Saturday, January 29, 2005
Researching Electronic Portfolios
When TaskStream approached me about doing the research, I had to do some soul searching about what this meant for me and my work on electronic portfolios. Those who know me know that I have long been an advocate of using common desktop software tools to construct electronic portfolios. However, my study this fall, looking at the many strategies to construct online portfolios, documented in this blog, raised my awareness that the tools were not as important as the process. I would have conducted this research for anyone. However, the fact that TaskStream approached me first, and their vision was not to conduct market research, but to look at the effectiveness of the portfolio development process in secondary student learning, motivation and engagement, made me willing to take on a leadership role for this first-of-a-kind research. An important part of the program will also be an 18-month online professional development program for the teachers involved in the project. I also think my attitude toward customized systems in general will help me maintain my objectivity.
As I looked at the huge task of researching the impact of electronic portfolios on student learning, I realized that we needed to hold some variables constant or we would not be able to determine which factors led to the outcomes. As I look at prior research and Activity Theory, I recognize the constraints that the technology tools can impose. For novice computer users, the technology can be an imposing barrier. By using a single tool that doesn't require a lot of technical skill, we can focus on the real goal of the project: student learning, engagement and reflection, not HTML coding, hyperlinking and design. I am hoping that TaskStream will add more options for creativity in design to their tools; but our goal is to get students to collect (create their digital archive), select the key pieces, reflect on their growth over time, project their future goals, and respect their work through sharing with a wider audience.
I am hoping that this project provides a seed for more future serious research about portfolios for learning (not just for accountability) and that we can show how the development process can lead to enhanced student self-esteem. (Of course, how to research that outcome will be a challenge!) I am looking at my "post-retirement" years as an opportunity to give back to the education community, in the spirit of Erikson's "generativity" stage of life.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Launching the REFLECT Initiative
I am really excited about the possibilities that could result from this project. It will be a meta-study of a lot of smaller site-based studies. The real benefit of the project will be an 18-month online professional development program for the teachers involved in the project. I will have an opportunity to modify my existing distance course to meet the needs of the participants in each site.
So, this is my mission once the PT3 grant is over in March. When I was approached by the TaskStream team about this two-year project, I had to think seriously about how this project would affect my objectivity about electronic portfolio tools. However, the team has been very sensitive to my concerns, and the study participants could compare the use of TaskStream with control groups of students who use other "common tools" to create their e-portfolios (or paper-based portfolios, or no portfolios). This is also effectiveness research, not market research.
Here is a picture of the booth on the Exhibit floor.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Breaking the Silence
During the first week of January, I was in New Jersey and New York. Lots of planning for the spring and my new work after my grant is over… which I’ll discuss when it becomes public in less than two weeks. I also get to help plan a Digital Storytelling conference at Kean University in June. We will be putting together a resource DVD on Digital Storytelling for all of the participants. I also led a digital storytelling workshop at another university. It is always fascinating to see what the participants can produce in just two days using iMovie4. There were the personal stories that brought a tear to your eye… I wasn’t sure several of the participants would get through their audio recordings without crying. Then there were the quasi-documentaries. A successful two days.
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