Friday, May 01, 2009


ePortfolio Surveys

I am developing a new Google Site to collect surveys on Electronic Portfolios. I invite others to share surveys that they have used for different purposes within the context of Electronic Portfolio Development.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Student Examples from Google

Last fall, Google asked teachers to share some examples of how they used Google Docs in their classrooms. I was especially impressed with Google's page on Senior year-long projects demonstrating the use of Google Sites as a process journal/e-portfolio by a couple of students doing internships at Blue Ridge Virtual High School.
Matt Dermody’s journal
Ryan Minnick’s journal

In Ryan's Google Site you will find a set of Help videos covering the process of creating a Google Site. I am also impressed with the summary of his journal embedded on his first page, linked to his journal on another page that was created with the Announcements page type. The journal is a great example of documenting a project over time using this tool (although there is no feedback or dialogue). I just want to learn what Gadget he used to embed the journal on his first page! Something to add to my page of instructions! I also noticed that he embedded Vimeo videos on the page. I thought you were limited to using YouTube or Google Video. More to learn!

Update: I figured out the Announcements... there is an Insert... Recent Posts Gadget, and you can select which Announcements page in the site and how many entries to summarize. I inserted a calendar and my demo posts on the first page of my Google Sites portfolio. Pretty cool!

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Personal Brain

This is the 36th tool that I have used to re-create my electronic presentation portfolio, as part of my Online Portfolio Adventure. The process moved very smoothly; I was able to convert all URLs to weblinks (copy the link, create a weblink and the URL in the Clipboard is automatically inserted). The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than two hours, once I figured out the interface, copying the information from my Google Sites portfolio where I had the URLs on the page (and the links). All of my other artifacts are web links. I prefer to have the links open a new window (and the portfolio remains open). When an artifact is opened, the reader can then close the window to go back to the portfolio. However, in this tool, the weblinks opened in the lower window. Clicking on the Back arrow went back to the source of the link. That makes it very nice for keeping the portfolio navigation on the screen.

This tool would work very well for a presentation portfolio but other tools will need to be used for summative assessment. To aggregate assessment data, a spreadsheet could be created to collect quantitative data. The real advantage of Personal Brain is the dynamic nature of the mind map to organize and present the portfolio. I was able to upload a few files as attachments. I was able to create this hyperlinked set of web pages, with no knowledge of HTML. Once the "plex" was built, I exported it to HTML view, which created a folder that I uploaded to my website. However, to make any changes to the site required me to export the entire site again. There is also no interactivity with readers. So, while this is a very interesting "mind mapping" approach to developing a presentation portfolio, it lacks the ability to insert graphics except as an attachment. The software must be downloaded to a desktop computer to construct the "plex" so I used the Pro 30-day Trial version, but I'm not sure the Free Edition allows exporting to HTML.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


From a student perspective

On April 1 this year, I provided the keynote address at the Sakai Conference in Rhode Island where they have implemented Sakai and the Open Source Portfolio for all high school students in that state. My presentation focused on my Balance article, and the importance of student-centered strategies that included the students' own stories, with personalization, multimedia, and creativity. There were students in the audience, and I was told that they loved what I had to say. One of them told their teachers, "Our portfolios look like our textbooks, they don't look like us!"

So, as we consider tools, I think it is important to value the capability for students to personalize their ePortfolios as much as the capability to collect assessment data. There is a trade-off in most of the ePortfolio tools, between the type of creativity and personalization that students have in their social networking websites, and the data collection for institutions to track student achievement. I also think an online workspace in an ePortfolio system should include a reflective journal (a blog) for students to immediately reflect on their learning and the work that they are collecting. The blogging process facilitates feedback for improvement (assessment for learning--Black & Wiliam, 1998). Then, when students put together a hyperlinked presentation portfolio at the end of a course or a school year, they will have the collection/reflection of work to draw upon to build a more summative portfolio.

Labels: , ,

Monday, April 20, 2009


What is Web 2.0? (online course)

I received a message today that asked about my online course (
I am in my 40’s, and I never was too accomplished with the computer but can get by at work and home. However, I’ve noticed I am becoming increasingly ignorant on all these new apps (twitter, skype, linkedin, facebook, myspace, etc…) at a much faster pace than before. I feel this would help my career to be up on these new technologies as well...

PS. I know I’m a relatively private person, and maybe it’s my age but I don’t get this pre-occupation with young people putting their lives (pictures, video, personal business) out there for everyone to read? And who has the time to read it anyway!
So, I decided to set up a Google Group to support anyone who wants to follow my course content to learn more about Web 2.0, and to share the discussion with anyone else who joins the group. As an extra, the course also covers how to create an electronic portfolio using one of the many Web 2.0 tools.
* Group name: What is Web 2.0?
* Group home page:
* Group email address
The course is self-paced and currently available for free (but without any structured interaction). I just set up this class discussion group, and I haven't really advertised the course except in this blog and in the Google Groups Directory. Participants may go through the weblinks, view the videos and follow some the activities. I am currently working on a book, that I call "Your Digital Self" that covers a lot of these tools and social software strategies. I am making this course accessible under an "open courseware" model and as part of the research for my book. I may offer a more formal course next fall... but that is still not confirmed.

I am inviting participants to have their friends to join them in this learning adventure! From theories in education, we know there is power in social learning! That's what these social networks are currently demonstrating with the younger generation. My answer to her second question:
I have some of your same concerns about privacy... I have accounts on most of the social networks, but I don't use them as much as my daughter. I asked her your question (who reads it?) and her answer... "my friends!" The problem is, in our generation, most of our friends are not using these tools, so it doesn't seem to work as well for us as it does for young people who adopted these tools in high school or college.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


ePortfolio System Cartoon

I found this cartoon on a website in the U.K. focusing on choosing an ePortfolio system. It really shows that our underlying assumptions have an impact on the way ePortfolios are implemented... and on the tools that are chosen to meet these diverse purposes.


Monday, April 06, 2009


GoogleApps for K-12 ePortfolios

I've been working with K-12 educators on implementing ePortfolios. I am seeing more attention being paid to GoogleApps, as evidenced in an email I received today:
We are starting a “21st Century Learning Academy” in our district with our upcoming 6th graders next year and we are going to require our 6th graders and staff to create digital portfolios of their work. We have experimented with Google Sites/Apps already this year as we used it to create our school’s portfolio... As we worked on this portfolio, we learned how easily we could use this as a tool for 6th graders to showcase and reflect on their work.
I just set up a Google Group on developing electronic portfolios in K-12 using Google Apps:
* Group name: Using Google Apps for ePortfolios in K-12 Education
* Group home page:
* Group email address
I am hoping that other K-12 educators can join the group, and share their experiences developing ePortfolios with these free online tools. I recommend that if schools decide to use GoogleApps, they establish their own Google Apps for Education site, with their own domain name, as a quasi "walled garden" where student work can only be viewed by someone with an account within that domain.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Reflective learning for the net generation student

Through one of my Google groups, I found an interesting research project conducted by Christopher Murray and Dr. John Sandars, Medical Education Unit, University of Leeds in the U.K.: "Reflective learning for the net generation student" focusing on digital storytelling! (Scroll down about a third of the way through this issue of the newsletter of the Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine, Autumn 2008.) Quotes I particularly like:
Reflective learning is essential for lifelong learning and many net generation students do not engage in the process since it does not align with their preferred learning style (Grant, Kinnersley, Metcalf, Pill, Houston, 2006).The combination of multimedia and technology motivates students to creatively produce digital stories that stimulate reflective learning. Digital stories present a personal and reflective narrative using a range of media, especially photographs and video. In addition, students can feel empowered and develop multiple literacies that are essential for lifelong learning...

Why don't students spend time to reflect on the things they are learning? Our initial research suggests that Net Generation students dislike using written text, but their engagement increases when they use digital storytelling. Digital storytelling is an innovative approach to reflective learning in which pictures and sound are collected and assembled to form a multimedia story.
The digital stories created by the authors' first year medical students began as blog entries using Elgg plus images taken by many of them with their mobile phone cameras. Their digital stories for class were actually told using Powerpoint. The student comments reported were very encouraging and the authors concluded:

Overall, we appear to have successfully engaged our undergraduate medical students in reflective learning by using a range of new technologies and also by the use of mobile phones. Blogs were used as a personal learning space that combined both media storage with a creative space. Images were obtained from a variety of media sharing sites. Most mobile phones have a camera function and the “always to hand” nature of mobile camera phones encourages spontaneous image capture at times of surprise during an experience, the “disorientating dilemma” that Mezirow (1991) regards as being an essential component of transformative reflective learning.


Digital storytelling offers a practical teaching approach that combines multimedia and technology for reflective learning. Our work in undergraduate supports the use of this approach to engage Net generation students in reflective learning but it also appears to stimulate deep reflection. You can read more about our work and see examples at

Labels: , ,

Sunday, March 15, 2009


More Interesting Reading

Some new online articles and an updated version of a book:
I also received the Second Edition of The Learning Portfolio: Reflective Practice for Improving Student Learning, edited by John Zubizarreta. The new version of this book, part of the Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series, provides 14 articles under a section entitled, "Models of Learning Portfolios" and both Sample Learning Portfolio Selections and a large section of Practical Materials, including portfolio assignments and rubrics. The author made a slight change to his graphic model of a learning portfolio, which illustrates the following equation: Reflection + Documentation/Evidence + Collaboration/Mentoring = Learning. It is at the intersection of these three elements that you will find a Learning Portfolio.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 13, 2009


A K-12 Plan

I spent the first half of this week visiting schools in the school district where I am facilitating their implementation of ePortfolios K-12. Then I facilitated a two-day workshop with the committee. On the first day, there were "progress reports" and I gave the committee feedback on my visits to all of the schools. In the afternoon, we focused on Change, and I facilitated the Change Game with the committee. I think they really saw the challenges of implementing a change across the district.

On the second day, we built a plan for district-wide implementation of electronic portfolios as a developmental process, addressing both the diverse and growing technology competency of the students and teachers, as well as the varied experience with the portfolio learning and assessment process. We identified three levels of portfolio implementation: the ePortfolio as Storage (Collection), the ePortfolio as Workspace/Process (Collection + Reflection), and the ePortfolio as Showcase/Product (Collection + Selection/Reflection + Direction + Presentation). Of course, our goal is to get everyone to the third level by high school, we also recognized that there are developmental levels of both teachers and students, and that to be successful with ePortfolios, there has to be good integration of technology across the curriculum, as well as a student-centered approach to reflection and deep learning.

I set up the framework for the plan in Google Sites, but they wrote their grade-level plans collaboratively in GoogleDocs and I linked these plans into the Google Site. We have developed a first draft, which they are going to be able to share with the staffs in their individual schools. I will be heading back in May to help with the practical implementation of this plan. Luckily, each school site has access to an xServe, so they can avoid slow Internet access, and we are going to figure out how to use the blogs and wikis in Leopard Server to store the reflections and digital artifacts. The district has implemented a 1-1 Macbook program in all secondary schools, so this is a wonderful opportunity for this Apple Distinguished Educator to see a truly creative model in ePortfolios being implemented!

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 07, 2009


CUE Conference

Due to a snow storm in the Sierras, I cancelled my plans (to visit schools) and drove down to Palm Springs to attend the CUE Conference. The first day was an EduBlogger Conference (I called it a day with fellow nerds). I loved it!. Lots of great ideas and new websites. The conference officially started the next day, and I attended a valuable session, conducted by Apple, on the Leopard Server. I am seeing a lot of potential for using this toolset for ePortfolios in K-12 schools. I'm thinking that children in elementary school could manage this interface. I'm interested in doing some research in this area.

There was only one presentation on ePortfolios (based on a 90s model of using PowerPoint). I sat in on one session on digital storytelling in primary grades using Pixie (Tech4Learning). My favorite session was a hands-on session with Animoto. Great fun! I downloaded the version to my iPhone! I am grateful for that snow storm. It gave me opportunities to reconnect with some of my California ed tech buddies! I also learned some new tools and strategies, always a sign of a successful event for me.


Friday, February 27, 2009


NCEPR Participation

I had a great two weeks. I spent three days in Eugene, working with the University of Oregon's ePortfolio Committee. While in Eugene, I also did a webinar on ePortfolios and Web 2.0 for ISTE. I went to the NCCE Conference in Portland for one day and I then drove to San Francisco. During this week there were meetings at San Francisco State on the new version of the eFolio Minnesota, and then a Day of Dialog on ePortfolios sponsored by SFSU. That was an interesting (but fragmented) day. The groups were divided into two or three rooms, and there wasn't a clear, common theme, nor an opportunity for all of the groups to gather for a common gathering. But there were a lot of good conversations because they built two times into the agenda for conversation around different themes.

On the last two days, the National Coalition for ePortfolio Research (NCEPR) had a meeting, and I joined as part of the University of Oregon team. It was a very valuable experience. We developed a set of weblinks related to NCEPR and eportfolios. Here were some of my reflections during the first day:
1. What connections were discussed in your group?
The balance between the assessment/summative types of portfolios for students (DU) and the learning/formative types of portfolios for faculty (Hawaii). Sharing my diagram seemed to fit well after our discussion of the other two programs and of the Oregon program. I loved what the team wrote, about the assumptions about learning... And how the piece focused the conceptual framework of the team.

2. Which of these connections is/are most meaningful to your project and why?
I really like the emphasis on learning and its relationship to portfolios. After my depressing conversation last night, I am wondering how to counteract the apparent "failure" of ePortfolios (as product) with the promise or the potential of the process approach to portfolios. I found the comparison of the two programs to be interesting... the outcomes-based program with the supportive process-based program.

3. What else did you learn in your conversation this morning that you want to be sure to share with your colleagues.
I found the focus on faculty portfolios as "engaged educator participants" to be a valuable contribution to my thinking about how to engage faculty in the process of building an ePortfolio for their own professional development. The Hawaii project provides an interesting model to engage faculty in process portfolios, in the hopes that they will adopt the process with their own students.
I hope I can stay involved with the UOFolio team as they go through the process. I find the collaboration and conversation to be such a valuable part of my own learning. I really miss this type of community of practice. Maybe I should take a recent offer to create a course that I offer online. Or maybe I should try to find a university that wants me to facilitate the development of ePortfolios with either faculty or students through an online tutorial format. I realize now how much I miss having colleagues that I can talk with, share face-to-face on a regular basis.

During the second day of the NCEPR meeting, there was an emphasis on Web 2.0 tools and social networking. Each group shared documents that outlined their students' use of Web 2.0 tools. Then the entire group discussed the question that I asked during the EPAC online chat (on Monday): We really need to look at the engagement [motivation] factors that drive the use of social networks: how we can incorporate those factors into ePortfolios?

Labels: , ,

Friday, February 06, 2009


Which ePortfolio Tool?

I've been getting more requests for my recommendations on software for ePortfolios. Here is a request on one of my listservs"
I'm heading a small group of teachers wishing to implement electronic student portfolios for about 100 students. We're looking at various options and wondered what your experiences are. We'd need something accessible from home and school (Web based?) and scaleable to approximately 2,200 students. We are not a 1:1, but may be eventually (really, shouldn't everybody?). Any guidance, lessons learned, limitations, etc... are much appreciated.
My response: Here is my answer to anyone who emails me about ePortfolio tools: "It Depends!" The first question to ask is not about what tool to use, but rather: "What is your purpose for having your students develop an e-portfolio?" A clear description of the purpose should then drive the selection of appropriate tools. [Yes, plural... integrate multiple tools into the process.]

Do you want a student-centered ePortfolio that is the student's story of their own learning, or do you want a system to collect data about student achievement for an external audience (accreditation, accountability). These are the extreme ends along a continuum, but also the major debate in the field today. In my opinion, if you say you want to do both, then pick two different tools, because when these two functions are combined within the same system, data collection/management tends to depress creativity and personal expression in student portfolios. [See my last blog entry about MySpace.]

I will be doing a webinar for ISTE on February 16 entitled, "ePortfolios and Web 2.0" where I will focus on a variety of tools to create student-centered portfolios: WordPress MU (a multi-user blog with pages you host on your own server), GoogleApps for Education, and a variety of Wikis. Google Sites is Google's version of a wiki (replacing Google Pages) and well integrated with GoogleDocs and other Google tools (except Blogger). I just recommend that if you decide to use Google, establish your own Google Apps for Education site, with your own domain name, as a quasi "walled garden" where student work can only be viewed by someone with an account within your domain.

The Electronic Portfolio Action Committee (EPAC) is conducting an online discussion on Monday, February 23, to discuss the whole range of tools that I outlined on my website ( or in my blog, where I am currently exploring what I call "balancing the two faces of ePortfolios" as mentioned above. You can read my article that is "in progress":

I'm also doing a "bring your own laptop" workshop at NECC (Saturday, June 27) entitled, "Web 2.0 Tools for Classroom-Based Assessment and Interactive Student ePortfolios" where we will focus on GoogleApps, but will also discuss blogs and wikis.

There are more commercial ePortfolio systems out there than course management systems (per Trent Batson in Campus Computing, 1/7/09). Most of these commercial systems are what I call "assessment management systems" developed in higher education to meet the accreditation requirements of Teacher Education programs [or as an add-on to a course management system used primarily in higher education]... There are few commercial systems that were created specifically for K-12. With the current economic environment, most schools are looking for a free solution... I just worry about the continued economic viability of some Web 2.0 sites. That's why I tend to prefer the big "cloud computing companies" (especially Google).

Sorry this message is so long... it just seemed like a "teachable moment" and very current with my own discussions in the ePortfolio community [including my own Google Group on Researching Lifelong ePortfolios and Web 2.0... requires membership application with reason for wanting to join].

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 05, 2009


MySpace Founders on Charlie Rose

I enjoyed the video clip of Charlie Rose's interview with the co-founders of MySpace, conducted on Tuesday night. They claimed that there are 125 million visitors a month to their website. Of particular interest to me at the end of the interview was their response to Charlie's question, "Realizing that you're not a philosopher, why is it so compelling for so many people?" Chris DeWolfe's response:
A lot of it is about the ability to express yourself. So if you look at your MySpace Profile, you have your music that you're listening to, you have the colors, you have the background, you have the videos. So, I look at your Profile, if you have one, and I can get to know you pretty quickly. It's almost as if you invited me over to a dinner party and you had certain music playing, and you had certain kinds of furniture, and you invited a certain group of friends, I would get to know you very quickly. So, I think it's an online representation of who you are, which is really fascinating, and it's a great way to stay in touch with people, and it's a great discovery mechanism. And there's no other place and no other way to really do that.

Tom Anderson (the other co-founder) added: I think a lot of it has to do with timing, too; that we came out right at the right time when digital cameras were on the rise, and people wanted to come in. People weren't exactly ready for something like MySpace a year or two earlier, so timing really helped us in being there to give people what they wanted.
The issue of personal expression is the major challenge with many of the ePortfolio systems that are in use in formal education today. It is fascinating to contemplate the role of social networks to build what I call "Your Digital Self" online (EIFeL calls ePortfolios "digital identity"). There are many capabilities missing from the current social networks that we need in institutional ePortfolios. Some of the most current ePortfolio systems (Elgg, Mahara, Epsilen) have blogs and built-in social networks, but most of the commercial and open source tools lack the capability for the level of personal expression found in MySpace or Facebook. As DeWolfe described the "discovery mechanism" which is learning, it is interesting to think about creating "Academic MySpaces" (that aren't blocked on most school networks!) that would engage students as much as the current crop of social networking sites. Engagement just won't be a factor until we can incorporate those elements of personal expression.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Feedback on Diagram

I posted the diagram in my last post to my Google Group "Researching Lifelong Portfolios and Web 2.0" and received some great feedback on it. So I updated it on the list. Today, I received a Spanish version of the diagram in my email from a teacher educator in Madrid! I love Web 2.0!

As I said in one of my posts in that discussion, "This is an example of how a social network can provoke critical thinking! I have modified the diagram, because I recognize that the process is not always linear. However, when a novice begins the process of building toward some type of presentation portfolio (the "product" or showcase in this diagram), it helps to have a sequence of tasks to complete. So I took the comments into consideration as I revised the diagram..."

Labels: , ,

Friday, January 30, 2009


Balancing 2 Faces of ePortfolios

Balancing the Two Faces of ePortfolios

I am working on a new diagram and document that focuses on the two major purposes of ePortfolios in (primarily) higher education, and will discuss the difference in strategies and tools, much of it discussed in other entries in my blog. I've transfered the working version into a GoogleDocs file, and invite co-authors who are interested in working on these ideas. This is also the theme of an upcoming keynote address that I will be making next fall.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, January 29, 2009


A New Educational Experience

I participated in an interesting educational activity this week, with a lot of support from technology. There were video clips that were used to present the point of view of one of the presenters, who also used Powerpoint slides to convince the participants of her point of view. This experience could have taken place in many different classrooms, but it didn't; it was in a courtroom. The person using video and PowerPoint was one of the attorneys, and I was an alternate on a jury in a criminal case. I won't go into the details of the case, but just my impressions of the process.

The other attorney did not use any visual aids, or use PowerPoint to make his points. From my professional perspective, the arguments of the technology-using attorney, supported by her Powerpoint slides reinforcing her points, along with the support of the video evidence, contributed to a more convincing case. When I talk about the evidence in a portfolio, I often use the metaphor of an attorney in court, creating an argument around a piece of evidence, using it to prove a case; in an educational portfolio, the case is the achievement of a learning outcome, goal or standard; the evidence is a piece of work, and I am more convinced about the power of video. In my latest learning experience, both attorneys were making logical arguments. I was more impressed by the presence of video evidence, and the obvious preparation of the technology-using attorney. It just reinforces for me the power of multimedia evidence when trying to convince someone else to agree with your opinion, especially related to achievement. But I also recognize the importance of a good argument (reflection) to support the multimedia evidence.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


ePortfolio Events - Spring 2009

Labels: ,

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Google Web Drive Rumors Appear (Again)

The rumors about Google's long-awaited GDrive (or Google Web Drive) has shown up again on news websites as well as other blogs:
These articles predict that Google's "cloud" storage will become available in 2009, a prediction made in 2007 by the Wall Street Journal. What makes this seem like more of a reality is a screenshot, posted on a MacRumors forum, of the new Mac beta version of Google's Picasa, shown in the TGDaily article, showing "Google Web Drive" as one option for moving image collections (removed in updated versions of the software):Hmmm.... When this service becomes a reality, it will really change the collection part of the portfolio process. I've been blogging about this possibility for the last year.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Witnessing History

Here is how I witnessed History today. My laptop camera was pointed toward my TV, and I was sharing the moment (over the Web using Skype) with my daughter who was in her apartment in Budapest (she has no TV, just the Internet). She has already posted the picture to her Facebook page. I was in her apartment last November, witnessing the events in Grant Park over the Internet (at 5 AM!) and blogging the moment. It was fun to catch a glimpse of 10-year-old Malia Obama today carrying her digital camera (I also saw her using it on Sunday at the concert at the Lincoln Memorial), capturing her own unique memories of this historic time.


Friday, January 16, 2009


Another digital storytelling workshop

I just facilitated another digital storytelling workshop, but this time, the stories were developed by high school students, not teachers. I did a workshop with their teachers last June, and had a few model stories that I could share with the students. In December, I met with the students, and the teachers who had participated in the last workshop plus a few new ones. The students worked in small groups with the teachers to write their stories. During that first day, I did a brief introduction, and showed some examples of digital stories (most of them are posted on my website) while they worked on their stories. I also showed them the two tools we would be using: Audacity and MovieMaker2. Finally, we made individual appointments with many of the students to record their stories on the day before the hands-on workshop.

Last Tuesday, I helped about two-thirds of the students record the audio of their scripts. I used two different methods: Audacity and a headset connected to my Windows laptop (created an AUP Audacity file), and my Sony hand-held digital recorder (created a stereo MP3 file). At the begnning of the workshop on Wednesday, I went through the process they would go through to finish their stories by the end of the day. I showed them how to use the "envelope" command in Audacity so that they could lower the volume of the music that most of them added to their narration, prior to inserting the final audio clip into MovieMaker2. We also set up a white board with the tasks that had to be completed by the end of the day. Most of the students finished an hour ahead of schedule, so that we were able to have our "Showtime" (complete with popcorn) and they could go home early. One of the teachers used the extra time to talk with the students about the process and what they learned. I appreciated some of the comments by a few of the students about how easy the process was (especially combining the audio tracks in Audacity).

Wow! Even though I heard most of the stories as they were being recorded, many of the final products, with the images that they included, were stunning! A few students, including two who brought in their own laptops, did a lot of the work on their own prior to the workshop (they didn't necessarily follow the process, but they did come up with some good products). We are hoping that some of these students will become mentors for this digital storytelling process with their peers. I am also going to write up some lesson plans to use with teachers, to implement this process in 50 minute periods.

I am looking forward to doing more of these workshops with students. I learned as much from them as they did from me. It was another good reality check for me!

Labels: ,


EdTechTalk Live

On Thursday, January 15, I participated in an online audio conference, sponsored by "Teachers are Talking," that was streamed live through EdTechTalk. It was my first time using this process. A few of us connected via Skype and broadcast to a small audience who joined in a chat room and asked questions or posted comments in their live streaming page. The show should soon be available online for download.

It was an interesting conversation. Perhaps I got a little radical, but I think I got a good response from my comments about teachers trying to implement ePortfolios without having that experience for themselves. When asked how we could improve the process, I used one word: modeling (teachers being able to show their own portfolios to their students). I was also asked about how I keep going when ePortfolios seem to have lost their popularity in K-12 schools (especially in response to NCLB). I just emphasized my view of the lifelong, life-wide perspective, talked about my vision of "Portfolios in the Cloud" and a lifelong approach, which several people commented that they had never thought about portfolios in this way. I emphasized student ownership and personalization of ePortfolios, and the two different types of portfolios. Many of the participants currently are blogging with their students... I showed how these blog entries, with any work attached, is the learning portfolio (portfolios as workspace/process). Then we talked about the challenges with putting together a more formal presentation portfolio (time consuming, questions about audience). A lot of interesting questions and, I hope, an intriguing discussion.

How do I keep up my enthusiasm for this process? I mentioned the inclusion of digital stories in ePortfolios, as a way to personalize and support reflection. The digital storytelling workshops that I am doing with teachers and students are very inspiring.

Labels: ,


Another new toy/tool

I just upgraded my old Flip video camera (and gave my first-generation Flip to my granddaughter for Christmas). I like this new version because it has a built-in rechargeable battery that charges through the USB port... no more messing with AA batteries!

While watching one of my favorite morning TV programs on MSNBC (Morning Joe), one of the founders of a brand new Internet news site, Global Post, was explaining how they were collecting stories from all over the world. Each of their reporters were given these Flip video cameras to capture their stories destined for their website. Immediately, the co-host of the program (Mika) said, "Oh, I love my Flip..." and pulled it out of her purse.

This version of the camera is a lot smaller than the original, so it fits
into my purse more easily. I am hoping that it will be more handy (smaller, better power system) so that I can do more video blogging (maybe!). I've been watching a friend and colleague do a lot of work with these cameras, including capturing reflections of participants during a workshop.


Thursday, January 15, 2009


More online publications

There are several new articles recently published about ePortfolios, primarily in higher education:

The Portfolio Enigma in a Time of Ephemera - an article in Campus Technology by Trent Batson - an interesting quote from the online comments to this article: "What's interesting in this debate is that most institutions are looking at e-portfolio software solutions that cost thousands of dollars and ignoring the fact that there is a much simpler way of puttimg an e-portfolio together that is portable and also allows the student to update,add,subtract, and modify content in the portfolio for each viewer. And the student maintains control of the content long after they have left the institution."

"The Future of ePortfolio" Roundtable - an article by Bret Eynon (LaGuardia Community College) published in Academic Commons, a transcript of a round table held at the ePortfolio Conference in April 2008. I was part of that roundtable.

Making Common Cause: Electronic Portfolios, Learning, and the Power of Community - an article by Kathleen Blake Yancey also published in Academic Commons (from the new book, Electronic Portfolios 2.0: Emergent Research on Implementation and Impact, edited by Darren Cambridge, Barbara Cambridge, and Kathleen Blake Yancey, contributors from diverse institutions of higher education in sites across two continents share their research on electronic portfolios through the National Coalition for Electronic Portfolio Research -- NCEPR)

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 08, 2009


ePortfolios and Web 2.0

I'm sitting in the OSPI conference (state of Washington's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, not the Open Source Portfolio Initiative) at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, in a session on "School 2.0: Leading, learning and living in a flat world." The content is not new (to me) but it seems to be new to a lot of the participants. This is a conference for all of the teachers in the state. In this session, due to the weather in the Northwest (floods and avalanches), one of the presenters was stuck in a hotel about 90 miles away, but participating on Skype and using a presentation on GoogleDocs. I know, I've used Skype for years and have blogged about some of my online conferences (mostly from my home, where I have great connection speed). The presenters at the session have struggled with low bandwidth in the convention center. This session was a real-world example of the challenges of using Web 2.0 in the classroom: adequate bandwidth for sharing video. I know why in my presentations I only show videos that I have stored on my own hard drive.

I am hoping that Obama's proposal to upgrade schools for the information age will include not only more hardware and increased bandwidth, but also professional development for teachers. I am preparing for an ISTE Webinar on February 18, entitled "ePortfolios and Web 2.0" with this description:
This webinar will focus on using Web 2.0 tools, freely available on the Internet, to create student-centered electronic portfolios. Learn how the use of a portfolio can be a powerful tool to support both learning and assessment, making learning visible across the curriculum. We will look at how to use blogs, wikis and online productivity tools to create interactive portfolios.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 22, 2008


EQ and ePortfolios

Daniel Goleman defines emotional intelligence as:
the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves and for managing emotions effectively in others and ourselves.
I found this diagram online:
While the source of this diagram is focused on success in organizations, these abilities are essential for success in education at all levels. While most of this model focuses on empathy and interpersonal skills, the Personal competencies (Who I am... self awareness and What I do... self-motivation) is well documented in reflections that are the "heart and soul" of a reflective journal/portfolio.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 08, 2008


Blogging and Reflection in ePortfolios

I just watched Arianna Huffington's interview on Charlie Rose Show, December 4, 2008, where she talked about blogging and the new book just published by her and the editors at Huffington Post. I'm one of those new readers of her blog site, getting hooked during the election campaign beginning in August 2008. I think blogs have had a huge impact on our political discourse; Arianna Huffington credits Obama's use of the Internet and social networking with his election as the 44th President of the United States.

Huffington said that blogging is successful because it is an intimate, conversational form of writing (first thoughts, best thoughts) and "the key is really to find your voice and to find your passion. That's what makes a good blog." These ideas support my opinion that a form of blogging should be included in any ePortfolio process: it provides a conversational form of writing that is essential for reflection and deep learning, which I believe is part of the "heart and soul" of a portfolio. I am promoting the concept of two portfolios: the Working Portfolio, which WSU calls the "workspace" or some schools have called the [digital] shoebox; and any number of Presentation Portfolios (depending on purpose and audience) which WSU calls the "showcase" and schools call "showtime!" In order to build more formal presentations, we need the digital archive or the storage of work samples (collection) to draw upon (selection) for inclusion in these presentations. Reflection takes place at two points in time: when the piece of work (an artifact) is saved in the digital archive (a contemporaneous reflection while the work is fresh on our minds)... thus the role of the blog; and when (and if) this piece is included in the more formal presentation/showcase or assessment portfolio. The reflection written at this point of time is more summative or cumulative, providing a much broader perspective on a body of work that represents the author's goals for the showcase portfolio. Technologically, selection would involve creating a hyperlink to specific blog entries (reflection) which may have documents (artifacts) as attachments.

These two types of reflection involve two levels of support for reflection: the reflection in a blog would focus on a specific piece of work or learning experience (such as in service learning), and what has been learned while the experience is very fresh or immediate. The reflection in a presentation portfolio is more of a retrospective as well as an argument, providing a rationale that a collection of work meets specific outcomes or goals (related to the goal of the portfolio).

Most ePortfolio systems tend to emphasize the showcase (portfolio as product) rather than the workspace (portfolio as process). There are also two different types of organization: Blogs are organized in reverse chronological order; most showcase portfolios are organized thematically, around a set of learning goals, outcomes or standards. Both levels of reflection and organization are important, and require different strategies for supporting different levels of reflection.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Workshops in New Hampshire

I just finished a tour of southern New Hampshire, doing workshops in Manchester, Keene and Peterborough. During a two-day workshop in Manchester, we started by setting up a GoogleApps site, created a journal using the Announcements page type in Google Sites, and then explored GoogleDocs. We began the second day with a discussion of formative vs. summative portfolios: the journal/blog format provides the environment for feedback in a working portfolio, organized in reverse-chronological order. Then we constructed the framework for a summative portfolio, to demonstrate the achievement of the new ISTE NETS for Students, which models the type of portfolio that students would need to create at the end of 8th grade to demonstrate the NCLB 8th grade ICT Literacy requirements. We had a great conversation about scaffolding reflection (and a great beginning template), and I realized there was a lot that I needed to learn about being an administrator of a GoogleApps for Education site. [I also attended an evening workshop for parents on Internet Safety that one of the workshop participants just happened to be facilitating... an eye-opener for me. In my opinion, it was a little negative...did not discuss the positive impact of the Internet, but it was a reality check about online predators, and reinforced for me the importance of setting up safe Web 2.0-type environments, protected from access outside the school.]

On the one-day workshop in Keene, I conducted my first video-conferenced hands-on workshop. Fortunately, there was a facilitator at the remote site who was with me in the Manchester workshop, so she could help with the hands-on component. In this workshop, we focused just on GoogleDocs, and only briefly discussed the importance of setting up a GoogleApps for Education site in a school or district. A team of participants in the Keene workshop (from a middle school) had participated in the "Letters to the President" project sponsored by Google and the National Writing Project:
Middle and high school students from across the country used Google Docs to write about the issues and concerns they want our next president to address.
Since many of the participants had this NWP experience, which they said really engaged their students ("They loved it!"), they were ready to see how to expand this experience into an ePortfolio. We built a GoogleDocs template for an ISTE NETS Reflective Portfolio, which I shared with other participants (who shared with others, etc.). (This is an update of my previous ISTE NETS templates created five years ago.) At the end of the workshop, I briefly showed the participants GoogleSites, and how this tool could work in a comprehensive portfolio process. I think I learned as much during this workshop as the participants!

My last workshop was with a team in a school district, to help them build a vision for implementing ePortfolios across the district. I provided my "New Hampshire" introduction to ePortfolios, then spent the afternoon working on how to develop a vision and the skills necessary to implement ePortfolios across the district. We emphasized the importance of effective implementation of technology across the curriculum, and both the superintendent and the IT director for the district attended the entire workshop, to better support both the pedagogical and technological components of this process. I felt pretty good when I left; there was a clear direction that this district was heading.

What did I learn/reinforce this week?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


A New Era

It is 6 AM on Wednesday, November 5, in Budapest, Hungary. I just watched John McCain's concession speech, streamed live by CNN/UStream over the Internet, followed by Barack Obama's speech in Chicago. When people asked where you were during this momentous occasion, I can say that I was just getting up! Being in Europe during the last two weeks of this campaign has had its benefits (no ads!) but it has also had it's challenges (staying current with the news...without TV). I gained a new appreciation for the power of the Internet, both to stay connected, through podcasts and websites, and now streaming video! My iTunes storage has ballooned in the last week! It also has a lot to say about how this campaign was won... through the grassroots organization on the Internet. This PRI/BBC/WGBH Special Election Edition podcast outlines the way that Obama's campaign used the Internet.


Friday, October 31, 2008


BBC tech news

I'm in Hungary on vacation, away from U.S. TV during the run-up to our election. In my hotel room there is no CNN... the only English channel is the BBC, which gives a different view of the news! I also downloaded a lot of podcasts from iTunes, including the World's Technology Podcast from BBC/PRI/WGBH.

Tonight I saw a new technology that could revolutionize small computers: (also on 10/17 WTC podcast) e-paper -- a screen made of plastic the size of a piece of paper, flexible and lightweight. Couple that technology with a keyboard on the screen (as I am currently typing on my iPhone), and you have a vision for new netbooks: flat, small, very portable. It could also reduce the use of paper (we've heard that before!). Called "e-reader" from Plastic Logic. (see the CNN video)

I also saw a special pen and clip (the brains) that holds paper; write with the pen on the slip of paper which gets recorded on the clip. When done, unclip the paper and connect the clip to a computer with the built-in USB connector and upload the image of what was written! Another version converted the handwritten text into computer text. I imagined a lot of ways to use this technology for collecting work samples from young students in schools without scanning!

Lots of new ideas to think about. Back to listening to podcasts!

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, October 24, 2008


ePortfolio 2008 in Maastricht

This is the last day of my sixth year attending the European ePortfolio conference in Maastricht in The Netherlands. During the first day, I led a full day workshop on Creating a Personal Learning Environment in the Web 2.0 Cloud. On the second day, I was primarily an attendee. This morning, I was on a panel that focused on the future of ePortfolios, and presented my model of a lifelong, life-wide portfolio "in the cloud."

This morning, the keynote speakers were from JISC in the UK, discussing their latest work on ePortfolios. I am impressed with the 40-page publication, Effective Practice with ePortfolios, that they just released, along with an InfoKit on ePortfolios. It provides a good overview of the process with some case studies in the U.K. in Higher Education and Further Education. This study complements the report published by Becta in 2007 which also addressed e-portfolios in schools, and the MOSEP report on a European study.

Since this conference was held in The Netherlands, there was a large participation from this country, and we were given another publication: Stimulating Lifelong Learning: The ePortfolio in Dutch Higher Education.

Labels: ,

Saturday, October 18, 2008


ILC 2008 conference

Last week I attended the first Innovative Learning Conference sponsored by CUE and FETC and held in the San Jose Convention Center. The attendance looked pretty low, but it was good to connect with a lot of California educators. I made my presentation on Voice and Reflection: Many Purposes of Digital Storytelling in ePortfolios. I also attended a lot of sessions on using cell phones in education and several sessions on PhotoStory, which looks like it is becoming the multimedia tool of choice for Windows XP users. I wonder why Microsoft hasn't released a Vista version of this software. That is the main reason that I elected to get Windows XP on my new HP netbook.

Speaking of netbooks, I attended a session on these small inexpensive laptops that are starting to be used in education. I was interested in the discussion of the next generation XO laptop with two touch-sensitive displays, to be released in 2010. No keyboard! Very interesting design! I'm getting used to "typing on the screen" of my iPhone. I wonder if this is the direction of small laptops. This week Apple announced updates of MacBooks. When asked about netbooks, here was Steve Jobs' response: "... that's a nascent market that's just getting started." Hmmm... I recently read about an Apple patent application for a multi-touch user interface. As they say, stay tuned!

Labels: ,

Monday, October 13, 2008


Dutch and Canadian e-portfolio efforts

The following item was posted in the Ning social network of the next ePortfolio conference to be held in Europe on October 22-24, 2008, in Maastricht, The Netherlands. The title of the blog entry was "Towards a future that works - the Committee on Labour Market Participation recommends an ePortfolio for all workers."
The Dutch Committee on Labour Market Participation has formulated a series of recommendations for getting more people into work in the Netherlands and improving the operation of the labour market. The Committee’s most significant conclusion is that the Dutch labour market is about to undergo drastic change:
  1. over the course of the coming decades, there will be more work to do but fewer people to do it;
  2. globalisation will increase the requirements regarding the level of knowledge and adaptability of the labour force. The Netherlands needs everybody – quickly! – and everybody must be constantly employable.
Among the recommandations, the fifth one is related to the ePortfolio as a mean to improve employability:

5. Improve employability. In order to increase employability, we make a number of recommendations for employers/employees, the education sector, and the benefits agencies.
  • Digital e-portfolio. Every member of the labour force will be entitled to a digital e-portfolio, i.e. an electronic inventory of their competencies, diplomas, experience, and accreditation of prior learning (APL). This will give people a better understanding of their position on the labour market and their career prospects, and of any need they have for further training.
  • Periodical talent analysis. Talent analysis and APL procedures must be introduced on a large scale, with maximum use being made of the e-portfolio. The right to a periodical analysis of one’s competencies and the right to APL assessment must be included in collective labour agreements, with mandatory arrangements for a “best-effort” obligation on the part of employees to undertake training.
It will be very interesting to observe the implementation of this plan. This policy is the first national statement that I have seen that recommends e-portfolios outside of formal education institutions, and is part of the territorial approach to ePortfolios promoted by EIfEL.

I have also been contacted by Athabasca University which is Canada's biggest (almost only) open and distance university, where they do PLAR (Prior Learning Assessment and Accreditation) across all programs there. Their portfolios are still primarily paper-based, although they have a virtual version of a paper-based portfolio posted on their website. Their portfolio manual (PDF) provides comprehensive guidance on building one of these PLAR portfolios.

Labels: ,

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Midnight Skype Conference

I just finished a Skype conversation with a group of people at EduCamp Berlin (it was morning for them, after midnight for me, but I am a night owl!). The photo above captured the setting of the video-skype-session. The local facilitator is behind the camera, I am on the big screen and to the bottom left the Berlin audience. We used Skype (audio/video), but I set up my slides in GoogleDocs presentation, shared the link with the remote site, took control of the slideshow, and gave a short talk. We followed the presentation with some questions from the audience. They kept the camera pointed toward the audience, so I could see them as we talked. Maybe next time we might use Yugma (screen sharing), but I thought this worked pretty well, and it was free!

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


GoogleApps for Education

I just left a workshop in an elementary school in a small town in New Hampshire, where a few teachers were learning to use GoogleApps for Education. They established their own domain name for their school, and learned how to manage the site so that it restricts viewing by only those who have an account in their domain. They found that they were able to restrict the "gadgets" that were available for students to add to their Start pages. We recognize that there are growing numbers of universities adopting this tool; I hope that Google recognizes the special needs of K-12 schools who adopt this toolset, with students who are under age 18.

In this after-school workshop, we covered using GoogleDocs on the first afternoon, then we covered Google Sites on the second day. They taught me a lot about how to modify their sites. (I love working with creative teachers; I learn so much from them!) I introduced how to use the Announcements page type in Google Sites for students to create reflective journals (simple blogs). I've already modified my "how-to" page based on my work with them, and set up another site to demonstrate the various examples with all of the "how-to" instructions.

I am now convinced that in GoogleApps (Sites, Docs, etc.) I have found the best free Web 2.0 tool for maintaining an online personal learning environment that can be used for formative assessment in education. Here are the descriptions of the workshops that I am doing in New Hampshire this fall:
Using GoogleDocs to Create Interactive Student ePortfolios –- 1 day in Keene, NH on Thursday, November 20
This workshop will show participants how to use GoogleDocs, available for free on the Internet, to facilitate classroom-based assessment in electronic portfolios. A special emphasis of this workshop will be to focus on creating ePortfolios that meet the requirements of the New Hampshire Educational Technology Plan.

