Friday, February 27, 2009

NCEPR Participation

I had a great two weeks. I spent three days in Eugene, working with the University of Oregon's ePortfolio Committee. While in Eugene, I also did a webinar on ePortfolios and Web 2.0 for ISTE. I went to the NCCE Conference in Portland for one day and I then drove to San Francisco. During this week there were meetings at San Francisco State on the new version of the eFolio Minnesota, and then a Day of Dialog on ePortfolios sponsored by SFSU. That was an interesting (but fragmented) day. The groups were divided into two or three rooms, and there wasn't a clear, common theme, nor an opportunity for all of the groups to gather for a common gathering. But there were a lot of good conversations because they built two times into the agenda for conversation around different themes.

On the last two days, the National Coalition for ePortfolio Research (NCEPR) had a meeting, and I joined as part of the University of Oregon team. It was a very valuable experience. We developed a set of weblinks related to NCEPR and eportfolios. Here were some of my reflections during the first day:
1. What connections were discussed in your group?
The balance between the assessment/summative types of portfolios for students (DU) and the learning/formative types of portfolios for faculty (Hawaii). Sharing my diagram seemed to fit well after our discussion of the other two programs and of the Oregon program. I loved what the team wrote, about the assumptions about learning... And how the piece focused the conceptual framework of the team.

2. Which of these connections is/are most meaningful to your project and why?
I really like the emphasis on learning and its relationship to portfolios. After my depressing conversation last night, I am wondering how to counteract the apparent "failure" of ePortfolios (as product) with the promise or the potential of the process approach to portfolios. I found the comparison of the two programs to be interesting... the outcomes-based program with the supportive process-based program.

3. What else did you learn in your conversation this morning that you want to be sure to share with your colleagues.
I found the focus on faculty portfolios as "engaged educator participants" to be a valuable contribution to my thinking about how to engage faculty in the process of building an ePortfolio for their own professional development. The Hawaii project provides an interesting model to engage faculty in process portfolios, in the hopes that they will adopt the process with their own students.
I hope I can stay involved with the UOFolio team as they go through the process. I find the collaboration and conversation to be such a valuable part of my own learning. I really miss this type of community of practice. Maybe I should take a recent offer to create a course that I offer online. Or maybe I should try to find a university that wants me to facilitate the development of ePortfolios with either faculty or students through an online tutorial format. I realize now how much I miss having colleagues that I can talk with, share face-to-face on a regular basis.

During the second day of the NCEPR meeting, there was an emphasis on Web 2.0 tools and social networking. Each group shared documents that outlined their students' use of Web 2.0 tools. Then the entire group discussed the question that I asked during the EPAC online chat (on Monday): We really need to look at the engagement [motivation] factors that drive the use of social networks: how we can incorporate those factors into ePortfolios?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Which ePortfolio Tool?

I've been getting more requests for my recommendations on software for ePortfolios. Here is a request on one of my listservs"
I'm heading a small group of teachers wishing to implement electronic student portfolios for about 100 students. We're looking at various options and wondered what your experiences are. We'd need something accessible from home and school (Web based?) and scaleable to approximately 2,200 students. We are not a 1:1, but may be eventually (really, shouldn't everybody?). Any guidance, lessons learned, limitations, etc... are much appreciated.
My response: Here is my answer to anyone who emails me about ePortfolio tools: "It Depends!" The first question to ask is not about what tool to use, but rather: "What is your purpose for having your students develop an e-portfolio?" A clear description of the purpose should then drive the selection of appropriate tools. [Yes, plural... integrate multiple tools into the process.]

Do you want a student-centered ePortfolio that is the student's story of their own learning, or do you want a system to collect data about student achievement for an external audience (accreditation, accountability). These are the extreme ends along a continuum, but also the major debate in the field today. In my opinion, if you say you want to do both, then pick two different tools, because when these two functions are combined within the same system, data collection/management tends to depress creativity and personal expression in student portfolios. [See my last blog entry about MySpace.]

