Friday, July 31, 2009

David Warlick's ePortfolio features

David Warlick wrote about The Next Killer App? (e-portfolios!) in his blog, where he outlines a very nice list of features for eportfolio assessment. My response to his blog and the very interesting comments that followed:
I applaud your list of features, which exist in one form or another somewhere on the internet. The challenge is putting them together into one system without making it very complex. I have experience with a lot of the commercial and open source e-portfolio systems, and the learning curve/ease of use is a challenge. In my blog– –I am discussing a lot of the issues of e-portfolios for learning. I have seen e-portfolios in teacher education programs move from stories of deep learning to checklists of standards/competencies. There exists a lot of confusion about e-portfolios: are they reflective journals? or are they assessment management systems? I believe the current collection of commercial tools were developed in response to the NCATE 2000 Teacher Education Program Standards. The problem with ePortfolio tools today is their genesis in higher education. There are very few tools that were created specifically for K-12, and especially usable by primary students.

After the last NECC, I wrote a blog entry ( where I discussed ePortfolios and the new Accountability Systems discussed in the Obama Education Plan. There needs to be a wider discussion of the implementation of the e-portfolio process in K-12 schools, that is not tool-specific, but provides educators with a range of Web 2.0 technologies to support BOTH student learning and institutional accountability. Right now, I advocate using separate tools to meet these disparate purposes, because I believe that the capability for student personalization and creativity always takes a back seat to data collection and aggregation in these all-in-one systems. My blog entry on Which ePortfolio Tool? ( outlines some of these issues. I also discuss “Balancing the Two Faces of ePortfolio” on my website and in conference presentations and keynotes: (I believe we need to separate the workspace from the showcase; the process from the product; the learning portfolio from the presentation portfolio.) David, your work on Classroom Blogging is, for me, the foundation of a reflective Learning Portfolio.

Let’s keep up the dialogue. I think some of the best thinking on ePortfolios is happening in New Zealand, where they have published several interesting White Papers, and they are addressing the issues from the students’ learning needs. They have developed a very interesting e-portfolio model ( that includes a database to store artifacts or links to documents stored anywhere on the Web. Such a database could be used to organize all of the artifacts for use in a portfolio (regardless of the tool to be used to construct the presentation portfolio). With the Internet, the process is really one of hyperlinking and, as I learned from Hall Davidson at NECC: “All you need is an EMBED code!”

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Micro blogging - Twitter

I've decided to take the plunge into Twitter, to see if it is a Web 2.0 tool that can be applied to the ePortfolio process. I signed up for Twitter in early 2008, because my first tweet was about preparing for my last trip to Hawaii... then I forgot all about it until NECC 2009, where it seemed to be the social networking tool of choice this year; so I wrote a second tweet about being at NECC with my daughter. In the last week, David Wicks encouraged me to try Twitter (see my last blog entry), so I decided to start learning. I found a SlideShare Twitter workshop (with link to YouTube videos) and another tutorial presentations that are good at explaining the process and how to interpret a tweet.

I am concerned about the 140 character limit of a tweet... Is that really appropriate for reflection? Does it just encourage short, shallow writing, compared to the deeper dialogue that can be facilitated using a blog or wiki? I am able to interpret the unique language of Twitter, but also realize there is a learning curve and a protocol to be learned. I forget my early experiences with Blogger more than five years ago, so I don't know if the blogging process is easier. I figured out how to post URLs to a tweet, so I set up an account on to accompany my Twitter account and keep track of all of the URLs that I include. Now I am exploring the educational applications of this tool. I found a cute news video about a kindergarten class using Twitter in Seattle. It seems like the power of Twitter is the critical mass of users (like Facebook for social networking), but what about privacy of K-12 students? I also want to explore Edmodo, a micro-blogging application for K-12 students and teachers, which was created to address this issue.
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Friday, July 24, 2009

Conversation with Teacher Educator

Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with a teacher educator from a college near me. Several years ago, they had adopted one of the commercial tools but just recently gave up on it. Instead they have their students sign up for accounts so that they would own the site after they graduate. I also pointed out the fact that blog content follows an interoperability standard that allows them to transfer their content to another blogging system, should they want to. He had read some of my website (but not this blog) and decided that student choice and creativity were more important than data aggregation! He noticed immediately a change in students' attitudes toward their blogs compared to those who used the rigid commercial system.

