Wednesday, April 30, 2008

 

GoogleDocs updates

GoogleDocs, the quintessential Web 2.0 tool, is always being upgraded. The advantage of this type of software is that I didn't have to do anything (such as download software updates) to take advantage of the latest version. I discovered some new features today while organizing all of my logins and passwords in a GoogleDocs spreadsheet (which I am not publishing for obvious reasons). I discovered that when I put a URL into a cell in the spreadsheet, it automatically became a hyperlink. I went back and re-visited the spreadsheet that I had uploaded as part of my portfolio over a year ago (My Artifacts-at-a-Glance) and found that the links, which were not active when I first converted the document from Excel, are now all "clickable." They have also provided the capability to embed GoogleDocs presentations into web pages, so I have inserted below the GoogleDocs Presentation version of my portfolio, which was converted from PowerPoint and edited to add comments/reflections and hyperlinks to the artifacts listed in the spreadsheet mentioned above.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

 

More Web 2.0 Conference Presentations

There is a wealth of insights about the future of Web 2.0 that can be found in some of the videos on the Web 2.0 conference site on Blip.tv. Here are some of my favorites, in addition to the presentation by Tim O'Reilly that I embedded in my previous blog entry. This was a conference for the developers of Web 2.0 tools, so the presentations were targeted at a Web 2.0 developer audience, but I think there are a lot of ideas that are appropriate for a user audience, especially as they provide a view of the underlying philosophy of the technologies to come. Below are links to some of my favorite presentations, although many of the others are also interesting:
The other videos provide a glimpse of some of the Web 2.0 technologies under development from companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo, WordPress, and AOL. The interesting difference between Blip.tv and YouTube is the ability to download the Flash videos from Blip.tv in addition to being able to leave comments.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

 

Web 2.0 Conference Presentation

I've spent the last few hours watching videos from the Web 2.0 conference that was held last week in San Francisco. I am most impressed with the presentation of Tim O'Reilly (who coined the Web 2.0 term). He discusses the core of Web 2.0 and some deep trends:
The first one is that the Internet really is becoming the platform, a global platform for everything, everything connected, and the nature of that platform is this amazing tool for harnessing collective intelligence. It's not just about participation. It's about literally we are building a platform to make the world smarter, to make businesses smarter, to make ourselves smarter. This is an amazing revolution in human augmentation. We're at a turning point akin to literacy, or the formation of cities. This is a huge change in the way the world works.
These ideas bring me to the potential that these tools have for learning, both on a global basis which O'Reilly is focusing on, but also on an individual level, and the impact of Web 2.0 as a learning platform, beyond the specific tools. This video provides a profound look at how this technology could literally change the world, helping us to tackle some of the most difficult problems that we face as a nation and as a planet.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

 

GoogleDocs updates

Lots of upgrades to GoogleDocs were announced yesterday! The tools are accessible offline using Google Gears, "an open source project that enables more powerful web applications, by adding new features to your web browser." Now all of my documents are also stored on my computer, so that I can work on them even when I am not connected to the Internet. Once connected, the files are synchronized. GoogleDocs is also available from mobile phones through a special interface. I just found a short video on YouTube that describes the offline access to GoogleDocs.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

 

More Online Storage services explored

While watching the day-long John Adams marathon on HBO (an incredible series!), I used the time to explore more of the online storage services that I started exploring last month (and that attracted many comments). Here are the services that I explored today:
I think I have found a couple of sites that meet my requirements: I've used Microsoft's SkyDrive in the last couple of weeks to transfer files between platforms, but I am most impressed with the capabilities of allmydata.com and divshare.com. The mediamax service is in the middle of migrating to a new name, thelinkup.com, and I received an email that told me they were not migrating files uploaded to its free accounts.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

 

LaGuardia Community College Conference

As the first U.S. ePortfolio conference, this meeting at LaGuardia Community College (April 10-12) had a special feeling about it. Drawing over 500 people from both LGCC and across the U.S. (and a few other countries), the conversation had a richness that was indicative of the maturity of ePortfolio practices. Holding the conference in the middle of a very active campus within a few subway stops from Times Square also created a very vibrant feeling, much different than the usual conference experience in hotels or convention centers. We were literally in the middle of the action! I loved how they involved so many students in conference t-shirts to help with the conference logistics.