Using Google Apps Education Edition to Create/Manage Interactive Student ePortfolios –- 2 days in Manchester, NH on Tuesday-Wednesday, November 18-19
This workshop will show participants how to use GoogleApps, available for free on the Internet, to facilitate classroom-based assessment in electronic portfolios. These tools include GoogleDocs, Gmail, GoogleTalk, Google Calendar and Google Sites (Google’'s version of a wiki). A special emphasis of this workshop will be to focus on creating ePortfolios that meet the requirements of the New Hampshire Educational Technology Plan.

Labels: ,

Monday, September 15, 2008


Another ePortfolio article

Electronic Portfolios: Engaged Students Create Multimedia-Rich Artifacts by Gail Ring, Barbara Weaver, and James H. (Jim) Jones, Jr., all of Clemson University. This article was published in The Journal of the Research Center for Educational Technology at Kent State University. From the summary of the article:
This paper briefly summarizes the implementation of a university-wide electronic portfolio requirement. We begin with a systemic view of the ePortfolio Program and narrow our focus to a view of ePortfolio integration into two different classes. The rationale behind the Clemson University ePortfolio Program is to build a mechanism through which core competencies are demonstrated and evaluated. The target classes are a general education English class focusing on 20th and 21st century literature and a professional development seminar in computer science. Both classes allow students to select their topics and present their work to the class using a variety of media types, and both include a form of peer evaluation. These classes confirm that when students’ choice is built into the assignments we are pleasantly surprised by the outcomes. In addition, an extensive variety of artifacts are generated from each course that can be used to demonstrate the general education competencies, provide authentic evidence of learning, and generate a career portfolio. In our examples, we will describe the planning, implementation, and dissemination processes necessary to integrate the ePortfolio Program into university courses.


Saturday, September 13, 2008


A new tool/toy

I am writing this entry from my new "Netbook"--HP2133 (1 GB RAM, 120 GB HD, Windows Vista with Windows XP "downgrade"). I was grateful that when it installed the software, it automatically installed XP. It has no built-in DVD/CD. I suppose I could add one later through one of the two USB 2.0 ports. It is so small, that I could see taking it on all my trips. I'm still not sure about making presentations with this computer, since a lot of my presentations include video that is stored on my Mac laptop, and I NEVER have any problems hooking up my Mac to any projector. My goal over the next few months is to experiment with many of these netbooks to see how they can be used for e-portfolios in schools using Web 2.0 tools.

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Google Sites

Google Sites (the former JotSpot wiki bought by Google in 2006) was released in February 2008 and is replacing Google Page Creator. I recently tried to log into Google Page Creator and got the following message:
We are no longer accepting new sign-ups for Page Creator because we have shifted our focus to developing Google Sites, which offers many of the capabilities of Page Creator along with new features like site-level navigation, site-level headers, control over who can see and edit your site, and rich embeddings like calendars, videos, and Google docs.
With that situation, I decided to work on a Google Sites version of my online portfolio. My detailed reflection on this tool is part of my Reflections on creating this 35th online version of my online portfolio. I am finishing up another "How-To" page on "Creating an Interactive Presentation Portfolio with Google Sites."

The bottom line: this tool has the potential to be one of the best free Web 2.0 tools to construct a presentation portfolio. I really like the way that it integrates (and can embed) all types of GoogleDocs and video stored in either YouTube or Google Video. With RSS feeds and a very simple interface, I think it will have a very low learning curve for the average user who is familiar with other Google Tools. It is much easier to use than Google Pages. Each site includes a Site Map and the author can decide which pages to include in the Navigation bar through the page settings.

I have a lot of questions about file attachments and the File Cabinet page type, but since the tool is still in Beta, I'm sure there is a lot more development ahead. This tool is a winner, especially when used within the GoogleApps Education Edition, where collaboration can be restricted to members within the same domain. I will be learning a lot more about this tool this fall as I help teachers in a few New Hampshire communities to implement GoogleApps Education Edition for student portfolios under the NH Educational Technology Plan.

Labels: ,


ePortfolios in New Zealand

I just received this email, which was wonderful feedback from the ePortfolio Conference in Wellington, New Zealand, in March 2007.
Perhaps you will recall your short time in New Zealand last year at the conference in Wellington and then your visit to Bucklands Beach Intermediate School in Auckland.

Well I thought I would make contact with you and share some of the developments we have in place since our first meeting.

You may recall I was very interested to look at e-portfolio developments as I have had a long involvement and interest in the ‘paper’ type portfolios. You will recall the ‘learning to Learn’ model I had put together.

Since we met last April, I think it was, I had a sabbatical from my work here and spent a little time in the UK trying to get my head around the ePortfolio ideas and to see how we could best move forward. I was somewhat disappointed with what I found I must confess. Maybe I was not looking in the right areas. I saw a number of good systems but I did not see them often being used to enhance learning. What the students were producing seems to be a waste of good learning time. What I did see also was more at the University level, in what I would refer to as the CV type Portfolio, and not so much at the primary or middle school level. The structures seemed very limiting.

So we have pushed on and developed our own way of doing things as is usual. I wanted an ePortfolio that was going to support learning and to provide evidence of that learning. I wanted it to be able to show the process as well as the product. I wanted it to allow for the ‘Voice’ to come through.. (See I did listen and was strongly influenced by your session in Wellington!) This was a key part of our developments.

The idea of the digital story was in a way the catalyst that enabled me to see how these techniques could be used to allow student voice to come through with respect to the student’s learning. I wanted to be able to hear their thoughts and reflections. This simple digital story technique is now being used extensively here for goal setting and reflection and for telling the ‘learning journey.’

We still have a long way to go. I am excited about what we have achieved in a little over one year. We started with a smallish ‘seeding group’ of students after you visited last year and now we are looking to imbed the ideas school wide. It will take another year before that process is completed I believe.

I thought seeing as you were the one who enabled me to see the real difference between paper portfolios and the way an ePortfolio could be used to allow the ‘voice’ to come through I would share a couple of examples with you.

Our portfolios are contained within a learning management system we are currently using called knowledgenet. I am not so happy with it but at present it serves our purpose. This is a commercial package used by quite a number of schools in NZ. I would like to move away from this in the future and am looking at ‘free’ sites that give the flexibility we now have with knowledgenet. Many of the free sites we have found seem to be very restrictive. By using Knowledgenet (KN) we know that the students are ‘safe’ in that their work, all their personal details, are in a passworded environment. Parents like this. I am sure this will change in the future as we all become more comfortable with the net. What we also do however is to use many other sites, blogs, wikis, podcasts, weeblies, teacher tube etc to give us free hosting for work with a simple link out of KN. We run a different set of protocols here which the students work to where there should be no particular identifying details. There are many strengths in this apart from the free hosting. With the addition of a ClustR map the students get feedback from around the world which is tremendously empowering. Some have had a great number of ‘hits’ on their work. They come to school in the morning excited to see if they have have new people looking at the work on the web. So we are keen to keep things out in the open to the extent our community feels comfortable with. (As I heard recently no one teaches children how not to cross the road safely! An important part of schooling now is net safety. This enables us to teach this in an authentic situation)

So I have set up a password for you so you can access a couple of our student’s ePortfolios. These are 13 year old students who have been working with us on their ePortfolios for a little over a year. You can see archived material there from last year as well as this year’s developments. You will see we are using a number of free web tools to help like glogster and voice thread etc. Where we are now is looking to develop our structure a little more and to ensure it is in place to support the learning.

You will note the section on key competencies. These are part of our new curriculum. I have been looking to find a simple way to show the students are capable in these areas. The template we have set up is designed to clearly provide evidence, that the student is competent in the particular competency. So a simple link to the evidence is what we are looking to do along with the reflection. This avoids the necessity for teachers ot be having to write lengthy evaluative comments. The students can simply provide the evidence themselves.

So if you have time have a trawl through a number of the areas you will see what we have been working on. We have goal setting, reflections, parent voice comments, and plenty of examples of process through to product. You can track the learning journey in many instances. I could suggest you look at a couple of the science fair blogs – particularly Cheyennes where she has video evaluation and reflection in the work. There is also Cheyennes literacy work on the diary of Anne Frank. (Archived from last year) This had hundreds of ‘hits’ Also she heard, via the school, from the Anne Frank Society who had found this work and were so impressed they sent a bundle of books to the school. Again very empowering.

As you can see I am pretty excited about what we have achieved in the 12 months since your visit and our start. I am off to Sweden in a week to talk about a number of things to do with vision and learning as I have done many times before and will be including some of this work on ePorfolios in my presentations.

Thanks for your initial inspiration. As I said I wanted to share some of the enthusiasm with you. You can read my paper, ‘ePortfolios, a Personal Space for Learning’ on You will see your influence there strongly!

You may also be interested to know that next week we are holding a student conference. This is a conference run by students for students. The conference title is - ‘i-learn, e-learn, we-learn@bbi student voice conference.’ We have two keynote sessions being run by students and then 16 different workshop sessions also run by students. The students will be able to attend two different workshops. This is designed to allow ‘student voice’ with respect to their learning to be shared and to show some of the exciting developments to others in the wider schooling community. The conference is something I have wanted to do for some years so we have decided to get into it this year as I will be ‘retiring’ from my position here at the end of the school year. Jess and Cheyenne whose portfolios you have the link to will be presenting one of the keynote sessions on ‘Student Voice through ePortfolios.’ So that should be exciting also – well I hope it will be!


Ian Fox QSM, Principal
Bucklands Beach Intermediate School
247 Bucklands Beach Road
Bucklands Beach, Auckland, New Zealand
It is messages like this that make my work so rewarding! I responded with how very gratifying it was to receive this type of feedback, asked for his permission to publish the message above, and expressed my interest in being able to see videos of some of the student presentations. I also shared some of my work with GoogleApps Education Edition. His response:
A quick response as we are working through listening to the students who are preparing for next week’s conference. I will try to get some of it taped so we can get a copy to you somehow. It is all very exciting and the students are so motivated. We have special badges made for the delegates and ‘T’ shirts and caps for the presenters. There is a morning tea scheduled and we will be having student buskers in the playground. So hopefully it will all be a load of fun even though there will be an important message we are wanting to get across...

We would be interested to keep in touch re your developments with Google. We will keep exploring options here also as I am determined to keep moving forward in a direction that supports learning, that provides evidence of learning, that allows for process as well as product, that allows for student voice, that allows for flexibility and creativity on the part of the learner.
I couldn't have said it better, myself!

Labels: , ,

Sunday, August 31, 2008


Breaking the silence

I took the month of August off. No traveling (except a brief RV trip to Mt. Rainier... all the gas I could afford). I was glued to the Olympic Games... then the political conventions. I also spent a lot of time playing with my new iPhone. This is not a political blog, but I've been following a lot of them in the last few weeks. Fascinating reading. I love/hate reading some of the comments added to the posts. Web 2.0 is changing a lot of our public and private discourse.

I'm working on a book proposal focusing on Web 2.0 across the lifespan, and preparing for some new training projects. My fall travel begins September 16, with the Web 2.0 Expo in New York City, a presentation on Digital Storytelling at Columbia University, some GoogleApps training at a school in New Hampshire, and ending with an ePortfolio event at Boston University on Friday, September 26.


Monday, July 28, 2008


Showcase vs. Workspace

I am attending a workshop on "Using Worldware for Student Success in the Classroom and Beyond" conducted by Gary Brown from Washington State University, being held at the Campus Technology Conference in Boston. I had an opportunity to see a much larger picture of the WSU work that I have been observing from afar. I am impressed by their characterization of ePortfolios as "workspace" vs. "showcase" of student work. This is a glimpse of their concept of the ePortfolio as Personal Learning Environment.

Labels: ,

Monday, July 21, 2008


Navigating with my new iPhone

I just spent last week in Orlando with a rental car and my daughter riding along, navigating with Maps on my new iPhone. It was so cool! She searched for the nearest cash machine, found a restaurant across town, and an outlet mall for our retail therapy/bonding sessions, and found the nearest movie theater and show times so that we could see Mamma Mia (saw it on stage in Budapest and loved it just as much). I spent a lot of my free time exploring the iTunes Apps store.

I am writing this post on my iPhone at 30,000+ feet while traveling to Indianapolis for the NCTE Institute (more in a later entry). I just wish I could get used to typing with my thumbs. At least my fingernails are not getting in my way! I know it will take more practice.

I figured out how to update my Facebook status; I've also figured out how the different mail servers work (deleting a message in GMail and MobileMe puts it in the trash on those servers but does nothing on the Comcast server... I'm not sure which approach I prefer). Also, reading a message in GMail on my iPhone means it will not get downloaded to my laptop, but reading a Comcast mail message has no effect (I can still download them to my desktop). I know what one I prefer there. I'm still using my desktop computer to maintain a record of all of my email messages. I know I am going to need to change that habit!

Taking pictures with the camera and sending by email has been fun. I still need to figure out if I can attach then to a web page (like this blog or Picasa). Lots more to learn, but the implications for using this type of tool (more likely the iTouch) for documenting the learning process has a lot of potential. I am planning to work with at least one school in NH on these types of 1-to-1 and Web 2.0 tools in the next school year.

Created on my iPhone... but edited on my computer. Making corrections in a message after it has been saved in the outbox (but before it has been sent) is impossible (or not obvious) which makes editing this post a problem... But I sent it to myself instead of directly to my blog. That's my next thing to learn.


Sunday, July 13, 2008


From my new iPhone

I started this message with one of the applications on my brand new iPhone, but was not able to write in this area, so I am finishing this entry the normal way! I stopped at the AT&T store near my home on Saturday afternoon, and they had just received another shipment of iPhones, so I got a black 16 GB model! I used the maps right away to navigate to another store; I just wish it had voice commands like my old Palm/TomTom GPS unit. I also found some new software, including Travel Tracker, one of my favorites on the Palm, only it doesn't update my calendar with flights, etc. I got a very quick response from the company that Apple has not opened the Calendar database up to 3rd parties as of yet.

I managed to get my MobileMe set up and am synching with only a few problems. I left ten years of my calendar on my Palm Desktop, and I can't figure out how to publish my iCal, but otherwise, the transition from my Palm SmartPhone has been pretty seamless. I will spend the next two weeks on vacation exploring Orlando with my new GPS, and playing with the faster G3 connectivity. I will also explore some of the many different iPhone applications that are available through the iTunes store. One of my complaints: you have to buy a software package before you try it out (to see if it works the way you like). I just wasted some money on a game; with most Palm software there was usually a trial period before payment was required. I am slowly getting used to entering text with my fingers, but I am still much more facile with a regular keyboard. So far, I've been able to open GoogleDocs through my iPhone, but haven't figured out if I can edit these files. On my Mac, I can't use Safari to edit in many of the Google tools, so the iPhone version of Safari probably has the same limitations. It also does not support Flash or Java, the underlying technology of many Web 2.0 applications. Exploring and comparing will be very interesting!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Google Interactive Tutorials

I just found a series of Flash-based interactive online tutorials which explains concepts within all of the current GoogleApps (note the tutorials available from the links on the left navigation bar):
I want to know how they created these tutorials and if this service will soon be available to site administrators or instructional developers!


Sunday, July 06, 2008


NECC 2008 retrospective

I am now home from the latest National Educational Computing Conference (in San Antonio) and am thinking about some of the highlights for me. I created several blog entries while I was there, so now I am reflecting on my overall experience at that conference. There seemed to be a "conference within the conference" which began with the EduBloggercom event on Saturday, June 28. I had attended in the afternoon in 2007 in Atlanta (after my own morning workshop) which I found to be beneficial. This year, the group voted on the sessions that they wanted to hold, using cell phone texting (but I missed that part of the event), and then used the conference wiki to schedule the events and locations during the day. Some of the discussions were very interesting and worthwhile. I continued to run into many of the participants in the Blogger Cafe throughout the rest of the conference. That was an open space with chairs and tables and electrical power! There were some organized discussions, but more impromptu dialogue.

The conference also set up a Ning group, which I joined, and others invited me to be their friend. However, other than establishing these friend lists, I never saw any direct benefit for joining while I was at the conference. It was fun to see some old friends on the website, but I never saw any of them in person. I realize that I needed to be more pro-active to get something out of that type of social network. I attended my usual conference events and wandered around the vendor floor. I'm just wondering if this use of a Ning group in such a huge conference was just a playground for the attendees who subscribed to get some experience with a social network, or if others got more out of their participation.

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 03, 2008


ISTE's Debate on Portfolios replacing Standardized Tests

Are Digital Portfolios a Realistic Alternative to Standardized Testing? ISTE’s magazine, Learning & Leading with Technology, wants your opinion. If you would like to share your thoughts on this topic, reply to Paul Wurster ( with a 25–50 word response by July 15. They are going to select 6–8 of the best comments they receive (attributing them with name, affiliation, city, and state) and publish them in the September/October issue of L&L. Not sure? Read the opinion of two other education professionals in the June/July edition of Point/Counterpoint in L&L on the Web.

The second paper referenced in my previous blog entry contained a reference to a January 2006 article by Kathleen Blake Yancey in Campus Technology: "An Exercise in Absence... Notes on the Past and Future of Digital Portfolios and Student Learning." She makes excellent points about student learning and engagement, the importance of reflection, and some cautions about portfolios:
In Portfolios in the Writing Classroom, Catherine Lucas identified three that are as relevant for digital portfolios as for print. First, she notes that portfolios can be "weakened by effect," asking "Can . . . [a] spirit of exploration remain central to the use of portfolios as they become more commonplace?" Second is the "failure of research": "The danger here is that those who cling to the illusion that only what can be measured or counted is worth doing will find the effects of portfolios . . . not only resistant to measurement but initially resistant even to definition." Given the scale that digital technology makes possible, her last caution, co-option by large-scale assessment, is perhaps the most prescient. She notes that if we are not careful, portfolios will become merely a new vehicle used to perform the old task, with the result that portfolios will become standardized-with common assignments and restrictive learning conditions. Should this happen, Lucas says, portfolios "will be just as likely as other standardized tests to limit learning by restricting curriculum to what is most easily and economically measured."
I am concerned that the positivists, those advocating the use of portfolios to replace standardized testing, are having a major impact on mandatory portfolio implementation in some states. It reminds me of Lee Shulman's [in Lyons (1998) With Portfolios in Hand] five dangers of portfolios, and specifically "perversion"
"If portfolios are going to be used, whether at the state level in Vermont or California, or at the national level by the National Board, as a form of high stakes assessment, why will portfolios be more resistant to perversion than all other forms of assessment have been? And if one of the requirements in these cases is that you develop a sufficiently objective scoring system so you can fairly compare people with one another, will your scoring system end up objectifying what's in the portfolio to the point where the portfolio will be nothing but a very, very cumbersome multiple choice test?" (p. 35)
These articles (and the Shulman chapter) provide a more student-centered view of portfolios in education. At NECC by contrast, I talked with at least one technology vendor selling the "e-portfolio as standardized-test-replacement" and two classroom teachers who focused on a more student-centered approach to electronic portfolios (see my last NECC blog entry). I actually think we need both. Portfolios best support learning and formative assessment; standardized tests are best for institutional accountability. One can inform the other, but not replace it. When I write my 25-50 word response, I'll post it here in my blog.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Papers about ePortfolios in Higher Ed

I just learned about a couple of new papers that have recently been published about ePortfolios in higher education. The first one was published in the Journal of Computing in Higher Education Spring 2008, Vol. 19(2), 47-90: "Development of the Electronic Portfolio Student Perspective Instrument: An ePortfolio Integration Initiative" with authors Albert Dieter Ritzhaupt, Oma Singh, Thelma Seyferth (Department of Secondary Education) and Robert F. Dedrick (Department of Educational Measurement and Research), University of South Florida. Here is the executive summary:
WITH THE PROLIFERATION OF EPORTFOLIOS and their organizational uses in higher education, it is important for educators and other relevant stakeholders to understand the student perspective. The way students view and use ePortfolios are revealing elements to aid educators in the successful integration of ePortfolio systems. This research describes the development of the Electronic Portfolio Student Perspective Instrument (EPSPI) and initial validation (N = 204) efforts in the context of an ePortfolio initiative in a College of Education. The EPSPI incorporates four domains from a student perspective: employment, visibility, assessment, and learning; and connects those domains with four relevant stakeholders: students, administrators, faculty, and employers. Descriptive analyses, exploratory factor analysis, and a qualitative analysis using grounded theory were used. Results indicate that student perspectives towards ePortfolios are with three distinct, internally consistent underlying constructs: learning, assessment, and visibility. Qualitative analysis revealed four interrelated themes from a student perspective: system characteristics, support structure, purpose, and personal impact.
Another article was fully published online in The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol 9, No 2 (2008), ISSN: 1492-3831: " Eportfolios: From description to analysis" with authors Gabriella Minnes Brandes and Natasha Boskic, The University of British Columbia, Canada. Here is the abstract from that article:
In recent years, different professional and academic settings have been increasingly utilizing ePortfolios to serve multiple purposes from recruitment to evaluation. This paper analyzes ePortfolios created by graduate students at a Canadian university. Demonstrated is how students’ constructions can, and should, be more than a simple compilation of artifacts. Examined is an online learning environment whereby we shared knowledge, supported one another in knowledge construction, developed collective expertise, and engaged in progressive discourse. In our analysis of the portfolios, we focused on reflection and deepening understanding of learning. We discussed students’ use of metaphors and hypertexts as means of making cognitive connections. We found that when students understood technological tools and how to use them to substantiate their thinking processes and to engage the readers/ viewers, their ePortfolios were richer and more complex in their illustrations of learning. With more experience and further analysis of exemplars of existing portfolios, students became more nuanced in their organization of their ePortfolios, reflecting the messages they conveyed. Metaphors and hypertexts became useful vehicles to move away from linearity and chronology to new organizational modes that better illustrated students’ cognitive processes. In such a community of inquiry, developed within an online learning space, the instructor and peers had an important role in enhancing reflection through scaffolding. We conclude the paper with a call to explore the interactions between viewer/reader and the materials presented in portfolios as part of learning occasions.

Labels: ,


NECC 2008 update

I am sitting in the Blogger's Cafe in the San Antonio convention center. Yesterday, I did my short presentation on the final results of the REFLECT Initiative. I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through the vendor exhibits. Today, I am enjoying the morning just doing networking, taking with people who are dropping by, and decompressing after four very full days. It is time to go home and get settled into my new condo!

I just had a wonderful conversation with a high school English teacher, who used my website for resources on working with her 11th grade students on electronic portfolios (she showed me some examples). She started her students with a blog, but many of them went far beyond the blog and created their own presentation portfolios using one of the Web 2.0 tools. She herself had to use one of the commercial e-portfolio/assessment management systems in her graduate program, and she said, "It took all the thinking out of it. They gave me the standards and told me which artifacts to put into each one! It wasn't as effective as what my students did!" I am hoping she will share her story with my new Google Group: web2eportfolios. I invite others to join the group (please give me your reason for wanting to join as you fill out the form).

I had another delightful conversation with a tech coordinator from a small Texas school district, who talked to me about his proposal for hosting ePortfolios for his 1400 student school district using WordPressMU. We talked about this strategy, and how they could implement the blogs and pages that the tool supports. Their district has already established a GoogleApps account for branded GMail in their district as well as all of the other Google tools. They are also setting up servers to host podcasts and video sharing. I am hoping he can also tell their story through my new Google Group.

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 30, 2008


Google at NECC 2008

I am at the 2008 National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) and attended a session conducted by two Google employees. In the Q&A after the session, I had the opportunity to ask the following question: "When am I going to be able to use my GMail space to store plain old documents?" The two of them whispered something to each other and then said something about having a policy not to talk about when unannounced products would be available. But then they said something like "Soon!" Hmmm...

On Sunday, I did a day-long workshop on Web 2.0 Tools for Classroom-Based Assessment and Interactive Student ePortfolios. We started with a blog and them moved to Google tools (GoogleDocs Documents for creating artifacts, GoogleDocs Spreadsheet for creating a table to keep track of artifacts, GoogleDocs Presentation to create a linear presentation portfolio, and Google Pages to create a hyperlinked portfolio (without the interactivity of the GoogleDocs tools). One of the participants, who had been playing with the Zoho tools, and especially the Zoho Notebook, tried the Google Sites tools (released in February) and found it to meet his needs better than the other tool. I will need to try the Sites tool when I get home.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


New article from ECAR

The Educause Center for Applied Research just published a new Research Bulletin: Web 2.0, Personal Learning Environments, and the Future of Learning Management Systems.
This ECAR research bulletin details the arguments emerging in the blogosphere and elsewhere both for and against the learning management system. It examines whether the LMS is destined to continue as the primary means of organizing the online learning experience for university students. The bulletin is a companion to an earlier ECAR research bulletin that examines the factors leading to the selection of the open source learning management system at the Open University in the United Kingdom.
The article was written by Niall Sclater, Director of the Virtual Learning Environment Programme at the Open University in the U.K. A small part of the article discussed the role of two different ePortfolio systems being used in the OU: Mahara (developed in New Zealand) and MyStuff (developed in-house by the Open University).

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


A bilingual storytelling workshop

Yesterday, I finished a digital storytelling workshop with a group of high school teachers in Monterrey, Mexico. It was a wonderful experience. Many of them created their stories in English although for most of them, it was their second language. I am convinced that the value is in the digital storytelling process, regardless of the tools we used (MovieMaker2 and Audacity). Now I am doing a Web 2.0 ePortfolio workshop for the next 2 1/2 days. This is my third trip to Mexico in the last six months. I'm started to learn Spanish, but it is tough at my age! I'm so glad that I am mostly working with English teachers!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Web 2.0 & commercial ePortfolios

On June 1, Campus Computing published another article on ePortfolios and Web 2.0, entitled "Unleashing the Power of Web 2.0," which highlighted some of the work of Washington State University and their use of SharePoint. It also discussed the continuum of ePortfolios as Personal Learning Environments (PLE--on the learner-centered end), and ePortfolios as Assessment Management Systems (AMS--on the institution-centered end). The article discussed the Evolution of Web 2.0 and the ePortfolio, and reported on discussions with three ePortfolio vendors (Digication, Angel Learning, and Desire2Learn) and the adaptations that they are making to their commercial systems in response to the Web 2.0 technologies. One of the ironies of this discussion is that free Web 2.0 technologies could be a threat to some of the commercial tools, since students could replicate ePortfolio/PLE functions of many of the commercial tools using these Web 2.0 tools. Accumulating institutional accountability data (AMS) is the real value added of many of the other commercial tools not mentioned in the article. The real value of Web 2.0 tools is for the students to create an ePortfolio that they can own and modify across the lifespan, gaining valuable lifelong learning skills that they can use once they leave higher education. That is the value of the WSU model using SharePoint, and other places using other types of social software for ePortfolios (blogs, wikis, Google tools, etc.)

The author of this Campus Technology article also published an earlier article, "ePortfolios Meet Social Software" which discusses some of the "stickiness" issues with ePortfolios, and the interest in the "own-it-for-life model" of implementation.

Labels: ,

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Microsoft-Holland America partnership

My dream job has shown up! Too bad I'm too busy to apply! According to PRWire, "Holland America Line and Microsoft Introduce Onboard Digital Workshops.... Guests learn digital photography and video editing, blogging, and Web skills while cruising." It reminds me of the cruises that I took to Europe in 2006 and through the Panama Canal in 2007. I kept a blog during both cruises. In 2006, I had the time to learn Apple's iWeb; in 2007, I kept a simple Blogger blog. The 2006 blog was much more visual, but the 2007 blog was much easier to produce and took a lot less online time to upload (Internet time on cruise ships is pretty expensive). I would love to see how they are implementing the program. Maybe another Holland America cruise should be on my horizon!

Labels: ,


Learning about ePortfolios

Last week, I added a new page to my website: Learning about Electronic Portfolios. I converted the "open source" MOSEP course, created by the Salzburg Research Forschungsgesellschaft under a European Commission grant, into HTML format (I found their wiki hard to navigate, and impossible to link to specific pages within the course). After I finished, I discovered the PDF version of their course materials online, but it is still impossible to link to specific lessons in the course! I also posted the course that I have been constructing about Web 2.0 Tools for Lifelong & Life Wide Learning. The course includes "Portfolio Pointers" on how to use the different Web 2.0 tools to construct an online portfolio "mashup".

Labels: , , , ,


Multimedia Biographies as externalized memory prosthetic

My colleague Don Presant from Winnipeg, Manitoba, sent me a link to a podcast from the CBC: multimedia biographies for the memory challenged or ePortfolio as "externalized memory" prosthetic, a research project being undertaken at the University of Toronto. ( -- starting at 19 minutes into the podcast)

By coincidence at the same time, Serge Ravet, my colleague with Eifel, was attending a conference in Aix-en-Provence in France on the theme "plus longue la vie" (longer the life) which is about linking innovative technologies with a longer (and possibly, better) life.

Don also provided me with further information: it's part of a wide series of research initiatives that go beyond prosthesis to "rehabilitative or restorative devices to enhance cognition, and even as preventative or treatment devices able to slow the rate at which cognitive impairments develop."
"A second research project, in collaboration with Dr. Elsa Marziali, Schippers Chair of Social Work at Baycrest, is producing multimedia biographies for pilot cohorts of persons with early-stage or mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease. We collaborate with the AD individual, the caregiver, and other family members in collecting a life history through media such as music, photos, interviews, and narrated videos (Cohene et al. 2004, 2006). Early findings suggest that the biographies serve to reinforce a positive self-identity and bring joy and some calming to the AD individual. The biographies also provide benefits to family members such as better remembering how their loved one once was and being better able to accept the disease. A grant from the U.S. Alzheimer’s Association (2004-7) is funding the development and evaluation of 10-12 multimedia biographies. We are including several individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) as part of this study."
As I begin to explore the lifelong and life-wide applications of this technology, these two research projects provide very interesting examples of how digital stories, produced with families for the benefit of their elderly relatives, has the potential for making these last years of life more bearable, especially for the surviving family members. You might call it the digital equivalent of the movie, "The Notebook"!

Labels: ,

Friday, June 06, 2008


Sharepoint Example from WSU

I received a comment on a previous blog entry that I would like to highlight here, with a graduate student's portfolio created with WSU's SharePoint service.
I attend WSU and am a grad student. I use Sharepoint to host my ePortfolio and I think it covers all the needed functions. It is dynamic and very useful.
Here is a link to my ePortfolio if you'd like to see an example:

Also, I've created some instructional material for creating ePortfolios in MS Sharepoint. Feel free to check them out and share with anyone who could use them!

Hope to hear from you,
Matt Kushin
Thanks, Matt!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Workshop in Durango, Mexico

I am really excited. I am currently doing a workshop with English language teachers in Durango, and we are using a variety of Web 2.0 tools to facilitate the process over three full days; our agenda and the hands-on activities.

Yesterday, we began the workshop with Blogger and also Google Groups so that we could carry on a dialogue after the workshop is over (we will continue the dialogue online through December). I also showed them RSS feeds this morning (using GoogleReader), so that they can keep track of changes in blogs and other documents that have RSS feeds, like GoogleDocs, which we also covered this morning. Tonight we started to adapt the European Language Portfolio Word documents into GoogleDocs. We also looked at pulling together a presentation portfolio with the GoogleDocs Presentation tool, and then embedding the presentation into our blogs. Most of them were able to create a quick presentation, publish it, copy the code and embed it into their blogs (much as I did earlier in this blog).

Tomorrow morning, I will introduce them to online storage, where they will store audio clips and video clips of students' English speaking skills. We will learn how to store those files online in a free file storage website, and how to embed those links both into a blog and into a GoogleDoc or a Google Page document. I will be introducing them to Google Pages later, so that they can see a web page authoring tool.

This was a very ambitious schedule for these three days. The workshop day was different. We worked 9 AM to 1 PM, took the afternoon off, and came back for a 6-8 PM shift. It was nice to take off the hot part of the day, eating my heavy meal in the afternoon, but it still makes a long day! I am really impressed with the participants in this workshop. They are participating in a fast-paced workshop, learning a lot of new technology skills in their second language, staying past the end of the workshop to keep exploring new things. This is my second workshop in Mexico, and I am very impressed! I'm also able to practice my Spanish, reinforcing the class I have been taking this spring.

Labels: ,

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Friday Live featuring WSU

During yesterday's Friday Live sponsored by the TLT group, the presentation focused on the work of Washington State University and their work on ePortfolios (official title: Using Outside Experts to Assess Program Outcomes Online; Experiences at Washington State University). Their presentation, and the discussion in the chat, focused on the power of an e-portfolio to document the process of learning, something that I have been emphasizing in many entries recently in this blog.

WSU's ePortfolio contest brought in outside experts to judge student projects, which were documented in these ePortfolios, and there were several comments about the importance of documenting the process as much as the outcomes, normally shown in a poster. Here is another example where keeping a reflective journal is perhaps the most powerful part of the ePortfolio journey, revealing to the learners and their audiences, their construction of knowledge.

WSU uses Microsoft's SharePoint platform to support their students' ePortfolio development, based on a philosophy that they should be learning to use tools that they would use in their professional lives after they leave the university. They also believe that the students should structure their own electronic portfolios. I agree with both of those viewpoints.

The TLT Group has posted a web page on Electronic Portfolios: Formative Evaluation, Planning that provides some valuable insights on planning for planning to implement ePortfolios in a higher education institution.

Labels: ,

Friday, May 09, 2008


Blogs and ePortfolios

After the recent ePortfolio conference in Montreal, where I met Stephen Downes, his blog entry discussed the following entries about using blogs in the ePortfolio process:
This ain’t yo mama’s e-portfolio, part 1
This ain’t yo mama’s e-portfolio, part 2
This ain’t yo mama’s e-portfolio, part 3

Alan Levine had discussed these issues in 2004, around the time I began this blog: Two Rivers Mix: RSS and e-Portfolios.

Penn State University switched over to the Movable Type blogging tool at the beginning of this year, and here are several weblinks that provide more information.
ePortfolios at Penn State

I have already blogged about the research on blogs at the University of Calgary. It is important to emphasize that blogging tools facilitate personal publishing and reflection, which make this type of tool an essential part of any comprehensive ePortfolio system.

Labels: , ,


Using GoogleDocs in the Classroom

In the link above, Google has put together a very nice guide to help teachers use GoogleDocs in the classroom. This multipage GoogleDoc document includes the following sections:
Here is a video about Google Apps for Education that was recently added to YouTube by Google.


Thursday, May 08, 2008


Follow up on WSU ePortfolio work

The comment on my blog entry earlier this week, made by Nils Peterson at Washington State University, encouraged me to revisit some other entries that have come to my attention over the last six months:

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 05, 2008


Harvesting Gradebook

I am at the ePortfolio conference in Montreal, and thought I would add an entry to my blog about an article that I am referencing entitled, "The Future of Web 2.0" which was published in Campus Technology on February 27, 2008. This was an interview with Gary Brown, Director of Washington State University's Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology. This quote is especially appropriate for using Web 2.0 tools within the context of assessment.
Right now at WSU, one of the things we're developing in collaboration with Microsoft is a "harvesting" gradebook. So as an instructor in an environment like this, my gradebook for you as a student has links to all the different things that are required of you in order for me to credit you for completing the work in my class. But you may have worked up one of the assignments in Flickr, another in Google Groups, another in Picasa, and another in a wiki. Maybe you've also made some significant contributions to Wikipedia. So, I need a gradebook where I have the link you've provided me, rather than a copy of the work, and the gradebook should be capable of pulling in all of these various sources.

Labels: ,

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.

Labels: ,

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 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 and YouTube is the ability to download the Flash videos from in addition to being able to leave comments.


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.

Labels: ,

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.


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 and The mediamax service is in the middle of migrating to a new name,, and I received an email that told me they were not migrating files uploaded to its free accounts.

Labels: , ,

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.

Labels: , ,

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.

Labels: , ,

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.

Labels: , , , ,

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).

Labels: , ,

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.

Labels: , ,


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.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Online File Storage Research

I'm beginning a review of online file storage, building on my prior blog entry. I'm looking for online space to store artifacts for an electronic portfolio, not a standard file backup service. I found the following resources that either listed or reviewed the different services:Based on this work and a chart that I downloaded, from an article called The Online Storage Gang, I am exploring the following services. I pulled together a couple of PDF files and one MP3 file to upload as a test of the system. Here are my requirements: free storage of at least 1 GB of any type of data (including audio files) and able to share files in two ways (email with link to a file and permanent URI that can be added as a link to a web page).

Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 27, 2008


AERA 2008 Conference

Holding a conference of this size in midtown Manhattan has some substantial challenges, especially since the sessions were spread between four hotels from the Marriott on 46th Street & Broadway in Times Square to the Hilton at 6th Avenue and 53rd Street. There were sessions that I wanted to attend, but the time it took to get between hotels limited my choice of sessions. I attended two SIG meetings: Portfolios and Reflection in Teaching and Teacher Education and the new Applied Research in Virtual Environments for Learning. The Portfolio SIG had a fascinating discussion on reflection, which gave me a lot of new ideas. This afternoon, I did a short (12 minute) presentation on my REFLECT research and I posted my slides and the paper online.

Several of the other participants in the same session also had very interesting research to present. Lina Pelliccione from Curtin University in Australia presented a paper that:
focused on the goal of enhancing student reflection and learning with the key objective being to determine whether a structured reflective tool can enhance students’ ability to engage in the reflective cycle at a deeper level.
I was also impressed with a paper given by two teacher educators from the University of Calgary entitled, "The Value of eJournals to Support ePortfolio Development for Assessment in Teacher Education" by Susan Crichton and Gail Kopp.
The originality of this work rests in the importance of establishing an eJournal to accompany the ePortfolio. Based on our findings in this action research study, we challenge and add to the existing ePortfolio literature around such issues as ePortfolio project design, process vs. product, the use of templates, social software, and documentation.
They call it eDOL: Electronic Documentation of Learning. There it is: research that supports the importance of including a blog in an ePortfolio! These educators have validated my current opinion and practice of including a reflective journal (a.k.a., blog) in a comprehensive ePortfolio system.

After the presentation today, I had a very stimulating conversation with an educator from New Zealand. He had been reading this blog and most of my web site, and it was almost spooky to have someone seemingly inside my head, observing the changes in my own thinking over the last eight years. It was also exhilarating to talk about the leading (bleeding?) edge of ePortfolio implementation. It also confirms for me the power of the Internet to facilitate collaboration.

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Digital Archive for Life Diagram

Digital Archive (for Life) Supports Lifelong & Life-wide Learning (click to see full size image)
I developed this diagram as part of my presentations on e-portfolios for lifelong/life-wide learning. As shown here, a "digital archive for life" can follow an individual from informal learning in the family (and the popular development of scrapbooks), into formal education and professional development, and serve as a "memory enhancer" as we reach our post-retirement years.

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 14, 2008


MOSEP - More self esteem with my ePortfolio

I have been aware of the MOSEP project (funded by the European commission, managed by the Salzburg Research Forschungsgesellschaft). I was just sent the link to a PDF version of their report on the project. This is a very impressive piece of research, with participation from across Europe, specializing in adolescents (aged 14 to 16). To quote their web page:
MOSEP will experiment with electronic learning and more specifically the use of electronic portfolios (ePortfolios) as a means of supporting both the adolescents and the teaching and counselling staff that work with them during this transition phase. We hope to prove the efficiency of this ePortfolio method, based on a learner-centered model allowing a greater degree of personalisation of learning, in motivating and empowering the adolescents enabling them to acquire the skills needed to succeed in today's knowledge economy.
They also developed online materials for a course for educators which helps support the process. As part of that course, I found the following video, created by Graham Attwell of Pontydysgu (in Wales) on E-portfolio Development and Implementation used in the Mosep Course (this flash video is streaming from Europe, so it may be patient):

This project is further evidence that the Europeans are very enlightened about the use of ePortfolios, especially with adolescents. I am impressed with the emphasis on building self-esteem through the development of an ePortfolio in the adolescent years.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, March 07, 2008


SITE 2008 Conference

It is good to be back. I'd forgotten what a warm and caring community I had found in the Society for Technology and Teacher Education (SITE). I attended these conferences every year from the mid-90s through all of the PT3 grants (2006). Last year I missed the conference because I was in Asia/Australia/New Zealand. Some highlights from this conference (besides lots of wonderful networking!):
I'll have to plan to attend SITE next year (I am advocating for a Retired membership and conference fee rate). I am starting to form an idea for a distributed research project where educators from across the world can participate in Researching Lifelong Portfolios and Web 2.0. More to be revealed in the next month or so.

Labels: ,

Friday, February 29, 2008


Seattle Conference

For once, I made a presentation at a conference in a location where I could sleep in my own bed (at least for a short time). The Northwest Council for Computers in Education is holding its annual conference at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle. I did a presentation on Interactive ePortfolios: Using Web 2.0 tools to Provide Feedback on Student Learning. Part of my experience was taking the Sounder train into downtown Seattle (leaving my town at 6:30 AM!), and finding that the train had wifi... fairly slow, but I was able to upload a version of my slides, and check my email on my trip home.

The keynote presenter was Mark Prensky, who had a pretty powerful message. He is well known for his research on games and "digital natives" and his focus on student engagement. (One quote from a student: "eMail is for old people!") He gave the audience a 5-minute research assignment for which we could only use a cell phone (no computers!) to find the answer. Very interesting exercise. It makes me more convinced that learners should be using cell phones more in the ePortfolio process.


Thursday, February 21, 2008


Google Announces Medical Records Online

An interesting news announcement yesterday:
According to the Computerworld article:
...the company became interested in entering the personal health records (PHR) business when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and countless paper-based medical records were lost in the aftermath of the storm.
Even more people lost a lot of personal memorabilia during that storm, which I referenced in a blog entry at the time. Although not as life-critical as medical records, our personal and professional documents are part of the legacy that we leave for later generations. Having a personal online archive of a variety of digital media, for use in a variety of contexts, is a natural extension of these personal health records. Just as medical records primarily document the development and change in our physical bodies, a digital archive/ePortfolio can document the development and change in our cognitive domain. Medical records are primarily developed by medical professionals and confidentiality is required by law; a digital archive/ePortfolio is created by the individual, often within a social environment, and confidentiality should be under individual control.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Web 2.0 Tools & Online Storage

I received a notice that the Online Education Database has published a new article: e-Learning Reloaded: Top 50 Web 2.0 Tools for Info Junkies, Researchers & Students. Here is also an excellent list of 15 Websites to Learn Web 2.0 written by educator Vicki Davis and published by 21st Century Connections. Vicki is well known for her use of Wikispaces with her students (her #1 link). Her #2 link is Google and its many services.