I will be doing a webinar for ISTE on February 16 entitled, "ePortfolios and Web 2.0" where I will focus on a variety of tools to create student-centered portfolios: WordPress MU (a multi-user blog with pages you host on your own server), GoogleApps for Education, and a variety of Wikis. Google Sites is Google's version of a wiki (replacing Google Pages) and well integrated with GoogleDocs and other Google tools (except Blogger). I just recommend that if you decide to use Google, establish your own Google Apps for Education site, with your own domain name, as a quasi "walled garden" where student work can only be viewed by someone with an account within your domain.

The Electronic Portfolio Action Committee (EPAC) is conducting an online discussion on Monday, February 23, to discuss the whole range of tools that I outlined on my website ( or in my blog, where I am currently exploring what I call "balancing the two faces of ePortfolios" as mentioned above. You can read my article that is "in progress":

I'm also doing a "bring your own laptop" workshop at NECC (Saturday, June 27) entitled, "Web 2.0 Tools for Classroom-Based Assessment and Interactive Student ePortfolios" where we will focus on GoogleApps, but will also discuss blogs and wikis.

There are more commercial ePortfolio systems out there than course management systems (per Trent Batson in Campus Computing, 1/7/09). Most of these commercial systems are what I call "assessment management systems" developed in higher education to meet the accreditation requirements of Teacher Education programs [or as an add-on to a course management system used primarily in higher education]... There are few commercial systems that were created specifically for K-12. With the current economic environment, most schools are looking for a free solution... I just worry about the continued economic viability of some Web 2.0 sites. That's why I tend to prefer the big "cloud computing companies" (especially Google).

Sorry this message is so long... it just seemed like a "teachable moment" and very current with my own discussions in the ePortfolio community [including my own Google Group on Researching Lifelong ePortfolios and Web 2.0... requires membership application with reason for wanting to join].

Thursday, February 05, 2009

MySpace Founders on Charlie Rose

I enjoyed the video clip of Charlie Rose's interview with the co-founders of MySpace, conducted on Tuesday night. They claimed that there are 125 million visitors a month to their website. Of particular interest to me at the end of the interview was their response to Charlie's question, "Realizing that you're not a philosopher, why is it so compelling for so many people?" Chris DeWolfe's response:
A lot of it is about the ability to express yourself. So if you look at your MySpace Profile, you have your music that you're listening to, you have the colors, you have the background, you have the videos. So, I look at your Profile, if you have one, and I can get to know you pretty quickly. It's almost as if you invited me over to a dinner party and you had certain music playing, and you had certain kinds of furniture, and you invited a certain group of friends, I would get to know you very quickly. So, I think it's an online representation of who you are, which is really fascinating, and it's a great way to stay in touch with people, and it's a great discovery mechanism. And there's no other place and no other way to really do that.

Tom Anderson (the other co-founder) added: I think a lot of it has to do with timing, too; that we came out right at the right time when digital cameras were on the rise, and people wanted to come in. People weren't exactly ready for something like MySpace a year or two earlier, so timing really helped us in being there to give people what they wanted.
The issue of personal expression is the major challenge with many of the ePortfolio systems that are in use in formal education today. It is fascinating to contemplate the role of social networks to build what I call "Your Digital Self" online (EIFeL calls ePortfolios "digital identity"). There are many capabilities missing from the current social networks that we need in institutional ePortfolios. Some of the most current ePortfolio systems (Elgg, Mahara, Epsilen) have blogs and built-in social networks, but most of the commercial and open source tools lack the capability for the level of personal expression found in MySpace or Facebook. As DeWolfe described the "discovery mechanism" which is learning, it is interesting to think about creating "Academic MySpaces" (that aren't blocked on most school networks!) that would engage students as much as the current crop of social networking sites. Engagement just won't be a factor until we can incorporate those elements of personal expression.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Feedback on Diagram

I posted the diagram in my last post to my Google Group "Researching Lifelong Portfolios and Web 2.0" and received some great feedback on it. So I updated it on the list. Today, I received a Spanish version of the diagram in my email from a teacher educator in Madrid! I love Web 2.0!

As I said in one of my posts in that discussion, "This is an example of how a social network can provoke critical thinking! I have modified the diagram, because I recognize that the process is not always linear. However, when a novice begins the process of building toward some type of presentation portfolio (the "product" or showcase in this diagram), it helps to have a sequence of tasks to complete. So I took the comments into consideration as I revised the diagram..."