

WikiSpaces for ePortfolios

This is the 20th tool that I have used to create my electronic portfolio. After I figured out that the new pages that I created did not automatically appear in the Navigation Menu (and that I needed to manually construct that menu on the left side of the screen), the process moved pretty smoothly. All URLs are automatically converted to weblinks. The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than an hour, copying the information from various online portfolios, including my Mozilla portfolio, where I had the URLs on the page (not just links). I easily uploaded my only file artifact (on the Portfolio-at-a-Glance page). All of my other artifacts are web links. The program gives the capability of uploading any type of a file, and then linked from any of the pages. This is a type of digital archive, where student work can be uploaded for later use. Their website says that they allow 2 GB of online storage (the largest I have seen) but it does not appear to allow organizing files into folders.

This system has the potential to offer interactivity, since each page can be edited by members of my WikiSpace. Therefore, I added a few ideas at the bottom of most pages that could be used to offer feedback on the artifacts and reflections listed on the page. Each page can also have a discussion attached to it. When I forgot to save the changes to a page, when I went back to that page, the program gave me the choice to reload the draft. Nice feature.

The tool has the ability to "Embed Media" but I have not implemented that feature. It looks like you add a link to a piece of media that is posted to another website, like youtube or odeo. I was able to add links by simply including the full URL but when the links are followed, they stay in the same browser window. I prefer to have the links open a new window (and the portfolio remains open) so that when an artifact is opened, the reader can close the window and easily return to the portfolio, rather than using the Back button.

A feature that I really like is the ability to backup the most recent copies of the pages in a space in HTML (or wikitext) and save the archive to my hard drive. That is a feature that I think is a requirement for an ePortfolio system. It backs up all files to the desktop computer, and maintains hyperlinks but not the navigation menu.

There is also no data management tool, to aggregate assessment data. Therefore, this tool would work for formative assessment (providing teacher and peer feedback on student work) but not for summative assessment. But the process for adding comments and feedback would need to be agreed upon with the readers, just as I have placed suggestions at the bottom of some of these pages.

WikiSpaces is offered free of charge to K12 teachers. This tool is not as easy to use or intuitive as, nor as elegant as iWeb. However, it is accessible to individuals as well as schools. The very nature of a wiki is shared writing, so this tool might work well for collaborative development of ePortfolios.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Using for K-8 Portfolios, a free service for K12 schools by Oracle, is the 19th tool that I have used to re-create my electronic portfolio. I am impressed by the ease of entering data. All URLs are automatically converted to weblinks that open in a new window. The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than an hour, copying the information from various online portfolios, including my Mozilla portfolio, where I had the URLs on the page (not just links). I easily uploaded my only file artifacts (on the Portfolio-at-a-Glance page).

This is the first tool that I have used that adds Interactivity to the portfolio (other than the blog tools). The software allows these forms of Interactivity:
  • Message Board - Invite people to post a message on a page
  • Ask Me - Answer questions (about anything)
  • Debate - Pick a topic and have a debate with others
  • Vote - Have an election or poll on a page
  • Brainstorm - Invite others to share their ideas on a page
I am very impressed with this interactivity, since it makes an electronic portfolio a socially-constructed document. The tool also allows the addition of "Stickies" that can be added by anyone and deleted by the page owner. The Stickie can be used for providing formative feedback as a portfolio and its artifacts are developed.

There are also five types of "Media and More" that you can add to a page:
  • Pictures - Upload your favorite GIFs and JPEGs
  • List - Make a list of assignments or other things
  • Mini Pics - Add artwork to a page from the Mini Pics gallery
  • Multimedia - Upload Music, Movies and Animations
  • Files - Upload files from Word, Claris Works and other programs
I noticed that when I used the List tool, I was able to add external web links (which turn the title into a web link), but when the links are followed, the site is opened in the same browser window. When a URL is added to a page, the link opens a new window (and the portfolio remains open just behind). That is my preference, so that when an artifact is opened, the reader can close the window and easily return to the portfolio, rather than using the Back button.

