Tuesday, December 29, 2009

TEDx India presentation

In February 2010 I will be in Mumbai, India, at ASB Un-Plugged 2010, an International Schools Conference. Prior to the conference, I have been invited to make a presentation at TEDxASB, which will be held at the American School of Bombay on February 25th, 2010 between 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm. The theme of the TEDx event is “Embracing Leadership, Innovation, and Change”. The audience will consist of the participants of ASB Un-Plugged 2010 and members of the ASB community -- parents, faculty and students.

Here is my proposed presentation:

Social Networks and Interactive Portfolios: Blurring the Boundaries

Electronic Portfolios have been with us for almost two decades, used primarily in education to store documents and reflect on learning, provide feedback for improvement, and showcase achievements for accountability or employment. Social networks have emerged over the last five years, used by individuals and groups to store documents and share experiences, showcase accomplishments, communicate and collaborate with friends and family, and, in some cases, facilitate employment searches. The boundaries between these two processes are gradually blurring. As we consider the potential of lifelong e-portfolios, will they resemble the structured accountability systems that are currently being implemented in many higher education institutions? Or are we beginning to see lifelong interactive portfolios emerging as mash-ups in the Web 2.0 cloud, using blogs, wikis, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, etc.? There are many similarities between these two processes; the major differences are in extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation (Dan Pink's concept of autonomy, mastery, and purpose). This presentation will draw on Pink's new book, Drive, and how blurring the boundaries between social networks and e-portfolios could motivate people to adopt the portfolio processes of collection, reflection, selection/presentation, interaction, and collaboration to support lifelong learning.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Motivation and Selecting an ePortfolio System

I have pre-ordered Dan Pink's new book, Drive, which is all about motivation in business, but the more I read, from his newsletter and website, the more I can see application in education. Pink quotes Internet guru and author Clay Shirky (www.shirky.com):
...the most successful websites and electronic forums have a certain Type I approach [to motivation] in their DNA. They're designed-often explicitly--to tap into intrinsic motivation. You can do the same with your online presences if you listen to Shirky and:
• Create an environment that makes people feel good about participating.
• Give users autonomy.
• Keep the system as open as possible.
These criteria came to mind as I recall the following e-mail message I received a week ago:
My school district has been using a ePortfolio system for over three years now with limited success, and is currently researching ePortfolio alternatives.  While I have found numerous platforms that are currently on the market, I have not found any recent articles which compare and contrast these options.  We are particularly focused on adopting a system that will easily allow us to aggregate/export data surrounding student achievement of specific learning goals, primarily as they relate to gradation requirements, but also as a manner to track the consistency of learning and teaching which occurs across the school.

Is there a particular ePortfolio platform that you feel is especially adept at accomplishing these tasks, or an article that you might recommend?
I really wonder what he means by "limited success" but here is part of my response: [after referencing my April 22 blog entry]:
So, you need to decide whether you want an electronic portfolio or an assessment management system. When you describe "a system that will easily allow us to aggregate/export data surrounding student achievement of specific learning goals, primarily as they relate to gradation requirements, but also as a manner to track the consistency of learning and teaching which occurs across the school" that sounds like an institution-centered assessment management system, not a student-centered ePortfolio.  For what purpose of assessment? Accountability or Improvement? (see my recent blog entry and the associated White Paper). There are a variety of recommendations in that blog entry.

In a recent presentation at the Assessment Conference in Indianapolis in October, I made the following point about "Opportunity Cost" (what you give up when you make a decision). You might also be interested in an article on the Limitations of Portfolios.

I don't know what systems you have considered. Do you have a server where you could install Mahara (an open source portfolio tool created in New Zealand)? Did you look at Digication? My research is on students developing student-centered ePortfolios using a variety of free Web 2.0 tools (that they can continue to use after they graduate), primarily GoogleApps (Docs, Sites) or WordPress/EduBlogs. These systems are not used to collect quantitative data about student learning. For that purpose, you could use a data management system that allows you to link to student-centered online portfolio artifacts.

I'm not sure this answers your questions, but the tools today are very primitive, and not well balanced between accountability and improvement. Also, most of the research has been done in higher education, not in K-12. If only we could just capture the engagement of Facebook into an ePortfolio system... but I do not advocate using social networks for ePortfolios... just incorporate those strategies into ePortfolio systems. The only one I know of that tries to include those social networking strategies in a hosted system is Epsilen.com.
So, in addition to the functional criteria for evaluating e-portfolio systems, what about some motivational principles for that are aligned with Shirky's three criteria, where students feel good about participating, giving them some autonomy, while keeping the system as open as possible? Can we also consider Dan Pink's motivating workplace environment that promotes autonomy, mastery, and purpose?

