Thursday, December 27, 2007

 

Buzzword

Buzzword is an online word processor sponsored by Adobe. Although it has similarities to GoogleDocs and ZohoWriter, it has some significant differences. A real difference in this tool is the page layout formatting: every document has margins, can have a header and footer added, and visually shows page breaks. It does have the ability to add links, but I had to use the full URL for links to the other pages that I created. It does not have the ability to create "bookmarks" within documents, to be able to link to different parts of a single multi-page document (which I can do in GoogleDocs). If I wanted to print out a Buzzword document, it would be fully formatted. The tool has some other useful features: in addition to spell check, it shows the number of flagged words in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. It also has an automatic word count at the bottom of the screen. There is also the ability to zoom in and out of the screen using a slider bar at the bottom.

I have discovered that when you share a document with another person, you have three choices:
* Co-author- full writing privileges
* Reviewer- can only add comments to the document
* Reader - can only read the document

To share a document, the program sends an email with a URL, which requires the individual to create a free account before viewing the document.

The purpose of this program is collaborative writing, not to create a portfolio. However, it does have the capabilities of full interactivity, either through co-authoring or being able to add comments. It really doesn't have a "public" view. It is currently a "work in progress" so I'm sure there will be a lot of progress over the next few months.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

 

One Laptop per Child

Today I ordered one of the OLPC XO laptops under the "Give One Get One" laptop giving program: I get one laptop to give to a child in my life, and another to a child in a developing country. This program was extended through December 31, 2007. Since my granddaughters already have their own used Mac laptops, this one might not be what they will use. However, I am intrigued by the possibilities, and I want to play with one, to see how they work and the potential to support my particular vision of web-based learning environments. When mine arrives in January, I will play and write up my impressions.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

 

The ePortfolio Hijacked

This article, written by Trent Batson in Campus Technology on December 12, 2007, discusses the differences between ePortfolios and assessment/accreditation management systems. I've been discussing these issues in some of my web-based articles, conference presentations and blog entries since 2003. Hopefully the word will spread that LEARNING can be a powerful use of ePortfolios, not just accountability. Thanks, Trent.

Somehow, we need to get back on track with the metaphor of "ePortfolio as Story" and not only "ePortfolio as Test" or we will lose a powerful tool for reflection and lifelong learning. The challenge we have is accommodating the strong pressures for institutions to produce tangible evidence of achievement for external audiences (accreditation and government agencies), so that faculty and students can also focus on the internal audiences (small, private, personal) to realize growth over time. I am concerned about the "opportunity cost" (the value of the benefits forgone) in the current focus on accountability portfolios. How can we find a balance?

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

 

ITESM Workshop in Mexico City

I just finished conducting an ePortfolio workshop in Mexico City. Initially, they thought they would use the Blackboard Content System (the older version); but instead, they want me to use one of the free online tools, so I introduced them to the Google tools. They contacted me because they liked my White Paper that I wrote almost three years ago.

During the workshop, we covered my basic workshop about e-portfolios and planning (in the first morning) then we started the hands-on component. In the first afternoon, the participants created a Google account, and set up a blog in Blogger. I showed them how to make comments on their neighbor's blog, illustrating the interactivity that would be useful in a blog/learning journal. Then, I introduced them to GoogleDocs Document tool, and we created a basic portfolio document, just like I used to do using Word, only this time, the files were all online. They also learned how to Share these documents with their neighbors, and add comments or co-author their portfolios. This morning, we continued with the hands-on component, when I introduced them to the GoogleDocs Presentation tool. Since we were on a wireless network that required a proxy server, we had some technical issues and the speed was very slow. I then introduced them to the Google Pages tool, which also proved to be a problem for a few of the participants. We talked about the pros and cons of the different Google tools and their use in ePortfolio development, and finally I gave them the presentation on digital storytelling that I did at the National Council for the Social Studies conference last Friday. At the end of the workshop, I think the participants really appreciated becoming acquainted with the many new free online tools that they and their students could use. In the afternoon, I led an hour-long conversation about e-portfolios with those attendees who could not get into my workshop (I told them that I limit hands-on workshops to 30 people).

This private university, which also includes private high schools, has more than 33 campus locations all over Mexico. The head of their Academic Affairs discussed (in Spanish) their new program for implementing faculty e-portfolios for assessing competencies in their areas of professional development, including cooperative learning, project-based learning, case studies, and negotiation. They did not intend to implement any specific software for faculty portfolios, but would let faculty choose their own tools. Thank goodness my new friend, Kathy (principal of one of the brand new high schools) was taking notes in English, and was able to show me what was being said. This conference also had keynote addresses about ethics in higher education (also in Spanish) and communities of practice (by Etienne Wenger in English).

I was most impressed by the organization of the meeting (I have a new fancy nametag to add to my collection): I had someone to guide me everywhere I went on their campus, I was wined and dined every evening, and I had a private chauffeur drive me to and from the airport. I don't think I have been treated so royally by any other university since my PT3 grant was over. They also were very warm and patient participants, speaking to me in English (I don't speak Spanish), and translating when needed. I did my presentation in English (the participants in my workshop were required to bring their own laptops and to speak English). Overall, I hope I have more opportunities to work with them. I am on a real high!

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