I have also been doing some research on the different tools that can be used for online storage, as I found Google's March 2006 vision of "a place for users to store 100% of their data online.”The big question is, WHEN??? I am experimenting with a third party addition to my Firefox browser, called GSpace, which lets me use 2 GB of my GMail/Picasa web space, being able to transfer files into folders within a browser window. I have already paid $20 (annual fee) to upgrade my online Picasa Storage so that I could upload more than the 1 GB limit for images. As of today, GMail storage has increased to more than 6 GB per account (and keeps growing).

To effectively use any of these virtual storage solutions as the digital archive for any e-portfolio system (or "lifetime personal web space"), they need to have the capability of OmniDrive and to "share files by creating a Web address that others can access." If I were to make a wish, I'd like an interface like YouTube or Picasa, that provides the HTML or URL to easily embed or copy/paste a hyperlink. I'm also hoping that the new interface allows more seamless integration between the different Google Apps (dare I hope "drag and drop" within a single window?). Now I have to switch between multiple windows to copy URLs for links to different documents. I hope the Google virtual storage service becomes available soon, and I hope it also works seamlessly with a Mac (not just Windows).

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 14, 2008


More International Travel Planned

I just heard from the group in Mexico that they want me back. I guess my workshop in December was very well received. The participants give ratings with a range of 1 (best) to 7 (worst). The average of my evaluations was 1.2! Looks like I am going to work with the high school teachers on digital storytelling/podcasting.

I have also been invited to speak in Bogota, Columbia in August 2008, at a conference with the theme "How to integrate Information and Communication Technologies to Higher Education Curriculum." I will do a presentation that will discuss the role of e-portfolios in higher education and then I will do a full day-long hands-on workshop on the second day. I just might need to get my handouts translated into Spanish!


Thursday, February 07, 2008


iPhone Portfolio

I was in Birmingham, Alabama, last week, helping UAB define their vision for ePortfolios across their campus, and leading a workshop to help them identify their change strategies and potential tools. During a break, one of the participants showed me a collection of images on her iPhone, showcasing her husband's sculptures, a classic implementation of an art portfolio. I knew the time would come when people would start using mobile devices to publish their portfolios. I'm still not ready for my own iPhone (I'm waiting for upgrades I discussed in my July 15 blog entry). Maybe I should get an iPod Touch in the meantime! But I can't record audio (yet) or take pictures with it. I bought my last two iPods just before they released a new version. I think I'll wait.

Labels: ,

Friday, January 25, 2008


Sticky ePortfolios

I just bought the book Made to Stick, which is subtitled,"Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die." The subtitle really made me think about ePortfolios. How can we have ePortfolios that both students and teachers want to use. I found Ali Jafari's Educause Review article, The “Sticky” ePortfolio System: Tackling Challenges and Identifying Attributes (2004) which raises some very good issues related to institutional implementation of ePortfolio systems. He compares ePortfolios with the implementation of course management systems (CMS), and identifies these factors for a Successful ePortfolio Project = I + J + K + L + M + N + O:
The Made to Stick book identifies six qualities of an idea that is made to stick (with the acronym SUCCESs):
I think these concepts work well when considering ePortfolios. To be successful with students and teachers, ePortfolios should be simple: the more complex, the less they will be used. They need to include concrete examples. They need to have an emotional component which includes stories to help make them meaningful.

Labels: ,

Sunday, January 20, 2008


MacWorld 2008

I was at MacWorld for two days. I am undecided about the MacBook Air. Only a single USB 2 port (no firewire), no interchangeable battery (but it is supposed to last 5 hours), an external SuperDrive $99 add-on (powered through USB port). It is definitely for road warriors who need a lighter machine; it really isn't a desktop replacement laptop, like the MacBook Pro. Impressive engineering, though, with the ability to "borrow" the use of optical drives wirelessly on other computers (even a Windows computer!) for backup or installing software. Just gives an idea of the developments to come! The 64GB solid state drive option adds $1,000 to the price, though.

The other announcements were impressive: Time Capsule, an Airport base station with a hard drive, for backing up all the Macs on your network; the changes to iPhone/iPod Touch software that includes inserting your current location into GoogleMaps WITHOUT a GPS! (triangulating on wifi and cell phone networks) and changes to Apple TV, including renting movies online and being able to watch them on any device, including your big screen TV or your iPod.

I also saw Microsoft Office 2008 which was just released ...anxious to get my hands on my own copy. I saw the updated iView Multimedia which is now integrated into the Special Media Edition version. I was a fan of the earlier iView, when I used it in the late 90s. I created an interesting travel website with that tool. I now remember than Microsoft had bought the product. It will be interesting to see how this software has changed.


Thursday, December 27, 2007



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.

Labels: ,

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.


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?

Labels: ,

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!

Labels: , ,

Saturday, November 24, 2007


BEST Portfolio

This video on YouTube was posted by the Connecticut Education Association (the teachers' union) about the Connecticut Beginning Educator Support and Training (BEST) Program and so it has a specific point of view. The comments after the video give a different perspective. Still, the video and the comments show the consequences of a portfolio used for high stakes accountability. No mentoring? No feedback? The basic principles of portfolio development in education are being violated. I wonder if these teachers will ever use portfolios with their own students after this experience? Another example of taking a powerful tool for learning, and ruining the potential through narrow implementation to meet accountability mandates. This is another example of what Lee Shulman calls perversion of the portfolio process.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 12, 2007


Categorizing ePortfolio Systems

I just posted an updated version of My Online Portfolio Adventure, including Categories of ePortfolio tools and services. Links to the services can be found on that web page. I have not included the many services that are emerging in Europe, because I don't have enough experience with them to classify them. Input from other ePortfolio developers is welcome.
* Interactivity allows dialogue and feedback in the portfolio, either through comments or collaborative editing
** Data management system allows collection of evaluation data about portfolios,
and can produce reports aggregating quantitative data

As I look at this list, the level of individual personalization and creativity is roughly in the same order; the most creativity for the portfolio developer is in the first category, and the least is in the last, although there are exceptions (many of the Web 2.0 services allow a lot of creativity).

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


My Award

I received a PDF copy of my 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award from Eifel. I deeply appreciate this honor, especially at this time in my life. Eifel is establishing a new website,, an early work in progress which they hope will trigger further reflection on ePortfolios and digital identity. As the only organization that is addressing the widespread uses of ePortfolios across the lifespan and all sectors of society, it will be important to support their development and dissemination efforts.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


A few more ePortfolio Tools

I've tried a few more tools for constructing ePortfolios:

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Hungarian Reality Check

My daughter Erin's class provided me with another reality check today. She teaches conversational English in a high school in Budapest, Hungary. Today, I put together a short presentation, and introduced portfolios to one class of her students. For about 45 minutes, we talked about why we collect "stuff" and then I showed them parts of Victoria's Kindergarten, First Grade portfolios, her 2nd grade autobiography and then her 6th grade poem. Then we talked about the elements of language learning: reading, writing, listening, speaking and "use of language" (grammar). I asked them how they would collect samples of their "evidence" of speaking. We talked very briefly about recording audio.

In the class period that followed, we had only half of the class and asked them to make a short recording that included the answers to three questions:The students worked in pairs, and either helped each other record or interviewed each other. We had three iPods with microphones, but we found that many of them had MP3 players with built-in microphones! So everyone was able to make a recording in a 45 minute period. Their instructions were to send their audio file to their teacher (my daughter), and to save it for later use.

I then shared a little bit of the research about schools who are using iPods to record students' reading, with the ability to immediately listen to the recording. I understand that those elementary students are dramatically improving their reading scores. I also shared my visit to the Defense Language School in Monterey last summer, where all of the students are issued laptops and iPods with microphones, which are used extensively in language instruction.

What impressed me today was the number of students who pulled out their MP3 players (not iPods) which had the built-in ability to record audio clips. We will be developing more printed support materials to help these students to store their recordings so that they can be included in their language portfolios. Erin and one of her colleagues introduced me to the European Language Portfolio which consists of three documents: the Language Passport, the Language Biography and the Dossier ("Select materials to document and illustrate achievement" (evidence in the portfolio). The way we did it today (using MP3 players) may be a lot easier than asking students to record audio clips into their computers. Our next task is to figure out where the students will save their audio clips online. Stay tuned!


Monday, October 22, 2007


Using Tags to Create an E-Portfolio

(Now I am in Budapest, and Blogger screens are in Hungarian! Good thing I've used this website for over three years, and can remember where the commands are on the screen!)

After hearing that the MyStuff e-portfolio, being created by the Open University in the U.K. was using tags instead of folders to organize the work in their system, I decided to try the quintessential tagging program, (now owned by Yahoo), to create a version of my portfolio. Since all of my artifacts are stored online in one of my server spaces, it became relatively easy to create a set of tags to describe the work in my portfolio. I also started to create a list of other resources, as well, including commercial e-portfolio tools and open source e-portfolio tools.

Interestingly, each tag can have a 1,000 characters of explanation, which was more than enough for each section in my portfolio. Where I ran out of space was in the captions for each link, limited to 256 characters. Not enough for a full reflection, but enough for a brief caption for each artifact. It has occurred to me that a fuller reflection could be posted as a blog entry, with the link to that specific entry tagged in, would overcome these limitations.

The next challenge is where to store artifacts online. I am starting to look at online storage services, although I'm not sure any of them let you create a hyperlink to the individual items stored in their space. That is a subject for future research.

Labels: ,

Friday, October 19, 2007


Open Source ePortfolio Systems

At the ePortfolio Conference in Maastricht, The Netherlands, one of the keynote speakers was from the Open University in the U.K. They have been developing an open source ePortfolio system for several years, and it should be fully deployed in February 2008. They call their system MyStuff and it is fully integrated with Moodle. This system does not use folders to store files, but uses tags instead, which offers a very different, more flexible and intriguing way to access artifacts in a portfolio.

The list of open source ePortfolio systems to date includes:I heard from some New Zealanders at the conference that the Mahara team has received more funding to adapt the system to schools, and the adaptations should be completed by the end of this year. In a few weeks, I hope to do an evaluation of the capabilities of some of these tools. I have already developed a portfolio in Elgg. I will also see about getting access to MyStuff. I tried Klahowya a few years ago and couldn't make it work on my server space. I will be working with the University of Oregon's Center for Advanced Technology in Education to evaluate Mahara and Elgg for their Special Education ePortfolio project. I am working with SPDC and schools in New Hampshire to implement the Moofolio to demonstrate technology fluency. Since I just learned about MyStuff, I am anxious to try it out, as well.

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Upcoming E-Portfolio Events

I'm at the Eife-l ePortfolio 2007 conference in Maastricht, Netherlands (and my Blogger page is in Dutch!). This evening was the banquet celebration for the conference. After the awards for the best papers, they gave a special "Lifetime Achievement Award" and guess who got it? Me! Besides a bouquet of flowers, I'm not sure what else I get, but it was a very nice honor. I was actually very touched.

There are two ePortfolio events planned for the next spring: February 7-8, 2008, in Brisbane, Australia sponsored by QUT, and May 5-7, 2008, in Montreal, Canada, sponsored by Eife-l.


Sunday, October 14, 2007


21st Century Portfolios

I just finished an ePortfolio planning workshop in New Hampshire, where the state is requiring that digital portfolios be used to demonstrate the 8th grade NCLB technology literacy requirement. I developed this diagram to illustrate the relationships between the new ISTE NETS standards, content standards, and effective assessment, teaching and learning. The new NETS standards support the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and schools in New Hampshire are going to demonstrate that an ePortfolio is the best way to demonstrate these skills:

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


New online video

Today I was a guest "speaker" in an online conference on Adult Learning for an organization in the U.K. for which I created a new online video (27 minutes) discussing the "What, Why and How" of ePortfolios in Adult Learning. In the follow-up discussion, one of the participants asked about how a user can control who sees their stuff (in light of some current issues around cyberbullying). My response:
You raise a valid concern. When you publish a web site in Google Pages, I'm not sure if you can require a password. That is one of the questions that I will have to ask them. That is, of course, the appeal of some of the other customized e-portfolio systems... Using GoogleDocs, you don't have to publish your Document or Presentation for the whole world to see. You can just send it to another online user as a link. It just depends on your purpose, whether you want a portfolio that is open to the public, or whether you want to share it with specific people.
That makes the GoogleDocs (both Document and Presentation) better tools for collaboration and interaction (not available in Google Pages) and the fact that you don't have to publish to the Internet, but can simply share with specific online users. You can also carry on a live text chat with the Presentation tool, and post comments in a Document. But they are both very linear! I was also asked about mind mapping tools that could be used to create a concept map of learning. I have seen one portfolio done with Inspiration, and I love that tool for conceptualizing my own personal learning and growth, but I do not use that concept map as part of my portfolio. Maybe I should look into those online concept mapping tools, since they might address a learning style issue of many learners.

Labels: , ,


New tutorials using GoogleDocs and Pages

While sitting around a hospital yesterday using their free wifi for guests (and also caring for a relative), I created two new "how to" documents, using the actual tool itself:I learned even more about the tools as I was creating these mini-tutorials, which both originated as PowerPoint presentations. Converting the first document to GoogleDocs was very fast and easy, only requiring a minor amount of tweaking. However, I also deleted my first version and uploaded the PowerPoint file again because I couldn't make the changes I wanted in the online version. The second one, created in Google Page Creator, required that I save each graphic as a separate file and then upload that file into the file repository in Google Pages. Once there, I could re-use some of the images. I could also very easily hyperlink to some of the pages in my portfolio as an example. After using both of these tools, I like the "quick and easy" nature of the GoogleDocs presentation tool, doing most of my authoring in PowerPoint. I also like the Share feature, and being able to "present" a portfolio in real time online, where there is a chat window for comments. Google Pages is for more of a formal presentation, without the interactivity capability. Both tools allow as much creativity as I wanted, without needing to use any HTML coding.

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 01, 2007


Updating Mash Up discussion

I realized that I uploaded the Google Mash Up page too quickly. I fleshed out the details a little more this morning, but have a lot more to add. I will update this blog when I think the page, and its attachments, are more complete.

Labels: ,

Friday, September 28, 2007


ePortfolio Mash-up with Google Apps

Here is a conceptual model that I am exploring, using the variety of Google tools to facilitate an online learning portfolio. Here is a full size version of the image, plus a further discussion that I am building about this conceptual model.

Labels: ,


Lecture of a Lifetime

I just watched Randy Pausch's Lecture of a Lifetime on ABC News. (It is really in four parts beginning here.) He has many wonderful messages about how to live and die. It is a wonderful lecture about how this Carnegie Mellon professor, dying from cancer, achieved his childhood dreams. He has done pioneering research on virtual reality and games to teach programming; his latest system is called Alice. He talks about "head fakes": "the best way to teach someone something is to have them think they are learning something else!" "Millions of kids having fun while learning something hard!" (even the HP creativity commercials that preceded the video were engaging). This was truly a legacy story. He said it was really for his kids. My favorite part: he even admitted to having a deathbed conversion... he bought a Macintosh! This is well worth watching!
The video is also posted on YouTube in smaller segments, without commercials, starting here: Part 0(2) or watch the whole hour and 25 minutes on Google Video.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Google Presentation Tool

This is the 31st tool that I have used to recreate my online portfolio. It was also the quickest! It took me about two minutes to convert a 6.3 MB PowerPoint file into my online portfolio using the brand new Google Presentation tool. I understand it was just released yesterday. I changed a couple of slides and published it, all in about 15 minutes! I am very impressed!!! (I tried the same thing a few months ago with Zoho, and it never worked)

Anyone can use this software to create an online portfolio if they have a good Internet connection. Even the hyperlinks that I had on the slides were converted. The interactivity can be facilitated through the "Share" feature, just like GoogleDocs Document, although it lacks the Insert function available in that tool. I am wondering if they intend to add comments in later versions. I see that other people can be sent the URL for the presentation, and they can view the presentation in real time. Wow!

I can see that I need to do a whole new set of instructions on using the Google Apps (Docs, Presentation, Pages) to create electronic portfolios. Here is a short YouTube video about GoogleDocs that discusses the process. I'm going to showcase this toolset next week in an online presentation that I am doing next week for the NIACE online conference in the U.K., focusing on electronic portfolios in adult learnng.

Labels: ,

Monday, September 03, 2007


More Questions from High School Teachers

I received the following email questions from high school teachers (Hmmm... school must be starting)
We are planning to implement a pilot eportfolio program this fall in our high school (about 100 students out of a population of 1700). At the current time we are not using the Web 2.0 technologies that I read about on your blog because there is district fear of the "social networking" issues that might arise and Google docs, for example, is blocked on our network. We worked with a handful of 9th grade students using iWeb last year, but we only have one maclab, and frankly, since students do not have their own laptops, iWeb seemed complicated. So, what we do have is a site license for Contribute and are planning to use that. The thing we are struggling with now is managing the assessment piece and figuring out how to mentor the students. If we go all the way with this, we will have 1700 a lot of students to manage, and that piece seems daunting, but we are excited and I have a group of incredibly talented and dedicated colleagues to work with. Any examples of schools doing this, or any thoughts you might have would be deeply appreciated!
My response: OK, I have a few questions for you.
  1. What kind of assessment are you talking about? Formative or summative? Formative assessment is sometimes called "Assessment FOR Learning" and is used to provide feedback for the students on their work so that they know how and where to improve. Summative assessment is sometimes called "Assessment OF Learning" and is used to "score" or assign a rating to student work (based on a rubric), and aggregate those scores, either for grading purposes or for external audiences. The tool requirements for each purpose are different.
  2. Where will the students' portfolios be posted and what kind of interactivity is built into the hosting system? In either type of assessment, you will need to be able to interact with the work, either to give students feedback (qualitative data), or to collect and record quantitative data (scores). The first function is really a commenting function (such as you will find in a blog or wiki). The latter is really a data management function that you will find in a database or spreadsheet or gradebook.
  3. What is your primary metaphor for your implementation of e-portfolio: checklist of skills or story of learning?
  4. Is your intention to create a student-centered portfolio or an institution-centered portfolio?
  5. Do your teachers currently implement paper-based portfolios? Or are you starting both innovations simultaneously (portfolio process and using technology for portfolios)?
Today I received another request:
I'm trying to implement a eportfolio system in my 9th grade English classes as well as my Latin classes. I have been searching and learning, but I could spend days and weeks here and I would like to begin before the end of the first semester! Therefore, would you be able to recommend a site for me that I could use for a single teacher with about 130 students? Most eportfolio systems I found during my research were for building-wide systems. It would be a safe guess to say that I will be the only teacher using eportfolios. But, if my preliminary work is successful, the district may catch on faster. I spent a little time with pbwiki and a blog, but I am concerned with security and the school's babysitter blocking the sites. So, would you have one (or more) sites for eportfolios that could be financially feasible for a single teacher with about 130 kids?
My response: I never make a definite recommendation, since there are many options out there, and I don't know your district and what the blocking software will allow. I recommend that you talk to your district network gatekeepers ;-) to see what they will allow. If this is a pilot for your entire district, then they should be involved in helping you select the tools.

You also didn't tell me what the purpose that your ePortfolio will serve. Purpose drives everything. Do you want to track the achievement of standards? Do you want your students to simply showcase their work? Do you want your students to develop collaborative writing projects? These are different tasks that require different tools. What kind of Internet access do you have? Did you read the article that I have online?

Does your district have Unix server space where you could install one of the open source eportfolio tools, such as Elgg or Mahara? Those tools have the security elements that your district would want. Elgg was created in the U.K and includes a blog, social networking, file space, groups, and a new presentation system. Mahara was created in New Zealand for the education system there and provides a blog, social networking, multiple views for multiple audiences. A school district in New Hampshire is developing an ePortfolio tool that works within Moodle (an open source course/learning management system).

As a temporary (but immediate) solution, here is a list of websites that you could see if your district will block:
GoogleDocs: (basically Word on the WWW)
Google Pages: (an online website builder)
Your students can build artifacts in GoogleDocs, and create a customized portfolio in Google Pages. Your students can collaborate on docs together and you as a teacher can see what each student contributed to a collaborative document. Your students can share documents with you, and you can provide feedback right in the document. For these last two options, your students would each need a Google account, which is allowed at age 14. The Oregon Virtual School District is using a Google portal for its work.

I also like wikis for ePortfolios, and you've already mentioned PBWiki, which I know can be password-protected.

You might look at It is totally protected, has a teacher account that controls all of the student accounts. It requires an agreement with the principal of your school, but it is free. I think the interface is a little juvenile, but I found it to be fairly easy to construct a portfolio. But no one can see the portfolio unless they have a account.

There are many options out there, You just need to see which one will work best in your situation for your purposes.
Commentary: The most secure tools are the commercial tools, such as TaskStream, which involves a per-student fee; or some of the open source tools, which require a server. The real challenge with using the most creative Web 2.0 tools in schools is that they are blocked by many school networks. It makes the recommendations more challenging. The best Web 2.0 options are often blocked! Unless a district installs their own solution, or purchases a service, an individual teacher has difficulty trying to implement an ePortfolio system.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Google Pages

This is the 30th tool that I have used to create my electronic portfolio. The process moved very smoothly. I was able to convert all URLs to weblinks. The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than an hour, copying the information from my Elgg portfolio, where I had the URLs on the page (and the links). I easily uploaded my graphics. All of my other artifacts are web links. The program's Site Manager shows all of the files that I have uploaded. There is a limit of 100 MB per account for all pages and files. There is also no data management tool, to aggregate assessment data. I'm not sure there is an interactivity feature to this program, such as found in a blog or wiki. Therefore, this tool would work for a presentation portfolio but not for formative or summative assessment.

The real advantage of Google Pages is the many different tools, gadgets and widgets available, as well as the file management system. I was able to upload files as attachments. I created a Table of Contents on the left side of the page, with links to each section on the site, and then copied to each page. I was able to create each page as I created the first link. I am very impressed with this tool. I was able to create this hyperlinked set of web pages, with no knowledge of HTML. I had one small problem with editing the graphic at the bottom of one page. So, I closed the browser window, and opened it again. It automatically saves the pages every few minutes. This program would work well for a presentation portfolio, but GoogleDocs would work better if the goal is a learning portfolio, with interactivity and feedback. I could see GoogleDocs used to create artifacts, with collaboration and feedback, and Google Pages used for the formal presentation portfolio.

Labels: ,

Monday, August 27, 2007


Elgg (Eduspaces)

I've been watching the Elgg tool for several years, but was waiting until the presentation builder was finished. This is the 29th tool that I have used to re-create my electronic portfolio. The process moved pretty smoothly. I was able to convert all URLs to weblinks. The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than an hour, copying the information from my ZohoWriter portfolio, where I had the URLs on the page (and the links). I easily uploaded a few graphics. All of my other artifacts are web links.

Since I prefer to have the links open a new window (and the portfolio remains open), I was able to specific each link to open in a new window. When an artifact is opened, the reader can close the window and easily return to the portfolio, rather than using the Back button. There is also no data management tool, to aggregate assessment data. Therefore, this tool would work for formative assessment (providing teacher and peer feedback on student work) but not for summative assessment.

The real advantage of Elgg is the social networking and blogging built into the system, as well as the file management system. I could not figure out how to create links to another Elgg presentation page, so I put the entire portfolio into a single presentation page. The program created a Table of Contents at the top of the page, with links to each section on the page. Very nice! It is very nice to have a presentation builder now as part of Elgg. Even if it is a very simple tool, it allows text, blog posts and files to be included on a presentation page. I would really like pages and sub pages, such as in WordPress, but at least it now has another way to present portfolio data, instead of just the reverse chronological order of the blog.

Labels: ,

Sunday, August 19, 2007


ePortfolio Institute at Stanford

I had the privilege of participating in an ePortfolio conference at Stanford last week. In two days, more than 26 participants came together to plan their ePortfolio implementations. A few were from the private sector, and one person was from a local high school, but most from higher education. There were participants from Guatemala, Japan and New Zealand as well as across the U.S. But what impressed me most was how they modeled the use of technology. Helen Chen and the staff at the Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning, drew on the extensive research done at Stanford on Folio Thinking. Leaders of the EPAC, Tracy Penny-Light and John Ittelson, led the group in the planning process and technology implementation. Toru Iiyoshi of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching introduced the KEEP Toolkit for the participants to use. Their guest dinner speaker was Jim Gemmel of Microsoft, who spoke about the MyLifeBits research project. I was a last minute addition to the schedule, and I spoke about digital storytelling, Web 2.0 tools, and assessment for learning.

I was most impressed by the way they used technology. The institute was held in Wallenberg Hall, where Stanford explores many innovations in teaching and learning, so there was wireless Internet. Everyone was encouraged to bring laptops, and there were extras to use. The conference established a PBWiki site, and one graduate student was assigned to document the activities of the conference in the wiki. Everyone was given a page in the wiki to document their thoughts. There was extensive use of digital cameras, as well as the small handheld USB Flip Video cameras which were used to record reflections on the process. I was privileged to interview three individuals and one team about their reflections at the end of the workshop, using the Flip cameras. They also used traditional technologies, like white boards, markers and sticky notes. I'm not sure if the participants realized how much they experienced the process of creating an ePortfolio, especially using the wiki and video reflections. I really appreciated how the workshop leaders modeled the process.

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Quoted in eSchool News

Today, this blog was quoted in eSchool News, with specific reference to my blog entry on the iPhone in Education.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007


CD Burning Question

I received the following question in an email last week:
I have recently started to implement the use of electronic portfolios using Microsoft Word with hyperlinks to digital media. Much of the work linked has been converted to PDF files and all works well until we try to burn collections to CD. Once a collection is on a CD and we click on a hyperlinked file, we get the "Cannot open specified file" message and the link is still referencing the original storage drive. Can you tell me how to avoid this?
Here is my response: Now you know why I no longer use Microsoft Word for ePortfolios. You might try GoogleDocs (the equivalent Web 2.0 tool). If you converted everything to PDF (including the portfolio) and hyperlinked the documents together (or put everything into a single PDF file with hyperlinks), you would solve that problem when you publish to CD. My instructions for creating PDF-based portfolios are online: (but that was published in 2001).

But even that process is ePortfolio 1.0. You really need to look at some new tools, but using the same strategies. I really like wikis and blogs or many interactive Web 2.0 tools. I have a web page that outlines the different options:

CDs are going away. Even DVDs are limited in the future. They aren't interactive environments. Read my description of ePortfolio 1.0 and ePortfolio 2.0:
Everything is moving to the WWW. Here is my latest proposal for a paper at next year's AERA (created/published in GoogleDocs):

Labels: ,

Monday, August 13, 2007


iPod Microphones

At the workshop last week, the participants used the xTreme Mac MicroMemo iPod microphone. I have the Belkin TuneTalk Stereo and also the Griffin iTalk Pro. Today I found a "shootout" of these three from the O'Reilly Digital Media blog. I have ordered the MicroMemo version for my brand new iPod Nano, since they make one specifically for the Nano. I will do my own experiment when it gets here, to see which one I like best. The Belkin has a switch to set the gain, and it can be plugged into USB power. I find that I can only record a little over an hour with the Belkin before I have to charge my video iPod (30 GB). Last week, I used the Belkin on my Nano, and recorded two hours on a fully-charged Nano battery (it records to flash memory, not a hard drive, so there are no hard drive noises or delays). I noticed in the workshop that for many of the participants, the audio of their narration was very quiet. I will explore techniques for placing the MicroMemo for optimal recording quality.

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 09, 2007


An ePortfolio Vision Statement

Last June, I worked with a school district in New Hampshire on ePortfolios. Over the summer, they built a vision statement about ePortfolios:
Throughout SAU 16, the cumulative student digital portfolio for grades K-12 is a collection of both educational experiences and artifacts selected by the student with the guidance of his/her teachers. These artifacts and the accompanying student reflections show the student’s learning process and chronicle growth within the curriculum and across his/her school career. Through both the process of their creation and the documents they incorporate, digital portfolios provide ongoing evidence of their personal learning, achievements and literacy skills for the 21st Century, across all subject areas. Additionally, digital portfolios foster the child's concept of self, commitment to personal growth, and promote life-long learning to keep them competitive in a global society.
Very impressive!

Labels: ,


Another Amazing Workshop

Yesterday, I completed another digital storytelling workshop for a school district in Oregon (this time, Gresham-Barlow). After my opening keynote to their Summer Technology Institute, I led a workshop for 28 teachers who all received a similar set of technology to the teachers in Canby last winter: camcorder, digital camera, tripod, video iPod with microphone. Of course they were all using MacBooks and iMovie! We set to work developing digital stories around either personal or classroom themes. Again, I am in awe of what these teachers produced. This time, our workshop was one afternoon the first day, a full second day, and the morning of the third day. We spent two hours before the lunch break on that last day viewing all of these stories. Some stories brought tears to the eyes, many made us laugh, all of them touched something in each of us. I always find some magic in that sharing time, especially seeing the stories that emerged between the story circle on the first day, and the final showing on the last day.

This was my digital storytelling workshop with a new assistant, my daughter Erin. She was a great help in the workshop, and even spent the two evenings finishing the script for her second digital story, and putting it together. It is posted on YouTube. We vowed to do more of these workshops together!

Labels: ,

Saturday, August 04, 2007


CARPE Research and MyLifeBits

I just came across some research being conducted at Microsoft: Jim Gemmell's research project called MyLifeBits Project, which is exploring "lifetime store of everything" using Gordon Bell's life work (the "official guinea pig" for the project). This work has been written up in Scientific American (A Digital Life, March 2007) and a New Yorker Article (Remember This? - May 2007). CARPE (Capture, Archival & Retrieval of Personal Experiences) is a research area of the ACM's SIGMM (Special Interest Group Multimedia). It seems that the time is right to explore these ideas, but not just in the context of later adulthood. I am interested in how we can begin this process early in life, but be more selective in what we save, as we advocate in the portfolio process (Collection, SELECTION, Reflection, Direction). I think there is a lot that the portfolio community can learn from this project... and vice versa.

Labels: ,

Friday, July 27, 2007


ADE Institute 2007

I am finishing up a marathon experience with over 200 of my fellow Apple Distinguished Educators. From the hands-on sessions of Wednesday, to our field trip to the Defense Language Institute and Language Lines in Monterey, focusing on second language learning, to the 24 hour group project that replaced a good night sleep, all produced wonderful memories. We put together a team project that was awesome, and my batteries are charged again with enthusiasm and new energy. These educators truly modeled the combination of creativity and technology.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Their Space

Their Space: Education for a digital generation is a research report published in 2007 by Demos, a think tank in the U.K. This timely study focused on how children and young people use new technologies and tested their hypothesis: that schools need to respond to the way young people are learning outside the classroom. To quote from the Executive Summary (p.16-17):
In order to see change across the system, there needs to be a shift in thinking about investment from hardware towards relationships and networks. In the last ten years we have seen a staggering change in the amount of hardware in schools, but it has not had a significant impact on teaching and learning styles. So what does this mean for schools? It means that they need to really listen and respond to their users. Schools often fail to start in the right place – with the interests and enthusiasms of their students. They also need to recognise the new digital divide – one of access to knowledge rather than hardware – and start to redress some of the existing imbalances. Finally they need to develop strategies to bridge formal and informal learning, home and school. They should find ways that go with the grain of what young people are doing, in order to foster new skills and build on what we know works.
Well said. I hope this report gets more attention in the U.S.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Becta Research Report

Becta released their "Impact study of e-portfolios on learning"
The study was conducted by a team of researchers in the Learning Sciences Research Institute at The University of Nottingham led by Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young. This report presents the potential impact of e-portfolios on learning and teaching and is primarily aimed at policy-makers. This study provides eight case studies in the early stages of e-portfolio use from across the sectors of education, from primary school to adult learning. To quote the report:
E-portfolios benefit learning most effectively when considered as part of a system, rather than as a discrete entity.
This model from their report identifies the three distinct components of an e-portfolio system: the digital archive (repository of evidence), tools to support different processes, and different presentation portfolios developed for different purposes and audiences.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Correspondence on Digital Archives & ePortfolios

I received another message from Mike Caulfield in reference to a previous dialogue that we had:
Recently there’s been a rather vigorous discussion in my part of the blogosphere about what we’ve been calling the “Inverted LMS”

The idea is pretty simple – let students blog in wordpress or another blog (as in your portfolio examples) and let them tag specific entries with a “portfolio” tag. Then use an RSS aggregator to pull those entries into the institutional blog, where they can be categorized organized and saved for institutional assessment.

A friend at Univ. Mary Washington has been looking into this arrangement for making multiple classes out of single student blogs (although not for eportfolio, yet)[Tech details here]

The LMS is “inverted” because rather than creating spaces for classes and filling them with students, he starts with the student as the atomic unit, and through category tagging and aggregators build the class piece – class or course is an attribute of something a student says, rather than the box in which they say it…

The neat thing about this is that the students can truly own their own reflective space, and only cede a portion of it as a portfolio. This encourages the student to see the portfolio piece as just a part of a larger ongoing process of reflection and story-telling. And it allows them to do it in a space they own – one that stands outside arbitrary divisions of class, subject and school vs. work vs. personal interests.

Anyway, I’d be glad to hear your thoughts on it. As you can see, one of my main concerns intersects with yours – that we make this process student-centered, not assessment centered, and that we develop this as a habit in them, not as an assignment.
First, there is nothing wrong with assessment, as long as it is student-centered, or benefiting student learning. But too often, the term is mis-understood, and used to mean "evaluation" or "accountability" or another purpose that is more institution-centered. A student doing self-assessment is engaged in a powerful process. Rather than calling your idea an inverted LMS, why not call it a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) or personal learning space. I discussed this briefly after the New Zealand ePortfolio Conference. As I look at how (mostly young) people use MySpace or FaceBook or most blogs, they are often using these online spaces not only for social networking, but also for identity production. I also received another message today from Nathan Garrett of Woodbury University a Claremont graduate student, who was commenting on my blog entry and Digital Archive for Life paper:
On a theory level, I have been heavily influenced by Donald Schon’s view of the reflective practitioner, and have been making my way through Dewey’s work. I am particularly interested in the “learning to be” part of education, helping new students to understand the way a practitioner thinks in their discipline.

At heart, I am interested in the development of systems to connect people and allow them to express themselves. I am particularly interested in distributed systems loosely coupled together that, as you put it, “allow a thousand flowers to bloom.” I see a lot of potential for technologies like RSS and open ID to aggregate and distribute people's identities. I think that one of the largest issues surrounding distributed systems is control and safety; how do we let users control their own identity in a truly distributed system? My own research at Claremont has shown that students deeply care about having the ability to limit access, but also have an imperative to establish themselves by making their work better known. Experience with my own families’ blogs and early attempts at photo sharing have really highlighted this issue for me.

Ultimately, I'm trending towards the view that the system we will end up with will use RSS to expose content, tags to organize it, and open ID to selectively share content with certain people. The organizing systems would be crucial, and probably needs to be open source for broader adoption (and easily copied or imitated by commercial companies, whose competition and adoption would be crucial).
The challenge I see is raising the awareness of the potential for using these more open systems, and to provide models that show how they work in practice. I can see this working well in higher education, but my current interest is in K12 schools and in families, where the concern for security is paramount. We need more research at all levels of human development, to validate some of these theories.

Yesterday, I purchased the Freedom Writers DVD. I had seen Erin Gruwell last February at a conference, so I knew the story and had watched the video many times on my cruise and on some flights this spring. But I was able to focus more on the commentary and the underlying meaning of this movie. Erin Gruwell's students used writing as a tool for liberation and self-identity, first in their hand-written journals and later in the computer lab. They didn't call these journals "blogs" because they weren't online (at least not in the movie) and there was an emphasis on anonymity. However, that same process is experienced by many young learners, as they use many different types of Web 2.0 technology for self expression. This movie provides an example of a talented teacher who challenged and channeled these writing efforts to a positive outcome in these young lives; it shows the power of reflection and storytelling to change lives.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, July 15, 2007


iPhone verdict -- not yet (for me)

I tried out an iPhone at the local Apple store, and decided not to buy this version, at least not just yet. It took me forever to type a URL into Safari (mostly because of my long fingernails!), but it would also raise my phone bill $20 a month. I'm not convinced that it would be as functional for me as my current Treo 680, where I can make the small keys work fairly well with my fingernails. If the iPhone would connect with a bluetooth keyboard, then I might find it more useful for email on the road.

I really want BT DUN (BlueTooth Dial Up Networking). My old Sony Ericsson T616 BlueTooth phone acted as a modem for my Mac laptop (at 9600 baud it was painfully slow, but I was able to download my email to my desktop computer, not to my phone). I've tried unsuccessfully for the last hour or so to make my Palm Treo 680 to do BT DUN (the website shows that I can, I downloaded the drivers but they don't seem to be working), but I can still download email to my phone and do minimal web surfing, if I need to (not often). So far the BT DUN option is not available on the iPhone at this time. So, it's not worth it to me to replace my 8-month-old Treo with a $500 device that will cost me more each month. I think it needs a few more features before it will do what I want to do. I am also waiting for the AT&T speed to improve. I bought one of the first Macs in January 1984, and it cost me a lot to keep upgrading it before I finally replaced it with a Mac SE (remember the 80s?). That experience taught me to wait for a later version of any new technology. They work out the bugs, expand the features, and maybe even lower the price.

As an Apple Distinguished Educator, I know I'll get a chance to play with one at our Institute in a little over a week. Maybe after that time, I'll change my mind, but right now, I think I'll wait for the next version.


Saturday, July 14, 2007


Creativity and ePortfolios

I just spent the day getting caught up on TED videos. What an incredible resource on the most interesting ideas, all presented in 20-minute chunks! I was most impressed with the video of Sir Ken Robinson entitled, "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" I also remembered that I received a copy of the latest version of the National Educational Technology Standards for Students at NECC. These revised technology standards begin with Creativity and Innovation, followed by Communication and Collaboration, Research and Information Fluency, Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving & Decision-Making, Digital Citizenship, and lastly, Technology Operations and Concepts. Maybe now, portfolios will become more valued for the development and demonstration of these new standards, as they will be used in New Hampshire. The use of electronic portfolios to develop and demonstrate creativity in K12 schools is my new mission (and passion).

Labels: ,

Friday, July 13, 2007


My Vision of a Digital Archive for Life

I recently had a meeting at the Center for Advanced Technology in Education, part of the Teacher Education Department at the University of Oregon. As a result of that meeting, I have started to expand on an earlier blog entry (Digital Archive for Life). Here is the executive summary of the paper, which is posted as a GoogleDoc. Comments are welcome. If anyone would like to collaborate on these ideas, send me an email. I intend to publish a polished version of this article in On The Horizon, a journal on Futures and Education.
In this article, I have outlined my vision for digital stories of development, or Online Personal Learning Environments which may eventually replace what we currently call “electronic portfolios” in education. Based on the concept of “lifetime personal web space,” this online archive of a life’s collection of artifacts and memorabilia, both personal and professional, has the potential to change the current paradigm of electronic portfolios, mostly institution-bound, and focus instead on the individual or the family as the center for creating the digital archive, which can be used in a variety of contexts across the lifespan, from schools to universities to the workplace. Finally, this archive can be used to develop personal histories and reflective narratives to preserve our stories for future generations. A possible scenario is followed by the challenges faced when developing this service for widespread dissemination.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


NECC07 Conference - Day 4

What happened to Day 2 & 3? A whole lot of networking and conversation! Today was the day that I did my presentation on the Multiple Purposes of Digital Stories and Podcasts in ePortfolios, or as I subtitled it, "YouTube/iTunes meets 'academic' MySpace." I also finished my digital story called NameTags, which is now on my website (in several places). Now it is going on my iPod!

Labels: ,

Saturday, June 23, 2007


NECC07 Conference - Day 1

This morning, I gave a workshop on "Using Wikis for Classroom-Based Assessment and Interactive Student ePortfolios." I chose to do only a half day workshop, so that I could provide an introduction to the tool, but not worry about going too in-depth. I received some good feedback ("I thought I knew everything about ePortfolios until I came to your workshop"). I don't take the checklist approach, and emphasize voice and passion, so I know that made an impression. The workshop was a BYOL (Bring Your Own Laptop) although some of the participants did not realize (now did I), so some were there without a computer (a bit frustrating!). But I think it went well.

This afternoon, I am attending the EduBloggers conference. I had not planned to do anything this afternoon, but I saw the sign as I arrived at the Convention Center. So I wandered in, and here I am! I've met people that I've known by name in the Blogosphere (and in person at other conferences) and other people have introduced themselves to me because they know me through my website. I am really impressed by the innovative educators that are here at this conference. This is a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007


My eCoach

This is the 27th tool that I have used to recreate my electronic portfolio. I was asked to try out the tool by the founder of the company. Since I copied the pages from an earlier online version, I was able to reconstruct my portfolio in less than an two hours, copying and pasting the information, although the fine tuning the formatting took more time. As with all of my other portfolios, all of my artifacts are documents already stored on one of my websites. It did not automatically convert URLs embedded into the text into hyperlinks; I had to convert each artifact link individually, although I was told that it should have converted them.

My eCoach offers collaboration, communication, curriculum, and coaching tools for a one-time fee of $35 to set up the account. A team leader can set up teams for $200. This version of my portfolio was created using the Universal [Web Page] Builder. I set the setting so that every page in this portfolio will allow comments, which provides the opportunity for interactivity/feedback.

My general impression is that this tool is relatively easy to use, although it took me a few tries to select the right template. It created an attractive layout, although limited to 800 pixels wide, to accommodate older computers and projectors. This caused a problem with one of the images that I uploaded, which they fixed. The system allows 100 MB of online storage, so I uploaded a video version of my last portfolio.

This is a flexible tool that allows for cloning pages, for others to leave comments, and coaching support from an eCoach. Users can create multiple tabs as categories with multiple pages under each category. Each page has a text editor that allows users to add text, images, videos, audio files, podcasts, documents, presentations, and most types of files.

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 03, 2007


PowerPoint & LecShare Pro

PowerPoint is the 26th tool that I have used to create my electronic portfolio. I authored the portfolio in PowerPoint and then created different versions linked from a more comprehensive web page. In addition to using LecShare Pro, I also used the "Save as Web Page..." command in PowerPoint. The Lecshare HTML version (with audio and notes) did not create hyperlinks that I had created in the PowerPoint file; the PowerPoint-created HTML version includes the hyperlinks. The more detailed reflection on the web page is also part of the audio narration at the end of the video versions.

Labels: ,

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Passion and Future ePortfolios

I just finished watching the Steve Jobs-Bill Gates fireside chat at the All Things Digital Executive Conference, sponsored by Dow Jones. It has been more than 20 years since these two people have been on the same stage together, and some of the moments were hilarious. It was also funny to watch the video from 1983 (the Macintosh Software Dating Game). But the real value in watching the entire program was the vision of these two pioneers of the future of personal computer technology (and other post-PC devices). What impressed me was that these two geniuses don't have a clear picture of where we will be in ten years, but they are both excited to take us there! It is also obvious that these two people have passion about what they do, and this passion is what drives them: not the money, but the act of creation, of "inventing the future" (to quote Alan Kay).

