Tuesday, May 24, 2011

REAL E-Portfolio Academy for K-12 Teachers

I found a name and developed a logo for my latest project. Every portfolio needs an adjective to describe its purpose.  REAL stands for Reflection, Engagement, and Assessment for Learning.

I blogged this title in 2005, and haven't had an opportunity to put it into practice until now. So, when I introduce a series on online courses this summer, they will be under the umbrella on an online academy -- more like a learning community, although there will be more structure than the average online community of practice.

I have received over 129 responses to my online form, so far. I am surprised with the number of inquiries from outside the U.S. To date, 60% of the respondents have already set up a GoogleApps for Education account, and 75% indicated interest in students using mobile devices to support e-portfolio development! Tomorrow I am visiting a school where 3rd-5th graders are using a few mobile devices and Evernote to capture their learning and share with their parents. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why isn't there more E-Portfolio Development in K-12 schools?

I received an email today from a graduate student who wants to study the implementation of e-portfolios in the transition of special education students from high school to college or to work. She attended the Council for Exceptional Children International Conference this Spring in Washington, D.C., and learned in a pre-session class that currently there are few school districts who are actually using the ePortfolio process. In the limited research she located only 2 school districts who are actually using this, and 3 states/coalitions who are in the process of initiating the process within their states. Through her contacts with CEC's Division on Career Development and Transition (DCDT), they indicated that no one is using this process. Why? My response to her:

I could articulate my "hunches" based on my prior REFLECT Initiative research in high schools. Several years ago, I did a Google Scholar literature review on K-12 portfolios (paper or electronic) most of it from the 90s. My observations: since No Child Left Behind passed in 2001, the use of portfolios--paper or electronic--has declined dramatically in K-12 schools in the U.S., based on the research that has NOT been published. Here are some of my educated guesses for the many reasons:
  • Time - There is a perception that it takes a lot of time to implement e-portfolios. Teachers are overwhelmed with teaching, "test prep" and other school reform issues, and portfolios don't have as high a priority as other learning strategies.
  • Access to the Internet - There aren't enough computers or other digital devices (and a high speed LAN/WAN) required to access the Internet for web-based portfolios. I worked with one rural school district with limited Internet access, but had a 1:1 laptop program in their secondary schools. They had problems with consistent software, and strategies for storing portfolios on local servers. A lot of these problems could be solved with a cloud-based solution, if they had good high speed Internet access. I think these problems will be solved soon, especially with a "Bring Your Own Devices" approach. You might check out my last blog entry.
  • Knowledge of and experience with portfolio learning - A lot of teachers do not have experience with using portfolios, or have their own e-portfolios (developed using tools appropriate for K-12 students), so there is not a knowledge base or personal experience to draw upon.
  • Teacher Technology Competency - Even with enough access to technology, unless teachers are willing to learn along with their students, there is often a reluctance to teach with unfamiliar tools. And the average teacher won't let students use technologies they don't know how to manage... and a lot of schools block many of the social networks that I think students use on a daily basis in portfolio-like ways (collecting digital evidence in image, audio, video, text; sharing accomplishments, etc.)
  • Fear of CIPA and COPPA and concerns about student privacy. Perhaps that is because most of the students are under 18.
  • Confusing/Conflicting Purposes - There are a variety of purposes for implementing e-portfolios: learning/reflection/process, employment/showcase/career development, assessment/accountability, transition. Sometimes there is a confusion in WHY e-portfolios are being implemented. See this cartoon.
  • Underlying philosophy of learning - While portfolios initially came out of a constructivist model of learning,  there are some educational institutions that do not endorse that theoretical approach,  emphasizing a more behaviorist paradigm (my evidence: our national obsession with standardized testing, especially when used for high stakes accountability)
  • Lack of trust in teacher judgement of students' self-assessment.
  • Vocabulary (a portfolio by any other name is...) - students are creating websites that resemble showcase portfolios, or are regularly writing in blogs that resemble reflective journals... but these activities are not recognized as components of portfolio learning.
  • Too much emphasis on product (presentation/showcase of learning outcomes) and not enough on process (facilitating conversations about learning).
I find that, for the most part, learning e-portfolios are a classroom-by-classroom phenomenon; assessment e-portfolios are a district or state implementation, but often lack student engagement; employment/showcase e-portfolios are often created by tech-savvy students, often using social networks. One exception is the Navigation 101 program in Washington state: "a life skills and planning program for students in grades 6 through 12. It aims to help students make clear, careful, and creative plans for life beyond high school." The program includes a portfolio, but it is usually a 3-ring binder.

All that being said, I believe a portfolio can be a powerful tool for metacognition, building a positive digital footprint, establishing a conversation about learning, as well as showcasing achievements, planning for a preferred future, exploring purpose and passions. As I said in a recent blog entry, "If we want student engagement, I believe e-portfolios should be stories of deep learning, not checklists of competencies."

Are there other barriers to the implementation of e-portfolios in K-12 schools? Are there strategies that we can use to overcome these barriers?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Device for Every Learner!