The only downside of this tool is the ability to export the data for use outside the system. All readers must be members of the community to be able to read the portfolio, which is very appropriate in a K-8 school environment (and why I don't have a link to the portfolio here). is available as school accounts only and the principal has to sign the AUP agreement with Oracle. There is also no data management tool, to aggregate assessment data. Therefore, this is a great tool for formative assessment (providing teacher and peer feedback on student work) but not for summative assessment. But that's not a bad thing in K-8 schools, where we have plenty of accountability measures, but need better online tools to facilitate formative assessement strategies.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

WebCT Conference

I just left the WebCT Users Conference, where I provided the closing keynote address. The feedback was good. I was told by one of the executives (who shared a ride with me to the airport) that it was the best electronic portfolio presentation he had seen, because I dealt with a lot of content. At other conferences I have received feedback that perhaps I put too much content into my presentation, but this was a higher education audience and I heard a lot of appreciation for the books I referenced. In the airport, I bought Friedman's latest version of The World is Flat, and skimmed it for the updates that he made since the book was originally published a year earlier. I also added a couple of new slides to my presentation, about his impression of skills needed for a "flat" world.

I attended most of the conference, sitting in on all of the presentations about their newly-released electronic portfolio product, that is integrated with their course management system. While they have not provided me with a demo account yet, to be able to add that system to my "Online Portfolio Adventure," from the literature and the demonstrations, it appears to be student-centered and allows individuality and creativity. They are keeping the assessment management separate from the portfolio, developing another product called Caliper which is designed as a comprehensive assessment system. Caliper is not available this year, and it was not clear when it would be released, but the portfolio is available now for the more current installations of WebCT.

The man who presented the Caliper tool talked about the "positivist" (Caliper) and "constructivist" (Portfolio) versions of their tools (institution-centered vs. student-centered)! I was asked by one of the leaders from one of the pilot sites whether I worked with them on their portfolio development, since it seemed to represent my philosophy. I told him that I did not, but that my philosophy is published on my website for anyone to read! And I base my philosophy on some of the early portfolio literature, where the positivist/constructivist tension is introducted by Paulson & Paulson in 1994.

Since WebCT has been acquired by Blackboard, I am wondering what will happen with the original Blackboard portfolio. It was obvious at this conference that every WebCT product was being re-branded with the Blackboard name. Next year's users conference will be a combined WebCT/Blackboard conference in Boston.

The new WebCT portfolio only allows students to have a single portfolio, although they can create different views for different audiences by turning sections on and off. The tool has a blog and appears to seamlessly save any work created in a course into the portfolio, where it will be preserved after the course is over. If discussions are saved, the entries (other than the portfolio owner) are made anonymous. One feature that is not fully developed appears to be the export function. I understand that the tool will allow students to export their work, but not the structure of the portfolio, something that I think is essential.

I also got a peek at the new version of the TaskStream WebFolio builder that will be released next Tuesday, July 18. I am impressed! I will provide more details after I have a chance to update my portfolio with the new version.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

NECC06 Conference

NECC 2006 is being held in San Diego. I worked with two of my REFLECT site coordinators to make a presentation during the first session on the first morning. We were impressed with the number of people present during that early hour, on the morning after the fireworks. We were also impressed with the types of questions being asked. After the presentation, I ran into other people who were there, and the dialogue continued.

This morning, one person asked me the usual question about my recommendations about free or low cost tools. Of course I said that was not the first question to ask... determine the purpose first, and then look at the tools to best meet those goals. He asked about Elgg, an open source ePortfolio tool. I told him that this software had a lot of promise as a blog, archive and social networking tool, all important components of a working portfolio. However, it is still missing the presentation builder that allows a learner to organize presentation portfolios for different purposes or audiences (a component that is part of their development plan). Of course that is one problem with open source software... without a business model to support the development, it can take longer to implement changes unless there is a regular funding stream. My experience with commercial tools shows that the companies are very responsive to their customer base, and have the resources to support ongoing support and development. Educators in schools need to recognize that they often get what they pay for, and the commercial market needs to look at how to make their products more affordable for schools. Somewhere in between free and $?? there is a sweet spot. I'm not sure we are there yet.