That reminded me of a statement made by Thomas Friedman in The World is Flat: CQ + PQ > IQ (Curiosity plus Passion is greater than IQ) in the learning process. As I look at my work on ePortfolios, I feel a real disconnect between my vision of the ePortfolio as a way to document the story of deep learning, and the pervasive implementation of ePortfolios as a source of data for accountability and accreditation. As I quoted Hartnell-Young and Morriss in an earlier blog entry, portfolios created for this purpose "tend to be heavy with documentation but light on passion."

As I wrap up my current study on ePortfolios in secondary education, I know what I want to study next: this issue of passion, or framed a little less suggestively, excitement, flow and engagement. When I talked with students last year, I heard more excitement in the students' voices when they talked about their use of MySpace than their use of the academic tools. If part of the problem in education today is that many students are bored and see no relevance in schools, I want to find examples of where students are excited about learning, using ePortfolios as a way to demonstrate that excitement for learning. Maybe those places are few and far between, but if we are going to change education, we need to change the way students document their own learning. My passion for the last decade (or more) has been ePortfolios, and the related processes that enrich the experience (reflection, digital storytelling). I realize that I have changed my vision from the early days, when I was more focused on assessment and standards-based portfolios. Today, especially due to my travels around the English-speaking world, talking to primarily educators at ePortfolio conferences, my vision has broadened to a more lifelong, life wide perspective. ePortfolios aren't just for schools... in fact schooling may be ruining the experience for a lot of learners. I hope that we can find the passion again in documenting, and better yet, celebrating learning within a worldwide community. That is a future worth working toward.

Labels: ,

Friday, June 01, 2007


Digital Preservation of ePortfolios

I just received an eMail raising this question (his discussion of the power of the portfolio to prepare for job interviews was very well done):
I've recently become interested in the durability of ePortfolios -- as I describe in this piece here (ePortfolios, Durability, and the Black Binder Test). I was wondering if you've heard of any attempts to decouple the interface and presentation of ePortfolios from the storage of the artifacts (and optionally the reflections) -- say through using Amazon S3 or some other 3rd party space that could be truly owned by the student or faculty member regardless of where they wind up. Is anyone moving in this direction?
My first e-portfolio was created in 1997 (10 years ago), using Adobe Acrobat and pressed to a CD. I still have a copy of that portfolio (on my hard drive) and I assume the original would be readable, if I could find the CD. Most of the systems that you mentioned in your blog entry all allow exporting the portfolio into an HTML archive that can be stored on any online system that the learner "owns". So the solution to the problem that you pose is to store these portfolios in an online system. The challenge is finding systems that will be around for a while. I pay an annual fee for my online storage, and I am exploring GoogleApps. Yahoo is too small for portfolios, and I don't know if I should trust some of the online storage systems like There are other free systems out there, like, but I don't think they handle entire HTML archives.

I think if portfolios are stored in HTML (ASCII text) or PDF formats, those are the two formats approved by the Library of Congress for digital preservation. There are other issues for preserving audio and video, but WWW-compatible universal formats should be safe for the next ten years. The next step would be XML formats, which the European ePortfolio community is trying to address. There are also now IMS ePortfolio standards, but I'm not sure that the commercial providers in the U.S. all conform to that standard. But virtually all of them allow exporting a portfolio to disk archive.

You can look at my study of online portfolios (I am up to 25 versions of my portfolio). If I was able to download a copy, I posted it on my web server and created a link to it. You will also notice that all of my artifacts are web links to artifacts that are posted on one of my web servers. So, I am modeling the concept of "lifetime personal web space" which Cohn & Hibbits advocated in their 2004 Educause article. The issue of digital preservation is real, but has been solved, at least in the short term (10 years). The real question becomes whether these portfolios can last as long as their paper versions (50+ years).

This is not just an issue with ePortfolios. What about all of the digital photographs and other digital documents that we collect? Some historians are concerned that we may have a "hole in history" because so much of our data is now stored in digital formats, which are one hard drive crash away from extinction. So, backing up our data to online servers becomes more critical. I try to model that process, but at a cost. I hope I have instilled those same values in my children. Of course, I wrote in an earlier blog entry about the tragedy of New Orleans and the loss of memories and physical memorabilia that happens in these type of disasters. So, establishing digital archives online becomes even more important.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


LecShare Pro

I bought the LecShare Pro software, and converted my keynote address from the ePortfolio Hong Kong conference into several different formats. The results are posted on a single web page. I was told by the developers of the LecShare software that "the slowness of importing is actually due to the way MS Office works on the Mac. When the new version of Office comes out we hope that Microsoft's API is much more responsive."

I am very impressed with the output of this LecShare Pro software. The quality of the video is very good, and the process is much easier than using the other strategies that I have tried.


Thursday, May 24, 2007


Slide-to-Video Software so far

Here is the Macintosh software that I have tried so far, and the issue with each one:


Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Convert narrated slide shows

I am starting to use my iPod and Belkin microphone to record my presentations at conferences & workshops. I am experimenting with strategies to turn these presentations (primarily in PowerPoint) into video so that I can post them on my website. I started using GarageBand last fall, converting each slide into JPEGs and importing them into the Podcast track in GarageBand. I wasn't happy with the final quality of the video, although the result looked fine on an iPod: here is my half-hour keynote at the ePortfolio conference in Oxford, England last fall:

Earlier this month, I presented a closing keynote address to a conference in Finland while I was on a cruise (I sent them a DVD with the keynote presentation, and called them from the cruise ship for Q&A after the presentation was over). Since the keynote contained many examples of digital stories, I recorded the audio with SoundStudio and used iMovie to put together the video, inserting full DV versions of each story in between my slides (converted to JPEG) with audio narration inserted. I was pleased with the quality of the videos, although I thought the slides were grainy.

I am looking for better ways to automate this process. When I search the Internet for software to convert PowerPoint to video, I find mostly Windows software. I know we have ADE licenses for Impatica for PowerPoint, although it converts PowerPoint into web pages - I do not see a video option.

I also downloaded a new product called LecShare Pro (with a Mac version!) which converts PowerPoint slide shows into these different formats: QuickTime, MPEG-4, Accessible HTML, Microsoft Word, audio only. Last night, I took the audio from the 45 minute keynote from a session that I did in Hong Kong in March, synchronized the audio clip with the slides and converted the whole thing into several formats. Since I have not registered the software ($69), there is a watermark on all of the slides, but it shows what is possible. The audio is also not compressed in the trial version, so the file is really too large to post on the Internet. But the process of synchronizing the audio to the slides was fairly straightforward, once I got started. The software worked directly with PowerPoint, but was pretty slow opening and saving files.

The software also allows recording audio directly, slide by slide, into a file. This option might work very nicely with ePortfolios created in PowerPoint. Students could do audio reflections on their portfolios with this tool, then convert them for either WWW, DVD or CD publishing.

I am looking for more Macintosh software that will help me take my audio clips and my slides, and put them together into different output formats.


Friday, May 11, 2007


Call completed

Through reasons unknown, I could not receive a phone call on the ship, so I bought a phone card and was able to place a phone call from the ship's office phone, where I also had a wireless connection for my computer. I called the conference organizer's cell phone and he was able to connect my voice into the sound system in the room. I was able to say hello. There were no questions, but I gave them a few parting words, told them where I was cruising, had set up a blog, and welcomed comments and emails if they had any questions. I heard them clap, and then he hung up the phone. It was all over by 7 AM (my time on the ship).


Thursday, May 10, 2007


First VideoFunet conference in Finland

I am doing a "virtual" video closing keynote presentation at the first VideoFunet conference in Finland. My presentation is entitled, "Digital Stories and ePortfolios: Documenting Lifelong and LifeWide Learning." I put together a 48 minute video and a "How-To" page for this conference. If participants have any questions, add a comment to this blog entry.



Technology on the High Seas

For the last 10 days, I have been on a cruise, from Ft. Lauderdale to Seattle (yes, through the Panama Canal... it was incredible). The technology for supporting the virtual presentation above has been a challenge. I tried three times to create a DVD in PAL format. For some reason, iDVD kept freezing, so I compressed the video with the best quality and uploaded a 1.6 GB MOV file to my server.

I also sent a data DVD to the conference organizers before I left. The conference presentation is actually in Finland on Friday afternoon (early morning for me, off the coast of Mexico between Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas). I had a challenging time getting the right telephone number to receive a phone call in my room (and I'm still not sure of exact GMT). So, if I get a phone call, that will work. Otherwise, I am inviting any conference participants to either send me an email with their questions or post a comment to this blog entry.

Why not use Skype? Because the cruise line blocks all voice connections over Skype, they say because of bandwidth issues. Their Internet access is by satellite. Also, my Internet access costs me 25 cents per minute. I bought a plan for 500 minutes when I got on the ship the day I arrived. That has worked OK for eMail and the occasional travel blog entry. I am averaging a half hour a day. At one port, I was able to get Internet access for $6/hour, and was able to have a Skype conversation with my daughter in Budapest.

On my Mediterranean cruise last year, I used iWeb for my 2006 travel blog. I had a lot of trouble with uploading the files to my .Mac account over the slow satellite connection. This year I am not taking as many pictures or any shore excursions, so I decided to take a simpler approach, setting up another Blogger blog. I do have two hours of video of the day we crossed the Panama Canal. Some of it is as interesting as watching paint dry (or water raise up by gravity feed, or lock gates open/close), but I should be able to edit it down to the key scenes.


Friday, April 13, 2007


AERA Conference

I facilitated a symposium at AERA on April 11 entitled, Researching Electronic Portfolios in Schools: The Role of Teacher Professional Development. We had more than 30 people in attendance on a very snowy day in Chicago! Many people from outside the U.S. were interested in this research. There were some very interesting questions about the study, some of which I realized I was not prepared to answer, especially about impact on student learning. I co-presented with Evangeline Harris Stefanakis, who is doing longitudinal research in schools in New York City, where she is finding interesting results with bilingual students in some of the poorest schools in the city (they use PowerPoint as their ePortfolio tool). I have been working with her to get her results published on the Internet. She accompanied me on my trip to Australia and New Zealand, and since we shared flights and hotel rooms, we had lots of time to talk about research, especially in preparation for AERA.

There were more than 46 portfolio papers in 10 different sessions at AERA, primarily focused on reflection and teacher education, and some valuable additions to the literature. I was also discussant at a session on Teacher Education portfolios. My REFLECT study in K12 schools is certainly unique, although there are some studies that are being conducted in England that will provide more knowledge about the widespread implementation of ePortfolios in schools. As the final 24 questions for students and teachers in our REFLECT data collection, I am using those that were also used in the study conducted by Elizabeth Hartnell-Young in a study sponsored last winter by BECTA (British Educational Computing & Telecommunications Agency). I spent over a week with Liz in Hong Kong and Australia in March, and talked with her about her research (and also launched her new book, which I discussed earlier in this blog). All of my experiences over the last two months of traveling have led me to think more deeply about the REFLECT study.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Bucklands Beach School

I had a wonderful, too short visit to Bucklands Beach School near Auckland, New Zealand. After being wonderfully hosted by the Deputy Principal in her home on Tuesday night, we had an opportunity to see the school in operation: from the morning meeting to seeing various classes in progress, we saw an exciting school in a beautiful setting. Two students showed us their paper portfolios, and we were able to observe a student/parent/teacher conference. The school has many Apple computers, and I was able to see some of the students experimenting with several options to computerize their paper-based portfolios. I am hoping to get back to that school some time in the next year or so, to observe how they implement electronic portfolios within a very strong and structured paper-based portfolio system.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007


ePortfolio New Zealand

I am once again so impressed with the ePortfolio leaders in New Zealand. I am just finishing up a wonderful day-and-a-half of conversations about electronic portfolios. There is a new open source portfolio being built in New Zealand, called Mahara, which is based on the three components of artifacts (collection), multiple views, and audiences (selection). I appreciated having a delightful dinner last evening with the Mahara team.

There were a lot of K-12 teachers attending this conference. What I heard from the closing session of this conference was the general theme that the ePortfolio was really a personal learning space. I agree with that perspective. It really puts the ePortfolio into a perspective.



New web pages

I created two new web pages while in Australia:

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Launching a new Book in Melbourne

I am delighted to launch the second edition of the book Digital Portfolios written by Elizabeth Hartnell-Young and Maureen Morriss, published by Corwin Press. I bought their earlier edition when it first came out, and quoted from it extensively, since it was the first book that was published on this topic. Beginning with the introduction by Barbara Cambridge, the entire book provides an overview of the process of constructing a digital professional portfolio, including some very useful tools. I especially appreciate the permission form and evaluation rubrics provided, with permission to duplicate them provided to purchasers of the book.

The authors have provided an overview of the many issues that can arise from the multiple purposes for developing electronic portfolios. I especially liked the following quote:
While these are legitimate uses for portfolios, when teachers perceive that accountability is viewed as more important than their knowledge and expertise, they can become cynical, and their portfolios tend to be heavy with documentation but light on passion. (p.8)
With portfolios being used in many sectors of education and for both summative and formative assessment, it is important to emphasize the elements that contribute to professional growth. This book provides a framework for professional educators to document their growth, maintaining the emotional engagement that gives meaning to the process. Their highlights on vision and knowing oneself provides further emphasis on using portfolios to support learning, not formatting or data.
By capturing the experience of the learning journey, reflecting on its meaning over time, and sharing the learning with others, teachers develop new insights and understanding. (p.27)
The book also emphasized the importance of building a personal archive of work (with references to the Cohn & Hibbits article on Lifetime Personal Web Space). The book also provides a focus and guide to reflection. One chapter provides ten practical steps in creating a digital portfolio, beginning with a quote from one of my articles:
A portfolio that is truly a story of learning is owned by the learner, structured by the learner, and told in the learner's own voice. (p.39)
A key component of the philosophy in this book is that teachers not only prepare a digital portfolio to help develop their own technology competency while reflecting on their own growth over time, they can also use this opportunity to model the portfolio development process for their students. "By presenting portfolios to various audiences, teachers learn the skills they need to develop with their students." (p.64) I couldn't agree more. A teacher with a digital portfolio is more likely to have students who have digital portfolios. This book's philosophy, that portfolio development is a process of professional growth (p.72), should be valued as a process to support educational reform. The emphasis on process (means) over product (ends).
A fundamental principle of this book is that educators grow professionally as a result of producing a digital portfolio. They become producers as well as consumers of technology, enabling them to become more confident about using it in their daily work. They learn more about using the World Wide Web for teaching, research and for communicating with a global audience. This transfer of knowledge and skills will benefit not only themselves but their students, colleagues, and community. But more fundamentally, educators can show evidence of their deep learning...(p.78)
Last weekend, when I told my daughter that I was launching a book on ePortfolios, she asked me when I was going to write my own book. I responded that I had a website and a blog. But when I read Elizabeth and Maureen';s book, I said that I really agreed with what they had to say, so I really didn't need to write a book. But that may change. In the meantime, I highly recommend this new version of Elizabeth and Maureen's book.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Hong Kong Conference

This is the first stop on the Asia ePortfolio Trilogy tour. A group of about 40 Hong Kong educators gathered for the first ePortfolio conference in Hong Kong. I am really excited about what I see happening here, and the level of interest, despite the low level of attendance. There is now a policy in Hong Kong for all secondary students to develop a Student Learning Profile, which can have a variety of formats; one of those could be an ePortfolio. So there will be a lot of exciting developments happening in Hong Kong over the next few years.


Monday, March 19, 2007


K-12 Student Portfolio

I just received permission to share an amazing student portfolio, that has been maintained in a single school from Kindergarten to senior year. The portfolio was created with Apple's iWeb, and represents learning in a Multiple Intelligences curriculum.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 16, 2007


Workshop in Japan

I have been in Japan since Wednesday, for a symposium on Portfolios in Medical Education at Mie University in Tsu, near Nagoya. I was a second presenter after another expert from a medical school in the U.K., where they have been using portfolios for high stakes, summative assessment. I provided quite a contrast with my focus on student-centered, formative portfolios. This was my second bilingual hands-on workshop: the first in Finland in 1998 and now Japan in 2007. This was quite a contrast. In Finland, I was teaching how to create an electronic portfolio with Adobe Acrobat. Today, we created an electronic portfolio with GoogleDocs. This time, I knew the tool well enough to be able to point to the part of the screen where the different commands existed in the English version, and it all worked, although I had a great workshop assistant who was typing and using the software in Japanese.

The participants were very actively engaged in both yesterday afternoon's workshop, which was mostly lecture, and today's full day workshop, which was very hands-on and participatory. We had simultaneous translation, which I had only experienced a year ago in Italy, where it was all a lecture format. At least today, that was a lot of experiential learning going on. I learned one thing: only use the Firefox browser when using GoogleDocs. Internet Explorer for Windows did not work well.

I am most impressed by how well I was taken care of while I was here. I was met at the airport and escorted to my hotel, where I had my first dinner. Every day, I was escorted to their offices or to where I needed to be for the workshops. Tomorrow, I will be escorted on the train back to the airport for my flight to Hong Kong. The taxicabs were immaculate, with white covers on the seats. My hotel had free wifi and free breakfast. Our lunches were catered in beautiful boxes. I had no idea about everything I was eating, but it was all very good. As my first trip to Japan, it was very impressive!

Labels: , ,


Two Political Statements

I came across these two websites on one of my listservs. This isn't a political blog but I just couldn't resist adding them here:

It's not on the Test: Here's a new song about school testing that Tom Chapin wrote. It helped usher in the New Year on National Public Radio, appearing on "Morning Edition" on January 1, 2007.

Mad TV's iRack



Friday, March 09, 2007


Identity Production and Online Portfolios

I recently read a paper online entitled, "Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace." In this article, based on a speech made at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, February 19, 2006, the author addresses three issues related to MySpace: identity production, hanging out and digital publics.
The dynamics of identity production play out visibly on MySpace. Profiles are digital bodies, public displays of identity where people can explore impression management [2]. Because the digital world requires people to write themselves into being [3], profiles provide an opportunity to craft the intended expression through language, imagery and media....

What we're seeing right now is a cultural shift due to the introduction of a new medium and the emergence of greater restrictions on youth mobility and access. The long-term implications of this are unclear. Regardless of what will come, youth are doing what they've always done - repurposing new mediums in order to learn about social culture.

Technology will have an effect because the underlying architecture and the opportunities afforded are fundamentally different. But youth will continue to work out identity issues, hang out and create spaces that are their own, regardless of what technologies are available.
A colleague of mine completed a dissertation a year ago, where she studied the implementation of electronic portfolios created using very different tools in two different Teacher Education programs. In one university, the students were taught to use a free web page editing tool (Composer) and were encouraged to individualize their portfolios. That university had developed a separate assessment management system to collect and manage the accountability data, which was not very obvious to the students. In the second university, the students were forced to purchase an account for 4-to-6 years in one of the commercial systems, and were provided with highly prescriptive assignments in a system "specifically designed to impose uniformity on the portfolio task." My colleague is presenting a case study at the SITE conference about the frustrations of a student in that second university, who was an experienced MySpace user, and used that experience to customize her portfolio, despite the constraints of the system.

In one of my more recent blog entries, I shared an email from an educator who indicated that she was looking for a portfolio system that would allow students to individualize their portfolios (among other criteria). She also wanted it to be interactive, to support multimedia, to be secure, to allow assessment, and to be portable (i.e. students can take it with them when they leave). When a tool is developed, the tool developers have to prioritize their development efforts, to provide the most important tools that their clients say they need. That's why most of the ePortfolio tool developers have created very good assessment management systems, that collect data that institutions need for accountability and summative assessment. But in the order of priority, the needs of the learner, for an environment where they can express their own individuality through their portfolios, is often left on the "wish list" for future development (or not even considered).

In my opinion, this situation is the result of programmers and technology experts developing what they think is an efficient system for collecting this data, not a tool that facilitates individuality and creativity. Perhaps the technicians don't recognize the psychological need for adolescents (and post-adolescents) to establish a unique identity, both face-to-face and online. In my current research, I am finding that MySpace is so popular because it encourages and enables individuality and creativity in addition to the social networking that also drives that system.

In my review of the many tools out there, I found that there were many tradeoffs between usability and creativity, qualities that I think are very important to maintain student engagement. To their credit, the better commercial ePortfolio providers are addressing these usability issues as they continuously modify their software. But it is a challenge to balance competing priorities with limited resources.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


GoogleDocs for Online Portfolio Development

This is the 25th tool that I have used to create my online portfolio as part of my "Online Portfolio Adventure" research over the last three years. Since I copied the pages from another version of my portfolio, the tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than an hour, copying and pasting the information, although fine tuning the formatting took more time. As with all of my other portfolios, all of my artifacts are documents already stored on one of my websites, so I did not have to upload any documents. I think this program is a viable tool for maintaining portfolios that are comprised mostly of word processing documents that are converted into GoogleDocs. I don't know how it handles other documents as attachments, such as PowerPoint. It is very easy to create links from a GoogleDocs page to any web page or any other GoogleDocs page. I used to teach how to create a hyperlinked portfolio with Microsoft Word. This is the online (Web 2.0) equivalent!

This system has the potential to offer interactivity, since each page can have comments added by those selected to Collaborate. I was able to add links by simply copying from another website with the links embedded and I could designate that each link would open a new browser window which is what I prefer: the portfolio remains open so that when an artifact is opened, the reader can close the window and easily return to the portfolio, rather than using the Back button.There is no data management tool, to aggregate assessment data, although Google Spreadsheet could be used. Therefore, this tool would work for formative assessment (providing teacher and/or peer feedback on student work) but not for summative assessment. But the process for adding comments and feedback would need to be agreed upon with the approved collaborators within the system.

The major advantage of GoogleDocs is that it is a Web 2.0 tool, and universally available through a WWW browser. I found it fairly easy to use, although it helped that I knew how to edit HTML to fine tune the formatting. I tried to use the Google Spreadsheet to create the Portfolio-at-a-Glance matrix, since it was originally created in Excel. However, I could not easily create hyperlinks in the cells, and the links did not translate when I converted the Excel spreadsheet into Google. So, I converted the spreadsheet to HTML and pasted it into Edit HTML on a new page. A table is easy to edit in a GoogleDocs page. I also found it extremely easy to insert images on a page. I published another "How-To" page on using GoogleDocs to create an online portfolio.

Labels: ,

Monday, February 26, 2007


Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) for e-portfolios?

I attended the annual conference of the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) last weekend in New York City. I went to many presentations on the program that focused on e-portfolios. What I heard continues to distress me: teacher educators are most often talking about using portfolios for collecting data for reporting and accreditation. I was the discussant in a wonderful presentation by the faculty of the University of Wisconsin Madison, where that was not the case. Their presentations focused on a scaffolded model that helped teacher candidates reflect on their growth and change as they progressed through the program. However, at 7:45 on a Sunday morning, there weren't a lot of people attending. In one of the "portfolio as data" sessions, I asked about the role of reflection. In another, I commented about the importance of students telling the story of their own growth in their own voice. It made the data-happy folks very defensive ("the stories come through the data"). WRONG! The stories come from the students own voices! I am more and more convinced that the full balanced story of portfolios is not being told in Teacher Education. There is so much attention being given to the data collection, that there is not a lot of energy left to tell the stories.

At the same conference, I attended several sessions that focused on Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK), which:
...attempts to capture some of the essential qualities of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching, while addressing the complex, multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge. At the heart of the TPCK framework, is the complex interplay of three primary forms of knowledge: Content (C), Pedagogy (P), and Technology (T). See Figure above. As must be clear, the TPCK framework builds on Shulman's idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge.
I think a lot of the problem with the implementation of electronic portfolios is that they are being implemented without TPCK. There isn't a lot of knowledge about the pedagogical content of using portfolios for learning; the administrators and data managers are implementing electronic portfolios (that are really used as assessment management systems) with full knowledge of data and statistics but without full knowledge of the theoretical underpinnings and value of using portfolios to support student and teacher learning.

We have many faculty who understand these issues, but see the implementation of portfolios in conflict with their prior understandings of how portfolios help students learn. I am also concerned that we are not implementing portfolios in teacher education that models how teacher candidates will use them when they get their own students in their own classrooms. Many students see portfolios as a hoop they need to jump through, to give the institution data needed for accreditation, and not something that will help them as professional educators. That was NOT what I saw in the UWM presentation; their model was supported by both the faculty who spoke and the few students that were there. I wish that model could be shared more widely. They need to tell their story!

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Online ePortfolio Strategies

I received an email recently from a teacher who participated in the online class that I just finished teaching. She asked:
I am now very excited about the direction I hope to take the e-portfolio at our school. One of the things I have decided to do is to use this opportunity to mentor rather than teach my students. I am hoping that I will be able to work alongside them as we all create our own portfolios (me too). I have significant technological challenges and if you have time would appreciate your input. I am not as technologically savvy as perhaps I should be given that I teach online.

I have lots of cool ideas but my biggest stumbling block is technology. I want a space for students to create their portfolios that is:

1. interactive
2. will be able to support multimedia
3. allow students to individualize their portfolios
4. is secure
5. allows assessment
6. is portable (i.e. students can take it with them when they leave)

I figured that a student webpage (assuming they could make one) would cover 1, 2, 3 and 6, but not 4 or 5.

Moodle covers 1, 4, and 5 but not 2 (very well), 3 and 6

A CDROM covers 2, 3, 4, & 6 but not 1, & 5.

I know I'm asking for the world, but please help.

I know the parents at the school would balk at the idea of student pages accessible to anyone & to be honest I don't want my personal information out there either. This may not be where the Internet is right now, but I'm not comfortable sharing with the world! However I think that as a group of Grade 11 and 12 students and a mentor (me), we could really achieve something meaningful. Now that The Graduation Portfolio is no longer mandatory in BC, I want to make this an optional course for students interested in creating their own e-portfolios as a start to a lifelong journey.
I responded: I decided to take your document and put together a GoogleDoc page to look at different strategies. I added five more options to look at. After you review the table, you can get back to me. I think there are other options that you could consider.

I don't understand what you mean by assessment. Do you want to score student portfolio work, based on a rubric? Or do you want to provide students feedback on their work (which I think your first section, Interactive, covers).

Labels: ,

Monday, February 05, 2007



I added a few "how-to's" on a couple of my online portfolios, which are Web 2.0 tools, but not necessarily portfolio tools: (my favorite wiki) and (my favorite blogging tool) for ePortfolio development. These pages briefly cover the process:
These pages provide some suggestions for a sequence of activities using that specific tool to construct an interactive ePortfolio.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Free Web Conferences available

Based on the success of the video conference last week with Mexico, I have decided to offer FREE web-based conferences available to K12 teachers (in after-school workshop groups of 5 or more teachers) and as a guest lecturer in teacher education classes. I've had success offering these workshops on a limited basis to some of my ADE colleagues. I've decided to make this offer on my website. I also just learned that I can have a free Eluminate vRoom, limited to 3 simultaneous participants. So I have two options to facilitate these online workshops: live video chats using iChat (Macintosh only) or Skype (requires two computers on the other end: one for my video feed, one to show my PowerPoint slides), and Eluminate vRoom (single computer required: no video feed).

I decided to offer these live conferences for two reasons: I really enjoy talking to teachers about ePortfolios (I learn a lot in the process), and the tools are now free for small groups. I've decided to offer the first conference to a school group for free, offering a follow-up ongoing professional development class for a fee, as I have offered in the past. I also want to pay back the Teacher Education community for the wonderful opportunity that I had for four years working under a PT3 grant.

Labels: ,

Friday, January 19, 2007


Skype Video Conference with LatinCALL

I just finished a video conference with the Computer-Assisted Language Learning conference for Latin America. They were in Durango, Mexico; I was sitting in my living room in Puyallup, Washington. While video conferencing is not new, this is my first time using Skype for this type of video conferencing. What was unique for me was that this was a cross-platform video conference: I was using a Macintosh and they were using a Windows computer. I was able to see the audience and the screen while I was presenting (to make sure that we were on the same slide). Other than it being early in the morning for me, and my voice had not warmed up, I was fairly pleased with the results. I think they were pleased also.

At MacWorld, I also saw a demonstration of the new iChat in the next version of OS X, which would allow screen sharing with another Macintosh on the Internet. That looks like a great way to conduct these types of video presentations. However, until the rest of the world wakes up to the superiority of the Macintosh, there will be few opportunities to use this tool (can you tell that I am an Apple Distinguished Educator?). For now, I will use Skype and may try doing SkypeCasting.


Thursday, January 18, 2007


KEEP Toolkit

I created the 24th version of my portfolio using the KEEP Toolkit created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. I copied the pages from another HTML version of my portfolio. The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than two hours, copying and pasting the information.

Once I figured out how the Dashboard worked, and how I could develop my portfolio with blank templates, it was relatively straightforward. I was able to do basic text editing with the Rich Text Editor. I added all links using the software's edit links tool.

I was also able to create several versions of my portfolio and individual pages, and stitch them together for another view. There is a lot of flexibility with the authoring tools. There is also no data management tool, to aggregate assessment data. Therefore, this tool would work for formative assessment (providing teacher and peer feedback on student work) but not for summative assessment.

Labels: ,


Epsilen ePortfolio tool

I created the 23rd version of my ePortfolio using the Epsilen ePortfolio tool, created at IUPUI CyberLab. The tools is free for anyone with an EDU email address. Since I copied the pages from another HTML version of my portfolio, all URLs came over as weblinks. The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in about than an hour, copying and pasting the information.

The software includes a blog and has elements of social networking built in. The ability to control who views each page can be controlled through customized access keys. Documents can be saved in files and folders, but the storage is limited to 75 MB. There is also no data management tool, to aggregate assessment data. Therefore, this tool would work for formative assessment (providing teacher and peer feedback on student work through the blog, QuickNotes, and an internal email system).

The user interface needs a little work. I had to figure out that to add additional pages to my portfolio (not the ones in their template) I had to select the Options Menu. The portfolio itself has a few other selections on the page that I did not put there (Access key, Login). However, it automatically generated the navigation bar on the left side of the window. Once I figured out how the basic software worked, it went pretty smoothly. If I wanted, I could change colors, but did not find any other design templates available.

One option that could be added is a Personal CMS toolset that features a complete Course Management System (CMS), offering tools such as Lessons, Chat, Drop Boxes, Grade Book, Course Mail, and Forums for discussion.

On the whole, the system let me work around its template structure, and create my own portfolio. It also offers a lot of additional features that I did not try.

Labels: ,

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Apple's iPhone in Education?

I visited MacWorld on Wednesday, and saw the iPhone. I also watched the podcast (downloaded to my iPod) of Steve Jobs' keynote address at MacWorld. I am ready to order one of those phones today, despite the fact that I just started using a Palm Treo SmartPhone. It's a good thing that the iPhone won't be available until June. Still, as I look at the features of this phone, I see an incredible tool to support learning! It's a tablet PC in the palm of your hand, complete with OS X and wifi access. It has all of the features that I want in a cell phone/iPod/handheld Internet device (for email, web browsing, maps, and searching). How soon will it have voice recognition for voice dialing, like many cell phones do? Will it interface with a Bluetooth keyboard for those of us who find it faster communicating with all of our fingers, not just one? Jobs used a specially-built iPhone with a video board, that projected its image to the presentation screen. Will that adaptation be available?

As I look at this device through the lens of my current research interests, I wonder: Would Apple consider making a version that works without the phone service, but uses the device on a classroom network? I could imagine a lot of ways that this device could be used to enhance learning. Right now, schools are paranoid about cell phones, with many K12 schools banning their use. But these schools also filter the Internet, so that these devices could safely be put into the service of learning. Online simulations, games, learning objects, widgets, blogs, a built-in digital camera to collect images; the capabilities of this device could far exceed the way Palms are currently being used in education today. I could imagine many ways that this device could become the next 1-1 platform for learning. I also see a tool that will support the many stages of ePortfolio development, including collection and reflection.

What do you think?

Labels: ,

Friday, January 05, 2007


A New Year

I am starting the New Year with a conference in Hawaii (really!). I am attending the 2007 Hawaii International Conference on Education, making two presentations: one on our REFLECT Initiative project in Arizona, and another entitled "Voice and Interactivity in ePortfolios: Digital Stories and Web 2.0." I just posted a new web page on the different presentations and workshops that I am offering, from one-hour conference presentations or keynote addresses to two-day hands-on workshops as offered last month in Oregon.

I have not yet reflected on the Time Magazine Person of the Year issue. I consider myself included in the designation "YOU" (anyone who posts content on the web--basically a recognition of the power of the many Web 2.0 technologies, but especially YouTube). I was also impressed by a few other blog entries that reflected on that issue, especially a discussion of how many schools block these Web 2.0 technologies at the time they show the most promise for improving education. Thank goodness DOPA is dead.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


EduTools ePortfolio Review

The WCET EduTools study of seven ePortfolio tools has been completed and is online:
In the Spring of 2006, EduTools and ePAC International undertook the review of seven ePortfolio products on the behalf of seven partner institutions or systems of institutions. In consultation with ePAC and the project partners, a set of 69 electronic portfolio features were identified and defined by Bruce Landon. Based on those features, reviews were conducted and completed in April 2006. According to the agreement with the partners, the feature set and reviews are now available for public use.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 01, 2006


An Amazing Workshop

I am working in the Canby, Oregon school district this week, providing a two-day digital storytelling workshop using Apple tools. The workshop was amazing not because of what I did, but because of what the teachers were able to do in two days, and what they are equipped to do when they return to their schools. Every teacher has an iBook. Every school team represented in the workshop received an iPod with a microphone, a digital still camera, and a digital video camera with tripod. When the participating teachers opened their boxes, it was like Christmas! I was very impressed with the pace of the workshop. During the hands-on time after lunch on the first day, each team took a picture with their digital still camera, and observed how easy it was to upload it to iPhoto; they recorded a short audio clip with their iPods, and saw how easy it was to transfer that audio file to iTunes; then we opened iMovie and imported both of these files onto the timeline. It was so easy! Their assignment then was to finish their scripts and record their voice narration prior to the beginning of the second day of the workshop. In previous workshops, we've had to reserve the whole morning of the second day to schedule people through a single recording station in another quiet room. Using the iPods, they are able to record in their own homes. I am further impressed by the open network in this district, and their commitment to technology.

This afternoon was showtime, with the a total of eleven digital stories completed and shown to the whole group. I am hoping to get permission to showcase a few of them on my website. Every teacher has a blog, so maybe some of these stories will get posted online. It is refreshing to spend time in a district that values creativity and the power of narrative and voice in learning, not just focusing on the mandates of accountability. Of course, it helps that one of their leaders is a fellow Apple Distinguished Educator who is exploring different emerging technologies to enhance student learning! I hope to follow these schools to see the impact of digital storytelling on student learning and engagement.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 27, 2006


Learning to Learn Portfolio Model

I just found this Learning to Learn Portfolio Model developed by Ian Fox, the Principal at Bucklands Beach Intermediate School, Auckland, New Zealand. This model provides a wonderful framework for thinking about portfolios in schools: Metacognitive Development, Assessment to Improve Learning, and Development of Home-School Links. His online paper, Learning to Learn in the 21st Century, provides further explanation of this model and how it is implemented in his school.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Model of Portfolio Differences

I spent last weekend in Boston with Evangeline Harris Stefanakis, where we set up plans to collaborate on several projects, including a Symposium entitled, "Researching Electronic Portfolios in Schools: The Role of Teacher Professional Development" that was just approved for the next American Educational Research Association (AERA) Conference (to be held in Chicago on April 9-13, 2007). We also wrote a paper responding to a recent news article about portfolios. Here is a brief excerpt from our paper:
The Nov 15, 2006 EDWEEK article headlines “Reacting to Reviews, States Cut Portfolio Assessments for ELL Students”. What a reactive mistake!!! It’s not about portfolios instead of state tests—it is about portfolios and state tests!!!
Dr. Stefanakis published the book, Multiple Intelligences and Portfolios, which contained a diagram which placed portfolios along a continuum of Learning and Accountability. We took that same diagram and added my chart on differentiating between portfolios used for learning and those used for accountability. I'm calling it the Stefanakis-Barrett Model of Portfolio Differences (between Learning and Accountability).

After discussing these differences, and the research behind the Assessment for Learning model, the article ended with the following:
We have an obligation to our ELL students to provide them with assessment strategies that will help them improve. If we don’t give all of our students the knowledge of how they can succeed, based on analysis of their own work that they can understand and use to improve their own learning, we are indeed failing them.

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Updated WordPress Portfolio

This is an updated version of my WordPress online portfolio, from an earlier version of this program. The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than an hour, copying and pasting the information. I also experimented with the hosted version of WordPress for my portfolio.

The major advantage of WordPress 2.0 is that it has two ways of posting: a blog (organized in reverse chronological order) with categories (the Home link), and Pages (organized hierarchically and show by name on the main page menu in the template that I am using). What this means for the portfolio process is that the functions of a learning portfolio (reflective journal stored in chronological order) are published separately from a presentation portfolio, where the information can be ordered thematically. This is one of the best Web 2.0 tools I have used so far that covers the portfolio development process. Feedback can be provided through the Comments function of the blog, although I have turned them off on the portfolio pages.

Most of my artifacts were weblinks, but I was able to upload a few files (in the Portfolio-at-a-glance page) and easily link them to the page. The software lacks a folder system to organize the artifacts, something it would need to make it useful as a full-featured portfolio system.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006


A Trojan Horse for ePortfolios?

I am currently teaching an online course on ePortfolios. In response to one of my articles, one of the participants raised the issue of developing a portfolio culture, and how to get a school district to adopt ePortfolios. I think he identified the real issues we face when implementing portfolios: how do we create a portfolio culture in a learning community? That question goes along with our approach to assessment: how do we adopt a system of assessment that emphasizes as much formative as summative assessment? In our accountability-driven system, there is a temptation to use more summative than formative methods. We can aggregate numeric data very easily; multiple choice tests are much easier to score. Portfolios are hard work. I think a mandated portfolio could be successful, as long as the implementation focuses on student learning (the story approach), rather than institutional accountability (the checklist approach).

I think the problem is that the predominant experience of educators is with these more summative (behavioral?) approaches, rather than the constructivist paradigm, which is where portfolios really began. Very few educators have experience using portfolios in their teacher preparation, and even now, I see a lot of incompatible uses of portfolios implemented in teacher education programs: the model of portfolios implemented with student teachers is not compatible with how their students would use them in schools. We aren't modeling appropriate practices.

How do we break this cycle? I recommend having administrators and teachers develop and maintain their own reflective portfolios, and create a collaborative environment where portfolios are used for collaboration and professional development, not only for high-stakes evaluation purposes.

This brings up a much larger issue... change. I published a web page called Professional Development for Implementing Electronic Portfolios where I include my recommendations, a discussion of the "Adoption of Innovations" (the Change Process) and a preliminary look at the competencies (both Portfolio and Technology Skills) to implement electronic portfolios. You will find some Resources for Professional Development as well as Recommended Professional Development and Readings... a graduate degree's worth of reading!

One thing I learned when I did my own dissertation research (on how adults teach themselves to use personal computers) I found that there is a simple formula about change: the benefits of a change must exceed the cost of that change, whether real or simply perceived. I think we will eventually reach a "tipping point" on the adoption of ePortfolios, but it will take a lot of small successes, with both grass roots advocates and top-down support to make it happen. But if there are enough of us who believe in the portfolio process, who are willing to model promising practices, and who are willing to tell our stories, then I think we will see some real change.

I once wrote in an article that stated, "Perhaps ePortfolios can become the Trojan Horse for integrating digital storytelling into the curriculum." What is the Trojan Horse for integrating ePortfolios into the curriculum? I think it is the evidence that we can collect that will show how portfolios can help improve student achievement, based on the model of formative assessment for learning. There is a research base from the Assessment Reform Group in the U.K. (Black & Wiliam) that supports this assertion (as I referenced in the article). I am also encouraging one of my colleagues on the East Coast to report her research, where the implementation of ePortfolios with ELL students in middle schools in New York City has led to increased test scores. According to her, the ePortfolios make it obvious to teachers where their students needed to improve, so that they can focus their remediation efforts. When her research is published, I will be the first to post it on my blog!

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Online Course

Next week, I was asked to facilitate a one-week online class which I am calling Interactive Electronic Portfolios. I have been learning to use Moodle as the course management environment. I know, I'm pretty late trying this tool, since I was an early user of Blackboard at UAA in 1999. I just have not had access to a server or a reason to use it until now. It also helps to have an experienced guide as I explore the different tools.

I got so inspired that I bought new webserver space for two years to host the three URLs that I've owned for three years but have not used so far:, and The hosting service provided automatic installation of Moodle, WordPress, MediaWiki and Joomla, a content management system. This website is going to be a Dreamweaver-free site. I want to see what I can do with some of these open source tools on my own server space, without using any HTML authoring tools.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Web 2.0 explorations

Since I returned home, I've been online full time, learning new online Web 2.0 tools. A colleague from Australia introduced me to two new websites: Wet Paint (a new wiki that is based in Seattle!) and Protopage (an AJAX Start Page). I am using my Wet Paint page to plan a workshop in Melbourne next March. I am using my Protopage to emulate an aggregator for my new model of ePortfolio development, as discussed in my EIFEL conference keynote (small pieces, loosely joined).


Thursday, October 19, 2006


PodPals in Budapest

I am in Budapest, visiting my daughter who teaches English in a high school. I visited her classes several days this week. These students are in a tourism and culinary arts high school. In one class, the students who are learning to become tour guides are going to start podcasting. I introduced them to both ePortfolios and podcasting with We are looking for students in other parts of the world who would like to become "podpals" with them, showcasing their conversational English skills, while talking about Budapest.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Creating PodCasts with GarageBand

I just finished two digital stories/podcasts using Apple's GarageBand, and I am really jazzed! This is such a cool tool, and I am relatively pleased with the results. After taking a half-day workshop at Camp Podcast in Vancouver, B.C., I felt confident enough to tackle this software.

The first podcast I completed was a new story called Changes, which I wrote to help me come to terms with a major change in my life. I recorded the story in my tried-and-true Sound Studio program, imported the audio into a track in Garage Band, and proceeded to add images at appropriate places on the Podcast Track timeline. The quality was not nearly as good as iMovie, but it was much faster, since I needed to finish the story in a day for a presentation. I also wanted to include audio from GB, and I was pleased with some of the music loops that were included there.

