I have created this blog to discuss my ideas on electronic portfolios to support lifelong learning. I hope to share some of my concerns about the current direction of electronic portfolios in Higher Education and K-12 schools.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Northwest eLearning Conference
I just finished attending another conference with my daughter: the Northwest eLearning Conference held in Nampa, Idaho. She and I led a pre-conference workshop entitled, "Voice and Reflection in ePortfolios: Multiple Purposes of Digital Stories and Podcasts in ePortfolio," and our slides are posted on SlideShare (embedded here).
It was the first event we have done together since she attended the Center for Digital Storytelling workshop in August. We didn't have time to do anything hands-on, but we were able to show many examples and cover the process, as shown in these slides. Most of the examples are online, with the links on the slides. (I won't comment too much about the difficulty I had in hooking up my Macbook Air to their projector… I ended up using a monitor for the small group, with my own speakers. Later that day, I took all on my videos out of my keynote presentation, and just transferred my slides over to the presentation computer… which was being used for both projecting to the room and on Adobe Connect. Ah, the frustrations of being a Mac user… still!)
Then, I provided the opening keynote address entitled, "Interactive ePortfolios: Using Web 2.0 tools to Provide Feedback on Student Learning." My slides are also posted here from Slideshare.
I think I opened a lot of eyes about the multiple purposes for portfolios, and the challenges of balancing formative and summative assessment in portfolio development. The pressure of accreditation seems to be driving the push toward portfolios; I think my message of "what's in it for the students" is starting to make people think about the tension between the two approaches. My conversations with faculty after my presentation led me to the conclusion that there is not a lot of experience with ePortfolios, and therefore, not a lot of research to support their implementation in many of these small colleges and universities. I probably unsettled a lot of people who were considering the adoption of different tools. My focus was on the process, and I only talked about a variety of Web 2.0 tools, and none of the commercial tools available. My presentation was recorded with Adobe Connect and is available online.
Later in that afternoon, Erin made her first conference presentation on teaching English Language Learning in Second Life. She was much braver than me… I never count on a live Internet connection for my keynote presentations… only for hands-on workshops. She included participants in her Cypris Chat community, both the founder of the group and some of the student participants. She uploaded her slides into Second Life, and made her presentation "in-world" for both the guests in-world as well as those of us present in the room. I was very proud of her and thought the presentation went very well. She will be repeating the presentation in-world with a group of graduate students from UNLV next week, and then will be doing a conference presentation at the Hawaii International Conference on Education in January, where she cannot count on Internet access. So, she will create some videos to use in her presentation to substitute for a live demo.
In all, most of this has been a good trip, including the eight hour drive each way! I hope I made some contacts that will lead to more collaboration with higher education institutions in the Pacific Northwest.
Yesterday, I conducted a day-long pre-conference workshop on Web 2.0 Tools for Formative Assessment and Interactive ePortfolios. Today, I gave the ePortfolio track keynote (my slides are embedded here) at IUPUI's Assessment Institute. I recognize the perspective on assessment in the ePortfolio process in higher education that I see here at this conference. It was interesting at the opening session to see the number of people who stood up when asked if they were using standardized assessments (or e-portfolios) and sit down if they thought that method did not enhance student learning; most people using standardized measures sat down... more people using e-portfolios remained standing. An interesting response! In my keynote, I emphasized the concept of Opportunity Cost (what do we give up when we emphasize accountability or improvement (learning) based on Two Paradigms of Assessment (Ewell, 2008). Here are the slides that emphasized these concepts:
This was the first time I have presented these slides, but I intend to write more about these ideas, and share them with other educators who may (or may not!) be wrestling with this tension.
Today, Shavelson, Klein & Benjamin published an online article on Inside Higher Ed entitled, "The Limitations of Portfolios." The comments to that article are even more illuminating, and highlight the debate about electronic portfolios vs. accountability systems... assessment vs. evaluation. These arguments highlight what I think is a clash in philosophies of learning and assessment, between traditional, behaviorist models and more progressive, cognitive/constructivist models.
How do we build assessment strategies that bridge these two approaches? Or is the divide too wide?
Do these different perspectives support the need for multiple measures and triangulation?
(It reminds me of the current culture clash we are seeing in our larger society today. Is this the equivalent of a red-state/blue-state perspective on assessment/accountability?)
My viewpoint on assessment is through my work with e-portfolios, which are not always developed for the purpose of assessment or accountability. My track keynote at the Assessment Institute in Indianapolis on Monday, October 26, is on "Balancing the Two Faces of E-Portfolios." Those two faces are: the "portfolio as workspace," a formative approach to support learning with feedback for improvement; and the "portfolio as showcase" of achievements, often used for summative assessment, accountability, or marketing and employment. I am concerned with the "opportunity cost"* of using ePortfolios for summative assessment.
What is the opportunity cost of emphasizing accountability in portfolios over reflection and deep learning?
What learning opportunities are we missing when we completely structure a learner’s portfolio, as often happens in many of the commercial e-portfolio tools in use today?
*opportunity cost: the alternative you give up when you make a decision…the cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action
I just received an email from my graduate school, offering me a free "branded" email address via their Google Apps domain and a free ePortfolio via Epsilen. What a change since I was in that program, when we struggled with online communication using private proprietary systems, then CompuServe, AOL, etc. Of course, I was immersed in all of the changes over the last 25 years; I defended my dissertation in 1990, prior to public access to the Internet. Now I think about the changes in this decade, especially Web 2.0, and wonder what will happen in the next decade. It is pretty exciting to be a lifelong learner today, especially with Personal Learning Networks, facilitated by Twitter, Facebook, Ning, Google, RSS, etc.! I made the following statement at the end of my dissertation in 1990:
It has been my opinion that through the process of learning to use a personal computer, adult learners can gain a better understanding of their own learning processes. For some people, the process may awaken a spark or capacity for independent learning that may have been unrealized. Perhaps the process of learning to use a personal computer has the potential to enhance our self directed learning skills as well as our self-esteem and confidence in our own abilities as lifelong learners.
In the future, personal computers and interactive multimedia will provide a whole new environment for self-directed learning, not just for learning about the technology, but as a process to explore new bodies of knowledge. A computer providing access to vast storehouses of visual as well as textual data, will be the catalyst for a major change in adult, self-directed learning.
I believe this prediction has been realized today, only the details have changed: from personal computers to mobile devices, and we aren't just exploring knowledge... we are producing it!
I received my Google Wave invitation last Thursday night, but only know one colleague who has an account, so I haven't spent a lot of time playing with it. In the class that I am teaching using free/open tools, we thought we would try Google's Sidewiki to facilitate collaboration. This tool only works with specific browsers, and software must be downloaded and installed. Even though I did that on my Mac (Firefox only) and my Windows XP netbook, I am getting inconsistent results. I am finding it to be buggy (I see different things in the sidewiki on the same pages, depending on which Google account I am using... not good). So, we are going to try a different solution: http://etherpad.com/
EtherPad has the real-time collaboration of Google Wave, but doesn't require an account invitation or even a log-in: you just click a button on the first page and you are ready to edit. Click another button, and you can invite collaborators. Copy the URL, and you can share the site with others. At first, I embedded a Public EtherPad into a Google Sites page in our course, and we edited it there. Later, I replaced the "live" page with a recording of the entire session. There is a Play button and a Time Slider to play back the document. Paste in a URL, and it is converted to a link automatically. We didn't add any multimedia, like you are supposed to be able do with Google Wave, but our focus was really on the conversation in text. We will use this tool in our class as an example of a real-time collaboration tool.