In the Open Source resource area, I found an electronic portfolio being designed to link with Moodle. When I looked at a demo it became apparent that this tool is being created as a digital archive of student work, with reflection on each artifact as it is uploaded. However, it does not have a presentation builder, so that a learner can construct a reflective story about a group of artifacts. While talking to the developer, he indicated that the Open University in the U.K. was building an electronic portfolio that they are tying into Moodle, that has five developers and so they are planning to include a presentation builder with templates. This open source software will supposedly be available in 2007. I hope I will see it at the EuroPortfolio conference in October in Oxford. I also learned that the University of Denver is thinking of modifying their portfolio system and making it available to the public for free.

I just heard Nicholas Negraponte talk about the $100 laptop that is being designed primarily for students in third world countries. Fascinating project. Their website says that they are not marketing to individuals or to school districts in the U.S. Their primary target groups are national governments in the developing world. But I think I have seen a vision of where laptops will be in the next decade. What I like is the low power requirements (>2 watts) and the ability to charge the NiMh battery by human power. I also like the simplicity of the system. I agree with several of his points: we don't need Caps Lock keys, and the software today is very bloated. When I think about what features I currently use in the software I have, and the time it takes to load the system, I long for the days when I could turn on my Radio Shack WP10 and just start writing!

I sat in a presentation on the University of Vermont's Portfolio Connection, a research project on electronic portfolios in teacher education programs throughout the state of Vermont. I was impressed by Joyce Morriss's Webquest on electronic portfolios. Their findings are very interesting: the student assessment portfolios built for accreditation are deadly dull; the professional portfolios that the student construct for showcase and employment are diverse and show the students' authentic voice!

Friday, June 30, 2006

2007 ePortfolio Conferences "Down Under"

I have just been invited to participate in two more ePortfolio Conferences, one in Melbourne, Australia on March 26-27, 2007, and the other in Wellington, New Zealand on April 2-3, 2007.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

New ePortfolio articles

I just came across a few new articles on ePortfolios, mostly from the U.K. and Canada:

E-portfolios in post-16 learning in the UK: developments, issues and opportunities - A report prepared for the JISC e-Learning and Pedagogy strand of the JISC e-Learning Programme by Helen Beetham, e-learning consultant.
The report provides a brief overview of current e-portfolio developments in relation to both the management of assessment evidence within programmes, and the development of a repository of evidence of lifelong learning progress and achievement.
Engagement with Electronic Portfolios: Challenges from the Student Perspective by David Tosh, Tracy Penny Light, Kele Fleming and Jeff Haywood in the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology -
Abstract: Much of the evidence and research available on the use of e-portfolios focuses on faculty and institutional perspectives and/or consists mainly of anecdotes about how useful the e-portfolio has been to learners. While it is generally agreed that e-portfolios have great potential to engage students and promote deep learning, the research that has been conducted to date focuses very little on student perceptions of value of the e-portfolio for their learning. If students do not accept the e-portfolio as a holistic means with which to document their learning in different contexts and more importantly, agree or wish to use the e-portfolio as an integral part of their educational experience, then the potential impact the e-portfolio will have on learning will not be realised. This paper highlights four themes arising out of research that is underway within an international framework of collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, the University of British Columbia and the University of Waterloo.
Electronic Portfolios for Whom? - an Educause Viewpoint by Javier I. Ayala, Portland State University
The literature doesn’t discuss e-portfolio use to meet student needs and concerns but to support administrative efforts to solve long-term curricular issues
Becta's View: E-assessment and e-portfolios (pdf)
This document provides a short introduction to e-assessment and e-portfolios, how they might develop, and why Becta strongly believes that they will support engagement and achievement in learning.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My iWeb Portfolio