The second podcast that I completed was the keynote address that I did at the ePortfolio 2006 conference held in Oxford last week. I used my new iPod with the Belkin microphone to record my speech. Just started recording and lay it on the podium in front of me. When I was through, I had the audio of my entire presentation. I brought it into GarageBand. I also took my PowerPoint presentation and changed the page layout to square dimensions (required by GB's podcast track), which did a remarkably good job of adjusting the text on the slides. It squashed the pictures, though, but not that noticeably. I saved the entire slide show as JPEGs in a folder. Then, I put markers into the timeline for where each slide would start. When finished, I went back to the beginning and began adding the images onto the Podcast track. For the half hour keynote, it took me about an hour, twice through the audio. I have now posted it online for the world to hear.

There are many ways to create a narrated slide show. This was the easiest that I have tried. I also have downloaded a piece of software called ProfCast that I will need to try very soon.

Labels: ,

Monday, October 16, 2006


EIFE-L Conference 2006

I just left the fourth annual EuroPortfolio conference sponsored by EIFE-L. My keynote presentation on the second morning was entitled, Voice and Interactivity in ePortfolios: Digital Stories and Web 2.0. It was based on two articles that I have on my website: Authentic Assessment with Electronic Portfolios using Common Software and Web 2.0 Tools and Purposes of Digital Stories in ePortfolios. I will post the podcast of my presentation here when I finish editing it, adding my slides.

One of the things I emphasized was the need for “every day-ness” or how we can make ePortfolio development a natural process integrated into everyday life supporting Lifelong and Life Wide Learning. I also mentioned Social Learning, or how we can integrate ePortfolio development with what Vygotsky told us about learning as an interactive social activity. I also mentioned that the Architecture of Interaction (Web 2.0) allows a Pedagogy of Interaction (ePortfolio 2.0).

I took the opportunity to create a new graphic that describes a "mash-up" of different Web 2.0 tools that could be combined together for a powerful ePortfolio system, using a variety of online tools that students might already be using. These are generic tools or types of digital documents that can be created by any system. The important components are interactivity and multimedia.
ePortfolio Mash-Up

I discussed three emerging Models for Portfolios
mPortfolios (Mobility)
iPortfolios (Interactivity)
Digital Stories (Voice) facilitating Individual Identity, Reflection, and Meaning Making.

Thanks to my friend Evangeline Stefanakis, I showed that Portfolios are Lived Stories and that the real power of the portfolio is personal by showing the story that I am currently living. It was a risk, but the response was gratifying.

There are some exciting developments and new tools that were shown at this conference. Every year the field matures. I did not have a chance to attend the "plug-fest" on the first day, so I was limited in my observation of the technical developments. Elizabeth Hartnell-Young will be researching the use of Nokia mobile phones in ePortfolio development in schools. I also learned that there is another ePortfolio conference planned for Asia in March. Here is the schedule:
March 19-20, 2007 - Hong Kong
March 26-27, 2007 - Melbourne, Australia
March 29-30, 2007 - Wellington, N.Z.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


PDP and ePortfolios

I am attending the first conference on "Researching and Evaluating Personal Development Planning and e-Portfolios" near Oxford, England, sponsored by the Centre for Recording Achievement. I worked with this group over two years ago, and their development is very evident in the time since 2004. They define PDP (Personal Development Planning) as
"A structured and supported process undertaken by an individual to reflect upon their own learning, performance and/or achievement to plan for their personal, educational and career development." Dearing (1997)
The way that ePortfolios are used, to support the PDP process, provides a different purpose for portfolio development. Whereas portfolios in the U.S. are often adopted for institution-centered assessment and accountability purposes, the planning goals in the U.K. provide an institution-mandated student-centered approach, which is very refreshing. Each institution can implement the PDP program in individual ways, so there are examples that focus on accountability; but for the most part, student learning appears to be central to the process.


Thursday, October 05, 2006


Digication Spotlight

I recently tried DigiCation Spotlight, another ePortfolio tool. This was the 21st tool that I have used to re-create my electronic portfolio. The process moved pretty smoothly. All URLs had to be converted to weblinks (it did not happen automatically). The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than an hour, copying the information from various online portfolios.

There is no data management tool, to aggregate assessment data. Therefore, this tool might work for formative assessment (providing teacher and peer feedback on student work) but not for summative assessment. The tool does not allow comments (as in a blog) or collaborative writing (as in a wiki), so its utility is really as a presentation portfolio. At the present time, the tool does not allow exporting the portfolio as a stand-alone archive. The real advantage is the price. At the present time it is free to the first 1000 users in a school.


Friday, September 01, 2006


Video iPod

I just bought a new 30 GB 5G iPod that plays video. This replaces a five year-old 5 GB 1G version and a two-year-old 40 GB 3G version that I gave to my daughter. I also bought the Belkin TuneTalk voice recorder that connects to the bottom of the iPod. The cable that connects the iPod to a TV was also ordered. I loaded my music and then learned how to convert all of my movies so that they would play on the iPod. Works great through iTunes. I've also uploaded a few of my photos, but will organize more of them into folders in iPhoto, and then upload the folders. I also downloaded iWriter that lets me create interactive content that can be uploaded to the iPod, my .Mac accounts, or just a folder that can be uploaded to any web server. It has an iPod preview window so that the content and navigation can be checked. I intend to see how I can incorporate these tools into the development of ePortfolios. The first project that I will develop will be an iPod version of my last paper, Purposes of Digital Stories in ePortfolios. A new learning opportunity! I will post the first project here.

Labels: ,

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Purpose of Digital Stories in ePortfolios

I just published another online document, looking at Purposes of Digital Stories in ePortfolios. Where I have examples of digital stories, I have provided web links. If you have examples that you would like to share, send me a link and an e-mail, giving permission to post the link on that page.

Perhaps ePortfolios can become the Trojan Horse for integrating digital storytelling into the curriculum. Most ePortfolios today are digital paper: text and images only. Digital Stories can humanize any model of ePortfolio using any type of ePortfolio tool. Digital Stories add VOICE to electronic portfolios. Digital Storytelling is also a motivating strategy for involving students in their own learning using 21st Century tools of engagement.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


E-Learning 2.0

There has been a lot of buzz coming my way about Web 2.0 and its impact on education. Stephen Downes discussed e-Learning 2.0, a term that does not refer to the numerous course management systems that are more about teaching than learning. What is the comparable tool to support lifelong self-directed learning, like eBay for online auctions, or Amazon for books (and a lot more now), or iTunes for music (and now video), or MySpace for social networking? It's more than using blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, podcasting, digital storytelling, ePortfolios to support learning. It's really the synergy between all of these applications. It's also access to a variety of learning resources through intelligent search engines. In the 1980s, I remember the adult learning literature talked about people who would function as "learning brokers" while today we could look to the Internet to fill that role. Is it possible to create such an online environment to go beyond the minimal goal-setting function of 43Things.

Here are a few websites that I found googling around the web:
Knowledge on Demand, an EU-funded project from Greece around 2002 (pre-Web 2.0)
Teachers Pay Teachers and the article that says it aims to be the eBay for educators
Web 2.0 has hit Business Week.
Edu 2.0 just recently launched.

All of these sites contain a piece of the puzzle, but nothing rises to the level of those other websites that I mentioned above. So what should be part of an online environment to support lifelong self-directed learning. What is the "killer app" for lifelong learning?

Labels: ,


Wikis in Education

I am starting to explore more of the uses of Wikis in education. This web page came from the WWWTools for Education listserv, which originates from Australia. This website provides a wealth of great resources. Here is another article that just came out by David Jakes, Wild about Wikis.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Comments from eMail

I received the following comments recently from Mechelle M. De Craene, a Special Ed./Gifted Ed. Teacher in Florida, and graduate student. She recently published this article on Digital Storytelling: A Practical Classroom Management Strategy for working with middle school students.
I think portfolios are so important for educators, especially for special education teachers because so much information can be gleaned from portfolios that just doesn't show up on standardized testing.

In special education, so many life changing (e.g. regular or special diploma track) decisions are made by age 14, which are usually based upon state test, grades and IQ scores that don't truly capture the essence or potential including the uniqueness of every learner. I've used portfolios in the past to advocate for students with special needs to be mainstreamed into general education course so that my students may graduate with a regular diploma.

Additionally, equally important is the student participation in the portfolio process. It's a great way for students to self-reflect and see their growth. Plus, parents love portfolios of their children's progress.
And from another e-mail after she read my Web 2.0 article:
read your article and it is excellent!!!!! I especially like the comparison sections...especially Assessment of Learning vs. Assessment for Learning. It shows the evolution of the web and it is clearly defined. It is a great resource...especially the tool choices. Thank you for sharing that with me. : )

The great thing about Web. 2.0 is it fits more in line with our natural interactive nature. As machines become more and more intelligent they will compliment man's natural hierarchical (cognitive) and social needs systems. Have you read the book On Intelligence? It is an amazing book.

Hence, eportolios are great because they are not stagnant. They are dynamic. Also, wouldn't it be cool if students could take their eportfolios with them from teacher from year to year (ie..grade to grade)? That way teachers could look for various learning patterns in work presented though out a child's school years and build upon it. It would also be wonderful if we could access eportfolios via the web for each student, this would be especially useful for migrant children who move from town to town. Wow! There are so many wonderful things that are evolving. The pedagogy is truly in exciting times
Well said, Mechelle!

Labels: ,

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Web 2.0 Tools for ePortfolios

Picking up again, after my blog entry while in Salzburg, I started working on a new web page (and potential workshop) that would focus on using Web 2.0 tools for ePortfolios. This web page started initially as a handout for a workshop at the KIPP conference in New Orleans earlier this week, that I co-facilitated with one of my REFLECT teacher leaders. In this workshop, we provided an audience of primarily middle school teachers with an overview of authentic assessment and hands-on experience with two different approaches to doing electronic portfolios, first with Word/Excel and then with TaskStream. The experience gave them two ends of the e-portfolio spectrum: the most basic tools, and the highest end tool. We then provided them with resources to continue exploring these options, including information from and a 30-day trial account with TaskStream. We got very good feedback on the form that we built into TaskStream (modeling its instant data collection and aggregation features). I was pleased with this workshop, even though I thought it should have been a full day with the hands-on activities. Working on the agenda, I learned from my co-facilitator about WikiSpaces and, which I have already written about in this blog!

While researching this entry, I came across some more interesting articles about the impact of social networking sites (like MySpace) on college admissions and employment. I have written about this issue in a prior blog entry. I recently heard about 6th grade girls who were suspended for posting negative comments about their teacher on MySpace. As mentioned in the Business Week article, "there is no such thing as an eraser on the Internet." Perhaps instead of ignoring (or blocking) these websites, schools have a role in educating students about the long-term consequences of their actions (or postings). At the very least, parents should be educated about both the positive and negative implications of some of these new online services, that are attracting adolescents by the millions. (I just found Wired Magazine's MySpace Cheat Sheet for Parents.) In the last month, I heard that MySpace is now the #1 website on the Internet in terms of visitors. How can we replicate the intrinsic motivation of these social networking sites in the service of learning, while protecting students from the negative impacts?


Wednesday, July 26, 2006


WikiSpaces for ePortfolios

This is the 20th tool that I have used to create my electronic portfolio. After I figured out that the new pages that I created did not automatically appear in the Navigation Menu (and that I needed to manually construct that menu on the left side of the screen), the process moved pretty smoothly. All URLs are automatically converted to weblinks. The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than an hour, copying the information from various online portfolios, including my Mozilla portfolio, where I had the URLs on the page (not just links). I easily uploaded my only file artifact (on the Portfolio-at-a-Glance page). All of my other artifacts are web links. The program gives the capability of uploading any type of a file, and then linked from any of the pages. This is a type of digital archive, where student work can be uploaded for later use. Their website says that they allow 2 GB of online storage (the largest I have seen) but it does not appear to allow organizing files into folders.

This system has the potential to offer interactivity, since each page can be edited by members of my WikiSpace. Therefore, I added a few ideas at the bottom of most pages that could be used to offer feedback on the artifacts and reflections listed on the page. Each page can also have a discussion attached to it. When I forgot to save the changes to a page, when I went back to that page, the program gave me the choice to reload the draft. Nice feature.

The tool has the ability to "Embed Media" but I have not implemented that feature. It looks like you add a link to a piece of media that is posted to another website, like youtube or odeo. I was able to add links by simply including the full URL but when the links are followed, they stay in the same browser window. I prefer to have the links open a new window (and the portfolio remains open) so that when an artifact is opened, the reader can close the window and easily return to the portfolio, rather than using the Back button.

A feature that I really like is the ability to backup the most recent copies of the pages in a space in HTML (or wikitext) and save the archive to my hard drive. That is a feature that I think is a requirement for an ePortfolio system. It backs up all files to the desktop computer, and maintains hyperlinks but not the navigation menu.

There is also no data management tool, to aggregate assessment data. Therefore, this tool would work for formative assessment (providing teacher and peer feedback on student work) but not for summative assessment. But the process for adding comments and feedback would need to be agreed upon with the readers, just as I have placed suggestions at the bottom of some of these pages.

WikiSpaces is offered free of charge to K12 teachers. This tool is not as easy to use or intuitive as, nor as elegant as iWeb. However, it is accessible to individuals as well as schools. The very nature of a wiki is shared writing, so this tool might work well for collaborative development of ePortfolios.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Using for K-8 Portfolios, a free service for K12 schools by Oracle, is the 19th tool that I have used to re-create my electronic portfolio. I am impressed by the ease of entering data. All URLs are automatically converted to weblinks that open in a new window. The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than an hour, copying the information from various online portfolios, including my Mozilla portfolio, where I had the URLs on the page (not just links). I easily uploaded my only file artifacts (on the Portfolio-at-a-Glance page).

This is the first tool that I have used that adds Interactivity to the portfolio (other than the blog tools). The software allows these forms of Interactivity:I am very impressed with this interactivity, since it makes an electronic portfolio a socially-constructed document. The tool also allows the addition of "Stickies" that can be added by anyone and deleted by the page owner. The Stickie can be used for providing formative feedback as a portfolio and its artifacts are developed.

There are also five types of "Media and More" that you can add to a page:I noticed that when I used the List tool, I was able to add external web links (which turn the title into a web link), but when the links are followed, the site is opened in the same browser window. When a URL is added to a page, the link opens a new window (and the portfolio remains open just behind). That is my preference, so that when an artifact is opened, the reader can close the window and easily return to the portfolio, rather than using the Back button.

The only downside of this tool is the ability to export the data for use outside the system. All readers must be members of the community to be able to read the portfolio, which is very appropriate in a K-8 school environment (and why I don't have a link to the portfolio here). is available as school accounts only and the principal has to sign the AUP agreement with Oracle. There is also no data management tool, to aggregate assessment data. Therefore, this is a great tool for formative assessment (providing teacher and peer feedback on student work) but not for summative assessment. But that's not a bad thing in K-8 schools, where we have plenty of accountability measures, but need better online tools to facilitate formative assessement strategies.

Labels: ,

Saturday, July 15, 2006


WebCT Conference

I just left the WebCT Users Conference, where I provided the closing keynote address. The feedback was good. I was told by one of the executives (who shared a ride with me to the airport) that it was the best electronic portfolio presentation he had seen, because I dealt with a lot of content. At other conferences I have received feedback that perhaps I put too much content into my presentation, but this was a higher education audience and I heard a lot of appreciation for the books I referenced. In the airport, I bought Friedman's latest version of The World is Flat, and skimmed it for the updates that he made since the book was originally published a year earlier. I also added a couple of new slides to my presentation, about his impression of skills needed for a "flat" world.

I attended most of the conference, sitting in on all of the presentations about their newly-released electronic portfolio product, that is integrated with their course management system. While they have not provided me with a demo account yet, to be able to add that system to my "Online Portfolio Adventure," from the literature and the demonstrations, it appears to be student-centered and allows individuality and creativity. They are keeping the assessment management separate from the portfolio, developing another product called Caliper which is designed as a comprehensive assessment system. Caliper is not available this year, and it was not clear when it would be released, but the portfolio is available now for the more current installations of WebCT.

The man who presented the Caliper tool talked about the "positivist" (Caliper) and "constructivist" (Portfolio) versions of their tools (institution-centered vs. student-centered)! I was asked by one of the leaders from one of the pilot sites whether I worked with them on their portfolio development, since it seemed to represent my philosophy. I told him that I did not, but that my philosophy is published on my website for anyone to read! And I base my philosophy on some of the early portfolio literature, where the positivist/constructivist tension is introducted by Paulson & Paulson in 1994.

Since WebCT has been acquired by Blackboard, I am wondering what will happen with the original Blackboard portfolio. It was obvious at this conference that every WebCT product was being re-branded with the Blackboard name. Next year's users conference will be a combined WebCT/Blackboard conference in Boston.

The new WebCT portfolio only allows students to have a single portfolio, although they can create different views for different audiences by turning sections on and off. The tool has a blog and appears to seamlessly save any work created in a course into the portfolio, where it will be preserved after the course is over. If discussions are saved, the entries (other than the portfolio owner) are made anonymous. One feature that is not fully developed appears to be the export function. I understand that the tool will allow students to export their work, but not the structure of the portfolio, something that I think is essential.

I also got a peek at the new version of the TaskStream WebFolio builder that will be released next Tuesday, July 18. I am impressed! I will provide more details after I have a chance to update my portfolio with the new version.

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 06, 2006


NECC06 Conference

NECC 2006 is being held in San Diego. I worked with two of my REFLECT site coordinators to make a presentation during the first session on the first morning. We were impressed with the number of people present during that early hour, on the morning after the fireworks. We were also impressed with the types of questions being asked. After the presentation, I ran into other people who were there, and the dialogue continued.

This morning, one person asked me the usual question about my recommendations about free or low cost tools. Of course I said that was not the first question to ask... determine the purpose first, and then look at the tools to best meet those goals. He asked about Elgg, an open source ePortfolio tool. I told him that this software had a lot of promise as a blog, archive and social networking tool, all important components of a working portfolio. However, it is still missing the presentation builder that allows a learner to organize presentation portfolios for different purposes or audiences (a component that is part of their development plan). Of course that is one problem with open source software... without a business model to support the development, it can take longer to implement changes unless there is a regular funding stream. My experience with commercial tools shows that the companies are very responsive to their customer base, and have the resources to support ongoing support and development. Educators in schools need to recognize that they often get what they pay for, and the commercial market needs to look at how to make their products more affordable for schools. Somewhere in between free and $?? there is a sweet spot. I'm not sure we are there yet.

In the Open Source resource area, I found an electronic portfolio being designed to link with Moodle. When I looked at a demo it became apparent that this tool is being created as a digital archive of student work, with reflection on each artifact as it is uploaded. However, it does not have a presentation builder, so that a learner can construct a reflective story about a group of artifacts. While talking to the developer, he indicated that the Open University in the U.K. was building an electronic portfolio that they are tying into Moodle, that has five developers and so they are planning to include a presentation builder with templates. This open source software will supposedly be available in 2007. I hope I will see it at the EuroPortfolio conference in October in Oxford. I also learned that the University of Denver is thinking of modifying their portfolio system and making it available to the public for free.

I just heard Nicholas Negraponte talk about the $100 laptop that is being designed primarily for students in third world countries. Fascinating project. Their website says that they are not marketing to individuals or to school districts in the U.S. Their primary target groups are national governments in the developing world. But I think I have seen a vision of where laptops will be in the next decade. What I like is the low power requirements (>2 watts) and the ability to charge the NiMh battery by human power. I also like the simplicity of the system. I agree with several of his points: we don't need Caps Lock keys, and the software today is very bloated. When I think about what features I currently use in the software I have, and the time it takes to load the system, I long for the days when I could turn on my Radio Shack WP10 and just start writing!

I sat in a presentation on the University of Vermont's Portfolio Connection, a research project on electronic portfolios in teacher education programs throughout the state of Vermont. I was impressed by Joyce Morriss's Webquest on electronic portfolios. Their findings are very interesting: the student assessment portfolios built for accreditation are deadly dull; the professional portfolios that the student construct for showcase and employment are diverse and show the students' authentic voice!

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 30, 2006


2007 ePortfolio Conferences "Down Under"

I have just been invited to participate in two more ePortfolio Conferences, one in Melbourne, Australia on March 26-27, 2007, and the other in Wellington, New Zealand on April 2-3, 2007.


Thursday, June 29, 2006


New ePortfolio articles

I just came across a few new articles on ePortfolios, mostly from the U.K. and Canada:

E-portfolios in post-16 learning in the UK: developments, issues and opportunities - A report prepared for the JISC e-Learning and Pedagogy strand of the JISC e-Learning Programme by Helen Beetham, e-learning consultant.
The report provides a brief overview of current e-portfolio developments in relation to both the management of assessment evidence within programmes, and the development of a repository of evidence of lifelong learning progress and achievement.
Engagement with Electronic Portfolios: Challenges from the Student Perspective by David Tosh, Tracy Penny Light, Kele Fleming and Jeff Haywood in the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology -
Abstract: Much of the evidence and research available on the use of e-portfolios focuses on faculty and institutional perspectives and/or consists mainly of anecdotes about how useful the e-portfolio has been to learners. While it is generally agreed that e-portfolios have great potential to engage students and promote deep learning, the research that has been conducted to date focuses very little on student perceptions of value of the e-portfolio for their learning. If students do not accept the e-portfolio as a holistic means with which to document their learning in different contexts and more importantly, agree or wish to use the e-portfolio as an integral part of their educational experience, then the potential impact the e-portfolio will have on learning will not be realised. This paper highlights four themes arising out of research that is underway within an international framework of collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, the University of British Columbia and the University of Waterloo.
Electronic Portfolios for Whom? - an Educause Viewpoint by Javier I. Ayala, Portland State University
The literature doesn’t discuss e-portfolio use to meet student needs and concerns but to support administrative efforts to solve long-term curricular issues
Becta's View: E-assessment and e-portfolios (pdf)
This document provides a short introduction to e-assessment and e-portfolios, how they might develop, and why Becta strongly believes that they will support engagement and achievement in learning.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


My iWeb Portfolio

I am in the ePortfolio development business again. I wanted to try Apple's iWeb software (part of the iLife06 software suite), since I had so much fun creating my travel blog with it. I have lots of complaints about the process of uploading the site directly to my .Mac account from within iWeb, but the process of developing the site was very easy. Once I saved the portfolio to a folder, I was then able to upload the folder to my .Mac account. I used a few of the pre-formatted pages, but also set up a few blank pages. I also used a blog template to highlight different competencies. I have two separate sites set up, but when I save the files and upload them, it is all or nothing. Still, this is the most creative tool I have used so far in my Online Electronic Portfolio Adventure. Since iWeb is so tightly integrated with the other iLife06 tools (iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand), it made it so easy to include images, size them, apply a mask, etc. It would be nice, though, if iWeb had a portfolio template page that was more than images or podcasts.


Sunday, June 25, 2006


More eMail Responses

I've responded to a few more eMails about ePortfolios, one in higher education (medical school), one from a secondary school teacher, and another about using iLife/iDVD for ePortfolios. My responses are also too long to post in a blog entry, so I have linked them below.
  1. Medical School Faculty Member
  2. High School Teacher
  3. iLife/iDVD for ePortfolios


Thursday, June 15, 2006


High School Portfolios in the Pacific NorthWest

How do we create mandatory high school portfolios and still keep the qualities that make a portfolio a portfolio (and not something else, like an assessment management system)? How to we create student-centered portfolios within an institutional context? I recently received an inquiry from a student teacher in British Columbia which made me think about these issues. I have posted my response (too long to include in a blog entry).

In addition to the high schools in British Columbia, where high school students begin a portfolio in Grade 10, the State of Washington will be providing access to an electronic portfolio under a Student-Centered Planning program funded by the 2006 Washington Legislature. In this context, it looks to me like the portfolio is both for helping implement the Franklin Pierce School District's Navigation 101 model curriculum as well as to document student achievement.

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Me Publishing

In the May 26 edition of Eliot Masie's Learning TRENDS newsletter, he told a story of a young man who went to work for a Fortune 100 company and on the first day of orientation asked where he could publish his profile. Not satisfied that his profile was only in the HR system, he replied, "But, where do I post my profile so that everyone else in the company can see what I am about?" Apparently he had been a daily user of the Facebook and MySpace social networking systems and he just assumed that a big corporation would have a similar system.

As Masie went on to say:
His model of learning and "belonging" involved a degree of "me-publishing" and social networking. He was amazed that people could work for a 50,000 person company and not be able to self-publish their profiles and experiences.... One week later, he resigned and went to a company that gave him the tools and permissions to keep a daily work blog and access to an internally secure social networking system. By the way, he took a 15% reduction in salary in order to be in a better topography of knowledge sharing.

Don't do this just for your NextGen employees. The age of me-publishing and social networking is upon us and will be leveraged by every generation of our workforce. We can create models that protect the company's interests while deeply fostering the power of the network and the wisdom of crowds.
This is a powerful story of the role that Web 2.0 technologies can have on social learning. I see the portfolio as another example of "me publishing" where individuals can share their profiles in a highly engaging environment. I've written before about the popularity of social networking sites, like FaceBook and MySpace. Masie doesn't mention portfolios, but I think that is the natural extension of "me publishing" and personal profiles.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006


ePortfolios and Web 2.0

I am at a conference in Salzburg, sponsored by Salzburg Research providing a keynote address at a conference on Social Skills and Social Software. Most of the conference is conducted in German, but with simultaneous translation. The keynote speaker before me talked about the differences between Web 1.0 (mostly static web pages) and Web 2.0. According to Wikipedia, Web 2.0 is defined as follows:
Web 2.0 generally refers to a second generation of services available on the World Wide Web that lets people collaborate and share information online. In contrast to the first generation, Web 2.0 gives users an experience closer to desktop applications than the traditional static Web pages... Web 2.0 applications often use a combination of techniques devised in the late 1990s, including public web service APIs (dating from 1998), Ajax (1998), and web syndication (1997). They often allow for mass publishing (web-based social software). The term may include blogs and wikis. To some extent Web 2.0 is a buzzword, incorporating whatever is newly popular on the Web (such as tags and podcasts), and its meaning is still in flux.
My keynote address was entitled, "Electronic Portfolios: Digital Stories of Lifelong and Life Wide Learning." In addition to some of my new thinking on the multiple purposes of digital stories in ePortfolios, one of the ideas that I presented was the concept of the "Lifetime Personal Web Space" (LPWS) introduced by Cohn & Hibbitts in Educause Quarterly, 2004. Following my presentation, Lee Bryant (CEO of a leading social software company in the UK) talked about Social Software and the opportunities for linking together a lot of free or low cost "low threshold" applications, or "small pieces, loosely joined" which is David Weinberger's unified theory of the web. I am intrigued about the potential for using a variety Web 2.0 applications to build ePortfolios: blogs, wikis, photo blogs (like Flickr), podcasts, RSS feeds, social bookmarking (i.e.,

I am intrigued by the potential for allowing learners to incorporate a variety of Web 2.0 services into their portfolios. The challenge is ease-of-use of these various tools. When I conducted my own "Online Portfolio Adventure" in 2004, I did not upload many artifacts; instead, I used URL links to documents that I had already stored on one of my own web spaces (LPWS). I can see a lot of potential for taking the next step, incorporating Web 2.0 technologies, both as the organizer as well as access to portfolio content.

Labels: ,

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Linking ePortfolios and Student Achievement?

I received the following request by e-mail:
Recently I became interested in e-portfolio and its implementation in my Small Learning Community (SLC). However, I need data/research that can support my belief that e-portfolio can improve student achievement in all areas. I have visited your sites and others and done some researched but the info i have attained is not specific enough to persuave my colleagues. If you could, please provide me with some specific research regarding student achievement. Thank you.
Here is my response:

You did not mention the educational context for your question. Elementary school? High School? College? In any case, I am not aware of any research that specifically ties e-Portfolios with improved student achievement (assessed, I assume, with standardized test scores). However, there is substantial research that supports the use of formative, classroom assessment (assessment FOR learning as opposed to assessment OF learning) with increased student achievement. Look at the meta-analysis conducted by Black and Wiliam in the U.K.:
Also, the Assessment Reform Group:

That type of formative assessment is well facilitated using a portfolio for that purpose; a portfolio used in classroom-based assessment is more of a communication tool about student learning than an instructional strategy.

I am doing a research project right now on using portfolios in high schools, but we are not looking specifically at student achievement. Rather, we are looking at student engagement, motivation and collaboration using technology, which should impact on student achievement. I think it is problematic to tie student test scores directly with the use of electronic portfolios, since you are really crossing different pedogogical paradigms. And there are too many other intervening variables in the process. You really need to look at other effects of electronic portfolios. Standardized testing only addresses a limited type of student learning; portfolios can be used to document a broader range of student learning.

There may be other research being conducted at this time, but it is too early to make any conclusions. I would be interested if anyone knows of any of these studies.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


A new blogging tool

I am trying out the new iWeb software, part of Apple's iLife06 suite of tools. I am traveling in Europe, and so am posting a Travel Blog for friends and relatives to keep track of our journey and share a small sample of our digital photos. I made a specific entry about doing Travel Blogs with different software tools.

Labels: ,

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Live Television!

On Wednesday, April 19, I did a live satellite broadcast for the Minnesota Schools & Colleges (MNSCU), entitled "The Electronic Portfolio: a Mirror and a Map." My part was only about 15 minutes, including two digital stories (my Choices story and my granddaughter's second grade autobiography). My interview was actually pre-taped and then broadcast an hour later, and the only live part (for me) was the Q&A. It was pretty nerve-wracking. I know why I like to pre-record my audio, so that I can edit it. But it was still an interesting experience.

As a result of the Q & A, I added links to some of the most recent research on electronic portfolios.


Friday, April 14, 2006


New web links

I am getting caught up from my travels, and wanted to post a couple of interesting weblinks that I came across over the last couple of months:

USA Today article ("What you say online could haunt you") on the perils of posting personal information into social networking spaces, and how it can impact on future employment, etc.

Tennessean article ("Study monitors students' work") about the REFLECT Initiative project in the State of Tennessee. This is the research project that I am leading for TaskStream. Great quotes from high school students.

Another tool for digital storytelling online, BubbleShare. I'm not sure how I feel about these sites that require Internet access to share these multimedia photo albums. Just like Flickr and PhotoJam, you have to be connected to the Internet to share these files. I'd like to be able to ALSO create a DVD that I can play on my HD TV, as well as archive in high quality format. Video on the WWW is still low quality compared to DVD.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


eMails about ePortfolios

I continue to receive e-mails about electronic portfolios from around the world. From England, an educator inquired about the differences in terminology between the UK and US. He commented: "All sides seem to want something different...with your experience of international standards and ePortfolios do you think the definition of an "ePortfolio" is the same across the world?" I responded with the following comments:
I find that a lot of people use the term "eportfolio" and they mean many different things. I have blogged about this issue on many occasions. Many institutions see portfolios as "bean counting" for accountability purposes, especially here in the U.S. Why can't educated professionals keep the assessment management system (bean-counting) functions separate from the reflective storytelling (deep learning) functions of portfolios? Perhaps because the latter is less understood or experienced in our education system... hopefully not less valued. I often assert that the assessment/content management systems have lost the heart and soul of portfolios.
Another K-12 educator was involved in a process of developing a school reform model focusing on the portfolio process at the elementary level. She noted that the majority of the research for the K-12 setting was conducted in the 90's with the focus today on the college level. She asked my opinion on why there hasn't been much research conducted at the K-12 level since the 90's. Do I think portfolios have fallen out of favor in K-12 education, or is it because the large organizations such as NWEA were wanting to use them for large-scale assessment and we haven't yet made the shift back to the classroom and student growth? My response:
You are correct that most of the effort today is in higher education, for a variety of reasons, but for a lot of teacher education programs electronic portfolios are related to gathering information for accreditation...

In my opinion, the No Child Left Behind legislation took the wind out of the sails of portfolios in K-12 schools. So much effort has been put into helping schools meet the testing mandates and "adequate yearly progress" as defined by testing, that there isn't a lot of attention being paid to portfolios, nor enough time left in the curriculum.

Another issue we have is the type of assessment. If you are familiar with the work of Rick Stiggins and the ATI, you know that he focuses on Assessment FOR Learning, rather than Assessment OF Learning, which is most of the focus of large scale assessment. I recently wrote a couple of papers on my website about the differences between portfolios used for these two different types of assessment. My REFLECT White Paper addresses those issues.

So those are the issues in K-12 schools. I'm not sure electronic portfolios will work well in elementary schools until we get systems that are BOTH easy to use and allow student creativity in presentation, something that doesn't exist today. I've often said that e-portfolios will only happen if elementary teachers have partners in the process, either parent involvement or older students to assist the younger students to digitize their work, and to upload it to a program.

I guess my question to you really focuses on WHY you want to implement portfolios in elementary schools. If it is to support student learning more about themselves through a reflective process, I am 110% behind you. But if it is for large scale assessment, for purposes of reporting to external audiences (primarily administrators, politicians and the general public), or quantified just like traditional testing, then I am not as supportive. I think high stakes accountability is killing portfolios for learning. I also think teacher education programs who are only creating accountability portfolios are "poisoning the well" by turning off a whole generation of teacher candidates to using portfolios with their own students. I have anecdotal evidence that students who create these Teacher Ed portfolios don't know how to create learning portfolios with their own students. That tells me that there is no authenticity in the accreditation/accountability portfolio process.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Research (and Finally Home!)

I've been traveling since I returned from the trip to Italy: from a meeting and the CUE conference in Palm Springs, to school site visits in Arizona, New Jersey, Maryland, and California, to the SITE and FETC conferences, a dissertation defense and a meeting in Orlando, to the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Conference in San Francisco. It is good to be back home, even for a few weeks. I've seen a lot of classrooms (as part of the site visits for the REFLECT Initiative) and I've talked to a lot of educators, both in schools and at the conferences. A few of my impressions:

In Florida, it seemed like the role of digital storytelling in education has become more prominent. The FETC conference had many workshops on digital storytelling. The SITE conference hosted a keynote address by Joe Lambert (see my last entry and the new SITE Digital Storytelling blog). I led a roundtable on Researching Digital Storytelling and attended several other sessions throughout the conference. I also saw a new tool that was under development at the University of Virginia, to use primary source images in constructing online digital stories, primarily in social studies classes. The tools are becoming very interesting, and varied.

AERA is always a very enlightening conference, giving a glimpse into the current state of education. I attended sessions over the weekend, and led my own roundtable on the REFLECT Initiative Research project. A session on the role of technology in portfolios in Teacher Education gave me more concerns about the lack of authenticity in the accreditation portfolio process. I was impressed that a paper presented by an educator from Australia, that reported the real value of the portfolio process happened when teachers actually developed portfolios with their own students. I also heard Larry Cuban talk about the problems with researching educational technology in schools. He emphasized the importance of collecting data "on the ground" in schools, and not to confuse correllation with causation. He is rarely invited to speak in technology meetings, because of his book Oversold and Underused and his presentation reinforced the need for triangulation of data in educational technology research, which made me comfortable with the multiple methods that we are using to gather data in the REFLECT research. I also had an opportunity to re-connect with Evangeline Harris Stefanakis, whose book on Multiple Intelligences and Portfolios is one of my favorites.

I also had an opportunity to hear the latest presentations by Neal Strudler and Keith Wetzel about their sabbatical study on electronic portfolios. They have published their papers and presentations online, and their study provides an interesting picture of the status of six Teacher Education programs who are "mature" users of electronic portfolios. Their latest article, "Costs and benefits of electronic portfolios in teacher education: Student voices," is especially interesting, focusing on student views of this process. I heard from them, anecdotally, that for some of the students they interviewed, the term portfolio was a dirty word, or at least the experience was too much work for the benefits. Their paper outlines the benefits of the reflection that is central to the portfolio, but also outlined the disadvantages as well.

I also attended a session at AERA on the impact of high stakes assessment on technology implementation in laptop schools (ubiquitous computing). The study was conducted at the University of Virginia. It should be no surprise that the middle school teachers in the study had to focus more of their time on preparing students for the testing than providing the types of rich experiences that could be gained from the available ubiquitous computing. That study was very depressing.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


A new Digital Storytelling blog

There is a new blog on Digital Storytelling, started by the SITE conference. I was especially interested in the podcast that Mike Searson produced, which features Joe Lambert from the Center for Digital Storytelling. Joe will be providing the keynote address at the SITE conference next Wednesday, March 22. Joe talks about the role of digital storytelling in our society and around the world. He also mentioned my work in portfolios, and the power of digital stories to document student learning and growth. Thanks, Joe!


Sunday, March 05, 2006


Conference in Florence

I have just participated in a conference in Florence, Italy, which had a focus on the future of education, sponsored by Indire, an Italian educational research organization in Florence. It was an old model for a conference where we sat and listened to presenters all morning (the traditional process did not match the evolutionary content, but I guess you have to start with a process where people are comfortable). The afternoon program was another three hours of presentations, no breaks, no interaction. At the end of the day, there was an interesting performance by a mime, and in between different session, they showed a silent video on the wall in the auditorium, with different people walking by and peering into the camera. In many ways I felt like I was in the middle of a Fellini movie! It reminded me of the experience I had in college, watching La Strada, and not understanding the movie or the culture. This movie and mime performance seemed like the same experience.

I provided the last presentation on the second morning and I included a little group interaction at the beginning. After I was done, they allowed 30 minutes of questions from the audience, but most of the questions were really speeches, all in Italian, of course. We all had wireless translation devices with earphones, they could hear the translation from English (most of the presentations) and we could hear the introductions and discussion by the presentation chairs (all in Italian). Actually, I was surprised at how well the bilingual translation worked for me.

We were told that this was actually the first International Education Conference held in Italy in quite a few years. All of the presenters were from outside of Italy, although I was the only one from the U.S. Other presenters were from Iceland, Holland, France, Australia, England, and Spain. There were about 400 educators present. But I could tell that they had little experience with this type of event: no coffee breaks, all sitting in one room, no interaction until the very end. But it was an interesting experience. I met some great people, and I still have a workshop to do on Monday afternoon for a smaller group at the Indire office. I think they want me to teach a distance class for them on electronic portfolios (no traveling, they said!). We'll see what happens and how it would work.

I'm glad I made the decision to come to this conference. I now realize that my initial impressions about this event was from their relatively inexperience with this type of event. I think I added a different dimension to the event, especially after I showed my granddaughter's 2nd grade portfolio and autobiography as an example of an electronic portfolio with a digital story. They applauded after her story was over. The Italian version of the portfolio is more of an assessment record kept by the teacher, not owned by the student. Teachers resent the additional effort (no wonder!). This is another example of the perversion of the concept of the portfolio, co-opted by a government for large scale assessment. My perspective provided a very different definition for them. One gentleman held up his wallet: that was his portfolio to keep valuable little items inside. I said that was very similar to an educational portfolio, containing valuable items for the learner to keep.
[posted from an Internet cafe in Florence]


Tuesday, February 28, 2006


A dry spell

I realize that I have been silent for the last two months. It is not that I have not been learning a lot about electronic portfolios. I have just been traveling a lot with the REFLECT Initiative, visiting the sites and writing up site visit reports, which are not appropriate for publishing in this blog. I made a presentation on the project to the Electronic Portfolio Research Consortium at their meeting in Portland, Oregon at the beginning of February. I also provided a keynote address at a conference in Chicago a week later. . Today I had a short discussion on ePortfolios with a school district near the Seattle airport. Finally, a presentation where I could drive my car, not take an airplane!

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Holiday Gifts and Letters

After returning from New Zealand, I became consumed with Holiday preparations. I received one of my favorite Christmas present in years: an iRobot Roomba... yes, a robot that vacuums my floors. This is an example of a technology that can have a positive impact on our lives! It is interesting to observe it exploring the nooks and crannies in my house, getting stuck under the Christmas tree, going places it isn't supposed to go... just like a toddler. I even catch myself talking to it like a child. We haven't given it a name... yet! Interesting how a single purpose intelligent device can take on human characteristics, and quickly become part of our lives. My floors have never been so clean. It even gets under tables, buffets, navigates around chairs. Way cool! What does this have to do with ePortfolios? I guess this device is an example of an empowering environment, giving me more time to do the things I really enjoy doing. It also motivated me to reorganize my environment, accomplishing more in a few days than in the last few months. The motivational aspects of technology are well known, and this is another example, even if the outcome is a more organized and pleasant physical environment.

The Holidays also brought the usual Christmas cards, many with the annual Christmas letter, giving updates on the events of the year. It occurred to me, as I was reading these letters to my legallly-blind mother, that these were her generation's family stories... that annual missive that documents the important experiences of family life. Some letters were a litany of events or accomplishments of family members, others included amusing anecdotes that made them more interesting to read. As I reflect on these annual Christmas letters, I realize how much technology (and blogs) could change this experience. Perhaps there are some more technologically-savvy, who send a URL in their Christmas cards. In our card, my husband just printed out a collage of key photos from the last year... I haven't written a Christmas letter since our children left home.

In terms of digital family stories, these annual Holiday letters provide a personal history that, when collected over a lifetime, can provide rough biographical details of a family's life. But I wonder how many families save their letters. This collection process is a challenge for many families, most often a paper filing system with physical storage problems. One solution would be a digital preservation process that I intend to research over the next six months.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Conferences "Down Under"

I am now stateside, after spending more than two weeks in Australia, ending with the ePortfolio New Zealand conference in Auckland. The ASCILITE conference in Brisbane was an interesting experience. I led a "Learning Circle" at the end of each of the first two days of the conference, focusing on ePortfolios and Digital Storytelling. We asked the participants on the first day to do a "fast write" with their reflections on the conference themes. After collecting their brief jottings, a few came up right away and audio recorded their reflections. The next day, we shared what had been collected so far, recorded a few more, and talked about illustrating the reflections with images. On the last day, we recorded the last of the audio clips, gathered as many images as we could, and then constructed most of two different digital stories in about three hours. In the plenary session on the last day, I showed both stories, even though one was not quite complete. While not the way I would prefer to put together digital stories, I learned what could be done under pressure!

On the following two days, I led workshops at QUT, including a half-day digital storytelling workshop. I was surprised that quite a few of the participants developed one-to-two minute stories that they recorded, after our very short hands-on activity. At least eight people had time to write a brief story and have it recorded.

On Monday, I was in Auckland, providing the opening keynote to the ePortfolio New Zealand conference. This meeting was organized by Eifel, as an extension of their conferences in Europe and last year in Melbourne. Although there were about 60 participants, and the conference only lasted a day and a half, it was a very good conference, one of the best ePortfolio conferences that I participated in. I thought there was a lot of opportunity for dialogue, built into the program and during breaks. On the second day, I shared a session on Digital Storytelling with a professional developer from Australia.

We decided to make the session somewhat interactive and hands-on. After demonstrations of a few digital stories, we asked the participants to spend five minutes doing a short reflection on the conference so far. We then had about a half hour to record their reflections. I have five people who recorded 30 second to one minute reflections. The other person recorded directly into PhotoStory. We played the clips at the end of the conference in the plenary session.

