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.