Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Free Web Conferences available

Based on the success of the video conference last week with Mexico, I have decided to offer FREE web-based conferences available to K12 teachers (in after-school workshop groups of 5 or more teachers) and as a guest lecturer in teacher education classes. I've had success offering these workshops on a limited basis to some of my ADE colleagues. I've decided to make this offer on my website. I also just learned that I can have a free Eluminate vRoom, limited to 3 simultaneous participants. So I have two options to facilitate these online workshops: live video chats using iChat (Macintosh only) or Skype (requires two computers on the other end: one for my video feed, one to show my PowerPoint slides), and Eluminate vRoom (single computer required: no video feed).

I decided to offer these live conferences for two reasons: I really enjoy talking to teachers about ePortfolios (I learn a lot in the process), and the tools are now free for small groups. I've decided to offer the first conference to a school group for free, offering a follow-up ongoing professional development class for a fee, as I have offered in the past. I also want to pay back the Teacher Education community for the wonderful opportunity that I had for four years working under a PT3 grant.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Skype Video Conference with LatinCALL

I just finished a video conference with the Computer-Assisted Language Learning conference for Latin America. They were in Durango, Mexico; I was sitting in my living room in Puyallup, Washington. While video conferencing is not new, this is my first time using Skype for this type of video conferencing. What was unique for me was that this was a cross-platform video conference: I was using a Macintosh and they were using a Windows computer. I was able to see the audience and the screen while I was presenting (to make sure that we were on the same slide). Other than it being early in the morning for me, and my voice had not warmed up, I was fairly pleased with the results. I think they were pleased also.

At MacWorld, I also saw a demonstration of the new iChat in the next version of OS X, which would allow screen sharing with another Macintosh on the Internet. That looks like a great way to conduct these types of video presentations. However, until the rest of the world wakes up to the superiority of the Macintosh, there will be few opportunities to use this tool (can you tell that I am an Apple Distinguished Educator?). For now, I will use Skype and may try doing SkypeCasting.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

KEEP Toolkit

I created the 24th version of my portfolio using the KEEP Toolkit created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. I copied the pages from another HTML version of my portfolio. The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than two hours, copying and pasting the information.

Once I figured out how the Dashboard worked, and how I could develop my portfolio with blank templates, it was relatively straightforward. I was able to do basic text editing with the Rich Text Editor. I added all links using the software's edit links tool.

I was also able to create several versions of my portfolio and individual pages, and stitch them together for another view. There is a lot of flexibility with the authoring tools. 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.

Epsilen ePortfolio tool

I created the 23rd version of my ePortfolio using the Epsilen ePortfolio tool, created at IUPUI CyberLab. The tools is free for anyone with an EDU email address. Since I copied the pages from another HTML version of my portfolio, all URLs came over as weblinks. The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in about than an hour, copying and pasting the information.

The software includes a blog and has elements of social networking built in. The ability to control who views each page can be controlled through customized access keys. Documents can be saved in files and folders, but the storage is limited to 75 MB. 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 through the blog, QuickNotes, and an internal email system).

The user interface needs a little work. I had to figure out that to add additional pages to my portfolio (not the ones in their template) I had to select the Options Menu. The portfolio itself has a few other selections on the page that I did not put there (Access key, Login). However, it automatically generated the navigation bar on the left side of the window. Once I figured out how the basic software worked, it went pretty smoothly. If I wanted, I could change colors, but did not find any other design templates available.

One option that could be added is a Personal CMS toolset that features a complete Course Management System (CMS), offering tools such as Lessons, Chat, Drop Boxes, Grade Book, Course Mail, and Forums for discussion.

On the whole, the system let me work around its template structure, and create my own portfolio. It also offers a lot of additional features that I did not try.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Apple's iPhone in Education?

I visited MacWorld on Wednesday, and saw the iPhone. I also watched the podcast (downloaded to my iPod) of Steve Jobs' keynote address at MacWorld. I am ready to order one of those phones today, despite the fact that I just started using a Palm Treo SmartPhone. It's a good thing that the iPhone won't be available until June. Still, as I look at the features of this phone, I see an incredible tool to support learning! It's a tablet PC in the palm of your hand, complete with OS X and wifi access. It has all of the features that I want in a cell phone/iPod/handheld Internet device (for email, web browsing, maps, and searching). How soon will it have voice recognition for voice dialing, like many cell phones do? Will it interface with a Bluetooth keyboard for those of us who find it faster communicating with all of our fingers, not just one? Jobs used a specially-built iPhone with a video board, that projected its image to the presentation screen. Will that adaptation be available?

As I look at this device through the lens of my current research interests, I wonder: Would Apple consider making a version that works without the phone service, but uses the device on a classroom network? I could imagine a lot of ways that this device could be used to enhance learning. Right now, schools are paranoid about cell phones, with many K12 schools banning their use. But these schools also filter the Internet, so that these devices could safely be put into the service of learning. Online simulations, games, learning objects, widgets, blogs, a built-in digital camera to collect images; the capabilities of this device could far exceed the way Palms are currently being used in education today. I could imagine many ways that this device could become the next 1-1 platform for learning. I also see a tool that will support the many stages of ePortfolio development, including collection and reflection.

What do you think?

Friday, January 05, 2007

A New Year

I am starting the New Year with a conference in Hawaii (really!). I am attending the 2007 Hawaii International Conference on Education, making two presentations: one on our REFLECT Initiative project in Arizona, and another entitled "Voice and Interactivity in ePortfolios: Digital Stories and Web 2.0." I just posted a new web page on the different presentations and workshops that I am offering, from one-hour conference presentations or keynote addresses to two-day hands-on workshops as offered last month in Oregon.

I have not yet reflected on the Time Magazine Person of the Year issue. I consider myself included in the designation "YOU" (anyone who posts content on the web--basically a recognition of the power of the many Web 2.0 technologies, but especially YouTube). I was also impressed by a few other blog entries that reflected on that issue, especially a discussion of how many schools block these Web 2.0 technologies at the time they show the most promise for improving education. Thank goodness DOPA is dead.