I was skeptical when we planned the ASCILITE activity, but it worked so well that I did a briefer version at the ePortfolio conference. Now, Eifel has some audio to add to their website about the conference. I think it also helped the participants see how the process works within a reflective portfolio framework. Oh, yes, and my new microphone was a great hit and worked beautifully with Sound Studio and with the one Windows computer I hooked it up to during my hands-on workshop in Adelaide. However, it did not work with my version of Audacity for the Mac. Hmmmm....

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Message from "down under"

I had a great 3-way Skype conference this morning with my husband and my daughter connecting us across two oceans and three different continents! I was just getting up (7 AM on Wednesday in Melbourne), it was lunchtime for my husband in Seattle (noon) and my daughter was going to bed in Budapest (9 PM) on Tuesday! The audio was awesome! I am so excited about this technology, that allows any groups to communicate over the Internet for free. The impact on relationships is powerful.

I'm writing this entry from Adelaide in South Australia, near the beginning of a tour "down under" beginning with a private school in Melbourne for two days, now working with the Government of South Australia, Department of Education and Children’s Services, at an ePortfolios for Professional Development conference. On Saturday, I head for Brisbane where I will work with Queensland University of Technology and the ASCILITE conference (more on that to come). I will then go to the ePortfolio New Zealand conference in Melbourne.

I was just blown away by a digital story told by a teacher here in Australia, who reads this blog. He bought the microphone that I recommended in an earlier blog entry. And his digital story about his ePortfolio journey was heartwarming and engaging. A wonderful surprise! I know this blog is being read, at least by a few people. When I explored David Tosh's Elgg blog, he mentioned that this blog was listed on some list of the top 20 educational blogs. I must resolve to make more blog entries, not use my travel schedule as an excuse!


Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Motivation, Social Networking and ePortfolios

While at the NERCOMP ePortfolio Users Group meeting earlier this month in Poughkeepsie, one of the participants brought up the issue of student motivation and the popularity of Facebook on his campus. He wondered how to make ePortfolios as popular as Facebook. The value of this site, as well as its competitors, MySpace and Friendster is that they are social networking spaces. They are also voluntary, and Facebook accounts are available through many universities. They are just starting to move into high schools, but the privacy issues are very different because of the age of the participants. The Facebook concept is somewhat unique. According to Facebook's founder, audiences "want to build community around what they're consuming." According to an article in MarketSense:
"What drives the site is an offline dynamic and culture around it." What he means is that the Facebook communities revolve around a particular school. He can walk out into the school grounds and see everyone he knows in the Facebook. It's a closed community in some sense.
I also wonder how we can make ePortfolios more intrinsically motivating... more of a "want to" rather than a "have to" experience. The interface has to be engaging, and easy to use. Perhaps the environment needs to contribute to building community. There has to be a reason to return on a regular basis. Facebook claims that 70% of its users log in daily! The founder of Facebook is a Psychology drop-out from Harvard, not an IT major. Maybe that's what we need in the ePortfolio community: more developers who understand human nature than those who understand technology. My recent experience tells me that the technology can get in the way.

One of the principles I found in my dissertation research over 15 years ago is a simple equation: the benefits of any change must exceed the cost of that change. With the Internet, the benefits have become obvious and motivated a lot of the population to learn a whole new set of skills... and spawned a whole new way of life and conducting business. We are glimpsing the benefits for learning and schooling (I purposefully separated those two terms), using ICT to facilitate the teaching and learning process (another purposeful distinction). But learners need to see the benefits for developing an ePortfolio. We need to look at human nature to find that motivation. That's why I think these social networking tools, including blogs, have motivated young people to get engaged with them, but the goal isn't the use of technology... it is the connection to other people. That is the challenge for the ePortfolio movement today...


Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Assessing Personal Portfolios

Today I received the following e-mail message:
Our Teacher Education dept. is having students keep one portfolio according to INTASC standards and then a second one that the students will organize and create for themselves. We have rubrics created for the first portfolio, but are wondering what you would recommend concerning how we would assess the portfolio they create for themselves.
Here is my response:
Why would you need to assess a portfolio that the students create for themselves? Why not have the students self-assess their own portfolio? They should have set some goals for their own portfolio. Did they meet those goals? How would they improve it? How will they update their portfolio as their "living history of a teaching/learning life?"

You know, then we treat a personal document, like a student's own portfolio, like any other assignment (such as assessing it), then they tend to have that same type of attitude toward it... just another assignment, or hoop to jump through (like their INTASC portfolio). Their own portfolio should be theirs to assess. If anything, you assess their self-assessment. Of course there will be some students that only work for a grade, and won't put much effort into anything that "doesn't count." Sadly, they are a product of our extrinsically-motivated education system. So if you must, only assess it as completed (Pass or "Not Yet"), with no quality indicators, other than those determined by the students themselves. Hopefully, they can be shown that their portfolio is meant to be their own "story" of their journey to become a professional educator. And we hope that in their own portfolio, they are modeling a lifelong learning strategy that they will share with their own students.

Labels: ,

Sunday, October 30, 2005


The "e" in ePortfolio stands for "exciting"

I've just left EIFEL's EuroPortfolio conference, this year held in Cambridge, England. The first day was billed as a "PlugFest" which focused on the IMS technical specifications and showcasing interoperability between different systems. I wrote the following slide for my presentation the next day:
If we build it, will they use it?
And HOW will they use it?
What about the users?
What is the relationship between the capabilities
(and interoperability) of the tools, and the extent to which
they are used for lifelong and lifewide learning?
Why would learners want to use an ePortfolio?
I am concerned that more effort is going into tool development and not into the important human dimensions of this process.

During my opening keynote presentation, I emphasized:I had a lot of fun talking about the progression of e-portfolio technology, starting on computer desktops, moving to CD-R, the Internet, DVD-R and now "pocket tech" pulling lots of items out of my pockets: iPods, flash drive, and three cameras - my new small Casio, my cell phone, and my Palm Zire 72.

I find these Eifel conferences very interesting, since they bring together people with many interests in e-portfolios from around the world. The proceedings document also provides many new perspectives to add to the literature on ePortfolios. I appreciated the paper by Simon Grant from CETIS that clarified a lot of the language/definitions around ePortfolios. There were also a lot of papers presented by a group from the University of Wolverhampton, and their PebblePAD system. I hope to get an account on their system so that I can see how it works, as well as a couple for my grandchildren on the version that they are adapting for primary school students. I really need to revisit my study of online portfolios, and add a few more: Carnegie Foundation's open source KEEP Toolkit, PebblePAD from the UK, and Interact's new ePortfolio add-on.

The focus on reflection this year was also encouraging. One of the plenary speakers on the second morning showcased her reflective portfolios with her student teachers, and was very emphatic about the role of reflection is critical thinking and analysis. I am really looking forward to the next Eifel ePortfolio conference in Auckland, after my two weeks in Australia. This will be an opportunity for me to reconnect to my friends in New Zealand, and continue the dialogue down there.

Oh yes, the title for this entry came from one of the participants in the Cambridge conference, who made that statement after the opening plenary session on the second morning. "Exciting Portfolios!" Sounds good to me! I hope we implement them in a way that the users agree!


Monday, October 24, 2005


Working with 2nd grader

I spent a few wonderful hours this weekend with my younger granddaughter, digitizing the documents for her first grade portfolio. She was able to scan her documents with PhotoShop Elements. She even remembered where to Import and which menu item to use. She knew how to name her files so we knew what was in them. We also played with my brand new USB microphone. It is a commercial-grade condensor microphone that only needs a USB connection. We had fun recording her reading and talking. We now have almost all of her Kindergarten and First grade work digitized, but all of the artifacts are in JPEG format. I still need to convert them into PDF and then we still need to find the right authoring tool for the presentation portfolio. But that will need to wait until I return from Europe.


Friday, October 21, 2005


New NAP book

I just downloaded a new book (in PDF) from the National Academies Press: Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future by the Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century: An Agenda for American Science and Technology, National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine. As described in today's The Scout Report:
For most of the 20th century, the United States was the pre-eminent leader in many enterprises that were based on advanced scientific and technological knowledge. In recent years, there has been a growing concern that the US may be losing its competitive advantage as other countries (such as India and China) continue to invest heavily both in higher education and the training of scientists and engineers. This very provocative and insightful 504-page report from the National Academy of Sciences takes a critical appraisal of the current state of these affairs, and also offers four primary recommendations along with twenty ideas about how best these recommendations might be achieved over the coming years. Some of these primary recommendations include creating attractive merit-based scholarships for those who wish to become K-12 science educators and lobby policy-makers to fight for tax incentives for innovation that is based in the United States. For those interested in this rather compelling issue, this is a report that is worthy of considerable time and attention.
I have a new PDF book to read on my upcoming flight to Europe!


Sunday, October 16, 2005


Online ePortfolio Research- elementary version

After focusing on higher education for so many years, the REFLECT Initiative is letting me work in secondary education, mostly researching high school e-portfolios. But finding tools that work with elementary students is a personal passion of mine. I just spent the last two days helping my granddaughters work on their electronic portfolios. The older one is in 5th grade now, the younger one in second grade. I was very actively engaged with the older one when she was in Kindergarten, first and second grade, partly because we showcased those portfolios at three different conferences, including NECC 2002 in San Antonio and NECC 2003 in Seattle. So the deadlines helped us get those projects finished. But with my increased travel in the last two years, and the fact that I now had two granddaughters to work with, we have not finished their e-portfolios. In the summer of 2004, we scanned all of their 2003-2004 work (third grade and kindergarten, respectively), but never organized it into any type of presentation portfolio. Since the girls had two days off school last week, and I was home, we decided to devote some time to the project.

In the past, we have used desktop common tools to construct these portfolios. The first Kindergarten portfolio was constructed using PowerPoint, converted to PDF, with lots of video inserted. The first and second grade portfolios were constructed with iPhoto and also converted to PDF. Because of their ages, most of their work was NOT created on computer, which meant we needed to do a lot of digitizing. That's why iPhoto worked well in the past to organize an entire presentation portfolio, and may work well to construct smaller pieces of these newer versions. But with the older girl now in 5th grade, she can handle major components of the work, and it just might get done! But now the task becomes finding the right tool so that she can work on her own portfolio!

We spent a lot of time scanning and taking digital photos of their work (the 5th grader scanned all of her own work, but I'm going to put a lot of the larger artifacts together into small PDF files using iPhoto books to group the separate scanned pages into single documents). We have a lot of individual images that need to be combined together into single multi-page documents, and PDF is the best format for the final versions of science fair projects, poetry books, etc. My mother gave them her old blue clamshell iBook with 284K RAM, 2 GB HD, OS 8.6, with Internet Explorer and an Airport card that I added to make it useful. Not sure I want to upgrade it any more, so it would only work for basic Internet access, not constructing a portfolio with desktop tools. I also took my daughter's old first-generation white iBook out, which I had just reformatted and installed Tiger. We used that computer for scanning with a small, cheap Canon (very slow). I sat with the 5th grader and showed her how to use TaskStream, thanks to their generosity providing me with two accounts, and she set up her first web page with little problem, using the oldest iBook (hers) connected to the home wireless network. She also uploaded some files from her parents' PC to a folder in her TS account, a much faster way to transfer those files from home or the PCs at her school.

I'll see how independent she can be without me sitting next to her. Her younger sister is another issue. As a 2nd grader with a lot shorter attention span, I'm not sure this program will work for her. We didn't get all of her work scanned today, but it leaves us something to do the next time I go out there. I will be experimenting with other tools over the next few months. This blog may be documenting another "online portfolio adventure" but focusing on early childhood-appropriate tools. One contribution that I made to their process was to donate my old 2 megapixel Sony mini-Cybershot camera to their family (the one that is the size of a Snickers candy bar... I have decided to move to a smaller credit card-sized camera). Several years ago, we gave them our old Mavica, that uses floppy disks, which worked OK, but the younger granddaughter has taken more pictures with my Cybershot, and knows how to work it very well.

The real challenge has been what I remembered when I set up my first e-portfolio: gathering all of the artifacts from different storage places. Another reason for an online digital archive. But I thought this picture, documenting the production stations, showed our progression in technology: my current G4 latest generation Powerbook, a first-generation white iBook, and a first generation blue clamshell iBook. All of them did their job in getting this project re-started!


Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Education in a Flat World

In doing a Google search on Thomas Friedman's perspective on education, I came across a Press Release from the U.S. Department of Education with remarks by Margaret Spellings, US DOE Secretary, to the National Association of Manufacturers Meeting in DC, September 28, 2005. She quotes Friedman's concerns that "people won't even acknowledge that there is an education gap emerging and that there is an ambition gap emerging and that we are in a quiet crisis." She goes on to point out the efforts of:
states measuring our children's progress each year in reading and math, and by focusing on each student, and on each group of students, we can discover where they need help before it's too late.
The problem with these annual tests is that they do not give the results in a timely-enough manner so that changes can be made in the "teachable moments" that Spellings refers to earlier in her speech. She also reiterates Friedman's concerns:
As a nation, we have no more important task than to help our children develop academic skills, and character, and a little ambition if we are going to succeed in this flattening world...

But the long-term solution is to make sure that every member of our rising generation has the education and skills to succeed in the 21st century. The education gap, the achievement gap—the quiet crisis—will cast a very long shadow over our future if we do not summon the will to stay competitive. And competitiveness begins with education.
Competitiveness also begins with imagination and innovation. Spellings also provides examples of school districts who have achieved their "No Child Left Behind" goals, but does not provide any details. I wonder how many of those goals were achieved through mind-numbing drills that achieve short term gains in the reading and math skills measured by standardized tests, but do not address the kinds of competencies that will lead to innovation and success in a Flat world... those right-brain abilities identified by Daniel Pink (discussed in my August 15 blog entry): design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. Portfolios, not standardized tests, can document those abilities. If only our education leaders would put as many resources into classroom-based, formative assessment FOR learning as they do into state-wide summative assessment OF learning! Then, based on the work of the Assessment Reform Group from the U.K., researchers Black & Wiliam and the Assessment Training Institute's Rick Stiggins, we would see more student engagement and improvement of their own work.

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Digital Archive for Life

I must admit it: I'm a CNN junkie! The news in the last three weeks has been riveting! I was in a hotel room in Minneapolis with CNN on all last night, and I woke up around 3 AM as Hurricane Rita was making landfall. The reporters all seemed to be saying the same thing, but they were in the middle of the action, although I often tire of the repetition of CNN's schedule (in the evening, wait three hours, and you'll hear Larry King, again!). But still, when reporting a live event, I'm hooked... even at 3 AM. I am relieved that Rita was not as destructive as Katrina. But with the triple blows to Florida last year, and the devastation so far this year, it makes you wonder about the impact of global warming... but that is a discussion for someone else's blog.

I mourned for the devastation of New Orleans. I have many fond memories of that city: my first trip there for ISTE's last Tel-Ed conference in 1998, over a Halloween weekend, where we gaped at the antics on Bourbon Street; the two weekends that my husband and I spent there before and after a Caribbean cruise that left from the dock behind the RiverCenter Mall; the NECC conference in 2004, held in that infamous convention center; my PT3 visit to the University of New Orleans to talk about ePortfolios on their Lake Pontchartrain campus; another PT3 keynote address to another group of student teachers at a conference at Loyola University; and at least one AERA conference held there. It was such a good conference city; I hope New Orleans returns to its vibrancy. I've heard of several education conferences that were scheduled in New Orleans that are being moved to other locations. It makes me sad. The city needs the revenue more than ever!

But on a less personal note (for me), what I found especially poignant about the Katrina news stories were the pictures of the "lost" children that CNN showed last week. They say that showing those pictures resulted in at least a dozen solved cases. But I was also concerned about the devastation that the citizens of Louisiana endured. In addition to the tragic loss of lives and homes, hurricanes also wipe out family artifacts, physical memorabilia including family photographs and videos. I remember the story of the man who kept a diary every day of his adult life, only to have it wiped out when his New Orleans home was flooded. I remember all of the silhouettes on CNN after Hurricane Katrina, where families no longer had the photographs of their missing children to post online. However, in a few instances, teachers who saw student names listed on TV, sent in their photos to the CNN website. This anecdote illustrates the central role that schools can play in the preservation of these artifacts. How can schools help families to preserve these artifacts in multimedia formats, and post them online in free websites like

There is a movement in Canada and Europe to establish an electronic portfolio for every citizen by 2010. As I wrote in an earlier blog entry, the potential of e-portfolios to support lifelong and life wide learning is limited only by our current technologies, limited experience, and narrow vision. Instead of an e-portfolio, a concept that is not widely understood, what would happen if every citizen was issued personal web server space that they would own for a lifetime? Like a virtual indexed filing cabinet, this Digital Archive for Life (DAL) would provide space to store the raw materials for e-portfolios, archives of family records, genealogy and digital stories, autobiographies, child development data (such as digital versions of New Zealand's "Plunket books"), evidence of personal and professional accomplishments, and all kinds of personal information. From cradle to grave, we could store and celebrate the results of lifelong and life wide learning. And in cases of tragedies, like hurricanes or floods or the isolated cases of home fires, or the more likely catastrophic hard drive crash, we would have our memories preserved.

The other issue that the victims of Katrina faced was the loss of personal records: health records, financial records, the documentation of our lives that we all take for granted... until it is destroyed. I remember the stories of the doctors who had to use their best professional guesses as to prior health history while practicing what they said was worse than 3rd World medicine! Who knows if they would have access to the Internet in a disaster, but what if we had a smart card that we could carry in our purses or wallets, just as we usually never leave home without our credit cards, where our medical history could be stored for just these types of emergencies. I understand that these cards are used in Germany to store medical history and health care information. In the richest country in the world, why don't we have access to this type of information? This subject was briefly mentioned tonight on CNN, of having more electronic medical records. Perhaps that is a deficit of our decentralized health care system, but that is also a topic for someone else's blog!

But the point of this blog entry is not to advocate for more cards to carry in my purse. This information needs to be stored online, in a server bank that is built like the Internet, to be able to withstand a catastrophic event, with redundancies and security, as a place to store our personal information, artifacts, memories. I pay $7.77 a month for 5 GB of server space to store my website (and I don't use 20% of it!). I just received notice that .Mac accounts have increased storage space to 1 GB for $99 a year (it's about time!). This is not a lot of money out of my pocket. But I'm a techie... it's what I do. Where is the easy-to-use webspace for the average citizen to store their essential information? Yahoo only gives 15 MB. The Gmail service from Google offers 2.5GB of e-mail storage! They also host the Blogger service, that I use to create this blog. That is all a good start. But what we need is that Digital Archive for Life, where we can store our most important information... so that we won't lose our favorite digital photographs due to a hard drive crash. Backups to CD-Recordable discs or even DVD aren't the long-term answer. Who knows how long that media will last, or can be read, and physical media can be destroyed in a disaster? We need reasonable online storage space, with a transparent, idiot-proof content management to organize it... our own personal archivist!

I used to advocate for portfolios stored to CD-ROM (or now DVD). I realize now that is an interim solution. Just in the last week, I've experienced the weaknesses of online portfolio systems that go down for technical reasons; I've also been frustrated when the network in a school is down, making training nearly impossible. But that is no reason not to move in this direction. What we really need are online repositories for high quality content (including DVD-quality video, not the emaciated versions of movies that individuals can stream today). Some day, we will have the bandwidth to handle that type of data, as corporations and cable companies are able to do today. But what do families do with their precious family memorabilia? That is our challenge! Anyone want to join me in this pursuit?

Labels: , ,

Sunday, August 28, 2005


EPortfolio New Zealand

I decided to participate in the ePortfolio New Zealand conference that will be held in Auckland on December 12-13, 2005. It just delays my departure from "down under" by three days. That conference follows e-portfolio meetings in Adelaide (December 1-2) and Brisbane (ASCILITE conference on December 4-7 and Queensland University of Technology ePortfolio Symposium on December 8-9).


Monday, August 15, 2005


A Whole New Mind

Last week, I bought (and read completely on a cross-country flight) Daniel Pink's new book. A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. As the inside cover states:
A groundbreaking guide to surviving, thriving, and finding meaning in a world rocked by the outsourcing of jobs abroad and the computerization of our lives.
Pink refers to the "left-brain" dominance of the Information Age which needs to be balanced with the artistic and holistic "right-brain" dominance of the Conceptual Age. Pink points out three factors that are fueling this change: Abundance, Asia, and Automation, and that right-brain thinking has become a critical component of successful companies who must compete with lower-priced workers from Asia. He outlines six essential high-concept, high touch aptitudes or senses that will be essential for success in the near future, and some are already essential in this age of outsourcing (excerpts below from pp.65-67):
  1. Design (not just function) - "It's no longer sufficient to create a product, a service, an experience, or a lifestyle that's merely functional. Today it's economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging."
  2. Story (not just argument) - "When our lives are brimming with information and data, it's not enough to marshal an effective argument... The essence of persuasion, communication, and self-understanding has become the ability also to fashion a compelling narrative." [and he uses digital storytelling as one of those examples!]
  3. Symphony (not just focus) - "What's in greatest demand today isn't analysis but synthesis--seeing the big picture and, crossing boundaries, being able to combine disparate pieces into an arresting new whole."
  4. Empathy (not just logic) - "But in a world of ubiquitous information and advanced analytic tools, logic alone won't do. What will distinguish those who thrive will be their ability to understand what makes their fellow woman or man tick, to forge relationships, and to care for others."
  5. Play (not just seriousness) - "Ample evidence points to the enormous health and professional benefits of laughter, lightheartedness, games, and humor."
  6. Meaning (not just accumulation) - "We live in a world of breathtaking material plenty. That has freed hundreds of millions of people from day-to-day struggles and liberated us to pursue more significant desires: purpose, transcendence, and spiritual fulfillment.
Pink makes the point "...back on the savanna, our cave-person ancestors weren't taking SATs or plugging numbers into spreadsheets. But they were telling stories, demonstrating empathy, and designing innovations. These abilities have always comprised part of what it means to be human. But after a few generations in the Information Age, these muscles have atrophied. The challenge is to work them back into shape." (p.67)

I will continue his discussion of Story in a later blog entry. Dan Pink's book goes along very well with Friedman's book, but provides much more practical suggestions about how to make the transition (something he calls a "Portfolio" of strategies at the end of each chapter on the "six senses").

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


E-Portfolios and NCLB

I received an e-mail today with the following questions:
What is the connection between electronic portfolio usage in schools and NCLB compliance? How do I persuade teachers, parents, and school administrators to embrace electronic portfolios at the district level?...Do you know of any resources that detail the connection between e portfolio usage and adherence to NCLB?
I responded with the following: You ask some interesting questions. I am curious why you want to persuade teachers, parents and school administrators to embrace electronic portfolios at the district level? For what purpose? There are many ways to implement electronic portfolios, and according to Activity Theory, the instruments (or tools) have a major impact on the outcome of the process, as does the purpose. Are you looking for an electronic portfolio, or an assessment management system? They are different tools, with different goals and outcomes. One is student-centered, the other is institution-centered.

Keep in mind that virtually all of my experience with e-portfolios has been in Teacher Education/Higher Education. My sense about electronic portfolios in K-12 schools is that the emphasis on portfolios has diminished since the passage of NCLB. Although some states use them for high stakes accountability, I still see paper portfolios in general to be a classroom or school-based implementation. I believe that the purpose for their use has a great deal to do with their effectiveness to support student learning. I also believe that to use e-portfolios effectively, the schools need to meet the ISTE Essential Conditions as a pre-requisite for implementation. Just on the basis of access to technology and skilled educators, many schools could not support the effective implementation of e-portfolios.

I suggest that you also read the White Paper that I wrote for TaskStream that is also on my website. You might also read the paper that I wrote with Joanne Carney entitled, "Conflicting Paradigms and Competing Purposes in Electronic Portfolio Development" submitted to Educational Assessment, an LEA Journal, for an issue focusing on Assessing Technology Competencies, July 2005.

The real issues around e-portfolios have to do with the purpose for assessment: assessment of learning (summative) or assessment for learning (formative and classroom-based)? In my opinion, high stakes portfolios are killing portfolios for learning; that is, portfolios used for accountability are not student-centered and are mostly despised by both students and teachers (see my blog entry of February 11, 2005). However, e-portfolios used as assessment for learning, to provide the type of feedback that supports student reflection and improvement of learning, have the potential to engage students in their own self-assessment. Some e-portfolio systems are also assessment management systems, and some are work flow managers that effectively facilitate feedback between students and teachers. I just wrote an entry in my blog about just this issue and its relationship to transformational ICT.

That type of system has the potential to support assessment for learning which Rick Stiggins proposes can increase student test scores at least one-half to two full standard deviations. In addition to Rick Stiggins and Anne Davies, I draw on the work of the Assessment Reform Group in the U.K. and the meta-analysis of Black and Wiliam to guide my thinking on the role of portfolios to support Assessment FOR Learning.

While we are not directly studying the relationship between e-portfolio usage and the accountability requirements of NCLB, the REFLECT Initiative will be studying the role of electronic portfolios in learning, engagement and collaboration through technology. This research project, sponsored by TaskStream, is the first national research project that seeks to answer a series of questions about the use of electronic portfolios in high schools (primarily). We are not only providing tools to students, but providing professional development to teachers around issues of student engagement, assessment for learning, project-based learning, effective implementation of technology, digital storytelling and reflection to support deep learning.


Sunday, August 07, 2005


Work Flow and the Flat World

As I finish the first TaskStream-sponsored regional workshops for The REFLECT Initiative, I've realized that this particular customized system is more than an online digital archive, electronic portfolio and assessment management system. It is really a "work flow" manager, handling the flow of work from students to teachers and assessors. This whole idea of "work flow" in classroom-based assessment has not been emphasized enough. As I see the interconnectedness of the tools, I get a glimpse of an environment that has the potential to streamline the teaching/learning/assessment process. These are the types of tools that have revolutionized global business.

I've been wanting to make a blog entry about Thomas Friedman's book, The World is Flat. As Friedman says, "the global playing field is being flattened" by the effective use of a variety of information and communications technologies. His book is subtitled, "a brief history of the twenty-first century." He outlines the ten flatteners that are revolutionizing the global supply chain of services and manufacturing since Y2K. His MITWorld Real video conference, recorded May 16, 2005, provides a good synopsis of his book, but I highly recommend reading the entire 473 pages. It is a fascinating look at the global economy where our students will need to compete in the future.

When I was at NECC, the head of the George Lucas Education Foundation recommended that all educators read this book. Friedman's chapters on education, that he calls "The Quiet Crisis" and "This is Not a Test" should be required reading of all teachers, principals, superintendents, parents... all of the stakeholders in education. He discusses some dirty little secrets, like the Numbers Gap (the low percentage of science and engineering degrees in the U.S. compared to India and China); the Ambition Gap (declining work ethic and career goals); and the Education Gap (not enough students in the pipeline with sufficient preparation for science, math and computing careers).

What does educational work flow management software have to do with the global economy? The challenge for education is to adapt to using information and communications technologies (ICT) to help narrow these gaps. It's not enough to just put computers into the hands of students and teachers. Businesses found that the presence of computers did not, by itself, make the difference; their productivity didn't increase until the underlying work flow and processes were revolutionized/re-engineered/transformed by ICT. Friedman's book is full of these examples in business. The challenge for us in education is to find those flatteners, before it is too late, when we can no longer afford it. The potential exists for using technology to provide all stakeholders with just-in-time information about student learning and achievement, while also providing an environment where students can track their own progress, assess their own work, and tell their own stories with pride through their online portfolios. Perhaps these tools could be one powerful flattener in education.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005


A new keynote topic

I've just sent the following description to the EuroPortfolio conference for my keynote at their next meeting in Cambridge, England on October 27, 2005:
Title: E-portfolios: digital stories of lifelong and lifewide learning
Description: The potential of e-portfolios to support lifelong and lifewide learning is limited only by our current technologies, limited experience, and narrow vision. Let's imagine what could happen if every citizen was issued personal web server space that they would own for a lifetime? This Digital Archive for Life (DAL) would provide space to store the raw materials for e-portfolios, archives of family records, genealogy and digital stories, autobiographies, child development data (such as digital versions of New Zealand's "Plunket books"), evidence of personal and professional accomplishments, and all kinds of personal information. From cradle to grave, see examples of how we could store and celebrate the results of lifelong and lifewide learning.
This keynote will give me an opportunity to focus on a variety of developments that are already taking place, like OurMedia and other websites that offer more limited free webspace, such as this blogging service! I can also share more of our digital family stories. In a half hour, I won't have time to share my thoughts on the importance of reflection, storytelling and deep learning, but I'll make sure I model it!



A Week on Vancouver Island

For the last six days, I have been on Vancouver Island, participating in a Symposium on Assessment for Learning sponsored by Anne Davies of Classroom Connections International. I participated last year in a different capacity, but this year, I came with a project to complete in this "hothouse" environment. It has been an excellent transition to my new role in K-12 education. The week also takes me back to summer sessions in Santa Barbara with my graduate program: intense, rejuvenating, high task but also high touch. I realize now that I miss those opportunities for intense learning, that I came for one reason, but am leaving with other perspectives. I realize how much I get out of these experiences with people who share similar philosophies and values. Of course Kingfisher Lodge is a lot different from LaCasa, but both places now provide many pleasant memories.


Saturday, July 23, 2005


A New Article

The first of three EDUCAUSE reports, titled "An Overview of E-Portfolios," is now published at:

According to one of the authors, George Lorenzo, the second and third reports on e-portfolios - one on teaching and learning and another on institutional e-portfolios - are near completion.


Friday, July 22, 2005


Final N.Z. Report

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to New Zealand, taking this opportunity to reflect on my last two days. My conversations with the Ministry of Education on Tuesday were very interesting. In my first meeting with the tertiary (higher education) group, we talked about the need for coordination between the various sectors. We also talked about the potential for using Interact, which I will be following the development with great interest. There was some discussion about Moodle, but I didn't know if an e-portfolio component was under development, like with Interact. We emphasized the importance of building a digital archive that would follow a learner across the different sectors.

My meeting with the early childhood people was most interesting. They shared with me their curriculum materials (I took home a notebook, CD and DVDs, which I still need to read/watch). We found a lot of common ground. They showed me some of their "learning stories" and I showed them excerpts from my granddaughter's e-portfolio. I also showed them some digital stories and we talked about the possibilities with some of their early childhood centers. Many of those learning stories contained digital images plus text, so I explained (very briefly) the process of taking digital images and turning them into short videos with narration (digital stories).

On Wednesday, I met with a group at the University of Auckland. They were intending to use the Open Source Portfolio, and we had a long discussion over lunch about the philosophy of portfolios (purpose, audience, student-centered vs. institution-centered, etc.). When I made the statement that electronic portfolios should begin a birth and last a lifetime, one member of their group immediately said, "I agree!" From then on, our conversation focused around the need for compatibility across educational sectors (echoes of my discussion on the previous day). They mentioned the "Plunkett book" that every child in New Zealand receives at birth from a visiting nurse, where their growth and development is recorded. There was a lot of energy in our discussion around the digitization of the contents of that book, even imagining the potential for digitally updating those records using wireless technology like the delivery truck drivers have now!

We also talked about Donald Norman's concept of the "information appliance" and the direction of the iPod/Palm/iPaq/PDA technologies. We did a lot of visioning and also discussed the upcoming semantic web, something that I really need to study in more detail.

I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. What is intriguing to me is the potential for these visions to become a reality in a country the size of New Zealand. Of course, the infrastructure requirements need to be addressed, especially that seamless digital archive of a learner's development/life work, from cradle to retirement and beyond. Reminds me of that article in Educause that I mentioned in an earlier blog entry.
Beyond the Electronic Portfolio: A Lifetime Personal Web Space
Rather than limit people to the e-portfolio model, why not develop a model providing a personal Web space for everyone, for their lifetimes and beyond?

Those possibilities press so many of my hot buttons: e-portfolios, digital stories of deep learning, digital family stories, autobiographies, etc. I feel so privileged to be a part of these conversations. I am so thankful for this opportunity. I look forward to continuing this dialogue with educators in New Zealand. It is so exciting to follow what is possible when there is a will, and not too much bureaucracy to get in the way!


Sunday, July 17, 2005


A Wonderful Week in N.Z.

I have been in New Zealand for a week, and my head is just spinning! First, I participated in the ULearn05 conference in Auckland during the first three days last week. It reminds me of the special quality of our early Alaska computer conferences. It was a special treat for me to reconnect with Ian Jukes as well, who was a favorite presenter at our early Alaska conferences. I enjoyed sharing my passion for digital storytelling, both in a hands-on workshop and in my closing keynote address on Wednesday afternoon. I was really impressed with the special Maori ceremonies that opened and closed the conference. I just wish I understood what was being said.

On Thursday, I traveled to Christchurch, and had a short meeting with the developer of Interact, about the portfolio tools that he is building into this open source learning management software. I am very interested in the development of this software. I had downloaded an earlier version of Interact and placed it on my own server space, since the requirements were simply PHP and MySQL. I am anxious to see the next version of the software, which he hopes to have ready by the term starting in August. On Friday, I met with the Christchurch College of Education, and by the end of the afternoon, I had more converts to doing digital storytelling as part of e-portfolios.

On Friday evening, I flew to Dunedin for the weekend. I spent many hours this weekend with the authors of the book on Learning through Storytelling in Higher Education. My head is still spinning from our wonderful conversations this weekend. I will be thinking about our dialogue a lot over the next few weeks. For the first time, I made a presentation to nurse educators plus some hands-on e-portfolio activities in a computer lab, and showed a lot of digital stories. Yep, more converts to digital storytelling! It became apparent that health care professionals can use digital stories in their practice. It was very special to talk about reflection at such a deep level with these "experts" on storytelling in learning. Today we had more dialogue and I showed more digital stories. Their observations about the poetic quality of many of these stories confirmed my own impressions, shared at the Kean conference in June.

I have returned to Christchurch, preparing for three more days of meetings before my return home. This has been a magical trip. There is something very special about the people of New Zealand! I hope to come back on a regular basis!

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 07, 2005


One Portfolio for Life?

There is a movement in Europe and in Canada to create "E-Portfolios for Every Citizen by 2010." There is also a discussion of "one portfolio for life" which evokes many reactions. My initial response was to separate the one "digital archive of my work" for life, and the multiple presentation portfolios that I might develop for different purposes and audiences throughout my life. I know there is an effort to build systems that integrate all aspects of our digital lives, or as Serge Ravet expressed it, An educator from New Zealand sent me a link to an entry from her blog, discussing issues around digital identity:
In time our e-portfolio record of learning might develop into a massive “learning identity construction” digitized database “A real celebration of learning across a lifetime” that would make today's efforts seem mute, silent screen versions in comparison.

The tension in this extrapolation is that it is not unlike the “consumer identity construction” information databases that can already reveal our predilection for hanging out in wine bars and txting lovers at the end of the day.

The e-portfolio might be likened to "wiki for data from a security camera, VISA card statement and mobile phone bill", in that both allow the construction of digital identity.

And both might misprepresent the complexity of what it is to be human through representing identity as data.
My concern, in our rush to jump on the bandwagon of "a portfolio for all" and "portfolio as digital identity," we are missing the essential purpose of portfolio as a concept and process as well as product. By broadening the concept of the portfolio, we may be thereby weakening its use for learning. Once again, I remember Catherine Lucas' cautions about portfolio use, especially "the weakening of effect through careless imitation." The broader definition of portfolio also serves to confuse the issues.

I recently heard about assignments in an "electronic portfolio class" where students were asked to create an electronic portfolio for a dog or a cat! If the "heart and soul" of a portfolio is reflection, how can you create a portfolio for a dog or cat? It seems to me that they are creating more of a digital scrapbook than a portfolio. Again, the problem is with definition. A portfolio is a personal document, not a documentary. That class sounds more like a website development course, which just furthers the confusion of what an electronic portfolio really is.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


NECC05 Conference

I can finally relax. All of my presentations are over. I did a hands-on workshop for NECC on Sunday. Then, I met with the site leaders of the TaskStream REFLECT Initiative research project on Monday. It was a great day. All the time we spent focusing on the planning for this workshop was well worth the effort. We were able to facilitate a lot of discussion among the participants, and to lay out the research plan, and the various components of the professional development (the regional workshops, the online professional development, the onsite visits, etc.). After this meeting, I was more excited about the project. I also realized how much work was ahead of me. This will be much more intense than my PT3 grant. And I thought I was retiring!

The National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) is just like "old home week" or "same time, next year" - my annual renewal with my technology-in-education buddies. It is fun to reconnect, to announce my retirement, and to celebrate with 15,000+ people! I also did a presentation yesterday called, "Enhancing Student Voices in ePortfolios through Blogging and Digital Storytelling." The desciption of the session was:
Are your e-portfolios standardized checklists of skills or constructivist stories of learning? Learn about open-source or free strategies that increase student voice in learner-centered e-portfolios.
The overwhelmingly positive reaction from participants who were there has been very gratifying. I had one of those "Aha!" experiences when I realized at the end of my presentation, the link between my "Choices" digital story and my message about ePortfolios. When I quote Robert Frost's poem (and my last titles were: Go where no one else has gone... and leave a trail), I urged the participants to take the road "less traveled by" with ePortfolios. Make them digital stories of deep learning, not standardized checklists of skills!


Saturday, June 25, 2005


Kean Conference

Yesterday was the last day of the Kean University Digital Stories conference. It was also my last day working for the University of Alaska Anchorage. (Those two events are related.) I spent a very busy week, flying to Newark on Monday, finishing up the conference DVD on Tuesday, burning 220 copies of the DVD on Wednesday, and then the conference on Thursday and Friday. I was one of the five "experts" on Thursday, presenting all day. Then I got to just sit in presentations on Friday. There were some magical moments, like the BBC digital stories shared by Joe Lambert on Thursday morning, and the "I/O brush" shared by Kimiko Ryokai from MIT on Friday morning.

This conference had a very special feeling, probably because of its size (200 people) and the location worked well. The weather cooperated, and the conversations were especially rich. I'm hoping they decide to repeat the event again next year. It was a great opportunity to see more stories and share ideas. No hands-on, but a lot of conversation between attendees, mostly from New Jersey, but other participants from 11 states and the Virgin Islands! Many of the stories shown were about family, with two breakout presentations on this topic, including one by my own husband!

The Kean conference DVD was the first draft of a DVD that I want to develop on Digital Family Stories, to support the workshop series that we will eventually launch. Of course, I would not use the Kean faculty stories, but some of the family stories that I am starting to develop with my family and others, beginning in Anchorage last month. Dan and I need to spend some time doing "pro bono" workshops to refine our content and process.

Labels: ,

Monday, June 20, 2005



I'm writing this entry in a new Widget that is available for Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4). I have this widget on my Dashboard, and can make an entry quickly! Sort of reminds me of the old days of Mac OS 9 when we had extensions and Apple menu items. But this is cooler and more stable!


Thursday, June 16, 2005


New Business Card

Since I am retiring from the University of Alaska as of July 1, 2005, I designed a new business card for myself. I decided it would read:
Helen C. Barrett, Ph.D.
Researcher and Consultant
Electronic Portfolios and Digital Storytelling
to Support Lifelong and Life Wide Learning
I just decided I didn't need an organization on my business card... just my mission statement. Maybe I'll make another one for Digital Family Story:
Helping families preserve and celebrate their favorite stories

Wednesday, June 08, 2005



In a comment yesterday, I was asked to elaborate on my statement in my blog entry on the MNSCU eFolio Research: "... These findings further validate my concern that we cannot lump all electronic portfolios in one basket:..." The last part of that statement was, "a rich description of the conditions of implementation is critical to understanding the results." In other words, "the devil is in the details" on all levels: how the portfolio is conceptualized (including the purpose), the process and the product. I have written earlier about 50 Words for Portfolios or Alan Levine's reference to the poem about the blind men and the elephant. Portfolios can be created for many purposes and with many tools. In fact, the AAHE reported six categories of uses and these categories were used in the analysis of the data from the respondents in the Minnesota eFolio study:
My only criticism of this list is that the terms reflection and learning are not overtly stated, but assumed within at least the first three categories/purposes. I also believe strongly in the impact of Activity Theory on the implementation of electronic portfolios, that the purpose and the tools have an inextricable impact on the outcomes. Here is a diagram from the Theory that shows the relationship between the different aspects of the activity/system:
There is currently a dissertation in process that will be looking at the impact of purpose and tools in the process of developing electronic portfolios at two universities, using the lens of Activity Theory to understand the differences. I am looking forward to reading the analysis.

Labels: ,


More Activity Theory

One of the reasons that I use Activity Theory to understand the impact of tools comes from this discussion:
Activity Theory differentiates between internal and external activities. The traditional notion of mental processes corresponds to internal activities. Activity Theory emphasizes that internal activities cannot be understood if they are analyzed separately, in isolation from external activities, because there are mutual transformations between these two kinds of activities: internalization and externalization It is the general context of activity (which includes both external and internal components) that determines when and why external activities become internal and vice versa.

The Activity Theory emphasis on social factors and on interaction between agents and their environments explains why the principle of tool mediation plays a central role within the approach. First of all, tools shape the way human beings interact with reality. And, according to the above principle of internalization / externalization, shaping external activities ultimately results in shaping internal ones. Second, tools usually reflect the experiences of other people who have tried to solve similar problems at an earlier time and invented/ modified the tool to make it more efficient. This experience is accumulated in the structural properties of tools (shape, material, etc.) as well as in the knowledge of how the tool should be used. Tools are created and transformed during the development of the activity itself and carry with them a particular culture - the historical remnants from that development. So, the use of tools is a means for the accumulation and transmission of social knowledge. It influences the nature, not only of external behavior, but also of the mental functioning of individuals.
This quote supports my belief that electronic portfolio software tools have a major impact on how individuals perceive the portfolio development process.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005


New Readings

Thanks to the UBC e-Portfolios blog, I found some new online readings.


