Monday, July 28, 2008

Showcase vs. Workspace

I am attending a workshop on "Using Worldware for Student Success in the Classroom and Beyond" conducted by Gary Brown from Washington State University, being held at the Campus Technology Conference in Boston. I had an opportunity to see a much larger picture of the WSU work that I have been observing from afar. I am impressed by their characterization of ePortfolios as "workspace" vs. "showcase" of student work. This is a glimpse of their concept of the ePortfolio as Personal Learning Environment.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Navigating with my new iPhone

I just spent last week in Orlando with a rental car and my daughter riding along, navigating with Maps on my new iPhone. It was so cool! She searched for the nearest cash machine, found a restaurant across town, and an outlet mall for our retail therapy/bonding sessions, and found the nearest movie theater and show times so that we could see Mamma Mia (saw it on stage in Budapest and loved it just as much). I spent a lot of my free time exploring the iTunes Apps store.

I am writing this post on my iPhone at 30,000+ feet while traveling to Indianapolis for the NCTE Institute (more in a later entry). I just wish I could get used to typing with my thumbs. At least my fingernails are not getting in my way! I know it will take more practice.

I figured out how to update my Facebook status; I've also figured out how the different mail servers work (deleting a message in GMail and MobileMe puts it in the trash on those servers but does nothing on the Comcast server... I'm not sure which approach I prefer). Also, reading a message in GMail on my iPhone means it will not get downloaded to my laptop, but reading a Comcast mail message has no effect (I can still download them to my desktop). I know what one I prefer there. I'm still using my desktop computer to maintain a record of all of my email messages. I know I am going to need to change that habit!

Taking pictures with the camera and sending by email has been fun. I still need to figure out if I can attach then to a web page (like this blog or Picasa). Lots more to learn, but the implications for using this type of tool (more likely the iTouch) for documenting the learning process has a lot of potential. I am planning to work with at least one school in NH on these types of 1-to-1 and Web 2.0 tools in the next school year.

Created on my iPhone... but edited on my computer. Making corrections in a message after it has been saved in the outbox (but before it has been sent) is impossible (or not obvious) which makes editing this post a problem... But I sent it to myself instead of directly to my blog. That's my next thing to learn.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

From my new iPhone

I started this message with one of the applications on my brand new iPhone, but was not able to write in this area, so I am finishing this entry the normal way! I stopped at the AT&T store near my home on Saturday afternoon, and they had just received another shipment of iPhones, so I got a black 16 GB model! I used the maps right away to navigate to another store; I just wish it had voice commands like my old Palm/TomTom GPS unit. I also found some new software, including Travel Tracker, one of my favorites on the Palm, only it doesn't update my calendar with flights, etc. I got a very quick response from the company that Apple has not opened the Calendar database up to 3rd parties as of yet.

I managed to get my MobileMe set up and am synching with only a few problems. I left ten years of my calendar on my Palm Desktop, and I can't figure out how to publish my iCal, but otherwise, the transition from my Palm SmartPhone has been pretty seamless. I will spend the next two weeks on vacation exploring Orlando with my new GPS, and playing with the faster G3 connectivity. I will also explore some of the many different iPhone applications that are available through the iTunes store. One of my complaints: you have to buy a software package before you try it out (to see if it works the way you like). I just wasted some money on a game; with most Palm software there was usually a trial period before payment was required. I am slowly getting used to entering text with my fingers, but I am still much more facile with a regular keyboard. So far, I've been able to open GoogleDocs through my iPhone, but haven't figured out if I can edit these files. On my Mac, I can't use Safari to edit in many of the Google tools, so the iPhone version of Safari probably has the same limitations. It also does not support Flash or Java, the underlying technology of many Web 2.0 applications. Exploring and comparing will be very interesting!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Google Interactive Tutorials

I just found a series of Flash-based interactive online tutorials which explains concepts within all of the current GoogleApps (note the tutorials available from the links on the left navigation bar):
I want to know how they created these tutorials and if this service will soon be available to site administrators or instructional developers!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

