Wednesday, March 28, 2007

ePortfolio New Zealand

I am once again so impressed with the ePortfolio leaders in New Zealand. I am just finishing up a wonderful day-and-a-half of conversations about electronic portfolios. There is a new open source portfolio being built in New Zealand, called Mahara, which is based on the three components of artifacts (collection), multiple views, and audiences (selection). I appreciated having a delightful dinner last evening with the Mahara team.

There were a lot of K-12 teachers attending this conference. What I heard from the closing session of this conference was the general theme that the ePortfolio was really a personal learning space. I agree with that perspective. It really puts the ePortfolio into a perspective.

New web pages

I created two new web pages while in Australia:

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Launching a new Book in Melbourne

I am delighted to launch the second edition of the book Digital Portfolios written by Elizabeth Hartnell-Young and Maureen Morriss, published by Corwin Press. I bought their earlier edition when it first came out, and quoted from it extensively, since it was the first book that was published on this topic. Beginning with the introduction by Barbara Cambridge, the entire book provides an overview of the process of constructing a digital professional portfolio, including some very useful tools. I especially appreciate the permission form and evaluation rubrics provided, with permission to duplicate them provided to purchasers of the book.

The authors have provided an overview of the many issues that can arise from the multiple purposes for developing electronic portfolios. I especially liked the following quote:
While these are legitimate uses for portfolios, when teachers perceive that accountability is viewed as more important than their knowledge and expertise, they can become cynical, and their portfolios tend to be heavy with documentation but light on passion. (p.8)
With portfolios being used in many sectors of education and for both summative and formative assessment, it is important to emphasize the elements that contribute to professional growth. This book provides a framework for professional educators to document their growth, maintaining the emotional engagement that gives meaning to the process. Their highlights on vision and knowing oneself provides further emphasis on using portfolios to support learning, not formatting or data.
By capturing the experience of the learning journey, reflecting on its meaning over time, and sharing the learning with others, teachers develop new insights and understanding. (p.27)
The book also emphasized the importance of building a personal archive of work (with references to the Cohn & Hibbits article on Lifetime Personal Web Space). The book also provides a focus and guide to reflection. One chapter provides ten practical steps in creating a digital portfolio, beginning with a quote from one of my articles:
A portfolio that is truly a story of learning is owned by the learner, structured by the learner, and told in the learner's own voice. (p.39)
A key component of the philosophy in this book is that teachers not only prepare a digital portfolio to help develop their own technology competency while reflecting on their own growth over time, they can also use this opportunity to model the portfolio development process for their students. "By presenting portfolios to various audiences, teachers learn the skills they need to develop with their students." (p.64) I couldn't agree more. A teacher with a digital portfolio is more likely to have students who have digital portfolios. This book's philosophy, that portfolio development is a process of professional growth (p.72), should be valued as a process to support educational reform. The emphasis on process (means) over product (ends).
A fundamental principle of this book is that educators grow professionally as a result of producing a digital portfolio. They become producers as well as consumers of technology, enabling them to become more confident about using it in their daily work. They learn more about using the World Wide Web for teaching, research and for communicating with a global audience. This transfer of knowledge and skills will benefit not only themselves but their students, colleagues, and community. But more fundamentally, educators can show evidence of their deep learning...(p.78)
Last weekend, when I told my daughter that I was launching a book on ePortfolios, she asked me when I was going to write my own book. I responded that I had a website and a blog. But when I read Elizabeth and Maureen';s book, I said that I really agreed with what they had to say, so I really didn't need to write a book. But that may change. In the meantime, I highly recommend this new version of Elizabeth and Maureen's book.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Hong Kong Conference

This is the first stop on the Asia ePortfolio Trilogy tour. A group of about 40 Hong Kong educators gathered for the first ePortfolio conference in Hong Kong. I am really excited about what I see happening here, and the level of interest, despite the low level of attendance. There is now a policy in Hong Kong for all secondary students to develop a Student Learning Profile, which can have a variety of formats; one of those could be an ePortfolio. So there will be a lot of exciting developments happening in Hong Kong over the next few years.

Monday, March 19, 2007

K-12 Student Portfolio

I just received permission to share an amazing student portfolio, that has been maintained in a single school from Kindergarten to senior year. The portfolio was created with Apple's iWeb, and represents learning in a Multiple Intelligences curriculum.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Workshop in Japan

I have been in Japan since Wednesday, for a symposium on Portfolios in Medical Education at Mie University in Tsu, near Nagoya. I was a second presenter after another expert from a medical school in the U.K., where they have been using portfolios for high stakes, summative assessment. I provided quite a contrast with my focus on student-centered, formative portfolios. This was my second bilingual hands-on workshop: the first in Finland in 1998 and now Japan in 2007. This was quite a contrast. In Finland, I was teaching how to create an electronic portfolio with Adobe Acrobat. Today, we created an electronic portfolio with GoogleDocs. This time, I knew the tool well enough to be able to point to the part of the screen where the different commands existed in the English version, and it all worked, although I had a great workshop assistant who was typing and using the software in Japanese.

The participants were very actively engaged in both yesterday afternoon's workshop, which was mostly lecture, and today's full day workshop, which was very hands-on and participatory. We had simultaneous translation, which I had only experienced a year ago in Italy, where it was all a lecture format. At least today, that was a lot of experiential learning going on. I learned one thing: only use the Firefox browser when using GoogleDocs. Internet Explorer for Windows did not work well.