On Wednesday, Google announced Chromebook, a laptop computer that will be available to order on June 15, 2011; Price: $28-$33/month for businesses, $20-$23/month for education. I think the price is a little high for education, when looking at a device for every child, but very affordable for mobile labs or for individual families for a 3-year lease that includes all upgrades, maintenance, hardware refresh, and 100 MB 3G access per month. ReadWriteWeb provided an interesting cost analysis of the Chromebook in education. Combine the use of the Chromebook hardware with all of the Google Apps, and the barriers to e-portfolios are coming down. I wonder if my next purchase is a Chromebook ($20x36 months = $720) or one of the Android tablets coming out this summer (for around $500)?

But there are other options for giving each student internet access 24/7, at school and home. In addition to 1:1 laptop programs, there are other mobile devices that are being used in schools. For example, Canby (OR) and Escondido (CA) School Districts provide iPod/iPod Touch devices and/or iPads for student learning.  More schools are starting to explore student owned devices; according to eSchool News, 'Bring Your Own Device' is Catching on in schools.
Ed-tech access is an issue, but students' personal devices are an attractive option to a growing number of districts.
I am doing e-portfolio research this year on the variety of student-owned-or-loaned mobile devices that increase access to creative tools and the web, both from home and school. In addition to "capturing the moment" in image, video, audio and text formats, creating a digital story can be a powerful way to add reflection to a portfolio. The tools are becoming very creative and inexpensive on an iOS device (per my own experience last Christmas break with my iPod Touch); last weekend, the Center of Digital Storytelling sponsored the Blink Mobile Media Challenge:
The idea is to choose a moment to capture images/events, and then write and record a narration, and edit the movie on your mobile device.
Editing Google Apps from iOS devices is still not as easy as with Google's own ChromeOS, but there are many apps that can be used to support various components of e-portfolio development. I will be exploring specific iOS apps for supporting certain aspects of e-portfolio development at a preconference workshop at this summer's ISTE Conference. Maybe by the end of June, there will be more information about  emerging Google Chrome and Android devices.

Tweets from @dorothyjburt in NZ:
- We are trialling 6 - without the Telco plan - using our own wifi. Lotsa fun
- Weekend story from an @ptengland 6yr old "In the weekend I went to the park and played on the Firefox" Thx SallyV for sharing :)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Generic Tools Requirement for E-Portfolio Development

What are the best tools for e-portfolio development? My answer is always, "It depends!" But I have some requirements. Here is my recent response to a university about the generic tools I think are needed to address the portfolio development process:
  • online space for students to store their work that is either initially owned by the student, accessible after graduation or can be easily transferred to a student-owned space any time (individual documents must be accessible by URL) - Digital Archive
  • online reflective journal (blog) where students can keep a contemporaneous learning record, with the ability to contribute evidence in audio, video, images and text from mobile devices or computers (individual blog entries need to be "tagged" or assigned classifications for ease of retrieval) - Electronic Documentation of Learning
  • an online system to aggregate and present evidence (artifacts and rationale) of achieving "gen-ed" student outcomes plus requirements of specific majors - Showcase/Presentation Portfolio
  • a data management system to collect and aggregate faculty evaluation data of students' summative portfolios - Assessment Management System
I also have other requirements: whatever tools are used should allow students' "Choice and Voice" in portfolio development with an emphasis on expression rather than structure. I prefer systems that students can maintain for a lifetime (either by adopting an open Web 2.0 system, or initial learner ownership of their own online personal web space).

The issue of ownership is critical. Of the four items above, only the last one needs to belong to the higher education institution. If we are committed to student lifelong learning, e-portfolio development strategies can be powerful tools for self-directed learning, self-knowledge and self-management, but only if we introduce the process appropriately, and support student ownership, both technically and psychologically. I guess that is why many students are engaged in their social networks,  where the technological activities are similar to e-portfolio development, but are not the purpose or motivation. Learner-centered web-based tools exist to support the portfolio process... and many undergraduates are tech-savvy, at least in social networking skills. How can institutions build on these skills and intrinsic motivation as e-portfolios are implemented?

In the short time I was at Hostos Community College in New York City, after my presentation to faculty, I met with a small group of students. Rather than doing a formal presentation about e-portfolios, I led an informal discussion about their current uses of technology, the differences between social networking and e-portfolio development, and the potential for building an online digital identity that they could use to explore their passions and create their preferred futures. When I left, a lot of the students were intrigued and excited. If we want student engagement, I believe e-portfolios should be stories of deep learning, not checklists of competencies.

My older blog entries about selecting e-portfolio tools:
2010: Another question about "best" portfolio tools in higher ed
2010: Which Portfolio Tool?
2009: Motivation and Selecting an ePortfolio System

Monday, May 02, 2011

Presentations in Bothell & New York

Last week, I make a presentation at the first University of Washington Bothell Teaching/Learning Symposium. Presentation in Slideshare: UW Bothell Apr2011 - Slidecast version in Vimeo.

That afternoon, I flew to New York City, and the next day I made a presentation at Hostos Community College, for their EdTech 2011 Showcase. After the presentation, I had a great informal meeting with students, a more formal discussion with faculty, and a meeting with administrators, all about their implementation of ePortfolios. It was a very stimulating day! Presentation in Slideshare: Hostos Apr11