I am in the ePortfolio development business again. I wanted to try Apple's iWeb software (part of the iLife06 software suite), since I had so much fun creating my travel blog with it. I have lots of complaints about the process of uploading the site directly to my .Mac account from within iWeb, but the process of developing the site was very easy. Once I saved the portfolio to a folder, I was then able to upload the folder to my .Mac account. I used a few of the pre-formatted pages, but also set up a few blank pages. I also used a blog template to highlight different competencies. I have two separate sites set up, but when I save the files and upload them, it is all or nothing. Still, this is the most creative tool I have used so far in my Online Electronic Portfolio Adventure. Since iWeb is so tightly integrated with the other iLife06 tools (iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand), it made it so easy to include images, size them, apply a mask, etc. It would be nice, though, if iWeb had a portfolio template page that was more than images or podcasts.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

More eMail Responses

I've responded to a few more eMails about ePortfolios, one in higher education (medical school), one from a secondary school teacher, and another about using iLife/iDVD for ePortfolios. My responses are also too long to post in a blog entry, so I have linked them below.
  1. Medical School Faculty Member
  2. High School Teacher
  3. iLife/iDVD for ePortfolios

Thursday, June 15, 2006

High School Portfolios in the Pacific NorthWest

How do we create mandatory high school portfolios and still keep the qualities that make a portfolio a portfolio (and not something else, like an assessment management system)? How to we create student-centered portfolios within an institutional context? I recently received an inquiry from a student teacher in British Columbia which made me think about these issues. I have posted my response (too long to include in a blog entry).

In addition to the high schools in British Columbia, where high school students begin a portfolio in Grade 10, the State of Washington will be providing access to an electronic portfolio under a Student-Centered Planning program funded by the 2006 Washington Legislature. In this context, it looks to me like the portfolio is both for helping implement the Franklin Pierce School District's Navigation 101 model curriculum as well as to document student achievement.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Me Publishing

In the May 26 edition of Eliot Masie's Learning TRENDS newsletter, he told a story of a young man who went to work for a Fortune 100 company and on the first day of orientation asked where he could publish his profile. Not satisfied that his profile was only in the HR system, he replied, "But, where do I post my profile so that everyone else in the company can see what I am about?" Apparently he had been a daily user of the Facebook and MySpace social networking systems and he just assumed that a big corporation would have a similar system.

As Masie went on to say:
His model of learning and "belonging" involved a degree of "me-publishing" and social networking. He was amazed that people could work for a 50,000 person company and not be able to self-publish their profiles and experiences.... One week later, he resigned and went to a company that gave him the tools and permissions to keep a daily work blog and access to an internally secure social networking system. By the way, he took a 15% reduction in salary in order to be in a better topography of knowledge sharing.

Don't do this just for your NextGen employees. The age of me-publishing and social networking is upon us and will be leveraged by every generation of our workforce. We can create models that protect the company's interests while deeply fostering the power of the network and the wisdom of crowds.
This is a powerful story of the role that Web 2.0 technologies can have on social learning. I see the portfolio as another example of "me publishing" where individuals can share their profiles in a highly engaging environment. I've written before about the popularity of social networking sites, like FaceBook and MySpace. Masie doesn't mention portfolios, but I think that is the natural extension of "me publishing" and personal profiles.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