We also talked about confidentality and the ability to password-protect individual entries or the entire site. I like the ability to document learning over time in tagged blog entries and then construct pages around specific themes (outcomes/goals/standards). I just wish WP would automatically generate permanent pages with aggregated entries based on tags... but that is a topic for another day.

When asked about how they are managing the data aggregation, he said they are using the gradebook function of the college's CMS to collect faculty evaluation data. We are planning to meet next month to talk about their process.

This discussion reminds me of the discussion held at the NCEPR meeting earlier this week. When talking about technology challenges, more than one person mentioned "rigid" systems, either home-grown or commercial. Once again, the needs of institutions for data aggregation often overshadows the importance of student choice and voice, especially in how the visual presentation truly represents the learner's own vision and creativity. This Teacher Ed program has figured out how to balance the needs of the institution with the needs of their teacher
candidates... who just might want to replicate the process with their own students... with tools that are free and available in schools.

Follow-up: The teacher educator, David Wicks of Seattle Pacific University, gave me permission to share his FAQs about WordPress and his blog entry where he discussed their decision to adopt WordPress, a process he calls bPortfolios (b is for blog).

International Development of ePortfolio Model

In response to my blog posting yesterday, I received a link to a blog entry of an educator in Spain who adapted Derek Wenmoth's model (from New Zealand). International collaboration at work! I think the tools on the left side are only a few of the many tools that are used, and the NZ model saw the need for a database to manage the PLE "collection of atifacts" process. Keep up the conversation!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Another ePortfolio Model

Derek Wenmoth, of CORE-ED in New Zealand, published this image in his blog last year, focusing on Conceptualising e-Portfolios. I found this link in a discussion group established by the Ministry of Education in New Zealand on Managed Learning Environments (MLE), "the software and digital content that suppoort learning."

This diagram is very similar to several of my model diagrams, where the storage/repository is separate from the presentation portfolio that I might construct in different systems (as I have done in my "Online Portfolio Adventure"). In all of these diagrams, I have focused on the storage issues with ePortfolios; if we could solve the storage/management issues (a lifelong repository?) then the ePortfolio presentation issues will be more manageable. In the NZ MLE discussion, Trevor Storr made the following suggestion:
Lets assume that we have a national data store for our ePortfolio Applications (note the 's'). Different ePortfolios would access the data store (I could imagine at least one funding model for this). Now if the data store was a simple database that could be mapped to open ePortfolio standards then the data would easily be used by different applications with little user intervention.

The benefit of this approach is that to use the national ePortfolio data store vendors will have to map the database to whatever standard they choose. Secondly, the problem of portability (at a user level) is avoided. Finally, as standards evolve, database fields can be mapped to match the standard.

In summary: the data does not have to move between ePortfolio applications if applications are able to access a single data store that can be mapped to the relevant standard(s).
That is the model that I have been advocating for several years. A year ago, I explored different online storage systems for creating this digital repository. A database of artifacts that is maintained over a lifetime is the centerpiece of Derek's diagram, and should be central to our thinking about next generation ePortfolio tools. In the MLE discussion, Russell responded:
I'm with Trevor here,
I don't think interoperability is about where the components of artefacts/DLO's or artefacts themselves sit or are stored. I think its about the ability of LMS's/Eportfolio's to aggregate that stuff in a way that preserves some chronology and preserves a time stamped example of work. (along with appropriate related assessment) We're already in an age of mashups where a creative online artefact or piece of work may be sucking a component out of flickr or animoto and being combined with text in a blogger type environment. We have a whole cluster of kids in Tamaki, from Y1 -Y13 already creating content in this environment. For me, & I think our cluster, an eportfolio needs to be able to access a set of time stamped artefacts that were created on or offline, (some of the online ones being multi-sourced mashups), that the school & student identify as being part of the student's cumulative record of work. Copies of these artefacts/DLO's could sit in one central repository (as Trevor suggested) and individuals ought to be able to rearrange their portfolio's with different examples of content to suit different purposes over time. I see the portfolio as an overlay and an organiser for this content. I see a developmental continuum of teacher organisation gradually giving way to learner organisation in respect of how this stuff is managed and owned.
OK, Google, when is the Google WebDrive going to be released? The ePortfolio community is ready! What do we need? EMBED codes or drag-and-drop HYPERLINKS to our artifacts in an online data storage system!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Personal Branding and ePortfolios

An interesting article was posted this week to the PBS Media Shift blog with the title, "Personal Branding Becomes a Necessity in Digital Age." As I read this post, I found many references to processes that sounded like ePortfolios, at least for the purpose of employability.