NECC 2008 retrospective

I am now home from the latest National Educational Computing Conference (in San Antonio) and am thinking about some of the highlights for me. I created several blog entries while I was there, so now I am reflecting on my overall experience at that conference. There seemed to be a "conference within the conference" which began with the EduBloggercom event on Saturday, June 28. I had attended in the afternoon in 2007 in Atlanta (after my own morning workshop) which I found to be beneficial. This year, the group voted on the sessions that they wanted to hold, using cell phone texting (but I missed that part of the event), and then used the conference wiki to schedule the events and locations during the day. Some of the discussions were very interesting and worthwhile. I continued to run into many of the participants in the Blogger Cafe throughout the rest of the conference. That was an open space with chairs and tables and electrical power! There were some organized discussions, but more impromptu dialogue.

The conference also set up a Ning group, which I joined, and others invited me to be their friend. However, other than establishing these friend lists, I never saw any direct benefit for joining while I was at the conference. It was fun to see some old friends on the website, but I never saw any of them in person. I realize that I needed to be more pro-active to get something out of that type of social network. I attended my usual conference events and wandered around the vendor floor. I'm just wondering if this use of a Ning group in such a huge conference was just a playground for the attendees who subscribed to get some experience with a social network, or if others got more out of their participation.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

ISTE's Debate on Portfolios replacing Standardized Tests

Are Digital Portfolios a Realistic Alternative to Standardized Testing? ISTE’s magazine, Learning & Leading with Technology, wants your opinion. If you would like to share your thoughts on this topic, reply to Paul Wurster ( with a 25–50 word response by July 15. They are going to select 6–8 of the best comments they receive (attributing them with name, affiliation, city, and state) and publish them in the September/October issue of L&L. Not sure? Read the opinion of two other education professionals in the June/July edition of Point/Counterpoint in L&L on the Web.

The second paper referenced in my previous blog entry contained a reference to a January 2006 article by Kathleen Blake Yancey in Campus Technology: "An Exercise in Absence... Notes on the Past and Future of Digital Portfolios and Student Learning." She makes excellent points about student learning and engagement, the importance of reflection, and some cautions about portfolios:
In Portfolios in the Writing Classroom, Catherine Lucas identified three that are as relevant for digital portfolios as for print. First, she notes that portfolios can be "weakened by effect," asking "Can . . . [a] spirit of exploration remain central to the use of portfolios as they become more commonplace?" Second is the "failure of research": "The danger here is that those who cling to the illusion that only what can be measured or counted is worth doing will find the effects of portfolios . . . not only resistant to measurement but initially resistant even to definition." Given the scale that digital technology makes possible, her last caution, co-option by large-scale assessment, is perhaps the most prescient. She notes that if we are not careful, portfolios will become merely a new vehicle used to perform the old task, with the result that portfolios will become standardized-with common assignments and restrictive learning conditions. Should this happen, Lucas says, portfolios "will be just as likely as other standardized tests to limit learning by restricting curriculum to what is most easily and economically measured."
I am concerned that the positivists, those advocating the use of portfolios to replace standardized testing, are having a major impact on mandatory portfolio implementation in some states. It reminds me of Lee Shulman's [in Lyons (1998) With Portfolios in Hand] five dangers of portfolios, and specifically "perversion"
"If portfolios are going to be used, whether at the state level in Vermont or California, or at the national level by the National Board, as a form of high stakes assessment, why will portfolios be more resistant to perversion than all other forms of assessment have been? And if one of the requirements in these cases is that you develop a sufficiently objective scoring system so you can fairly compare people with one another, will your scoring system end up objectifying what's in the portfolio to the point where the portfolio will be nothing but a very, very cumbersome multiple choice test?" (p. 35)
These articles (and the Shulman chapter) provide a more student-centered view of portfolios in education. At NECC by contrast, I talked with at least one technology vendor selling the "e-portfolio as standardized-test-replacement" and two classroom teachers who focused on a more student-centered approach to electronic portfolios (see my last NECC blog entry). I actually think we need both. Portfolios best support learning and formative assessment; standardized tests are best for institutional accountability. One can inform the other, but not replace it. When I write my 25-50 word response, I'll post it here in my blog.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Papers about ePortfolios in Higher Ed