Monday, June 06, 2005


eFolio Research Reported

I was finally able to view the April 14 MNSAT telecast of their Satellite Broadcast, “Electronic Portfolios for Lifelong and Lifewide Learning: Research and Practice.” The content focused on the research that Darren Cambridge completed about the eFolio Minnesota project. Darren surveyed 500 of the 30,000 users, and did in-depth interviews with 20 portfolio developers. His findings, as he reported them in the telecast, are further support for developing electronic portfolios for lifelong and lifewide learning. His definition of the roles of portfolio learning:
Portfolio learning is lifewide in the sense that it tries to facilitate learning that happens not just in the classroom, not just in formal learning, but in the workplace and in family life. It is lifelong in the sense that learning is something that happens throughout one's life, through different stages of life, not just within a particular academic program, but from cradle to grave.
The MNSCU eFolio Minnesota tool is an online environment in which the individual is provided 3 MB of online storage, and the purpose for the portfolio is determined by the owner, although when used in an educational environment the initial purpose may be prescribed. Even so, the telecast described examples of the system allowing layers in the portfolio for different audiences. The website describes it as:
a multimedia electronic portfolio designed to help you create a living showcase of your education, career and personal achievements. All Minnesota residents, including students enrolled in Minnesota schools, educators and others can use eFolio Minnesota to reach their career and education goals.
In the teleconference, I found Darren's findings with the adult portfolio developers in Minnesota to be very encouraging. I see no reason why these findings wouldn't also apply to K-12 students. As he said,
"...what we learned about how people are introduced and supported: the need for a group of peers working together and real audiences to bounce ideas off of in the experimental stage where the portfolio is beginning to form and to take shape is very important. And then looking at the interface of the personal and the professional that has been shown to be so important to the sense of ownership and integrity of the portfolio; that it's not something that's handed to you by an institution or by the government, but that it's something that you've made that represents you as a full human being."
Peter Rees Jones from Leeds University in England was also on the telecast. He reported on some of their experience in building linkages between the world of work and the world of formal education. His statement about learner ownership is also important:
"It is clear that there is a relationship between where people have a sense of ownership and the success of an eportfolio project. Where people have that sense of ownership they do engage with it [the portfolio] and they will use it regularly. "
As I develop the research design and professional development activities for The REFLECT Initiative, these findings will be shared as central to the policies and practices of implementing portfolios in high schools. The finding about the sense of ownership is one that I have addressed before, but now is validated by some of the research. When Darren Cambridge says, "This works!" I hope policy makers will pay close attention to what "this" is: the learner-owned model that the eFolio Minnesota project has implemented with a focus on the individual, not on the institution. These findings further validate my concern that we cannot lump all electronic portfolios in one basket: a rich description of the conditions of implementation is critical to understanding the results.


Friday, June 03, 2005


Palm LifeDrive

I am making this entry on my brand new Palm LifeDrive. It is a Palm with a 4 GB hard drive! It also has WiFi and Bluetooth. I've already made a call through my cell phone, but I'm using the WiFi right now. I'm using my wireless keyboard as well. I have my Comcast e-mail account set up and I have sent and received e-mail over WiFi. The web page browsing is strange, but I'm using the standard Blogger page. I love learning new toys!

Labels: ,

Monday, May 23, 2005


Accountability and Portfolios

I am posting this message that did not get sent to the AAHE eportfolio listserv before it was shut down. I was responding to this message sent by Trent Batson from Rhode Island:
... My sense of the eportfolio phenomenon in the US is that the assessment/accountability end of the spectrum is where most of the money is right now. My own hope from the push toward assessment-management is that these systems will get eportfolios in place on many campuses and then other uses will be discovered
Trent, I agree with your statement that e-portfolios are being adopted because of the assessment/accountability needs of institutions. The challenge with that scenario is that we are turning off a lot of students (and perhaps also faculty) in the process because of high stakes accountability. Perhaps formal education is validating Lee Shulman's assertion that one of the five dangers of portfolios is "perversion"! As he says in Nona Lyons' book (1998) With Portfolio in Hand,
If portfolios are going to be used, whether at the state level in Vermont or California, or at the national level by the National Board, as a form of high stakes assessment, why will portfolios be more resistant to perversion than all other forms of assessment have been? And if one of the requirements in these cases is that you develop a sufficiently objective scoring system so you can fairly compare people with one another, will your scoring system end up objectifying what's in the portfolio to the point where the portfolio will be nothing but a very, very cumbersome multiple choice test? (p. 35)
At the IRA conference earlier this month, I got a round of applause for the statement, "High stakes accountability is killing portfolios for learning." In the drive to use portfolios as assessment OF learning, we are in danger of losing the power of portfolios to support reflection and assessment FOR learning. I'm starting to collect stories about student rebellion against this approach, like the college student in a midwest university who ran for student body president on a platform to get rid of the campus-wide assessment portfolio. Then, there are high school students in the Pacific Northwest who built a bonfire and burned their mandatory graduation paper-based portfolios (eSchool news quoted me on this story as the opening of their article about the TaskStream research project.... Of course they didn't quote me on the other story about the high school student who offered a $50 reward to recover her lost writing portfolio.) I tell both of those stories in more detail in the TaskStream White Paper.

I also think purpose is inextricably linked with process (per Activity Theory) and the tools tend to be developed to support the primary purpose. In my incomplete survey of different online tools to construct e-portfolios, it was obvious to me that the tools tend to favor one approach over the other. Those tools that purport to be more "assessment management systems" tend to provide an institution-focused structure that makes it much easier to "score" but more difficult for the learner to tell their own story of their learning. There were some systems that I tried where I could not create the portfolio that I wanted... I was forced to use a pre-set template. For me, the bottom line is "ownership" - and I was pleased at the ePortfolio conference in Vancouver, B.C. last month where the general consensus of the participants and presenters was that learners owned their own portfolios. Based on that statement, the tools should support that ownership in every way possible. I am finding that those systems based on an online database to capture assessment data provide far less creativity in appearance and organization than other tools. So I am making a plea to educational institutions for balance in the purposes for implementing e-portfolios, and to the software developers for more creativity and flexibility in the presentation tools.

Labels: ,


Saskatchewan Learning

I just received notification about a new resource posted online at the Saskatchewan Learning Website:
A JOURNEY OF SELF-DISCOVERY: Facilitator's Guide to Reflection and Portfolio Development [PDF]
This guide has been developed to support facilitators as they lead learners through a process of thinking about what they know and can do (reflection). Through involvement in these activities, learners identify the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they have developed, and create evidence of their learning. These general activities are intended to be adapted by facilitators to meet the needs of any group.
This is a great resource for those facilitators who help learners with self-assessment in preparation for PLAR portfolios (Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition).

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Reality Check!

Every few years, I need to do a hands-on technology project with school-age students, as a reality check on my theories about electronic portfolios or digital storytelling in education. This week, I worked with two dozen eighth grade English students (my daughter's students at a private school in Anchorage). The experience was eye-opening, exhausting and exhilarating! We produced 22 digital family stories, between one and three minutes long. We spent one day in a portable classroom, where only one computer had Internet access. I had a small office to do the audio recording, which did have high speed wireless Internet. As a private school, there are not the technology resources available (the classroom computers were still using Windows 98). There was no computer lab available to us during the period when the class met, but we reminded ourselves that is was a writing activity, not a computer lesson!

While we struggled with the technology (or lack thereof) as well as the wide variation in students' technology skills, we explored a variety of strategies to be able to accomplish this task with the resources at hand. Several students brought in their own computers, usually at the wrong time. After all of the student stories were written, recorded, and pictures collected, we were in the school until midnight last night, putting them all together using iMovie5, which worked for us flawlessly! We will duplicate a CD of the movies for all of the students next week. It's been an eye-opening experience for me: how to do 22 digital stories with 8th graders using two Mac G4 Powerbooks, two scanners, two digital cameras and a few other internet-connected computers for finding pictures.

We are both planning digital stories about the process. I was reminded that the project we did with these students in 6 hours of class time (plus a lot of pull-out time for individual work) is what we normally do with adults in 16-24 hours. These are not CDS-quality stories, and we ran out of time to select music to go along with any of them, but most of the students were very pleased when they privately reviewed their stories with me this morning. But I also realize that it would have been impossible for my daughter to do this project alone, with the constraints she has, both in block scheduling (we didn't see the students every day) and with the technology constraints. And she only had 13 students in each class! I have a greater appreciation for my fellow Apple Distinguished Educators who support these types of activities in schools every day! I also know why many, if not most, teachers would not take on such an ambitious project without a good support system, which is lacking in many financially strapped educational systems today. Nor is there time in the curriculum because of accountability demands....but that is another story!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


10 Years Ago

Last Friday, I filled out the paperwork to officially retire from the University of Alaska. I am presently cleaning out a few boxes that were still here in storage, going through old files since 1992! One folder held an especially poignant document: the purchase order for the first web server in the School of Education, dated May of 1995! Ten years ago this month. It was from that web server that I published my first pages on electronic portfolios, using the URL. That Mac web server had a 1 GB hard drive, and ran steadily for about 4 years before it was retired. I now have a flash drive in my purse with that much storage! My how technology changed over the last ten years! I just read an online article about the new standards for HD DVDs being debated by the tech companies: up to 30 GB per side!


Sunday, May 15, 2005


Podcasting with Audacity

I'm up in Anchorage, working with a variety of people on Digital Storytelling. Last week, I met with my daughter's 8th Grade Language Arts classes, and gave them a brief introduction to Digital Family Stories. Tomorrow, we start constructing their own digital stories. Yesterday, I worked with a colleague and a young mother, to help them both begin the process of recording their stories. One had been working on her story for several months; the other for just a day. By the end of the day, they both had recorded their stories, adding a music track, and were ready to add images to the timeline of their video editors.

I was a little out of my comfort zone, mostly because I was helping them use software that I don't normally use (Audacity and MovieMaker2) on a platform I normally don't use (Windows XP). So, we plunged in together, learning as we went along, making the usual mistakes, and referring to the online reference manual only when we were desperate. By the end of the day, we produced what I suppose is called a "Podcast" file...a digital audio clip suitable for use in a variety of formats, including a digital story, a website, or an iPod or MP3 player.

I had seen Audacity before, but normally use Sound Studio on my Mac to record audio. We normally record each paragraph of a story as a separate file, and then place them in order on one audio track of the movie editor's timeline. On the second audio track, we place the music, and adjust the volume so that it doesn't overpower the voice. But since we were working in MovieMaker2, the free software that comes with Windows XP, we only had one sound track available. So we had to construct the sound track outside of the movie editor. That's why I plunged into learning Audacity.

Audacity is free, open source software, available for Mac OS X, Windows or even Linux. Once I experimented a few times, I determined how to work around the limitations of the software to meet our needs. For example, after recording a track, when you record a second track, it places it in the same file, at the beginning, so that both tracks play simultaneously. Maybe there is a setting I don't know how to change, but we figured out that if you open a new file, record the second clip, select all of it and copy it, you can paste it at the end of the timeline of the first clip (a process we repeated until the story was complete). Within about an hour, both women had their 3 minute stories recorded, paragraph by paragraph. Adding the music was another challenge, but I was able to import a second track in Audacity, and lower the volume under the voice-over track, and produce a final audio file that included both narration and music.

Why am I struggling with free software for this task? Why not purchase software that will do the job more effectively (and also, why not just use iMovie on a Mac???)? For the simple reason that I am working with novices who already have Windows XP computers, and they just want to get started learning the digital storytelling process. Rather than making an investment in new software, which has a higher learning curve (and level of frustration), we chose to use what they had, or could download for free. I warned them about the limitations of the tools, and that they might outgrow the software very soon, but I wanted them to have a successful first experience. Of course, I may grumble later about the difficulty of publishing these movies to more accessible formats, like DVD, but that will be all part of the learning process.

I have been having a debate with other digital storytellers about the pros and cons of using the more high end tools (Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, Pinnacle Studio, etc.). Those are all what I would call "pro-sumer" tools: lots of capability, but with complexity comes confusion and frustration at the beginning of the learning process. And since I began my career studying how people teach themselves how to use personal computers, I know that a positive first experience is important, and the ability to intuitively explore a tool contributes to the process of self-directed learning. One of my mantras (from my dissertation) is, "When learning new tools, use familiar tasks, and when learning new tasks, use familiar tools." When we make it too hard, we turn off the beginners. My goal is to get them excited about what they have achieved, and to understand the process, so that they can transfer that enthusiasm and awareness to more advanced tools when they are ready.

I am convinced that philosophy works with adult learners. This week, I will have an opportunity to test it out with 8th graders. Stay tuned (and wish me luck!)!


Sunday, May 08, 2005


The Work of Stories

I'm at MIT's Work of Stories conference in Boston, in a session on Stories in the Classroom. The presenter read a passage from a book and asked us to do a fast write. Here is mine:
That last passage sounds like the type of writing we do in blogs. It is the personal, reflective, first person narrative that is so powerful. I'm also convinced that the power of digital storytelling is in the storyteller's own voice...both literally and rhetorically. That is why I do what I do... what drives my work: to help people find their voice... in their words spoken from the heart.
This was an interesting conference. On the first day, I thought I was on another planet, where almost every presenter in the breakout sessions I attended read their papers to the audience. Is this what an academic conference is really like? Luckily, on the last two days, the presenters either told stories themselves, or had more engaging slides on the screen. There were the usual problems with the technology in a few of the rooms, like the sound didn't work. But I gained some new ideas. It is always delightful to hear Joe Lambert speak, since he provides both humor and quick insights. I also made some new acquaintances, people interested in similar topics. There were a group of us that tended to show up in the same breakout sessions.

The Saturday night session provided examples of MIT faculty storytelling projects. I was especially impressed by one graduate student's electronic brush, that was a combination micro video camera and a brush for electronically painting on a screen. We saw videos of kindergarten children using the brush to copy colors, objects or short video sequences, and then paint what they captured on the computer screen. I hope we will see this tool available as a commercial item soon.

The panelists at the closing session provided an overview of the three days, invoking a bit of controversy, but providing a good way to end the weekend. As one participant observed, "Some people said it was too academic, others said it wasn't academic enough!" That means the program provided both theoretical and practical insights. I'm glad I traveled all the way across the country to attend what was basically a free conference.


Monday, May 02, 2005


Whirlwind Workshops

On Friday and Sunday, I conducted a couple of hands-on workshops which were very interesting. On Friday, I led two half-day (2.5 hours) workshops at Kean University in New Jersey on the Tools for Digital Storytelling: Windows in the morning, Macintosh in the afternoon. I based the workshops on my webpage with a "Getting Started Tour of the Tools."
Digital Storytelling Tools for Windows XP
In this hands-on session, learn about Windows software used for digital storytelling. We will create a short digital story using a photo editor to manage images and two different programs to edit video. All software used will be available for free download from the WWW.
Digital Storytelling Tools for Macintosh OS X
In this hands-on session, learn about using the Macintosh iLife tools for digital storytelling. We will create a short digital story using iPhoto to edit images, and iMovie to edit video.
I was really pleased with the Windows workshop. The software was loaded on the laptops, but not on the presentation machine, so I quickly installed the software before I ran it, to show how easily it could be up and running. We walked through a sampler of Audio Editors and Image Editors, but focused most of our time on MovieMaker2, PhotoStory and Photo to Movie. We used my "Short Movie" exercise (7 images of D.C. and a 23 second recording of President Reagan). A few of the participants hung around almost an extra hour! My impression was that I was really learning along with the participants, not too far ahead of them with these tools, so we had a lot of fun. The afternoon workshop was the first I have conducted using the newest version of iLife (iPhoto5 and iMovieHD). Apple moved some of the commands between versions 4 and 5! I fumbled a little, but we got through all of the programs, including creating movies with those same 7 images using iPhoto, iMovie and Photo to Movie.

On Sunday, I did another hands-on workshop at the International Reading Association Technology Institute in San Antonio, immediately after my after-lunch keynote address. The lab at the San Antonio Convention Center had about 30 Windows computers and 30 Macs. I looked at the computers when I arrived in the morning and couldn't find MovieMaker on the Windows computers. So I loaded the sample files on the Mac desktops. However, one of the more tech-savvy participants found it, so she quickly helped those sitting at the Windows computers to launch the software and also, thanks to two flash drives, load the files. The podium had presentation stations for both platforms connected to a switch box, so I could do a short demo on iMovie for the Mac users, then switch over to MovieMaker2 for the Windows users. We were able to construct a rough edit (add the sound track and place the 7 images on the timeline) on both platforms at the same time, all in 40 minutes!

That is the shortest hands-on workshop I have ever conducted! But people left having some idea about how digital stories are built, using one of these tools. I also realized how similar and different the tools are. MovieMaker2 has the capabilities of iMovie five years ago, but the three step approach seems to scaffold the approach a little more (1. Capture Video, 2. Edit Movie, 3. Finish Movie). With iMovie, there are more options and capabilities (especially the still motion "Ken Burns" effect), but the initial experience for novices can be a little more confusing (how to get started? which tab to click?). To say the least, I was exhausted at the end of that short time, but felt good about what we were able to do, with thanks to Diane Tracey (who asked me to do the workshop and helped the Mac users) and that other techie, whoever she was, who helped with Windows. My public thanks!


Saturday, April 23, 2005


On the Other Hand

I should balance the negative comments that I made after the LIFIA Forum on Electronic Portfolios in Vancouver. I mentioned the first report from the research on the eFolio Minnesota project conducted by Darren Cambridge. I am anxious to see the full report about the first portfolio system available free to the population of an entire state. It was one of the systems that I tried during my "online portfolio adventure" last fall. Lifia has announced the availability of ePortfolios to all Lifia members, using the Avenet software, the same company providing the software for the eFolio Minnesota.

At the Lifia meeting, I also appreciated the emphasis on learner ownership of their portfolios. That seemed to be a theme that was emphasized over and over throughout the two days. I especially appreciated an educator from North Vancouver, who emphasized her 3 Rs of portfolios: Relevance, Respect, Responsibility for learning. Another theme that resonated with me: the portfolio as "identity formation" and "expression of self" which reinforces the learner-centered nature of portfolios.


Thursday, April 21, 2005


Frequently-Asked Questions

I've decided to add another page to my website: Frequently-Asked Questions about Electronic Portfolio. I designed it as a quick guide to documents on my own site. I will soon add links to other web pages on the Internet that further elaborate on these questions. I also created an FAQ on Digital Storytelling.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Poisoning the Well?

I've just finished three days in Vancouver, B.C., focusing on ePortfolios, first at the LIFIA Pan American Forum on ePortfolios, and then doing the keynote at the preconference session of the BCEd Online conference. It is interesting to compare the two meetings. The LIFIA meeting brought together a small group of ePortfolio researchers and developers from across mostly North America and a few from Europe. For the first time, I heard some of the results of the evaluation of the MNSCU project, of the eFolio Minnesota, available to any resident of that state. What is fascinating to me is the positive response to the use of their system, which is not mandatory. It makes me think that the power in portfolios is "choice." I was heartened by the pervasive opinion of the LIFIA participants, that learners owned their own portfolios (not the institution or provider).

After my keynote presentation for BCEd Online this morning, I had a teacher come up to tell me about his own son, in the 10th grade, where B.C. requires students to begin their required high school graduation portfolios. As he expressed it, his son hates his portfolio, at least the way he is required to do it. His teacher told him not only what he had to put into his portfolio (based on the provincial requirements) but also what he couldn't, even though those items were the most meaningful to him. I want to ask, after all, who's portfolio is it? Or is it really a "portfolio?"

It made me think about some comments that I heard last fall, from the developer of the Minnesota project, that some of these mandatory implementations of portfolios were "poisoning the well" for many learners, both at higher ed and K-12. The little I hear about what is happening with the top-down mandates has that same effect. It breaks my heart, because we are ruining for many learners the whole portfolio concept, due to uninformed implementation.

I made the public statement this week, that high stakes assessment and accountability are killing portfolios as a reflective tool to support deep learning. Those mandated portfolios have lost their heart and soul: not creating meaning, but jumping through hoops!


Wednesday, March 09, 2005


REAL Portfolios

I have a new title for one of my presentations: REAL Electronic Portfolios: Reflection, Engagement and Assessment for Learning. The presentation will focus on the role of these three elements in portfolio development. I'm really into acronyms these days... acronyms that also have literal meanings, such as the REFLECT Initiative using those same concepts: Researching Electronic portFolios: Learning, Engagement, Collaboration through Technology.


Friday, March 04, 2005


A Successful Day

On February 25, 2005, I led a day-long ePortfolio Dialogue Day: Digital Stories of Deep Learning for Students and Faculty for Maricopa Community Colleges in Tempe, Arizona. Following on the success of the ePortfolio conference on Reflection at the University of British Columbia, the Maricopa organizers selected five students to participate in a panel, and then show their portfolios over the lunch hour, along with five faculty members. The audio recording of the student panel is also online at the Maricopa site.

I also received very positive comments from the conference evaluations, which showed that the faculty participants gained a lot of practical knowledge and many were looking forward to a later hands-on workshop using Maricopa's home-grown MyePort tool. I was really pleased that we were able to walk through a simple planning process and give them an organizing tool to list, categorize and reflect on their artifacts in preparation for the upcoming workshop.


Thursday, February 24, 2005


50 Words for Portfolios?

I find it interesting (and frustrating) that many educators are using the word "portfolio" to represent what I would be more apt to call an online repository or collection (or an assessment management system). There is a huge misunderstanding about what portfolios are and part of the problem is the widespread use of the term to mean many different things. Alan Levine refers to the classic story of the blind men touching the elephant (and each describing something different, based on their sense of touch). My friend John Ittelson says it is like Eskimos having 49 different words for "snow" but those who don't live in that environment tend to see it all as the same cold white stuff. That's why I try to always use an adjective with the word portfolio that describes its purpose (learning portfolio, assessment portfolio, employment portfolio, working portfolio, presentation portfolio).


Thursday, February 17, 2005


ESchool News

My interview with eSchool News was published yesterday. As usual, some of my comments were taken out of context or misquoted, but on the whole, the article outlines the REFLECT Initiative sponsored by TaskStream. The opening story is innacurate. I said it might be urban legend, but the reality of how some students feel about their portfolios can be seen in the trash cans at the end of the school year. He also didn't tell the complementary story, the other side of the coin, about the student who offered a $50 reward for the return of her lost writing portfolio, as related by Jim Mahoney in his excellent book, Power and Portfolios, published by Heinemann. The reporter also began by talking about "how students feel about creating learning portfolios" when I was really talking about students creating assessment portfolios. But then, most readers wouldn't know the difference. On the whole, though, it was a good representation of what we want to do with the REFLECT Initiative.


Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Revenge of the Right Brain

Here is a fascinating article from a recent Wired Magazine, where the author, Daniel Pink, proposes that success in the Conceptual Age (following the Information Age which is ending) will come from our abilities to use our right brains for more creative activities. Using Naisbitt's concept of "High Touch" he proposes:
High-concept means the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft satisfying narratives, to detect patterns and opportunities, to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into a novel invention. High-touch means the ability to empathize, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in the pursuit of purpose and meaning.
This article provides one more argument for including reflective portfolios and storytelling in the curriculum of schools and colleges.


Friday, February 11, 2005


A High School Inquiry

I recently received the following inquiry from a high school student from Kentucky:
I am a student in high school. Why is it manditory for me to make a proficient on my portfolio for me to graduate? I have all of my credits to graduate, but if I make lower than an proficient I don't get to graduate.
Here is how I responded:

I am so glad you wrote to me. I'm sure other high school students have the same questions. I shared your message (anonymously, of course) with a group of educators who help students develop electronic portfolios. Here are some of our collective thoughts. Your question raises a number of issues. My first question is whether you raised these concerns with your teachers, and what their response was.

My second thought is that your portfolio should be a representation of who you are through samples of your work. High graduation represents a significant accomplishment in your life that provides evidence that you are capable of doing many things [reading, writing, math, etc.] and that you are now ready for the world of work or further education. I'll bet there are four levels that your portfolio can be judged: Distinguished, Proficient, Apprentice, Novice. If you are a senior and don't know why your work should be the best you can make it, or rated at least Proficient, some people might say that you are not ready to graduate.

It is not really enough in today's climate just to jump through the hoops. Schools must build a culture of evidence. No longer is society content to accept the school's word that students are well educated and prepared for college or career. Schools must provide evidence that they are doing what they say they are doing--that their mission is, in fact, being fulfilled--that students really do have the skills and knowledge base they claim they have. I think the ePortfolio is the best means of providing evidence that students have met the school's requirements and state standards.

Would you rather spend a day taking a series of tests that just make you nervous, don't help you learn and only assess how well you can remember a lot of facts or solve a lot of problems, most of which are irrelevant to your life? And if you don't pass those tests, you have to keep taking them until you do pass? Isn't it much better to carefully and reflectively develop a portfolio that showcases your strengths and your growth over time?

If done with the right attitude, your portfolio can be useful for you to show to an employer or use in a college admission interview. It is also something that you can look back on later in your life, to remind you what high school was like and how much you have learned since you graduated!

Make your portfolio your own by showcasing those things that you are most proud of, even if they aren't done for school assignments. I hope you are allowed to individualize your portfolio, to put in pictures and maybe even some audio and video clips (that's why I like electronic portfolios!). Remember, you are telling us a story, and not just any story. Your portfolio is meant to be your story of your life over the last four years as well as the story of where your life might be going during the next four years: tell it with pride!

Good luck!
Many thanks to members of the eportfolios Listserv on Yahoo who shared their thoughts with me, as well as the Mead School District's Draft Presentation Guidelines for their Senior Culminating Project.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 10, 2005


UBC Videos online

The videos have been posted online from the University of British Columbia conference on Electronic Portfolios and Reflection last November (view from the agenda). I am encouraging them to change their QuickTime videos to "hinted" streaming format so that they can begin playing before they are fully downloaded.


A New Computer!

When Apple announced the upgrades to their PowerBook line on January 31, I submitted my order before breakfast. Then I followed the FedEx tracking page as my new computer left Shanghai, through Anchorage and Memphis until it was finally delivered to my home early last Tuesday morning. In the setup process, Apple lets you transfer all the data from your other computer. In less that two hours, all my files and data were transfered, and I thought I was looking at my older computer, of course with a larger hard drive, a SuperDrive and almost 3x as fast! And of course the new iLife software. I am in heaven! Now, I feel like I can get back to work with a reliable computer!


Monday, February 07, 2005


Response to NY Times

As the editorial in the New York Times (Reinventing High School, Feb. 1) notes, American secondary education is rife with gaps: achievement, graduation, reading, teaching and others. Ultimately, these gaps can be closed only by students themselves, and only if they have the drive to succeed. That drive comes from motivation and engagement, characteristics sadly missing in some high school students. Many of today’s teenagers’ communication and creative skills revolve around personal webpage building, file and photo sharing, music downloading, text messaging, video editing, IM-ing, and blogging. It is difficult to see where traditional 20th Century approaches to learning are motivating and engaging for these 21st Century high school students.

One promising solution is electronic portfolios, which enable students to share their accomplishments, show off their creativity, reflect on their work and be accountable for their own performance. High schools that are experimenting with e-portfolios are seeing new excitement about learning, and a narrowing of those troubling gaps.

Saturday, January 29, 2005


Researching Electronic Portfolios

I can now publically reflect on the launch of this new research project, and a major transition in my life, from a member of the faculty of the University of Alaska Anchorage (on loan to ISTE for the last three and a half years), to an independent consultant (with one primary client, right now). A year and a half ago I left the security of a tenured faculty appointment, to complete the ISTE PT3 grant project. I knew I wasn't going to live in Alaska any more, so this move was appropriate. As soon as the PT3 money runs out, I will officially retire from the University (probably next month!). I am both excited and a little apprehensive. This is a huge project we have launched.

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.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 27, 2005


Launching the REFLECT Initiative

I am at the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) where today we unveiled the REFLECT Initiative, a research project to assess the impact of electronic portfolios on student learning, motivation and engagement in secondary schools. REFLECT is an acronym that stands for Researching Electronic portFolios: Learning, Engagement, Collaboration through Technology (I LOVE it!). This research project will be underwritten by TaskStream and I am the Project Director. The website explains the project and the application process.

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.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Breaking the Silence

I realize that I haven’t written anything in my blog for almost month. I could say it was the Holidays, but I think the real excuse is a busy travel schedule and a computer that is still acting up. But this too shall pass. Next weekend I will order my new laptop. Last week I was at MacWorld and saw the new announcements. I want the new iLife05 software. There was no announcement about new Powerbooks, but I can no longer be patient. Two month of intermittent freezing is enough.

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.


Thursday, December 23, 2004


Computer years?

If a dog year is equivalent to seven human years, what is the equivalent of computer life? 20 human years for every computer year? 25? I have a laptop that is showing its age. It hasn't worked right since it came back from repair a month ago. It freezes intermittently when I am typing. Apple blames the 3rd party memory that I say worked flawlessly for 18 months before this last trip in for repair. I think it has something to do with the keyboard or mother board. Thus, not much activity on this blog, and I am way behind on e-mail since returning from New Zealand. I guess I can blame the Holidays also. As I wrote earlier about my laptop addiction, it is really hard to be without a usable laptop. I have decided that I will need a backup when I get my new one, maybe during MacWorld. I've also asked Santa for a Bluetooth keyboard that will work with my PDA and my computers.


Monday, December 13, 2004


Home from New Zealand

This was an amazing trip, from my experiences in Melbourne, on which I have already blogged, to my experiences in New Zealand, which were both exhilarating and exhausting. First stop there was Christchurch, for a breakfast seminar and workshop on electronic portfolios and digital storytelling at Ultralab. Then a quick trip to Dunedin (which I found out was the home of Cadburys chocolate in the southern hemisphere!). There, we met with Janice McDrury and Maxine Alterio, the authors of the book on learning through storytelling in higher education. We had a wonderful conversation over dinner. Then, an early flight the next morning to Hamilton, with a change of planes in Wellington. Another lunchtime seminar and then an afternoon hands-on workshop in a computer lab at Wintec. Finally, time to relax, with a home-cooked meal. Saturday we were tourists in Rotorua, a city built on geothermal springs. Add Christmas shopping to the list of activities, and it was a very full day.

Sunday allowed me to repack my many purchases, and prepare for the trip home, while also enjoying a barbeque with the staff of Wintec. Monday morning we drove into Auckland, my fifth major city in New Zealand in five days. After the last of my shopping experiences on the main street in the Central Business District (CBD), I spent the rest of the afternoon with the staff at Unitec followed by a quick trip up One-Tree Hill, the highest spot in Auckland, to take in the magnificent 360 degree view. Then away to the airport for my flight home to LAX and Seattle.

Many thanks to Elizabeth Harnell-Young, Janette Ellis and the rest of the team in Melbourne for a well planned conference. I am very grateful to Stephen Harlow for making the trip to New Zealand happen, and his masterful job as tour guide and host. And finally, thanks to Chris Jager, International Representative to the ISTE Board, for her arranging the meeting in Auckland, as well as the brief tour up the hill for that magnificent view. I am so looking forward to coming back, and spending more time “down under” both in Australia and New Zealand. The people were so warm and engaged with both my ideas on portfolios as well as my work on digital storytelling. “I will be back.”

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


ePortfolio Australia conference

Thoughts after the end of the first ePortfolio Australia conference

I am so impressed with the Australians. They really get it! This conference is smaller than the EuroPortfolio conference, but there is a lot of energy. Many people understood what I meant about assessment for learning (as contrasted with assessment of learning). It was also fun to have people walk up to me and say, "I have your CD and this is what I've done!" I feel more and more like Johnny Appleseed, planting seeds and watching them grow. Also, I made contact with someone who is working with a consultant in the Seattle area and may organize another ePortfolio conference for teachers in Australia in August or September. I hope I can come back when it is springtime here!

I chose to visit the Fraynework digital storytelling center just a few blocks from the conference location which was at the University of Melbourne. I never knew this non-profit organization existed, but they have been doing digital media production for the last nine years, Established by the Sisters of Mercy, this organization has about 20 employees doing web, multimedia and video production for CD, DVD and the WWW. As I watched their "Lore of the Land" CD on Australian Aboriginal people's relationship to their land, I felt like I could have been watching Alaska Native people who have the same worldview.

As the director of the center talked the opening presentation on the second day, she talked about the purpose of portfolios to be both for personal as well as social transformation. While social transformation hasn't been central to my vision, I can see the power of helping tell the stories of those whose voice is rarely heard. I was very impressed with her emphasis on social transformation.

There is so much going on here in Australia that links electronic portfolios and digital storytelling. Access to the Internet is another issue. There is no wireless available to conference participants, although I can go upstairs and get enough connectivity to download my e-mail. I only have full wireless connectivity in my hotel room at A$5 for 15 minutes at a time. I am finding that restriction reduces my communication, but it is not as much of a problem as not having my computer. I can prepare items to e-mail or upload to my website, and wait for the few minutes when I can be fully connected, But it forces me to be organized for those few minutes online! It also makes my replies very short!

Labels: ,

Friday, December 03, 2004


"Blog" top word

According to the Scout Report today, "Blog" is the top word of the year.
This week Merriam-Webster Inc, the company responsible for producing that venerable dictionary announced its top 10 "words of the year" list, with the immensely popular "blog" taking the number one place. The company compiles the list each year by taking the most researched words on its various Web sites...



Australia-Day 2

Arrived yesterday morning after traveling for more than 20 hours. After an afternoon nap, I had dinner with the local organizers of the ePortfolio Australia conference. Today, I met with faculty at RMIT who are interested in e-portfolios, primarily in the medical imaging program. There was one student present, who has been publishing his artistic works online, and his contribution was a valuable addition to the discussion. I also had an opportunity to see examples of some student portfolios (created with HTML authoring software), as well as some anonymous student feedback on the portfolio development process. They are taking the approach that the student should develop their own metaphor for their portfolio while including links to the program's required elements. The emphasis on creativity within an HTML format leaves the students freedom to express their personality, although in the survey many students complained about this lack of structure.

Our discussion focused on how to make the portfolio more than another assignment, to engage the learners in a more intrinsically motivating process and to see the relevance of their portfolios in the profession that they are preparing to enter. I further emphasized the "life skills" approach to using multimedia and web-based forms of communication in this century. But I also realized that I was talking to a small group that was at the cutting edge of portfolios at this institution. We have a long way to go to make the portfolio process accepted in the mainstream of formal higher education. But as we discussed, these activities are happening all around us, that if higher education doesn't start using some of these strategies, it will become more irrelevant to young learners in a digital age.

I am so impressed with the interest in digital storytelling here in Australia, with the Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI), Fraynework digital storytelling, and Once Upon a Time digital storytelling all here in Melbourne.


Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Ocotillo discussion

Posted today to Ocotillo Action Group Discussions Forum -> ePortfolio Virtual Guest Discussions:
I am so sorry that I will be on an airplane for the next 24 hours (to Australia), and I'm not sure what kind of Internet connection I will have when I get there, because I want to be able to participate in this discussion. Like David, I was in Vancouver earlier this month, and I am fascinated by the student perspective on their experiences with electronic portfolios. I agree with David's assessment that the current push toward using e-portfolios in the U.S. has elements of the "bandwagon" effect. In my work with Teacher Education programs across the U.S., the demands of accountability and accreditation have created a commercial environment that is, in my opinion, changing the nature of the portfolio, with less emphasis on intrinsic motivation to support learning and more extrinsic motivation as an accountability tool. At the Montreal ePortfolio Canada meeting, one of the representatives from the Minnesota ePortfolio project used the term, "poisoning the well" where learners are getting the wrong impression about portfolios from their only experience with one of the commercial assessment management systems. My colleague Joanne Carney found in her research that there were multiple dilemmas in electronic portfolio development, and the first was the "multiple purpose dilemma." But I digress...

The discussion so far has focused on how to engage learners in reflective activities that help them integrate their learning across courses and disciplines. I am anxious to hear more about David's research. A portfolio has a potential to support that reflective process, but learners need guidance from many faculty experienced in that type of learning...and who can model their own portfolios and folio thinking with their students. From my experience, few faculty have portfolios (other than tenure and promotion "files") and fewer still have electronic portfolios. I believe that before we can ask students to effectively use portfolios to support this type of learning, we need to get faculty engaged. That is what is so exciting about this conversation! For many of us, we didn't have these experiences in our own schooling; as with the integration of technology into teaching and learning, we have to learn as we go.

Monday, November 22, 2004


Laptop Addiction

One of the reasons that I haven't written a lot in my blog in the last four weeks is my three-week trip with sporadic WWW access, beginning with the EuroPortfolio Conference in France, and then sending my Mac laptop in for repair when I returned last week. I received it back today, and I cannot believe the sense of loss I felt during the week it took to get repaired. I still had access to computers at home and away... even a Windows XP laptop to warm my lap last week, and take on my trip to Vancouver. But it just wasn't the same as my Mac OS X G4 laptop. Then when my computer came back, the memory had been removed (a 3rd party upgrade!) and was sitting in little bags in the box. That was not the problem to be repaired! After I settled my anger down, and the man on the 800 number walked me through putting the memory back into the computer, I was back in business. My computer booted up, and there was the picture of my granchildren (my desktop background image). My anxiety slowly faded, and the laptop was comfortably back in my lap. Is there a 12-step program for laptop addiction?

It is almost frightening to realize how attached I am to this little computer... I spend more time with it than I do members of my family. But I also have to remember how much it connects me to the rest of the world: through iChat that kept me connected by voice to my daughter when she was living in Hungary and Alaska; through e-mail, that is my combination "to-do" list and professional communication tool; with my web publishing program, that helps me share my ideas with the world on my website; with my blogs for reflecting on my work and rarely (as in this post) on my feelings. I was able to function with those tools on other computers, since they had most of the same software or used web-based software, but it wasn't the same: a different keyboard means a lack of fluency when you communicate with your fingers (I've been touch typing for decades). I also find using web-mail to be less productive than using a desktop program where I have maintained e-mail files, many dating back for five years or more. Even though I made backups before I sent the computer off for repair, it just wasn't the same!

I'm planning to replace this laptop in the next few months, probably after I go to MacWorld, maybe even before Christmas. I've had this computer for over 2 and a half years, a record for me and laptops (I always wrote a new one into all my grants)! But I want a faster processor, larger hard drive, Bluetooth and a DVD recorder. I'm trying to decide which size to get: the small 12" screen which is even lighter and more portable, or the 15" screen, which is the one I have now... the size of the screen that works best with my middle-aged eyes. Whichever one I get, I know I will get just as attached as this one.


Saturday, November 20, 2004


UBC e-Portfolio Conference

Yesterday I provided the keynote address at the University of British Columbia's e-Portfolio Conference. The theme of the conference was "reflection is not a mirror, it's a lens." I modified my presentation from France and Montreal by adding new ideas on reflection, especially as it relates to the work of Jennifer Moon, James Zull, McDrury & Alterio (the storytelling researchers from New Zealand) and the foundational thinkers: Dewey, Habermas, Kolb, and Schön. It was exciting to be able to explore these ideas, and to share my own synthesis of the literature on reflection, before I related these concepts to digital storytelling and blogging.
Supporting Reflection in Electronic Portfolios: Blogs, Wikis and Digital Storytelling
This presentation will focus on the role of reflection in electronic portfolios and the tools for scaffolding reflection: blogs, wikis, digital stories and built-in forms. The presentation will cover a brief overview of the literature on reflection and learning (Schon, Dewey, Moon), including some new perspectives on storytelling as reflection on experience to improve learning (McDrury & Alterio), and the role of reflection in brain-based learning (Zull).
It was such a pleasure not to talk about assessment and accountability; it was so refreshing to focus on deep learning supported by reflection. I had a full hour for my presentation, and included more digital stories; it was nice not to feel so rushed, like the half hour that I was allowed in Montreal and France. Following my presentation, there were three panels: three faculty members from UBC sharing their experiences with reflection for transfer learning; three researchers discussing The Learning Landscape (David Tosh, Tracy Penny Light and Helen Chen by video conference); and a wonderful student panel. I understand that video of all of the presentations will be online soon.

This was the first e-portfolio conference that I have attended in the last three years that included the learners' voices. It was very validating to hear these students talk about their e-portfolio experiences. There were many ideas that the students expressed that echoed some of my concerns:These are challenges that the field needs to address: how to motivate learners to engage in the types of folio thinking that support deep learning. From those students, it was apparent that many were writing their reflections to meet the requirements of the assignment, to get the highest mark, not to really learn from their experience. Many wrote what they thought the faculty wanted them to write, not what they really felt. Perhaps that is another dilemma to add to Joanne's list: the motivation dilemma. These students mentioned that, in their busy lives with many other courses, they only wrote their reflections because it was required for a mark (an extrinsic motivator). Without that requirement, they would not have engaged in the reflection on their own (no intrinsic motivator), even though they got a lot out of the process when they were done. One student indicated that if an activity is not graded it is not valued. What does that say about the impact of evaluation on learning? I know this is the reality of schooling, and these comments came from adult learners who were very articulate. What does that say about trying to get adolescents to reflect on their learning? I think it calls for strategies that are more engaging for young learners. The process of reflection could become the process of filling in blanks on a web-based form. That just doesn't do it! We can do better than that! I think that is why my message about reflective digital storytelling is so well received.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 15, 2004


Reflection on Reflection-1

For the last half of last week, I attended the annual conference of the Association for Personal Historians, a professional organization "whose members are dedicated to helping others preserve their personal histories and life stories." Here are a few thoughts I wrote in my PDA during the final session:
As I sit here listening to stories from others telling personal histories, I am reflecting on the differences between introspection in counseling and therapy (something I have limited experience) or personal development (something I have extensive experience, especially with my Fielding friends), personal history storytelling (something I am exploring now in APH), and reflection in portfolios (an essential part of my specialized expertise). It occurs to me that the process is essentially the same. What differs is the purpose and the audience. The emotional content of both is unmistakeable, although in academia we tend to ignore it. I think we should honor the affective side of learning, which shows up in our reflections. That is what is so powerful about storytelling - it gets to the level of what is most important in our lives.
Traveling on the long plane ride back to Seattle, I read more of Jennifer Moon's book on Reflection. She highlights four major theoretical roots of reflection: Dewey, Habermas, Kolb & Schön. I also provided the keynote address for the ePortfolio Canada meeting in Montreal on Saturday. Some of the comments made me think about the differences between:The first term in each pair refers to product (portfolio is the noun), the second term represents more of the process (portfolio is the adjective). These two pairs remind me of a discussion in Kathleen Blake Yancey's book, Situating Portfolios. Some time in the near future, I will focus on the meaning behind that difference in terminology. In the meantime, I am preparing for a presentation on Reflection in Electronic Portfolios for the University of British Columbia next Friday, which will probably inspire much more reflection, and entries into this blog.


Thursday, November 11, 2004


Summary of Online Tools Study

(Posted to the E-PAC and YahooGroups listservs)
This is a good opportunity for me to share with the E-PAC my "Online Portfolio Adventure" that I conducted this fall, prior to my trip to the EuroPortfolio Conference in France several weeks ago. When I showed some examples of my experiments, Barbara Cambridge recommended that I share my experience with the E-PAC. If you have followed my blog, this will be old news.

Since early September, I have been reconstructing a new version of my electronic portfolio using, to date, 17 different software, services or online portfolio publishing strategies. I started out be constructing an Excel spreadsheet with my favorite artifacts (all weblinks to documents already online), classified those artifacts into categories of competency, which was a constructivist approach to building my portfolio. Then I proceeded to construct my portfolio based on those classifications. You will find a running record of my experiments online at:

I tried Open Source software, commercial software (including Blackboard's Content System), free website builders, blog software, content management systems and some home-grown tools. I haven't finished exploring all that I want to look at, but you can read my reflections of the process (links to my blog) along with seeing the results using each of the systems (where the account is still active). I also downloaded each version where that option was available, and also stored the downloaded version on my website.