ePortfolios and Web 2.0

I am at a conference in Salzburg, sponsored by Salzburg Research providing a keynote address at a conference on Social Skills and Social Software. Most of the conference is conducted in German, but with simultaneous translation. The keynote speaker before me talked about the differences between Web 1.0 (mostly static web pages) and Web 2.0. According to Wikipedia, Web 2.0 is defined as follows:
Web 2.0 generally refers to a second generation of services available on the World Wide Web that lets people collaborate and share information online. In contrast to the first generation, Web 2.0 gives users an experience closer to desktop applications than the traditional static Web pages... Web 2.0 applications often use a combination of techniques devised in the late 1990s, including public web service APIs (dating from 1998), Ajax (1998), and web syndication (1997). They often allow for mass publishing (web-based social software). The term may include blogs and wikis. To some extent Web 2.0 is a buzzword, incorporating whatever is newly popular on the Web (such as tags and podcasts), and its meaning is still in flux.
My keynote address was entitled, "Electronic Portfolios: Digital Stories of Lifelong and Life Wide Learning." In addition to some of my new thinking on the multiple purposes of digital stories in ePortfolios, one of the ideas that I presented was the concept of the "Lifetime Personal Web Space" (LPWS) introduced by Cohn & Hibbitts in Educause Quarterly, 2004. Following my presentation, Lee Bryant (CEO of a leading social software company in the UK) talked about Social Software and the opportunities for linking together a lot of free or low cost "low threshold" applications, or "small pieces, loosely joined" which is David Weinberger's unified theory of the web. I am intrigued about the potential for using a variety Web 2.0 applications to build ePortfolios: blogs, wikis, photo blogs (like Flickr), podcasts, RSS feeds, social bookmarking (i.e.,

I am intrigued by the potential for allowing learners to incorporate a variety of Web 2.0 services into their portfolios. The challenge is ease-of-use of these various tools. When I conducted my own "Online Portfolio Adventure" in 2004, I did not upload many artifacts; instead, I used URL links to documents that I had already stored on one of my own web spaces (LPWS). I can see a lot of potential for taking the next step, incorporating Web 2.0 technologies, both as the organizer as well as access to portfolio content.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Linking ePortfolios and Student Achievement?

I received the following request by e-mail:
Recently I became interested in e-portfolio and its implementation in my Small Learning Community (SLC). However, I need data/research that can support my belief that e-portfolio can improve student achievement in all areas. I have visited your sites and others and done some researched but the info i have attained is not specific enough to persuave my colleagues. If you could, please provide me with some specific research regarding student achievement. Thank you.
Here is my response:

You did not mention the educational context for your question. Elementary school? High School? College? In any case, I am not aware of any research that specifically ties e-Portfolios with improved student achievement (assessed, I assume, with standardized test scores). However, there is substantial research that supports the use of formative, classroom assessment (assessment FOR learning as opposed to assessment OF learning) with increased student achievement. Look at the meta-analysis conducted by Black and Wiliam in the U.K.:
Also, the Assessment Reform Group:

That type of formative assessment is well facilitated using a portfolio for that purpose; a portfolio used in classroom-based assessment is more of a communication tool about student learning than an instructional strategy.

I am doing a research project right now on using portfolios in high schools, but we are not looking specifically at student achievement. Rather, we are looking at student engagement, motivation and collaboration using technology, which should impact on student achievement. I think it is problematic to tie student test scores directly with the use of electronic portfolios, since you are really crossing different pedogogical paradigms. And there are too many other intervening variables in the process. You really need to look at other effects of electronic portfolios. Standardized testing only addresses a limited type of student learning; portfolios can be used to document a broader range of student learning.

There may be other research being conducted at this time, but it is too early to make any conclusions. I would be interested if anyone knows of any of these studies.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A new blogging tool

I am trying out the new iWeb software, part of Apple's iLife06 suite of tools. I am traveling in Europe, and so am posting a Travel Blog for friends and relatives to keep track of our journey and share a small sample of our digital photos. I made a specific entry about doing Travel Blogs with different software tools.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Live Television!

On Wednesday, April 19, I did a live satellite broadcast for the Minnesota Schools & Colleges (MNSCU), entitled "The Electronic Portfolio: a Mirror and a Map." My part was only about 15 minutes, including two digital stories (my Choices story and my granddaughter's second grade autobiography). My interview was actually pre-taped and then broadcast an hour later, and the only live part (for me) was the Q&A. It was pretty nerve-wracking. I know why I like to pre-record my audio, so that I can edit it. But it was still an interesting experience.

As a result of the Q & A, I added links to some of the most recent research on electronic portfolios.