In addition to the usual speakers (and an excellent keynote address by Kathleen Blake Yancey), there were also a lot of presenters sharing their practice at LGCC. The Center for Teaching and Learning at LGCC is establishing a National Resource Center on Inquiry, Reflection & Integrative Education to support innovation on campuses nationwide. I especially liked the focus on their students' unique stories, using the power of personal narrative in their ePortfolios.

I also took advantage of my trip to the East Coast, and attended the Rhode Island Sakai Conference, on April 9, where I learned more about the efforts in that state to establish a Proficiency Based Graduation Requirement (PBGR). I was most impressed by a small group of students who talked about their beginning efforts using Sakai. I especially liked their comments on what they would like to change (i.e., allow more personal expression in the OSP, like they can do in Facebook).

At the LaGuardia conference, I did see some student portfolios from the University of Michigan that looked very creative, using the Sakai tool. I have asked them to give me an account on their system, so that I could try to re-create my portfolio, since I have not been able to do so in the existing demonstration templates.

I am hoping that these conferences will begin a national dialogue on the role of ePortfolios in transforming learning, not only in higher education, but also in secondary schools. I met with a small group of educators that would like to begin a national research project, looking at the various statewide high school portfolio initiatives in Washington state, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Ohio. It is time to bring secondary schools into this dynamic conversation.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

 

Digital Identity & ePortfolios

Eifel is sponsoring a conference in Montreal in May 2008 entitled, "ePortfolio & Digital Identity." Serge Ravet of Eifel has recently written a blog entry entitled, "The ePortfolio is dead? Long life to Digital Identity!" I think the way Serge conceptualized the ePortfolio is more like my concept of the Working Portfolio, or the Digital Archive for Life. Below are Serge Ravet's 2004 metaphors as listed on my Portfolio Metaphors page:
These metaphors go far beyond the concept of a portfolio as "a purposeful collection of work that demonstrates efforts, progress and achievement" over time. So, giving that list of services a new name is fine with me... but I don't think the ePortfolio itself is dead! Just the conceptual definition that Eifel held in 2004. I have always seen two elements of ePortfolio development:
The research that I have conducted since 2004, where I have recreated my portfolio with now 34 different tools, services, or software (my Online Portfolio Adventure) really focused on the ePortfolio as Product or Presentation. All of my artifacts were stored on my web server or one of my online services, such as my .Mac account. My most recent study, looking at different online storage services, plus this blog (my own eDOL), represents the concept of the Working Portfolio, or ePortfolio as Process.

As more companies begin to offer online storage or lock boxes, such as Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Google (medical records right now), Amazon's S3, IBM, and a host of other online storage services, we need to find another term that incorporates all of these purposes. What would be the unifying concept of Eifel's former ePortfolio services, Wells Fargo's digital safe deposit box, Europass' universal CV or online personal health records? I'm not sure I like the word identity in the context of the Working Portfolio, because it will be further misunderstood (just as the term ePortfolio has been). The term identity is used in a variety of other contexts, such as identity theft (criminology), identity development (sociology and psychology), corporate identity (business), etc. Within the context of portfolios in education, perhaps a better term to use would be "digital archive" or "lifetime personal web space" or just plain online storage.