Friday, December 25, 2009

The New Family Album/Diary

For the last six months, my daughter has been living with me, giving me an opportunity to observe how the younger generation lives with technology (not that I don't... but most of my generation of friends and colleagues only use email, not social networks). My Christmas presents from her today were: a windshield mount for my iPhone and a Phillips 8x10 electronic picture frame, to show up to 1,000 photos (one of the few electronic gadgets I have not already bought for myself!). She and I both have iPhones where we can both capture images... she just captures most of hers with the Facebook app and immediately uploads them to her account. Last weekend, we went to a Messiah concert, she took pictures, and had comments from her friends before the concert was over. She has developed a habit of documenting her experiences with her iPhone and Facebook, creating the 21st Century form of the family photo album and diary combined. She has demonstrated the "everydayness" of documenting her experiences because she has a handy tool, and the motivation to share among her far-flung community of friends... who provide feedback through comments.

The ability to immediately document (and also reflect) on experience, and receive immediate feedback from both peers and mentors, is what we need in the academic e-portfolio development process. I am not advocating using Facebook for academic portfolios, but I am witnessing many portfolio processes that can be supported by adding this capability to any number of available systems (already available with most blogs): a social networking app that works with a mobile device (including a camera... missing from the iPod Touch right now). The iPhone/iPod Touch also has the capability to record audio clips, important for younger learners, or those who reflect better with their voices than with their fingers. (There is Dragon Dictation on the iPhone that seems to do a fairly good job of translating spoken words to text... in a quiet place... it didn't work for me when I tried it in an airport Food Court... would that be similar to a busy classroom?).

The tools are slowly starting to emerge to facilitate the workspace/learning/process portfolio, or eDoL (Electronic Documentation of Learning). As we approach the end of this decade, and I reflect upon how much technology has changed in the last 10 years, it is pretty exciting to think about where it will be at the end of the next decade (an appropriate reflection for New Year's Eve?). It is an exciting time to be exploring the potential, and to help others find the relevance of these social networking processes in the service of lifelong learning. Such a gift!

Merry Christmas! (my annual Christmas letter)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Digital Narratives in Online Class

I just spent the afternoon reviewing and grading the final projects in the online class that I have been teaching this fall. One of the assignments was a narrated digital narrative, with the following instructions:
You will create a multimedia digital narrative (digital story with voice narration), that outlines your Technology Philosophy/Creed. This project will be submitted as a URL and embedded into your blog, and the script for your narration should include the references you used to support your statement. This digital narrative will be 4-to-5 minutes (400-500 words), recorded and illustrated with digital images, and posted online, either in YouTube/TeacherTube/SchoolTube (upload a digital video created with iMovie, MovieMaker or PhotoStory), or developed in VoiceThread.com, or developed as Powerpoint adding narration using Screenr.com. Digital images should be either Creative Commons (from Flickr search) or digital photos that you have taken or Powerpoint slides you have exported to JPEG or screenshots of educational websites. No student faces should be identifiable (see Privacy statement). 
I provided step-by-step instructions for using one of the free video editors (iMovie, MovieMaker2 or PhotoStory), and two Web 2.0 authoring tools (VoiceThread or Screenr). Given those choices, the final projects were developed using a variety of tools:
  • Screenr (7) -- many created in Powerpoint and recorded directly to Screenr website
  • VoiceThread (2)
  • a video editor (8) -- iMovie (3) and MovieMaker2 (5)
All of the students maintained a bPortfolio (blog-portfolio maintained in WordPress.com) and most of them embedded their videos using the following tools:
  • Youtube (8)
  • Screenr (5) (2 exported to YouTube)
  • motionbox (1)
  • voicethread (1) (one exported to YouTube)
  • vodpod (3) (to embed video in WordPress.com blog)
For many of these students, it was the first time they had created any type of digital video, or posted a video online. For an online class, there was no face-to-face assistance for the assignment, even though I offered to come on campus to provide a hands-on workshop (no one asked me). Some said that the hardest part of the project was embedding the video into their WordPress blogs (thus the use of vodpod.com). There was some push back when the assignment was first discussed on our last Adobe Connect Conference, but I provided both a practical and theoretical rationale. I am so pleased with the resulting assignments. I am going to ask for permission to post a few of them on the class website.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Portfolio Visualization

Nick Rate, educator and portfolio deep thinker from New Zealand, posted some simple, elegant diagrams on his blog: http://nickrate.com/2009/12/02/portfolio-visualisation/ These simple graphics help explain the progress of portfolio ownership and purpose over the school years.

There is something about these simple diagrams that help to explain a complex process. He also published a more recent blog entry that helps explain the inquiry process: http://nickrate.com/2009/12/06/inquiry-visualisation/

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Assessment, Accountability and Improvement - a paper by Peter Ewell

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) has published an occasional paper by Peter Ewell. I read an earlier version when I was at the Assessment Conference in Indianapolis in October, when I attended several sessions where Dr. Ewell discussed some of these ideas. The table below outlines two paradigms of assessment that represents two extremes along a continuum that represent tensions between improvement and accountability.

