Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Reflective learning for the net generation student

Through one of my Google groups, I found an interesting research project conducted by Christopher Murray and Dr. John Sandars, Medical Education Unit, University of Leeds in the U.K.: "Reflective learning for the net generation student" focusing on digital storytelling! (Scroll down about a third of the way through this issue of the newsletter of the Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine, Autumn 2008.) Quotes I particularly like:
Reflective learning is essential for lifelong learning and many net generation students do not engage in the process since it does not align with their preferred learning style (Grant, Kinnersley, Metcalf, Pill, Houston, 2006).The combination of multimedia and technology motivates students to creatively produce digital stories that stimulate reflective learning. Digital stories present a personal and reflective narrative using a range of media, especially photographs and video. In addition, students can feel empowered and develop multiple literacies that are essential for lifelong learning...

Why don't students spend time to reflect on the things they are learning? Our initial research suggests that Net Generation students dislike using written text, but their engagement increases when they use digital storytelling. Digital storytelling is an innovative approach to reflective learning in which pictures and sound are collected and assembled to form a multimedia story.
The digital stories created by the authors' first year medical students began as blog entries using Elgg plus images taken by many of them with their mobile phone cameras. Their digital stories for class were actually told using Powerpoint. The student comments reported were very encouraging and the authors concluded:

Overall, we appear to have successfully engaged our undergraduate medical students in reflective learning by using a range of new technologies and also by the use of mobile phones. Blogs were used as a personal learning space that combined both media storage with a creative space. Images were obtained from a variety of media sharing sites. Most mobile phones have a camera function and the “always to hand” nature of mobile camera phones encourages spontaneous image capture at times of surprise during an experience, the “disorientating dilemma” that Mezirow (1991) regards as being an essential component of transformative reflective learning.


Digital storytelling offers a practical teaching approach that combines multimedia and technology for reflective learning. Our work in undergraduate supports the use of this approach to engage Net generation students in reflective learning but it also appears to stimulate deep reflection. You can read more about our work and see examples at

Sunday, March 15, 2009

More Interesting Reading

Some new online articles and an updated version of a book:
  • Randy Bass and Bret Eynon: Still Moving From Teaching to Learning (in the Wired Campus blog) referencing the January 2009 issue of Academic Commons. I find the comments even more illuminating, providing provocative comments from some more traditional academics.
  • Electronic Portfolios: a Path to the Future of Learning (in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Marh 18, 2009) also by Randy Bass and Bret Eynon. This blog entry provides a short summary of several success stories about e-portfolios, summarizing four fundamental features:
    • First, ePortfolios can integrate student learning in an expanded range of media, literacies, and viable intellectual work.
    • Second, ePortfolios enable students to link together diverse parts of their learning including the formal and informal curriculum.
    • Third, ePortfolios engage students with their learning.
    • Fourth, ePortfolios offer colleges a meaningful mechanism for accessing and organizing the evidence of student learning. In many ways, ePortoflios are not primarily about technology but a commitment to a set of principles about education.
  • Standards to Take ePortfolios Outside the Institution and into the Future, a conversation with Phil Ice about ePortfolio standards in Campus Technology, where he focuses on the use of the new Adobe Acrobat 9 to keep ePortfolio data accessible over time (something I discussed in the 90s... but now I think ePortfolios published in compliance with WWW technical standards would be just as accessible in the foreseeable future).
  • ePortfolio: There's No 'There' There, a Viewpoint by Trent Batson in Campus Technology about how "ePortfolios mean differing things to different people."
    For some, an ePortfolio is an open education approach to learning. For others, it's the technologies that support open education. For others, it's the learning artifacts students create and structure. For still others, it's a way to assess student progress toward learning goals. And, finally, for others, ePortfolios are a way to record a person's professional achievements over time.
    Again, the Comments are even more interesting.
  • Google Apps Eportfolio Online Rubric and Assessment Form providing an Evaluation Rubric for ePortfolio (I think this focuses on K-12).
I also received the Second Edition of The Learning Portfolio: Reflective Practice for Improving Student Learning, edited by John Zubizarreta. The new version of this book, part of the Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series, provides 14 articles under a section entitled, "Models of Learning Portfolios" and both Sample Learning Portfolio Selections and a large section of Practical Materials, including portfolio assignments and rubrics. The author made a slight change to his graphic model of a learning portfolio, which illustrates the following equation: Reflection + Documentation/Evidence + Collaboration/Mentoring = Learning. It is at the intersection of these three elements that you will find a Learning Portfolio.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A K-12 Plan

I spent the first half of this week visiting schools in the school district where I am facilitating their implementation of ePortfolios K-12. Then I facilitated a two-day workshop with the committee. On the first day, there were "progress reports" and I gave the committee feedback on my visits to all of the schools. In the afternoon, we focused on Change, and I facilitated the Change Game with the committee. I think they really saw the challenges of implementing a change across the district.

On the second day, we built a plan for district-wide implementation of electronic portfolios as a developmental process, addressing both the diverse and growing technology competency of the students and teachers, as well as the varied experience with the portfolio learning and assessment process. We identified three levels of portfolio implementation: the ePortfolio as Storage (Collection), the ePortfolio as Workspace/Process (Collection + Reflection), and the ePortfolio as Showcase/Product (Collection + Selection/Reflection + Direction + Presentation). Of course, our goal is to get everyone to the third level by high school, we also recognized that there are developmental levels of both teachers and students, and that to be successful with ePortfolios, there has to be good integration of technology across the curriculum, as well as a student-centered approach to reflection and deep learning.

I set up the framework for the plan in Google Sites, but they wrote their grade-level plans collaboratively in GoogleDocs and I linked these plans into the Google Site. We have developed a first draft, which they are going to be able to share with the staffs in their individual schools. I will be heading back in May to help with the practical implementation of this plan. Luckily, each school site has access to an xServe, so they can avoid slow Internet access, and we are going to figure out how to use the blogs and wikis in Leopard Server to store the reflections and digital artifacts. The district has implemented a 1-1 Macbook program in all secondary schools, so this is a wonderful opportunity for this Apple Distinguished Educator to see a truly creative model in ePortfolios being implemented!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

CUE Conference

Due to a snow storm in the Sierras, I cancelled my plans (to visit schools) and drove down to Palm Springs to attend the CUE Conference. The first day was an EduBlogger Conference (I called it a day with fellow nerds). I loved it!. Lots of great ideas and new websites. The conference officially started the next day, and I attended a valuable session, conducted by Apple, on the Leopard Server. I am seeing a lot of potential for using this toolset for ePortfolios in K-12 schools. I'm thinking that children in elementary school could manage this interface. I'm interested in doing some research in this area.

There was only one presentation on ePortfolios (based on a 90s model of using PowerPoint). I sat in on one session on digital storytelling in primary grades using Pixie (Tech4Learning). My favorite session was a hands-on session with Animoto. Great fun! I downloaded the version to my iPhone! I am grateful for that snow storm. It gave me opportunities to reconnect with some of my California ed tech buddies! I also learned some new tools and strategies, always a sign of a successful event for me.