I just learned about a couple of new papers that have recently been published about ePortfolios in higher education. The first one was published in the Journal of Computing in Higher Education Spring 2008, Vol. 19(2), 47-90: "Development of the Electronic Portfolio Student Perspective Instrument: An ePortfolio Integration Initiative" with authors Albert Dieter Ritzhaupt, Oma Singh, Thelma Seyferth (Department of Secondary Education) and Robert F. Dedrick (Department of Educational Measurement and Research), University of South Florida. Here is the executive summary:
WITH THE PROLIFERATION OF EPORTFOLIOS and their organizational uses in higher education, it is important for educators and other relevant stakeholders to understand the student perspective. The way students view and use ePortfolios are revealing elements to aid educators in the successful integration of ePortfolio systems. This research describes the development of the Electronic Portfolio Student Perspective Instrument (EPSPI) and initial validation (N = 204) efforts in the context of an ePortfolio initiative in a College of Education. The EPSPI incorporates four domains from a student perspective: employment, visibility, assessment, and learning; and connects those domains with four relevant stakeholders: students, administrators, faculty, and employers. Descriptive analyses, exploratory factor analysis, and a qualitative analysis using grounded theory were used. Results indicate that student perspectives towards ePortfolios are with three distinct, internally consistent underlying constructs: learning, assessment, and visibility. Qualitative analysis revealed four interrelated themes from a student perspective: system characteristics, support structure, purpose, and personal impact.
Another article was fully published online in The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol 9, No 2 (2008), ISSN: 1492-3831: " Eportfolios: From description to analysis" with authors Gabriella Minnes Brandes and Natasha Boskic, The University of British Columbia, Canada. Here is the abstract from that article:
In recent years, different professional and academic settings have been increasingly utilizing ePortfolios to serve multiple purposes from recruitment to evaluation. This paper analyzes ePortfolios created by graduate students at a Canadian university. Demonstrated is how students’ constructions can, and should, be more than a simple compilation of artifacts. Examined is an online learning environment whereby we shared knowledge, supported one another in knowledge construction, developed collective expertise, and engaged in progressive discourse. In our analysis of the portfolios, we focused on reflection and deepening understanding of learning. We discussed students’ use of metaphors and hypertexts as means of making cognitive connections. We found that when students understood technological tools and how to use them to substantiate their thinking processes and to engage the readers/ viewers, their ePortfolios were richer and more complex in their illustrations of learning. With more experience and further analysis of exemplars of existing portfolios, students became more nuanced in their organization of their ePortfolios, reflecting the messages they conveyed. Metaphors and hypertexts became useful vehicles to move away from linearity and chronology to new organizational modes that better illustrated students’ cognitive processes. In such a community of inquiry, developed within an online learning space, the instructor and peers had an important role in enhancing reflection through scaffolding. We conclude the paper with a call to explore the interactions between viewer/reader and the materials presented in portfolios as part of learning occasions.

NECC 2008 update

I am sitting in the Blogger's Cafe in the San Antonio convention center. Yesterday, I did my short presentation on the final results of the REFLECT Initiative. I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through the vendor exhibits. Today, I am enjoying the morning just doing networking, taking with people who are dropping by, and decompressing after four very full days. It is time to go home and get settled into my new condo!

I just had a wonderful conversation with a high school English teacher, who used my website for resources on working with her 11th grade students on electronic portfolios (she showed me some examples). She started her students with a blog, but many of them went far beyond the blog and created their own presentation portfolios using one of the Web 2.0 tools. She herself had to use one of the commercial e-portfolio/assessment management systems in her graduate program, and she said, "It took all the thinking out of it. They gave me the standards and told me which artifacts to put into each one! It wasn't as effective as what my students did!" I am hoping she will share her story with my new Google Group: web2eportfolios. I invite others to join the group (please give me your reason for wanting to join as you fill out the form).

I had another delightful conversation with a tech coordinator from a small Texas school district, who talked to me about his proposal for hosting ePortfolios for his 1400 student school district using WordPressMU. We talked about this strategy, and how they could implement the blogs and pages that the tool supports. Their district has already established a GoogleApps account for branded GMail in their district as well as all of the other Google tools. They are also setting up servers to host podcasts and video sharing. I am hoping he can also tell their story through my new Google Group.