Friday, April 14, 2006

New web links

I am getting caught up from my travels, and wanted to post a couple of interesting weblinks that I came across over the last couple of months:

USA Today article ("What you say online could haunt you") on the perils of posting personal information into social networking spaces, and how it can impact on future employment, etc.

Tennessean article ("Study monitors students' work") about the REFLECT Initiative project in the State of Tennessee. This is the research project that I am leading for TaskStream. Great quotes from high school students.

Another tool for digital storytelling online, BubbleShare. I'm not sure how I feel about these sites that require Internet access to share these multimedia photo albums. Just like Flickr and PhotoJam, you have to be connected to the Internet to share these files. I'd like to be able to ALSO create a DVD that I can play on my HD TV, as well as archive in high quality format. Video on the WWW is still low quality compared to DVD.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

eMails about ePortfolios

I continue to receive e-mails about electronic portfolios from around the world. From England, an educator inquired about the differences in terminology between the UK and US. He commented: "All sides seem to want something different...with your experience of international standards and ePortfolios do you think the definition of an "ePortfolio" is the same across the world?" I responded with the following comments:
I find that a lot of people use the term "eportfolio" and they mean many different things. I have blogged about this issue on many occasions. Many institutions see portfolios as "bean counting" for accountability purposes, especially here in the U.S. Why can't educated professionals keep the assessment management system (bean-counting) functions separate from the reflective storytelling (deep learning) functions of portfolios? Perhaps because the latter is less understood or experienced in our education system... hopefully not less valued. I often assert that the assessment/content management systems have lost the heart and soul of portfolios.
Another K-12 educator was involved in a process of developing a school reform model focusing on the portfolio process at the elementary level. She noted that the majority of the research for the K-12 setting was conducted in the 90's with the focus today on the college level. She asked my opinion on why there hasn't been much research conducted at the K-12 level since the 90's. Do I think portfolios have fallen out of favor in K-12 education, or is it because the large organizations such as NWEA were wanting to use them for large-scale assessment and we haven't yet made the shift back to the classroom and student growth? My response:
You are correct that most of the effort today is in higher education, for a variety of reasons, but for a lot of teacher education programs electronic portfolios are related to gathering information for accreditation...

In my opinion, the No Child Left Behind legislation took the wind out of the sails of portfolios in K-12 schools. So much effort has been put into helping schools meet the testing mandates and "adequate yearly progress" as defined by testing, that there isn't a lot of attention being paid to portfolios, nor enough time left in the curriculum.

Another issue we have is the type of assessment. If you are familiar with the work of Rick Stiggins and the ATI, you know that he focuses on Assessment FOR Learning, rather than Assessment OF Learning, which is most of the focus of large scale assessment. I recently wrote a couple of papers on my website about the differences between portfolios used for these two different types of assessment. My REFLECT White Paper addresses those issues.

So those are the issues in K-12 schools. I'm not sure electronic portfolios will work well in elementary schools until we get systems that are BOTH easy to use and allow student creativity in presentation, something that doesn't exist today. I've often said that e-portfolios will only happen if elementary teachers have partners in the process, either parent involvement or older students to assist the younger students to digitize their work, and to upload it to a program.

I guess my question to you really focuses on WHY you want to implement portfolios in elementary schools. If it is to support student learning more about themselves through a reflective process, I am 110% behind you. But if it is for large scale assessment, for purposes of reporting to external audiences (primarily administrators, politicians and the general public), or quantified just like traditional testing, then I am not as supportive. I think high stakes accountability is killing portfolios for learning. I also think teacher education programs who are only creating accountability portfolios are "poisoning the well" by turning off a whole generation of teacher candidates to using portfolios with their own students. I have anecdotal evidence that students who create these Teacher Ed portfolios don't know how to create learning portfolios with their own students. That tells me that there is no authenticity in the accreditation/accountability portfolio process.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Research (and Finally Home!)