I am most impressed by how well I was taken care of while I was here. I was met at the airport and escorted to my hotel, where I had my first dinner. Every day, I was escorted to their offices or to where I needed to be for the workshops. Tomorrow, I will be escorted on the train back to the airport for my flight to Hong Kong. The taxicabs were immaculate, with white covers on the seats. My hotel had free wifi and free breakfast. Our lunches were catered in beautiful boxes. I had no idea about everything I was eating, but it was all very good. As my first trip to Japan, it was very impressive!

Two Political Statements

I came across these two websites on one of my listservs. This isn't a political blog but I just couldn't resist adding them here:

It's not on the Test: Here's a new song about school testing that Tom Chapin wrote. It helped usher in the New Year on National Public Radio, appearing on "Morning Edition" on January 1, 2007.

Mad TV's iRack


Friday, March 09, 2007

Identity Production and Online Portfolios

I recently read a paper online entitled, "Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace." In this article, based on a speech made at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, February 19, 2006, the author addresses three issues related to MySpace: identity production, hanging out and digital publics.
The dynamics of identity production play out visibly on MySpace. Profiles are digital bodies, public displays of identity where people can explore impression management [2]. Because the digital world requires people to write themselves into being [3], profiles provide an opportunity to craft the intended expression through language, imagery and media....

What we're seeing right now is a cultural shift due to the introduction of a new medium and the emergence of greater restrictions on youth mobility and access. The long-term implications of this are unclear. Regardless of what will come, youth are doing what they've always done - repurposing new mediums in order to learn about social culture.

Technology will have an effect because the underlying architecture and the opportunities afforded are fundamentally different. But youth will continue to work out identity issues, hang out and create spaces that are their own, regardless of what technologies are available.
A colleague of mine completed a dissertation a year ago, where she studied the implementation of electronic portfolios created using very different tools in two different Teacher Education programs. In one university, the students were taught to use a free web page editing tool (Composer) and were encouraged to individualize their portfolios. That university had developed a separate assessment management system to collect and manage the accountability data, which was not very obvious to the students. In the second university, the students were forced to purchase an account for 4-to-6 years in one of the commercial systems, and were provided with highly prescriptive assignments in a system "specifically designed to impose uniformity on the portfolio task." My colleague is presenting a case study at the SITE conference about the frustrations of a student in that second university, who was an experienced MySpace user, and used that experience to customize her portfolio, despite the constraints of the system.

In one of my more recent blog entries, I shared an email from an educator who indicated that she was looking for a portfolio system that would allow students to individualize their portfolios (among other criteria). She also wanted it to be interactive, to support multimedia, to be secure, to allow assessment, and to be portable (i.e. students can take it with them when they leave). When a tool is developed, the tool developers have to prioritize their development efforts, to provide the most important tools that their clients say they need. That's why most of the ePortfolio tool developers have created very good assessment management systems, that collect data that institutions need for accountability and summative assessment. But in the order of priority, the needs of the learner, for an environment where they can express their own individuality through their portfolios, is often left on the "wish list" for future development (or not even considered).

In my opinion, this situation is the result of programmers and technology experts developing what they think is an efficient system for collecting this data, not a tool that facilitates individuality and creativity. Perhaps the technicians don't recognize the psychological need for adolescents (and post-adolescents) to establish a unique identity, both face-to-face and online. In my current research, I am finding that MySpace is so popular because it encourages and enables individuality and creativity in addition to the social networking that also drives that system.

In my review of the many tools out there, I found that there were many tradeoffs between usability and creativity, qualities that I think are very important to maintain student engagement. To their credit, the better commercial ePortfolio providers are addressing these usability issues as they continuously modify their software. But it is a challenge to balance competing priorities with limited resources.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

GoogleDocs for Online Portfolio Development

This is the 25th tool that I have used to create my online portfolio as part of my "Online Portfolio Adventure" research over the last three years. Since I copied the pages from another version of my portfolio, the tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than an hour, copying and pasting the information, although fine tuning the formatting took more time. As with all of my other portfolios, all of my artifacts are documents already stored on one of my websites, so I did not have to upload any documents. I think this program is a viable tool for maintaining portfolios that are comprised mostly of word processing documents that are converted into GoogleDocs. I don't know how it handles other documents as attachments, such as PowerPoint. It is very easy to create links from a GoogleDocs page to any web page or any other GoogleDocs page. I used to teach how to create a hyperlinked portfolio with Microsoft Word. This is the online (Web 2.0) equivalent!

This system has the potential to offer interactivity, since each page can have comments added by those selected to Collaborate. I was able to add links by simply copying from another website with the links embedded and I could designate that each link would open a new browser window which is what I prefer: 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.There is no data management tool, to aggregate assessment data, although Google Spreadsheet could be used. Therefore, this tool would work for formative assessment (providing teacher and/or 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 approved collaborators within the system.

The major advantage of GoogleDocs is that it is a Web 2.0 tool, and universally available through a WWW browser. I found it fairly easy to use, although it helped that I knew how to edit HTML to fine tune the formatting. I tried to use the Google Spreadsheet to create the Portfolio-at-a-Glance matrix, since it was originally created in Excel. However, I could not easily create hyperlinks in the cells, and the links did not translate when I converted the Excel spreadsheet into Google. So, I converted the spreadsheet to HTML and pasted it into Edit HTML on a new page. A table is easy to edit in a GoogleDocs page. I also found it extremely easy to insert images on a page. I published another "How-To" page on using GoogleDocs to create an online portfolio.