[Scott] Karp says he built his brand at Publishing 2.0, using it as a soapbox of ideas and a forum to discuss them through comments.

"My blog became resume, business card, references, network all in one," Karp told me. "I would go to conferences, meet people, and find they already 'knew' me through my blog -- an odd but useful form of micro-celebrity."
I've had that same experience with my blog, meeting people who only knew me from this blog, but carrying on a conversation that seemed like they were "inside my head." This quote ties personal branding directly to an ePortfolio for employability:
"When you're considering switching jobs, even a personal website with a small portfolio of sample work can be invaluable," [Matt] Cutts [of Google] said. "People will search for you online, so it's important to take part in that conversation, and having your own website can be a great way to put your best foot forward."

"Grab a domain name and work on burnishing your personal reputation online. It's definitely not the case that everyone needs a blog, but having one place that acts as a face to the world can really help. There's room for a resume/CV, but also for some writing samples that show off your abilities." -- Matt Cutts, Google (from his Letter to a young journalist post)

Isn't that a portfolio? I also love this quote:

...And in this era, you need to be very careful, as search engines can log all sorts of things. Remember: Whatever happens in Vegas...stays on Google." -- Scott Monty, Ford Motor Co.

Even more illuminating are the comments that appeared from other readers of the article:
I find the whole idea of personal branding both a necessity and an opportunity to find ones true voice.

Remember MONEY magazine said in there 12/07 issue - "You're only as good as Google says you are"

Personal branding, to my opinion, is a tool to tell people who you are and what is your unique contribution to the business. It validates and manifests the inner knowledge of your being and empowers you to act freely to your full potential.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

ePortfolios and new Accountability Systems

I was doing a search on Google Scholar this week, using the terms "electronic portfolios in elementary education." I came across the following abstract for an article ... the title of the article really hit a nerve with me: Will Mandating Portfolios Undermine Their Value?
Mandating portfolios on a system wide or statewide basis may destroy one of their greatest assets: allowing students to reflect on their learning and feel a sense of hope and control. Once standards are defined by an outside authority, teacher-student collaboration is minimized and the importance of students' own goals and learning assessment diminishes.
-- Case, Susan H. (1994) Will Mandating Portfolios Undermine Their Value? Educational Leadership, v52 n2 p46-47 Oct 1994
This quote underlines the challenge we have with mandating portfolios: how do we maintain student engagement and ownership? Then, again, if there is no extrinsic motivator or mandate, where is the intrinsic motivation to reflect on learning, especially when there are so many competing priorities in our students' lives? If only we could capture the motivation behind social networks to facilitate reflection on learning! That is the place where students reflect on life, albeit most often with a more social, less academic focus.

From my brief longitudinal review of the literature, it is obvious that the research on portfolios focused on K-12 schools in the 90s, and switched over to higher education since 2000. Perhaps the reason focuses on two factors: No Child Left Behind (2001) federal legislation changed the focus of assessment from the K-12 classroom to statewide standardized testing for high stakes accountability; and NCATE 2000 accreditation requirements for Teacher Education programs required establishment of Assessment Management Systems to document teacher candidate achievement and program improvement. In 2002, the Chronicle of Higher Education also declared that ePortfolios were the "next big thing" in IT... and college students provide an easily-researched population for faculty with research and publishing requirements.