Assessment Portfolios are implemented somewhere along the continuum between those two paradigms. As I emphasized in an earlier blog entry,  the concept of Opportunity Cost should be considered here (what do we give up when we emphasize accountability or improvement based on these two paradigms of assessment?). How can we find a balance along the continuum between these two approaches? Here are some preliminary ideas for addressing the balance issues:

  • Use separate tools for assessment management and student e-portfolios?
    (Ball State’s rGrade & WSU’s Harvesting Gradebook)
  • Incorporate blogging and social networking tools for interactivity and engagement
    (Open Source Tools:  WordPress, Movable Type, Mahara)
  • Allow embedding student Web 2.0 links, including video, into their e-portfolios
  • Enable exporting e-portfolio to students’ lifetime personal webspace
  • Acknowledge the importance of both portfolio as workspace (process) & showcase (product)
  • Support student choice and voice in e-portfolios
  • Facilitate reflection for deep learning
  • Provide timely and effective feedback for improvement
  • Encourage student use of multimedia in portfolios for visual communication and literacy
    • Digital Storytelling & Podcasting
    • Picasa/Flickr slideshows
  • Acknowledge/Encourage students’ Web 2.0 digital identity

Monday, December 14, 2009

10 Reasons to use a Blog for your ePortfolio

Here is another blog entry from a faculty member at Boise State University, where I visited last week. It is refreshing to see faculty members model the use of blogs as a reflection space. Both Barbara and Lisa's blogs are developed in WordPress.com, taking advantage of the pages in addition to the blog entries. As they implement a reflective journal (aka, learning log) with their graduate students in the Educational Technology Program at Boise State, they will be providing a model of reflection that their students can emulate in their K-12 classrooms. Bravo!

Of course, all blogging tools are not created equal. I am creating this blog in Blogger, because that is the tool I started using in May 2004. Blogger allows Labels (key word tags) but not the categories available in WordPress. Blogger doesn't allow additional pages, like in WordPress. When I first started blogging, I posted duplicate entries to both a WordPress blog on my own server space (but gave it up after a few months as duplicative), and developed a portfolio using the pages and sub-pages available in WordPress.com (version 2.0+).  I keep a private personal blog in WordPress because I require a password to access the blog (or any individual entry in a public WordPress blog can require a password). So if WordPress has so many more features, why am I still writing this blog in Blogger? I think it is the user interface: Blogger is clean, simple, easy to use; I find the WordPress interface to be more cluttered, complex, but I can see its advantage for institutions that want to host the system on their own servers. For me, the major difference is that I can embed audio, video and slideshare files into my Blogger blog, but WordPress.com would require me to upgrade my account with VideoPress for an annual $60 fee (not applicable for sites hosting WordPress on their own server).

I just finished reading a dissertation written by an elementary teacher who implemented an electronic portfolio to support process writing with her fourth grade students using WordPress on a server in her school... in Greek! In the school where I worked in Turkey last month, that school is implementing e-portfolios with fourth and fifth grade students, making a transition from PowerPoint to WordPress on their own server... in Turkish! It helps to have a technology support staff! The value of this open source tool that can be installed on an institution's server, and modified to be implemented in the native language of the school, provides an easily modifiable environment to facilitate the reflection that is "the heart and soul" of a portfolio. My next project will be to test out the blogging capabilities built into the Mahara open source e-portfolio tool.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fun day at Boise State

I just spent a fun day at Boise State University, working primarily with faculty members in the Educational Technology program, to help them streamline their graduate student summative ePortfolio process. We used my "Balancing the Two Faces of ePortfolios" presentation and diagram as the framework for our discussions. It was really fun to talk with faculty members who knew the technology, and we were able to brainstorm strategies for building a reflective learning journal over time, to help students capture their learning (probably in a blog) throughout the program. Then, they would be more prepared to develop a final assessment portfolio at the end of the program, tied to the program standards. Overall, I was pleased with the discussion and I enjoyed seeing how a group of faculty worked together to improve their program.

At the beginning of the day, I asked how many of them had their own e-portfolios. There was a few tentative hands that went up... but at the end of my presentation, many of them who kept a blog (most using WordPress.com) were able to say that their blogs and the associated pages really represented who they were professionally. Lisa Dawley, the program chair, raised an interesting idea: to incorporate students' blog-folios into the LinkedIn professional network site, to begin building their professional network before they graduated... an interesting approach, especially as a showcase portfolio for employment and self-marketing. The LinkedIn site appears to work well with a WordPress.com blog. I am talking with schools that are using the Ning social networking site for similar purposes, all part of embedding academic work into a larger context. More to explore!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Dragon Dictate for iPhone

I am writing this entry on my iPhone using Dragon Dictate, a new app available for free (for now). I am sitting in a motel room south of Reno, Nevada. Getting ready to drive back to the airport to go home after being snowbound for a day. Meeting canceled due to weather. I also left my power cord for my laptop at home. For the last day and a half, all I've had is my iPhone. Somehow it all worked. My inbox had over 100 messages sent and received in the last day. I even changed my return flight reservation on Alaska website.

