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.