I've been traveling since I returned from the trip to Italy: from a meeting and the CUE conference in Palm Springs, to school site visits in Arizona, New Jersey, Maryland, and California, to the SITE and FETC conferences, a dissertation defense and a meeting in Orlando, to the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Conference in San Francisco. It is good to be back home, even for a few weeks. I've seen a lot of classrooms (as part of the site visits for the REFLECT Initiative) and I've talked to a lot of educators, both in schools and at the conferences. A few of my impressions:

In Florida, it seemed like the role of digital storytelling in education has become more prominent. The FETC conference had many workshops on digital storytelling. The SITE conference hosted a keynote address by Joe Lambert (see my last entry and the new SITE Digital Storytelling blog). I led a roundtable on Researching Digital Storytelling and attended several other sessions throughout the conference. I also saw a new tool that was under development at the University of Virginia, to use primary source images in constructing online digital stories, primarily in social studies classes. The tools are becoming very interesting, and varied.

AERA is always a very enlightening conference, giving a glimpse into the current state of education. I attended sessions over the weekend, and led my own roundtable on the REFLECT Initiative Research project. A session on the role of technology in portfolios in Teacher Education gave me more concerns about the lack of authenticity in the accreditation portfolio process. I was impressed that a paper presented by an educator from Australia, that reported the real value of the portfolio process happened when teachers actually developed portfolios with their own students. I also heard Larry Cuban talk about the problems with researching educational technology in schools. He emphasized the importance of collecting data "on the ground" in schools, and not to confuse correllation with causation. He is rarely invited to speak in technology meetings, because of his book Oversold and Underused and his presentation reinforced the need for triangulation of data in educational technology research, which made me comfortable with the multiple methods that we are using to gather data in the REFLECT research. I also had an opportunity to re-connect with Evangeline Harris Stefanakis, whose book on Multiple Intelligences and Portfolios is one of my favorites.

I also had an opportunity to hear the latest presentations by Neal Strudler and Keith Wetzel about their sabbatical study on electronic portfolios. They have published their papers and presentations online, and their study provides an interesting picture of the status of six Teacher Education programs who are "mature" users of electronic portfolios. Their latest article, "Costs and benefits of electronic portfolios in teacher education: Student voices," is especially interesting, focusing on student views of this process. I heard from them, anecdotally, that for some of the students they interviewed, the term portfolio was a dirty word, or at least the experience was too much work for the benefits. Their paper outlines the benefits of the reflection that is central to the portfolio, but also outlined the disadvantages as well.

I also attended a session at AERA on the impact of high stakes assessment on technology implementation in laptop schools (ubiquitous computing). The study was conducted at the University of Virginia. It should be no surprise that the middle school teachers in the study had to focus more of their time on preparing students for the testing than providing the types of rich experiences that could be gained from the available ubiquitous computing. That study was very depressing.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A new Digital Storytelling blog

There is a new blog on Digital Storytelling, started by the SITE conference. I was especially interested in the podcast that Mike Searson produced, which features Joe Lambert from the Center for Digital Storytelling. Joe will be providing the keynote address at the SITE conference next Wednesday, March 22. Joe talks about the role of digital storytelling in our society and around the world. He also mentioned my work in portfolios, and the power of digital stories to document student learning and growth. Thanks, Joe!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Conference in Florence

I have just participated in a conference in Florence, Italy, which had a focus on the future of education, sponsored by Indire, an Italian educational research organization in Florence. It was an old model for a conference where we sat and listened to presenters all morning (the traditional process did not match the evolutionary content, but I guess you have to start with a process where people are comfortable). The afternoon program was another three hours of presentations, no breaks, no interaction. At the end of the day, there was an interesting performance by a mime, and in between different session, they showed a silent video on the wall in the auditorium, with different people walking by and peering into the camera. In many ways I felt like I was in the middle of a Fellini movie! It reminded me of the experience I had in college, watching La Strada, and not understanding the movie or the culture. This movie and mime performance seemed like the same experience.