I do see the larger picture that Serge proposes:
If modern education consists in developing one's identity, then digital education must become one of the priorities of education, along with physical or moral education.... But the challenge to tackle from now on is not the simple use of ePortfolio any more, but digital identity education. We now all have a digital identity, even if we are not aware of it.
That is certainly a provocative statement, subject to further debate. I've never viewed the use of an ePortfolio as simple. Perhaps that is because the more I learn about ePortfolio development, the more I see its complexity. I agree that young learners need to be good "digital citizens" and be more aware of the consequences of their online activities. ISTE has made Digital Citizenship one of the new National Educational Technology Standards (NETS). I am excited to continue this debate in Montreal.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

 

Web 2.0 Workshops

I will be conducting two workshops over the next two months on using free Web 2.0 tools for ePortfolios:
The resources for these workshops will be my examples of Web 2.0 portfolios, Google Tools, and my new Options for Online Storage.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

 

eDOL: Electronic Documentation of Learning

In my AERA conference blog entry, I mentioned the research done at the University of Calgary and their concept of eDOL: Electronic Documentation of Learning, which is essentially a reflective journal that teacher candidates maintain. For more information, they have a short article in the campus newletter, and a longer article in Field Notes, the MT Program Newsletter Fall 2007 (entitled Learning to document Learning Online - an introduction to edoL on pages 8-9 in this PDF).
eDOL has evolved into two interrelated components – an eJournal and a series of ePortfolios... eJournals provide students with a rich, personalized learning object repository from which to draw content for the development of their ePortfolios.

It is the tie between the journals and the portfolios, which distinguishes our work, and we have been drawn to four key observations:
  • the journals, together with the portfolios, honor both the process and the product, providing evidence of what it means to become a teacher,
  • there is value in learning to digitally document evidence learning. Pedagogical documentation is more than collecting photographs from schools; it is the thoughtful collecting, editing, and selecting of images to support reflection,
  • our students have found value in eDOL as a unifying project to build coherence as they move through the various components of our program, and
  • eDOL has given the students a sense that they are finishing their university experience “with a place to start.”
The University of Calgary has added an important dimension to the ePortfolio literature, by emphasizing the importance of process (the eJournals or blogs) as much as the product (the ePortfolios).

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

 

Portfolios in the Cloud

In my last two blog entries, I have focused on different online storage systems that could be used to store the artifacts for an electronic portfolio. As I researched further into this category of online services, I found the concept of "cloud" computing: a globe-spanning network of servers (the leader in cloud computing is Google, with Yahoo, Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon close behind). Another way to understand "computing in the cloud": dividing up work and distributing it out across the Internet. That is the model that I discussed more than a year ago as an ePortfolio Mash-up: different elements of my portfolio saved in different places in the Internet cloud.

In my reading, I found a new and interesting provider of personal digital document storage: Wells Fargo Bank! Their vSafe service will provide their customers online space to store and organize copies of important documents. "By protecting information in an electronically secure and centralized location, customers can easily access and recover copies of critical documents in the event of a natural disaster, theft or hard drive crash, or while traveling." I had not anticipated that online document storage would be provided by a financial institution, but security and privacy is a basic requirement of that industry. In the digital age, they could provide a digital safe deposit box for our important personal information. [I wonder if they would also allow hyperlinks to selected files? I have often compared financial portfolios (documenting the accumulation of fiscal capital) with portfolios in education (documenting the development of human capital).] But at $4.95 a month for 1 gigabyte, $9.95 a month for 3 gigabytes and $14.95 for 6 gigabytes of storage, it is fairly pricey for the increased security.

According to another article in Backup Review, another company in the Education market, School Web Lockers, is offering online storage of student and teacher work, accessible from home as well as school. "All School Web Lockers are backed up daily and preserved from year-to-year to allow students to easily create a portfolio of work." Again, I wonder if they allow hyperlinks to selected files from one of the many e-portfolio authoring tools.

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Online Storage Videos

Some of these companies offering online storage have posted videos online (source: Online Backup and Storage blog):
Rather than fill my blog with more reviews of online storage sites, I have set up a web page on my website to organize my ongoing study of these online storage systems, and will post the most promising discoveries in my blog.

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