While the direction for the renewal of NCLB has not been finalized, there are indications that a broader definition of assessment will allow multiple measures of achievement, supporting more formative, classroom-based assessment, which will make portfolios more popular in K-12 schools. Maybe the portfolio pendulum will move back toward K-12. President Obama made the following statement in his March 10, 2009 speech on Education:
And I'm calling on our nation's governors and state education chiefs to develop standards and assessments that don't simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking and entrepreneurship and creativity.
Wouldn't an electronic portfolio help a student showcase these 21st century skills... especially creativity? The Obama Education Plan contained the following statement:
Develop better student assessments that allow teachers and parents to identify and focus on individual needs and talents throughout the school year. Technology can help get information about student performance to teachers and parents in real time, and support ongoing efforts to improve student performance in an area of weakness and support student success in areas where the student shows particular interest or aptitude.
Shouldn't an electronic portfolio be one of those formative assessment tools, allowing a student to showcase their successes... and empower them to assess their own work? I advocate an ePortfolio that is student-centered, emphasizing student ownership and "voice" (as highlighted in the NZ report in my last blog entry). There are other tools that can be used as institution-centered data-collection systems. I hope these two approaches won't get confused... or combined. Otherwise, K-12 ePortfolios will look like many of the ePortfolios produced in Teacher Education programs today, which are, to quote Hartnell-Young and Morriss, "heavy with documentation but light on passion."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

ePortfolios - Celebrating Learning (in NZ)

The New Zealand Ministry of Education has just posted a report that discusses these questions:
  1. What are the important features of a platform to support ePortfolios for NZ education?
  2. Is it possible for one system to accommodate the entire spectrum of requirements across the education sector?
  3. How important is interoperability of ePortfolio data?
  4. What are the key criteria for selecting a system?
This report was written by Ian Fox, Sandy Britain and Viv Hall, and provides a good discussion of the issues of implementing ePortfolios across the K-12 age span. I was impressed by the five case studies included in the Appendix, as well as a brief comparison of the two ePortfolio technical standards: the IMS ePortfolio specification and LEAP2A, developed by CETIS in the U.K. (hint: the report recommended adoption of the LEAP2A standard).

At NECC, I heard a rumor that ePortfolios were proposed as part of the National Educational Technology Plan. After reading this report, I am wondering whether individual states and/or the U.S. Department of Education would consider the ideas presented in this study. I am always so impressed with the implementation of ePortfolios in New Zealand, and I've blogged about them frequently. I am trying to figure out how to get down there in February or March 2010, when I am also going to conferences in India and possibly Singapore. A visit to NZ will wrap up the research for my book!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Social Networking reaching critical mass?

I feel like my social networks are changing. This last weekend, my closest family members established Facebook accounts. My daughter had an account before I did, and she uses it a lot with her face-to-face friends. She left her Budapest friends with the comment, “See you on Facebook.” Until yesterday, it just seemed like a college student and professional tool. Now, it is becoming a family tool. I’ve seen how well it works watching my daughter using Facebook and Twitter from my iPhone. Now I see my son using those tools from his Blackberry! It really feels like a critical mass is emerging. Prior to this weekend, most of my “friends” on Facebook were distant Ed Tech buddies. Now, my immediate family is involved, which makes me want to log in more often.

I also noticed that social networking at NECC changed this year. I signed up for the Ning network, as I did last year, but the traffic this year was very low. This year, it was all Twitter! I wonder how soon there will be a link between Facebook and Twitter, so that the same update doesn't need to be posted to each account. As I learned at NECC, “All you need is an Embed code.”

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

My 21st NECC

I just finished my presentation at the 30th (and last) National Educational Compting Conference (NECC). Next year the conference will just be called ISTE 2010 in Denver. I uploaded my slides again to Slideshare... it seems a lot easier than converting a .pptx file to .ppt and then uploading to GoogleDocs, publishing it, and then capturing the Embed code. I have a new saying that I got from Hall Davidson's presentation on digital video: "All you need is an Embed code!" (to embed artifacts into a Web 2.0 site, just as I have done here!)
It has been a lot fun introducing my daughter to this community of educators... my 21st NECC, her first. She is much more experienced with social networks and Second Life, which will be an element in my book. We are already learning from each other, as she pursues a Masters in Educational Technology and I write a book on Interactive Portfolios for Learning. I just posted a new document on my website, inviting K-12 schools interested in participating in helping me build some case studies for this book.