I provided the last presentation on the second morning and I included a little group interaction at the beginning. After I was done, they allowed 30 minutes of questions from the audience, but most of the questions were really speeches, all in Italian, of course. We all had wireless translation devices with earphones, they could hear the translation from English (most of the presentations) and we could hear the introductions and discussion by the presentation chairs (all in Italian). Actually, I was surprised at how well the bilingual translation worked for me.

We were told that this was actually the first International Education Conference held in Italy in quite a few years. All of the presenters were from outside of Italy, although I was the only one from the U.S. Other presenters were from Iceland, Holland, France, Australia, England, and Spain. There were about 400 educators present. But I could tell that they had little experience with this type of event: no coffee breaks, all sitting in one room, no interaction until the very end. But it was an interesting experience. I met some great people, and I still have a workshop to do on Monday afternoon for a smaller group at the Indire office. I think they want me to teach a distance class for them on electronic portfolios (no traveling, they said!). We'll see what happens and how it would work.

I'm glad I made the decision to come to this conference. I now realize that my initial impressions about this event was from their relatively inexperience with this type of event. I think I added a different dimension to the event, especially after I showed my granddaughter's 2nd grade portfolio and autobiography as an example of an electronic portfolio with a digital story. They applauded after her story was over. The Italian version of the portfolio is more of an assessment record kept by the teacher, not owned by the student. Teachers resent the additional effort (no wonder!). This is another example of the perversion of the concept of the portfolio, co-opted by a government for large scale assessment. My perspective provided a very different definition for them. One gentleman held up his wallet: that was his portfolio to keep valuable little items inside. I said that was very similar to an educational portfolio, containing valuable items for the learner to keep.
[posted from an Internet cafe in Florence]

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A dry spell

I realize that I have been silent for the last two months. It is not that I have not been learning a lot about electronic portfolios. I have just been traveling a lot with the REFLECT Initiative, visiting the sites and writing up site visit reports, which are not appropriate for publishing in this blog. I made a presentation on the project to the Electronic Portfolio Research Consortium at their meeting in Portland, Oregon at the beginning of February. I also provided a keynote address at a conference in Chicago a week later. . Today I had a short discussion on ePortfolios with a school district near the Seattle airport. Finally, a presentation where I could drive my car, not take an airplane!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Holiday Gifts and Letters

After returning from New Zealand, I became consumed with Holiday preparations. I received one of my favorite Christmas present in years: an iRobot Roomba... yes, a robot that vacuums my floors. This is an example of a technology that can have a positive impact on our lives! It is interesting to observe it exploring the nooks and crannies in my house, getting stuck under the Christmas tree, going places it isn't supposed to go... just like a toddler. I even catch myself talking to it like a child. We haven't given it a name... yet! Interesting how a single purpose intelligent device can take on human characteristics, and quickly become part of our lives. My floors have never been so clean. It even gets under tables, buffets, navigates around chairs. Way cool! What does this have to do with ePortfolios? I guess this device is an example of an empowering environment, giving me more time to do the things I really enjoy doing. It also motivated me to reorganize my environment, accomplishing more in a few days than in the last few months. The motivational aspects of technology are well known, and this is another example, even if the outcome is a more organized and pleasant physical environment.

The Holidays also brought the usual Christmas cards, many with the annual Christmas letter, giving updates on the events of the year. It occurred to me, as I was reading these letters to my legallly-blind mother, that these were her generation's family stories... that annual missive that documents the important experiences of family life. Some letters were a litany of events or accomplishments of family members, others included amusing anecdotes that made them more interesting to read. As I reflect on these annual Christmas letters, I realize how much technology (and blogs) could change this experience. Perhaps there are some more technologically-savvy, who send a URL in their Christmas cards. In our card, my husband just printed out a collage of key photos from the last year... I haven't written a Christmas letter since our children left home.

In terms of digital family stories, these annual Holiday letters provide a personal history that, when collected over a lifetime, can provide rough biographical details of a family's life. But I wonder how many families save their letters. This collection process is a challenge for many families, most often a paper filing system with physical storage problems. One solution would be a digital preservation process that I intend to research over the next six months.