I'm not sure this will replace my laptop, but I am impressed with how little I miss my laptop. And when I discovered that DragonDictate was available for the iPhone. I immediately downloaded it. I recorded 95% of this message using the software on my iPhone. Only needed to make minor changes and it has a keyboard for that purpose. I am still not comfortable dictating but I could really get used to this. Writers and researchers say there is a distinct difference between typed text, hand written text, and spoken text. It will be interesting to analyze my writing done in this format.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age

In October 2009, Google hosted a two day meeting called Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age. I've spent the afternoon watching some of the YouTube videos of the sessions. These are interesting viewpoints from some of the leaders of the technology community plus a few educators.
It is refreshing to hear the emphasis on learning, teaching, professional development, school culture, not really on the technology. I heard Linda Darling-Hammond call for another PT3 program for Teacher Education programs... yes!

I also discovered the blog that different participants contributed entries. A really interesting enry: Using Alternative Assessment Models to Empower Youth-directed Learning Including a high school senior's Digital Media Portfolio created using VoiceThread developed as part of Global Kids, Inc.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

T.H.E. Article on E-Portfolios

This article, published by T.H.E. Journal provides a shallow overview of e-portfolios in K-12 schools, mostly providing an incomplete look at the types of tools available. The author also made the following statement:
Google is probably the leading provider of mashup services and software for the creation of e-portfolios. The search giant isn't yet offering an e-portfolio product, per se, but in 2007 it began publishing a step-by-step process for combining its Google Apps software into e-portfolio mashups. On its "Google Apps E-Portfolios Mashup" web page, the company has published a series of documents describing how to mash up such applications as Google Docs, Gmail, Google Notebook, Blogger, and the iGoogle portal to, essentially, create an e-portfolio.
Google is also providing guidance specifically aimed at K-12 education. The company has published descriptions of three levels of K-12 e-portfolios: e-portfolio as storage; e-portfolio as workspace; and e-portfolio as showcase.
Lowendahl [Garner Group] is pleased to see Google getting into the e-portfolio business. He says interest from companies of such stature is necessary to secure the application's future.
I agree, it would be nice if Google was getting into the e-portfolio business, but they aren't. What the author is referencing is MY website. Here is the comment that I added to the article:
 This article provides interesting information about e-portfolios, although some of it is inaccurate and incomplete. It is true that most of the research and implementation of electronic portfolios has been in higher education. My reading of the Gartner Hype Cycle for Education, 2009, noted that ePortfolios were listed in the stage of "Sliding Into the Trough" (...of Disillusionment). To move to the next stage of the cycle (Climbing the Slope... of Enlightenment) we will need to have more research on the most appropriate strategies and "best practices" to support student learning, especially at the K-12 level.
Your reference to Google's support of ePortfolios was actually posted on MY website (http://electronicportfolios.org/google/ ). I wrote the K-12 support materials for both GoogleApps (and WordPress), linked from my web page (http://electronicportfolios.org/ and published using Google Sites). I developed the three-level model, based on my collaboration with both Washington State University and several school districts in California and Texas:
1. portfolio as storage (collection of artifacts)
2. portfolio as workspace (collection plus reflection/metacognition)
3. portfolio as showcase (selection, summative reflection and presentation)
It is also important to recognize that reflection is the "heart and soul" of a portfolio... not the technology or collection of artifacts. The real value of an e-portfolio is in the reflection and learning that is documented therein, not just the collection of work.
My note to the author: To whom at Google do I send the bill for all my development work over the last two years? ;-)

UPDATE: After having a nice conversation with the author, the online article was corrected to read:
Google is probably the leading provider of mashup services and software for the creation of e-portfolios. The search giant isn't yet offering an e-portfolio product, per se, but in 2007 educator Helen Barrett, who has been researching strategies and technologies for e-portfolios since 1991, began publishing a step-by-step process for combining Google Apps software into e-portfolio mashups. On her "Google Apps E-Portfolios Mashup" web page, she describes how to join such applications as Google Docs, Gmail, Google Notebook, Blogger, and the iGoogle portal to create an e-portfolio.
Barrett also provides guidance specifically aimed at K-12 education. She has published descriptions of three levels of K-12 e-portfolios: e-portfolio as storage; e-portfolio as workspace; and e-portfolio as showcase.