I have not yet drawn any conclusion from this exercise, other than to say that there are definite trade-offs between "ease-of-use" of the commercial data-base driven systems, and the creativity of the other tools that allow the portfolio developer more control over the "look and feel" of their pages. As an experienced computer user and web page developer, I was frustrated with the rigidity and "forms" or "template" approach of the commercial systems as well as the current version of the OSPI. I recognize that this will be important for novice computer users and students who need that type of scaffolding. However, I was looking for the capability of creating alternative pages of my own design in many of these systems, which did not exist. I also wanted to be able to see all of the artifacts that I had uploaded (my digital archive) and was surprised that at least one of the commercial systems did not let me see an inventory/list of my uploaded documents.

I also tried to provide a first look at various characteristics of these systems, including:
- Type of software
- Cost - and How much storage space is provided for the cost
- Who the license agreement is with: the individual who owns the portfolio, or the institution that has adopted/developed the software/service/strategy
- How the portfolios are hosted: centralized server or an institution's or individual's own server space

After going through this exercise (and I am still not done), I have made new friends (and probably made more than a few people mad), but I have learned a lot about what is available in the commercial and open source space. I have also discovered how very different the tools are, and how much the tools impacted the process as well as the final product/outcome. Activity Theory works!

My next task is to look at ePortfolio software built specifically for K-12 students (a much shorter list!). But that will be after I return from the Australia ePortfolio conference in December.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 01, 2004


Reflections after EuroPortfolio 2004

Last Friday morning, I gave a keynote address at the second EuroPortfolio conference as well as chairing a session of papers as well as facilitating an open table group on digital storytelling. They kept me very busy! So on Saturday I spent a tiring but wonderful day along the banks of the Seine, walking from Notre Dame to the Eifel Tower. We dragged our computers with us and were able to find a small Internet cafe near The Louvre, where we were able to connect our computers to their Ethernet connection. I never found a wireless connection except at the conference center for two days. But I was able to stay connected the whole time I was in France. My next "nerdy" move will be to see if I can get my cell phone to work on roaming over here. If I start coming over here more often, I might take that step.

I am so pleased that my half hour message made such an impression on folks, especially the speaker who came right after me, Professor Bob Fryer from the National Health Service University, which provides professional development to the largest employer in the UK. I also liked his message as well. What impressed him was the affective nature of what I was saying about the role of storytelling in reflection. Of course, it never hurts to show a 2nd grade autobiography, or a graduate student's letter to a former teacher, or my own story of Choices on The Road Not Taken. We cannot ignore the emotional side of learning, since brain researchers tell us how critical is the affective environment. So I am even more convinced that my new message is right on target: electronic portfolios without digital stories of deep learning --without the learners' authentic voice-- are sterile checklists of skills. As I stated in my presentation:
If your eportfolios are just digital paper (text and images on the screen) you are losing a wonderful opportunity to really tell your story in your own voice. With the capability to add multimedia, audio and video, we can truly create an engaging environment to document the milestones of our lives.
I went on to talk about Story as Legacy. I asked:
What is your story? We all have a story to tell in our portfolios. These digital stories provide opportunities for a richness not possible in print. Some stories will represent the fresh innocence of youth, some will reflect the experiences of a rich life. The audiences might be worldwide, like the BBC Wales, but most likely the audiences will be small and intimate. These digital stories aren't just for professional development, or C.V. --they are our legacy for those who come after us...the stories of our lives we give to our children's grandchildren.
Just a note on technology- I wrote this entire entry on my Clie PDA while either traveling to LaRochelle on the bus or train, or sitting in the Paris airport waiting to board my flight home to the U.S. While I am not able to post to my blog from anywhere (YET!), I can write anywhere. In fact, as I reviewed some of the writings I have stored on my PDA, I realize how much of my best ideas were written using Graffitti!

I was also impressed with Australian Elizabeth Hartnell-Young's presentation on creating portfolios using mobile devices like cell phones, PDAs, etc. And after seeing the demonstration of the e portfolio system being built in Flash at the University of Wolverhampton in the U.K., with input forms sized to fit PDA screens, I am very excited about the possibilities in the next few years.

With the convergence of multiple technologies into mobile devices (i.e., cameras in cell phones and PDAs, voice recorders in high quality digital cameras and PDAs, digital photo storage in MP3 players) we will soon carry in our pockets all the tools we need to record in multimedia the "first draft" of our own personal histories.

And even though the current versions of the mobile technologies resemble the capabilities of the earliest digital cameras and digital audio recorders, I know the quality will only improve. That's what makes this whole field exciting! Even though my current Palm-based device wouldn't hold all of this entry in a single file, it was a minor inconvenience to have to open a second document. I am beginning to appreciate the "division of labor" in the technologies we can use in our e-portfolio and digital storytelling activities.

Sunday, October 31, 2004


Future Planning Metaphor

This morning I heard a sermon on the TV in my hotel room near the Paris airport. It was the Hour of Power from the Crystal Cathedral. Robert Schuller's son talked about painting a map of your future in oils not in water colors. I was very impressed with this metaphor: with water colors, you need to be very precise and the results are fixed and permanent...nearly impossible to change; with oils, you can experiment, scrape off what you don't like, or paint over it after it dries.

Friday, October 22, 2004


Digital Divide and NCLB

In this entry, after a trip to Texas I expressed my frustration over the gap that is widening between the experiences of so-called "low achievers" who are forced into a very behaviorist mode of learning, when the high achievers in more affluent districts are engaged in more creative activities. When they called the bill "No Child Left Behind" they couldn't be farther from the reality that is happening now: those children who are being subjected to all of this drill and testing (assessment OF learning, not assessment FOR learning) are being deprived of the type of education that truly lights the fire of learning, rather than filling their "buckets" of knowledge. I am worried that in the name of NCLB, more children will be left behind the creativity gap.


Monday, October 18, 2004


Lycos' Tripod powered by Trellix

While visiting a university last week, and seeing how they had their students choose any free webspace to publish their portfolios, I saw one portfolio published using GeoCities. The ease with which the graduate student published their own portfolios motivated me to find other free systems.

In my search for more free web publishing sites, I stumbled upon Tripod powered by Trellix on a website sponsored by Lycos. After the struggles that I had using GeoCities with my Mac, this site was a breath of fresh air. It uses Trellix Web Express, "a complete, browser-based web site building tool and hosting platform for online communities." As my seventeenth completed portfolio, I was able to create a set of pages, add hyperlinks, and format the document as I wanted. I'm not sure about adding artifacts that aren't in HTML or image format, but the program has a page that allows uploading ten images at a time.

The free version of the system also allows 20 MB of storage, and has quite a few templates that can be used to build the website. I could also pick from a handful of pre-designed pages. It was very easy to customize the page, remove elements that weren't needed and add components at precise places on the page. There was no need for knowledge of HTML.

The website allows users to add a blog and each entry can be assigned a new or existing category. I also figured out how to link to the blog from the first page on the site. I did not figure out how to add the link to the navigation bar. If you can ignore the banner ads at the top of the page, this is not a bad free solution.


Sunday, October 17, 2004


Effective Online Facilitators

Effective Online Facilitators is a new blog that I have joined, to work with a group of educators in Ohio who are learning to facilitate online learning, in a course taught by Jayne James. This was the first time that I created an entry using the "Blog This!" button on a Blogspot blog. What fun (but a little slow)!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


NJEDge Conference

I'm in New Jersey at the NJEDge Higher Education networking conference. In the keynote address today, we learned about students with high tech savvy and students with no tech skills sitting side-by-side in our university classrooms. We need to recognize that more and more of our students are entering our universities with web-development skills. So we need to build systems that let those students "do their thing" within a set of requirements or a model, while still providing a template or scaffolding for those students who do not have those skills. But we should develop a system that allows the learner to develop those web-based communication skills. Look at blog software as an example, with minimal formatting tools included. Students can upload their own HTML code or use the tools to construct their pages with the ease of a word processor.

I am starting to draw some conclusions about the systems, software, services and strategies that I have been exploring over the last month or so. I have to recognize the needs of institutions to build systems that don't require a lot of support. But I wonder if we aren't restricting the development of learners' information-age communication skills, by not giving them opportunities to construct free-form websites with adequate scaffolding by the system. Even though I didn't like the speed and anti-Mac nature of GeoCities, there is a model that allows individuality without having to know a lot of HTML. The same could be said for some of the CMS systems that I tried.

The dedicated online eportfolio tools that I surveyed each exhibit trade-offs between the flexibility inherent in an HTML-based tool with the relative ease-of-use but lack of creativity in a system built on a data-base. I will be developing a rubric or scales applied to each system, recognizing the “Trade-offs” and “Balance” inherent in the options available:


Sunday, October 10, 2004



It has taken me more hours to figure out this system than any of the others I tried. The interface is simple, but the version that I tried was somewhat restrictive. It didn't seem to have any way to just add a simple page. I really liked the list of "My Items" which listed every component of the portfolio, categorized by type of entry. However, there does not seem to be a way to categorize the items any other way, unless attached to another item, as I did with Competencies. The program does allow the portfolio to be exported in HTML format, but cannot be viewed publically without an invitation and password. It doesn't appear to have the assessment database in the background. It is an interesting program, but too structured for my taste. Still, I can see how if might be attractive for some institutions. One thing I did notice, when I exported my portfolio to a Zip file, iWebfolio published the HTML portfolio in frames, a violation of sec. 508 disability standards.

Nuventive has an additional program called TracDat, which is an assessment management system. At least the company has kept the two components separate, as I discuss in my "balanced model." I assume the two components talk to each other, but I have not looked at that system.


Saturday, October 09, 2004



One problem with having a lot of knowledge in this field is that I have been challenging the definitions of "ePortfolio" that I have been reading online. The following definition was published on the ePortfolio Australia website:
An e-portfolio is a web-based information management system that uses electronic media and services. The learner builds and maintains a digital repository of artefacts, which they can use to demonstrate competence and reflect on their learning. Having access to their records, digital repository, feedback and reflection students can achieve a greater understanding of their individual growth, career planning and CV building. Accreditation for prior and/or extra-curricular experiences and control over access makes the e-portfolio a powerful tool.
In the December 2002 issue of Syllabus magazine, Trent Batson gave the following definition:
Since the mid-90s, the term "ePortfolio" or "electronic portfolio" has been used to describe collections of student work at a Web site. Within the field of composition studies, the term "Webfolio" has also been used. In this article, we are using the current, general meaning of the term, which is a dynamic Web site that interfaces with a database of student work artifacts. Webfolios are static Web sites where functionality derives from HTML links. "E-portfolio" therefore now refers to databasedriven, dynamic Web sites, not static, HTML-driven sites.
My grandchildren would disagree. We publish their ePortfolios on CD-ROM and this year on DVD. Until this fall, my ePortfolio was NOT on the WWW. I would rather say that an ePortfolio is stored in an electronic container, whether it is a web-server, optical media (CD or DVD) or even video tape. An ePortfolio does not have to be on the web; a web-based or online portfolio, yes, but an ePortfolio is an electronic version of a portfolio (either electronic or paper) which Batson defined as "simply an organized collection of completed work." I also think that definition is incomplete; I would add that there are some characteristics that differentiate a portfolio for just a collection of work. The Northwest Evaluation Association developed this definition for K-12 education:
A portfolio is a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student's efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas. The collection must include student participation in selecting contents, the criteria for selection; the criteria for judging merit, and evidence of student self-reflection.
One of my concerns is that the public dialogue on electronic portfolios today is from the perspective of higher education, and that the PK-12 community is not involved. Decisions about standards for electronic portfolio systems are being developed by and for higher education, which will have a huge impact on the PK-12 community, but they are not included in the discussion.

Thursday, October 07, 2004


On the Road Again

This week I started traveling again, and will be on the road every week between now and the middle of December. The plans for a side trip to New Zealand have firmed up, so I will get to visit New Zealand before I come back from "down under." The focus of my trip to N.Z. will be storytelling in e-portfolios.

This week I visited another university that was wrestling with the issues of electronic portfolios vs. assessment management systems. I did my current presentation on Balancing “ePortfolio as Test” with “ePortfolio as Story”. They face the same accreditation pressures to use the ePortfolio for accountability, and they are very excited about digital storytelling. They are piloting several commercial programs, and I learned a lot while I was there about the pros and cons of hosting a system in-house vs. buying services, and what to look for in a system's Terms of Service. I am going back and collecting this piece of information from each commercial system that I tried. Reading the fine print on some of these systems is very enlightening. I can see another paper coming! One piece of feedback I got was that I spoke like an evangelist! Obviously my passion about this topic was evident.

I spent some time on the plane reading McDrury & Alterio's book, Learning through Storytelling in Higher Education. It is dense reading, but full of references to the literature on learning, reflection and storytelling. That book and Jennifer Moon's book on Reflection and Zull's book on The Art of Changing the Brain will be the main references that I will use in a presentation that I will be doing at UBC next month on Reflection in ePortfolios.

I decided that I was missing a component in my portfolios, that I will go back and add: my Future Learning Goals, or as it was called in one portfolio plan I saw on this trip, my Personal Mission Statement, based on the FranklinCovey Mission Builder (a very cool website). Adding that component will also give me an opportunity to refresh my memory about how each of these programs work. I am about ready to upload version #16 of my portfolio, and I have four more lined up to try. My goal is to get through all of these systems before I go on my three-week trip to France and the East Coast. But I have trips to New Jersey and Texas in between!

Saturday, October 02, 2004



Online portfolio #15 was developed by FolioTek by Lanit Consulting of Missouri. I have a more detailed discussion in my other blog. If your students have Macs, this is not a very good choice, since the program required IE 5.5 to use the editing tools, not available on Macs. There are some other issues in design, like the use of pop-up windows to preview the portfolio, and requiring a passcode to view the portfolio. Still, for Teacher Ed programs in Missouri, it has been custome-designed to meet state accreditation requirements.


Friday, October 01, 2004



I was able to experiment with the Portfolio component of College LiveText. I wrote a more detailed reflection in my WordPress blog. In summary, it is a pricey commercial system that is paid by the students, $79 per student up front for three years, without a shorter option available. There is not a lot of creativity inherent in the system design. It is essentially a standards-based assessment system that is marketed directly to administrators, and is especially attractive because there is no cost for an institution to adopt. But I sometimes wonder about programs requiring students to pay the full cost of their assessment management system.


Thursday, September 30, 2004



I was able to experiment with the Portfolio component of the Blackboard Content System. I was impressed with the use of WebDAV to upload and manage my files. I wrote a more detailed reflection in my WordPress blog. In summary, it is a very pricey commercial system if only the Portfolio component is used, but has other advantages as a comprehensive content system in a university.


Monday, September 27, 2004


TaskStream and others

I created online portfolio #12 using TaskStream, one of the first commercial systems, which began originally as a lesson/unit plan builder and rubric wizard for teachers. Their portfolio was added in the last few years, in response to the market. I know that the developers have tried to be responsive to the needs of their customers; they recently added a "folio assessment and data reporting system" to meet accreditation and licensure requirements, and are adding a video server in the coming year. I also know that they have used some of my ideas in their development...their matrix of artifacts and standards was code-named the "Helen Barrett matrix" during development. So, I decided it was long overdue for me to get my hands on this system.

I was impressed with the number of templates that were pre-designed for the presentation portfolios. If you don't know anything about HTML AND you have a Windows computer, this would be a very nice tool. However, as a Mac user, I had to use an HTML version of my documents to be able to get HTML code into the pages. And the coded links didn't work once I published the portfolio, so I really didn't need to use HTML at all.

My conclusion about this system is that it provides a very powerful set of tools for teachers and teacher education students. I have not used the other tools (Unit Builder, Lesson Builder, Rubric Wizard or the Communication tools) since I was only replicating my portfolio. I am also impressed that the system allocates 100MB of storage space, enough for all of the digital video that I have used in this portfolio (linked to other server space that I have). The system has a menu to "Manage Online Storage" and a way to inventory all of the documents that were uploaded. I can see why this is a very popular system in Teacher Education programs.

I briefly looked at the websites for the other commercial tools that market to Teacher Education programs (LiveText, Chalk & Wire, FolioTek) and other higher education tools (ePortaro, nuventive). Only one of them offers a trial version online to be able to try out their program (FolioTek, but it wasn't automatic...I am still waiting for a call from a sales rep). Chalk & Wire and LiveText advertise that they offer unlimited storage space for their customers' portfolios. The other websites don't indicate their storage limits.


Saturday, September 25, 2004


Folio Live

I am now reviewing the commercial tools, and have just re-created my portfolio in McGraw-Hill's Folio Live, a tool specifically developed for Teacher Education. It took me about three hours to finish all of the entries using this program, because I chose to use the program as it was intended: a collection of artifacts with reflections.

The layout is very plain, with only four templates to select. The lack of flexibility in the layout was frustrating. Still, I can see that this tool would be useful for novices, especially if I used a pre-set template. There was absolutely no need to know HTML (unless you wanted to embed links in the narrative).

I really like the "Manage Artifacts" function, where I can see all of the artifacts that I have uploaded (my archive). I could also record my reflections on each artifact or an optional introduction (a caption), before viewing the artifact. However, there is no built-in way to reflect on a grouping of artifacts (a category). Under a category, there was only a list of links to the artifacts, with no option for meta-reflection, unless I inserted that overall reflection as another artifact.

The one feature that is very useful is Download Portfolio, which is designed to create a Zip file to download the portfolio to my hard drive. However, it did not work with Mozilla on my Mac (the folder was empty) but worked when I downloaded the Zip file with Safari. I had a complete version of my portfolio in HTML format on my hard drive. But on a Saturday afternoon, the program was very slow. I can see why this program is not very popular in Teacher Ed.


Thursday, September 23, 2004


MNSCU ePortfolio

This process is becoming "a-portfolio-a-day" as I try out different systems. Today, I explored the first tool developed for statewide implementation, the eFolioMinnesota hosted by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and developed by Avenet. It took me about three hours to finish all of the entries for my portfolio in this system using my browser, which was mostly a copy/paste job between the source code of my Mozilla portfolio and this system. I had to enter the HTML source from all of the pages, to get links into this system, because the system is not Mac-friendly...the editing tools do not appear in my browser (Mozilla).

I spent a lot of my time turning off the different sections that were pre-set in the template. Many of the items that I deleted were sections in my Vita (education, professional development, professional goals, etc.). The interface takes a little time to learn, a process that is helped by the tour that comes with the system. If you don't know anything about HTML AND you have a Windows computer, this would be a very nice tool. However, as a Mac user, I had to use Mozilla Composer to be able to get HTML code into the pages.

My conclusion about this system is that it meets the goals of its original funders (the Department of Labor) for an expandable resume, accessible to all citizens of the state of Minnesota. The addition of documents to the system was limited (with only 3 MB of space provided), and no way to inventory all of the documents that were uploaded. As an online resume or an employment/marketing portfolio, it is very usable system. However, the system would need additional components to support a reflective, lifelong learning portfolio.


Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Planning High School Portfolios

I received another inquiry today from a graduate student:
I am a graduate, post-bach student at ... Our program requires that we complete a service learning project, which will benefit out site school. ___ High School has a student who is incredibly interested in developing an electronic portfolio that will showcase her work, in order for her to gain acceptance into a electronic gaming program at the school of her choice. The school is behind her 100% of the way, and has also decided that it would be a good initiative to make it a requirement for seniors, in order to graduate. __HS wishes to write the creation of electronic portfolios into the school's curriculum-that is where my grad cohort comes in. We have offered to help this student successfully complete a portfolio and then go further to write curriculum that will include putting together an electronic portfolio, for each student during their four years of high school. I was wondering if you have any advice...
Here is my response:
Regarding the requirement for all students in a high school to put together an e-portfolio, I would go slowly and carefully address the support requirements. If this student is creating a portfolio to show her technology skills (to get into an electronic gaming program), my guess is that her technology skills surpass the average student in the school. Do not assume that just because she can create her own portfolio (you did not say what tools she would use or how she would publish her portfolio), that the average student would be able to create a similar portfolio. Rather than work with a single student, you need to look at a small cohort. As a grad student, you should know that it is difficult to generalize from a "n" of 1.

I always ask 4 questions when planning for implementing portfolios:
  1. Where are the portfolio requirements introduced to students, including purpose and audience?
  2. Does the curriculum support the accumulation of artifacts in a working portfolio (i.e., not just a lot of quizzes and test scores)?
  3. What kind of support is available to help the student develop their presentation portfolio for graduation?
  4. How will the portfolio be assessed, who is responsible, when in the program will the portfolio be assessed?

I believe that electronic portfolios begin with a digital archive of a learner's work, so you need to figure out the digital storage requirements. I recommend a content management system (CMS) that provides an easy way to inventory the stored artifacts. Then, the CMS can be used to develop a presentation portfolio, without having to learn HTML. Students need to get into the habit of saving their work in a digital format.

If I can be so bold, I don't think a group of college students should develop a new curriculum to implement portfolios in a high school. To be successful, the teachers in that school need to retain ownership of the curriculum and should be able to identify opportunities in the existing curriculum where artifacts can be collected. Portfolio development should be a natural part of the program, not an add-on or a separate curriculum. Where you can help is with identifying the technology support needs and showcasing practices that can be easily integrated into the existing program. If changes need to be made in the curriculum, these should be initiated by the teachers and school leadership.

The literature on change also points out five elements of change:
Vision, Skill Development, Incentives, Resources and an Action Plan. You can help build a Vision by helping to develop models of what is feasible as well as possible. You can help with Skill Development by identifying strategies for training in technology as well as portfolio strategies. The school leadership needs to identify the Incentives, Resources and develop an Action Plan.

Labels: ,

Monday, September 20, 2004


Plone ePortfolio & PLP

I took the advice of one comment in this blog, and explored the use of Plone, an open source content management system. I downloaded the Macintosh version to my laptop, but have not tried it there yet. My ISP does not support the Zope server, so I could not load it on my server space. However, I found a free Zope/Plone server in Europe that allows 10 MB of online space for non-commercial use. I uploaded my portfolio documents to this site. Now, I am trying to figure out how to make it visible without a password.

It is a relatively easy system to learn, although it doesn't convert URLs in the text to links (I had to upload HTML code from documents that I had created in Mozilla). I was impressed that it automatically created a web page with links to documents that were stored in folder. I can see real possibilities for using this system for portfolio development.

I also used a customized system, the Personal Learning Plan developed by David Gibson through the Vermont Institutes. The program is designed to be used with a set of standards, rubrics to evaluate the documents, and feedback from an advisor. When I published my portfolio, the system automatically added those extra blank sections at the bottom of each page. The program was relatively easy to use, but I only used a small part of what it was designed to do.



Weekend at Skywalker Ranch

I spent the weekend at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in California, as a new Faculty Associate for the George Lucas Educational Foundation. To say that this place was impressive would be an understatement. From the Inn and the apartments that make up the lodge to the main house where we had dinner and a special movie in the private screening room, it was a magical weekend. We also did some good work, helping GLEF make its wonderful resources more accessible to Teacher Education.


Thursday, September 16, 2004


The Digital Life

Jeremy has again written a very insightful piece on recording life stories in digital format, preserving the memories of our lives for a very small audience, probably our descendents to read at some future time. I really appreciate how well he expressed some of my own thoughts. As I stated in my GLEFFA entry:
After I retire from the University of Alaska Anchorage, my husband and I want to begin providing training to "baby boomers" and senior citizens on using digital storytelling to preserve their memories and life stories for future generations; our mission statement: "using today’s technology to tell yesterday’s stories to tomorrow’s generations." The current popularity of scrapbooking and genealogy all indicate that there is an interest to preserve these memories. But those who study genealogy know that we can find the dates and facts about a life, but stories that are not preserved are lost forever. Everyone has a story to tell. Digital storytelling is one way to preserve and share our family legacies.

Here is an opportunity for schools, as well, to bring this digital storytelling process to their communities, to match young people who have the technology skills with older people who have the stories to be preserved. Then, we can truly become a community of lifelong learners who share our knowledge and wisdom with each other.
This reminds me of the weblinks in my blog entry on the Jane Pauley show and specifically the Story Corps program. The Smithsonian Institute has set these booths up, and participants must agree to preserve their stories with them. But still, it is a great opportunity to create a CD audio recording. The process is very interesting: two people go into this booth and have a conversation for 50 minutes. They walk away with a CD. Imaging the kinds of 3-minute digital stories you could build from that process!

My daughter had a very precious hour that she tape recorded with her grandfather, who has since passed away. We have the clips digitized, and will eventually build several digital stories. I have collected hours of videos of my granddaughters, and have put together quite a few clips. My goal this winter is to develop a DVD for the family for Christmas presents (don't tell!). We also have a great aunt who just passed away, and I am building a digital story for her family memorial service.

So storytelling, like learning, is lifelong.


Wednesday, September 15, 2004


BlogWave Studio

I started to experiment with BlogWave Studio for .Mac accounts. Until I get my serial number, I won't be able to post the entries online. However, I am impressed with the user interface, the built-in image editor that picks up images from my iPhoto Library, and the flexibility in building different types of pages and paragraphs within a document. It also allows categories and tabs to separate postings under each category. The website has short video clips that demonstrate the various functions, a very nice "Atomic-learning" type of training, without sound. I am anxious to get the full working version. The company has a very strict licensing process, requiring the name of my .Mac account (I have two) plus the serial number of the computer where the software will be installed. A lot of security for a $20 program!


Tuesday, September 14, 2004


TypePad ePortfolio

I re-created my electronic portfolio with TypePad, a blog service using a version of the Movable Type (MT) blogging software. I had to adapt to the blog organization schema (reverse chronological) so I entered each of the pages in the reverse order that I wanted them to appear. MT allows categories, but not subcategories, but it will allow posts to have multiple categories assigned. There are several things I liked about this system.
I would like to get the free version of Movable Type set up on my own server space, to be able to play with it further. I just need to deal with its difficult installation process working with my ISP. I can wait until my TypePad trial subscription runs out.

I will continue to recreate my online portfolio for the next few weeks, to prepare for an article that I plan to publish in a journal. I am keeping track of the various versions on my website.



Mozilla Composer and WordPress

It took me a couple more hours each, and I tried out two more tools for publishing my e-portfolio online: Mozilla Composer and WordPress, a blogging program. I chose Mozilla because the software is free, and cross-platform. The program was an improvement over the older Netscape Composer, and had many nice features. I found that when I copied contents of pages with weblinks with the browser, Mozilla Composer maintained the hyperlinks. I had to manually date the pages, and create links to the index page. But generally, it was easier to use than Geocities, and gave me a basic set of hyperlinked pages. I also created a PDF archive of this site with Adobe Acrobat's Open Web Page feature (version 5).

The WordPress portfolio was basically a set of blog entries with links to artifacts posted to the web. I could not upload documents from the authoring mode, but I still have a lot to learn about the program. I like the categories and subcategories for organizing the entries, although I had a few problems with the order. With the categories, this type of program has possibilities for portfolio development. I wonder when this open source software will become multi-user.


Monday, September 13, 2004



I spent way too much time tonight, re-creating my e-portfolio using Yahoo's GeoCities. Here are my reflections on the process of re-creating this electronic portfolio. In reality, this is the third tool I have used to publish my e-portfolio on the Web. The first version of my new e-portfolio was published using a portfolio system developed by the Maricopa Community Colleges. The second version I developed used the Manila system in use by Fairleigh Dickinson University. I decided to use my Yahoo Geocities account to set up a third version.

It took me about five hours to finish all of the entries using the GeoCities PageBuilder, which was mostly a copy/paste job between the most recent version of this portfolio (on the FDU website) and my web browser. The Yahoo PageBuilder was very slow, froze many times, and I had to restart several times. Plus, I had to use a Windows laptop and download Firefox to be able to even begin the task. I think I should have created the files in Dreamweaver or Composer and upload the raw HTML files. It probably would have been faster. But I wanted to learn this system, to see how it works. If there is no other system available, and the user doesn't know HTML, it might be OK, but I realized how much I needed to draw on my understanding of web page development to complete this version.


Saturday, September 11, 2004


Transformational Technology?

In an interesting refereed journal article, these authors report on a study conducted after graduate students participated in a blog at a university in Australia. Their conclusions:
In short, blogs have the potential, at least, to be a truly transformational technology in that they provide students with a high level of autonomy while simultaneously providing opportunity for greater interaction with peers. A blogging tool would be a valuable addition, therefore, to any LMS.

Williams, J. B. and Jacobs, J. (2004). Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20(2), 232-247.

Friday, September 10, 2004


FDU ePortfolio System

I decided to complete the ePortfolio that was set up for me by Fairleigh Dickinson University. It took me about two hours to finish all of the entries in the Manilla-based portfolio system, which was mostly a copy/paste job between my first portfolio (on the Maricopa website) and my web browser. Not too bad for 20+ entries. I had to refresh my memory about how to make links to internal pages, something I did not have to learn in the other system.

It is clear to me that most of the work involved in creating an electronic portfolio is in collecting (digitizing the artifacts), selecting the appropriate artifacts, and reflecting why those artifacts were selected and what they mean about my learning and growth over time. The actual time it takes connecting the artifacts and reflection with hyperlinks and publishing an electronic portfolio using any system is a small percentage of the total portfolio development time.


Thursday, September 09, 2004


Maricopa ePortfolio system

In my WordPress blog today, I provided feedback to the developer of Maricopa's ePortfolio system. I spent about eight hours yesterday constructing a new e-portfolio for myself, using this tool. Here are the thoughts I had about the system, after "sleeping on it" (rather briefly, if you follow the time stamps!).

Rather than publishing the rather long entry, I just made a link to the entry above. This is the first of many systems that I want to use, to construct an electronic portfolio. Now that I have about 20 artifacts identified, all with URLs, I have the contents of the portfolio (artifacts with reflections, categorized by groups of competencies). My Portfolio-at-a-Glance (PDF) provides the framework that I can use for future examples.


Tuesday, September 07, 2004


Blogger model for ePortfolios

As I was setting up another blog, using Blogger, and marveling at how easy it is, it occurred to me that the Blogger model might be developed for e-portfolio construction. Blogger is currently a free service from Google, and an individual can either use the Blogspot hosting site to hold the files, with ads added to the top of the page, or change the publishing settings to FTP the entries to my own server, without ads. I can attach files and images, which are stored in my server space. The entries are stored chronologically, but other blogging software allows categories and subcategories. The software handles the organization, but the files are stored in my own server space. Albeit, I pay for my domain name and server space on an annual basis, but I am not using even half of my space allocation.

Why can't there be a similar type of software, similar to Blogger, that allows me to choose a different form of organization? What needs to be added to Blogger? Categories and sub-categories plus a tool to inventory the attachment files, to be able to use them in other entries. Right now, I think they can only be used in the original entry (unless I manually enter the full URL of the file). Word Press allows Categories, but the organization within each one is still chronological, the most recent on top. Perhaps that is not terrible for a portfolio, but I would like more control over the organization.

Of course, I could use a web publishing service, like Yahoo's GeoCities, to create static web pages, but there are limitations with the amount of free storage space. I really like the ease-of-use that I have with Blogger or Word Press, or any of the other blogging tools I have tried. Perhaps I am asking for a hybrid between the Open Source Portfolio and the open source Word Press blogging software.

Labels: ,

Sunday, September 05, 2004


Educause Review

In the latest issue of the Educause Review, there are four articles that are very interesting:

These are very interesting articles that highlight emerging technologies in higher education. With some adaptation, they also can apply to K-12 education. In fact, the first article on blogging begins by describing the use of blogs in a school in Quebec, that I recently found.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Storytelling on TV

I just finished watching the Jane Pauley show, which focused on personal storytelling. The first part was an emotional story of a woman with ALS who was telling her story for her very young son. I wish they had given more tips on how to tell these stories, rather than just showing the examples. I got a lot more out of the non-profit Story Corps program, which maintains a small soundproof booth in Grand Central Station where two (or three) people record a 40-minute CD for $10. There are many excerpts from those recordings on their website, which also has some great resources for interview questions and recording tools. The third example was the 100-word autobiography project sponsored by the Washington Post. That sounds like a great tool to limit the length of digital stories. Several examples shown on the show looked like classic digital stories told with still images. The show's website mentioned the SOLEIL LIFESTORY NETWORK -- Turning Memories Into Memoirs® and the Center for Digital Storytelling, but not the Association for Personal Historians, which is causing some angst on their listserv. So storytelling goes mainstream!



Blogging tools

I spent a lot of time yesterday setting up different free blogs, to try them out. I have a free LiveJournal account. I set up a 90-day trial TypePad account that I linked to one of my URLs currently not in use. I also sent an e-mail to Will Richardson who runs the Weblogg-Ed blog. It appears that they are using Manila, and I have two administrator accounts where I could experiment. Dan Mitchell set one up for the ADE Bloggers, and a university in New Jersey is letting me play with their system. I also set up a couple of wikis, using SeedWiki and Swiki. I realize now that I need to set up a page where I can keep track of all of the log-in pages, my account name and my password.

What I find confusing as I learn to use these systems is the different strategies for editing. With Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, and TypePad (the hosted version of Movable Type), you edit the blog in a different URL from the URL where you view it. I find myself using tabs in Mozilla to move back and forth between the editing window and the "public face" of the blog. The wikis I use both edit in the same window where they are created, which makes that an easier interface. But as I discussed with Joanne last night, we both find seedwiki's user interface to be more difficult. That is why I want to try swiki. The one advantage that LiveJournal has is the availability of client programs to make entries without using a browser, or being online. I downloaded xjournal for Macintosh OS X. I also see that there is client software for my Palm, that also interfaces with most of the blogs I currently use. I may spend the $10 to see if that can make a difference, especially when I am away from my computer (which is hardly ever!).

Labels: ,

Sunday, August 29, 2004


Technology Acceptance Model

I just found a paper online (PDF) that I think can inform the adoption of portfolios. The authors discuss the Technology Acceptance Model, that relates perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use with a person's attitude toward using, behavioral intention to use, and actual use of a system. There are other factors, as well, including self-efficacy and cognitive absorption, as discussed in this excerpt:
Agarwal and Karahanna (2000) further developed the concept of self-efficacy to analyze the relationship between self-efficacy and perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. Adding the cognitive absorption construct, they further modified the TAM model from Agarwal’s original study (1998). The three aspects of cognitive absorption research are the personality trait dimension of absorption, the state of flow, and the notion of cognitive engagement. The study was done using the World Wide Web and university students. PLS was used to establish the nomological validity of cognitive absorption. The hypotheses that cognitive absorption is a significant predictor of perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use were supported by the results. They also found that playfulness and personal innovativeness have strong significant effects on cognitive absorption. (p.4)
I thought the point of playfulness, absorption, state of flow and cognitive engagement were key constructs that could also apply to the development of e-Portfolios.

Friday, August 27, 2004


Professional Development Guide

I am starting to build a guide for professional development to implement electronic portfolios in a college, school or district. I am almost embarrased that I did not address this issue before now, with my background in Staff Development and my graduate studies in Human Development.

I am addressing several components of professional development: Adoption of Innovations (C-BAM and Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations); Competencies (Portfolio and Technology Skills); Resources for Professional Development.


Sunday, August 22, 2004


Portfolio Competencies

What are the competencies necessary for effective development of portfolios (either paper or electronic) that support lifelong learning? Competencies are described as knowledge, skills and abilities, attitutdes or dispositions. Can we build a competency model that describes these competencies, so that we can build professional development to help learners effectively use portfolios to support lifelong learning?

I have posted a wiki page to add to my preliminary list. A wiki is different from a blog, since anyone who opens a wiki page can edit it. I am going to announce the page on the eportfolios listserv and invite people to contribute their ideas.



Olympics Reflections

I'm sitting here watching the Women's Marathon and remembering other recent Olympic events I'm struck with the similarities with the issues of e-portfolios and accountability. As I talked with a colleague about the issues at her school, I realized that we were talking about the e-portfolio development process as both a balance beam and a marathon. The balance beam represents the narrow path we traverse, between the needs of the institution for an accountability system to document students' assessment OF learning, and the needs of the learner for a way to tell the story of their own learning, and to use feedback on their work for their own development. It is also a marathon, where the learners need to pace themselves, conserving themselves for the long run, so that they don't burn out before they meet their goals. This metaphor was very vivid today, with the British woman, who kept up with the leaders for the first 20 miles, but then broke down and did not finish, whereas the American woman ran her own race, turning on the speed at the end of the race, coming from behind to win the Bronze medal. It looks like I have another metaphor to add to my website.


Friday, August 20, 2004


Assessment Symposium

If school districts are looking for good professional development to design programs of assessment for learning, I highly recommend the symposium sponsored by Dr. Anne Davies of Connect2Learning in Courtenay, British Columbia. I was invited to be a resource person at this symposium last July (and discussed it previously in this blog). I just found out that next summer the dates will be Friday, July 22 - Wednesday, July 27, at the Kingfisher Resort, a little piece of heaven on Vancouver Island. From last summer, I thought those who attended as part of a team got more out of the symposium than those who came by themselves, although it was a great experience for everyone.

I spent a lot of time reading and reflecting after my week on what Doug Snow called "Assessment Island" and I realize how much I gained from that experience. I had discovered the work of the Assessment Reform Group in the U.K. in my own web search in preparation for ISTE's last Assessment and Technology Forum in June, where I started emphasizing the assessment "OF and FOR" learning distinction. I realize now that I only understood the concept on a surface level. The days that I spent at the Symposium helped me to start internalizing that concept.



Research questions

Today I received another e-mail message from another graduate student looking for some research questions related to electronic portfolios:
A couple of years ago I heard your presentation at the University of Illinois in Champaign and the value of electronic portfolios still intrigues me. I am now a doctoral student wrestling with the best way to define my topic,conduct the literature review and identify the need for the study.

My thoughts still need direction and focus, but I am hoping your expertise will provide guidance. My Question: In what ways can electronic portfolios provide credible evidence of student achievement for accountability?

This question comes from my concern regarding the over reliance on testing to assess student performance and progress. I am also concerned that students are getting the wrong message, that tests are more valued than their ability to perform/demonstrate their competencies. I am also concerned that the business community will be disappointed when students show high achievement on tests but are still not the workers they desire.

Any guidance you are able to offer is greatly appreciated.
My response:
I agree with some of your statements (about high stakes testing) but I am concerned about using portfolios for high stakes accountability. I am going to give you some reading assignments:
  • This blog (be sure to go back and read from the beginning last May, and read all the direct links to my articles, websites, etc.)
  • All of the articles linked from my page on assessment FOR learning:
  • You will also find a list of research questions on my website,
  • Also read the book on student assessment from the National Academy of Sciences: Knowing What Students Know. You can find it on the web
I believe that using portfolios to meet the demands of the high stakes accountability movement will kill the strategy for learners. The whole issue of purpose for assessment is discussed in some of the entries above, as well as motivation for maintaining the portfolios as a lifelong learning tool.

I think the point is that we need multiple measures, with as much recognition given to classroom-based assessment (i.e., portfolios and other measures) as given to those "snapshot" standardized tests. But teachers need a lot more professional development in appropriate uses of these classroom-based assessment measures. Portfolios are wonderful tools for documenting growth over time for the learner and local stakeholders. One of my articles discusses the difference between an online assessment management system and an electronic portfolio. Another identifies the differences between portfolios used as assessment OF learning and those that support assessment FOR learning.


Thursday, August 19, 2004



I know it's been out there for a year, but I just found Alan Levine's tutorial on blogging, called BlogShop 2.0. Very impressive, Alan. Why didn't I find it when I was starting my journey into blogging last spring? He has a posting about "Blog-folios" and a link to an e-portfolio created with Movable Type.


Wednesday, August 18, 2004


Reconciling divergent needs

I received an e-mail today from Steve Lang, whose background is educational assessment and psychometrics, discussing the challenge of balancing summative and formative evaluation, as well as the implementation process.

My response to him included a discussion of the ideas represented in this image and other issues, too lengthy to include in this blog entry.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


Australia and New Zealand

I just received the invitation to participate in e-portfolio conferences in Melbourne (December 6-7) and in New Zealand (dates to be determined, but before December 15). I am really excited! I have not been to Australia (or below the Equator, for that matter). The folks at Eifel who are sponsoring the ePortfolio 2004 conference in France are putting together the tour.

Sunday, August 15, 2004



Interesting that the GLEF Faculty Associates group is using Blogger as a forum for getting acquainted. I added my vision to the discussion. Interesting that they are using the same blog engine that I am using, although they are using the blogspot hosting site. It will be interesting to see how other members of the group respond to the blog process. I also learned something new with the GLEF blog...I didn't realize that there could be multiple people posting to a single blog using Blogger, like we did with Manila at Camp Apple.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004


Multimedia Blogs and e-portfolios

Reading our ADE blog site, I see that there is some discussion in the blogsphere about adding multimedia content into blogs and the potential for digital portfolios. Fellow ADE blogger Dan Mitchell wrote, "What it takes is someone to create the tools that permit bloggers to create, edit, and link other media types with the same facility that current blogging tools provide for text-based blogging. All the better if it can be done entirely within the browser.
And what better company to take the lead than the company that already has all the best tools for creating these media? Yes, you know who I'm talking about.

My response:
I think what we need for this to happen is an environment to maintain a collection of documents (a digital archive), in any web-accessible format, and to be able to access that archive and construct any type of multimedia presentation linking to any number of those documents. Right now, I can upload documents into my blog, but there is no easy way to meta-tag those documents as they are stored, nor is there a way that they could be retrieved easily.

I think we need an authoring environment with an interface like most of the iLife suite, that allows quick access to any type of multimedia artifact. The problem with the iLife software is that these are silos that are beginning to talk to each other (like being able to see the iPhoto and iTunes libraries in iMovie). But I can't combine media types in a single archive and I do not always want to create a digital video file. Sometimes I want to produce a presentation, sometimes a web page, sometimes a mind map. And my .Mac account isn't the answer.

Labels: , ,


Book proposal revised

A good productive day or more with my co-author on our book proposal. We have a pretty good outline. Now we need to find the right publisher. Just a short summary of our book:
This book is a guide for all those who seek to make wise decisions about electronic portfolios. We seek to help teachers, administrators, policymakers, software designers— recognize their assumptions about the nature of portfolios, consider the implications of their portfolio decisions, and confront the dilemmas associated with their choices about portfolio purpose, audience, technology, and the use of the device for high-stakes assessment. This book will look at how these new technologies and accountability mandates have impacted the portfolio development process.

Electronic portfolios are now riding a wave of popularity, bringing both exciting and disturbing changes to the process. These emerging technologies show signs of changing the very nature of the portfolio concept. The commercial marketplace has produced technological products that are being sold to administrators based on institutions’ short-term accountability mandates, often without regard to the potential to support the lifelong learning needs of students. Will learners experience the power of the portfolio process as a learning tool, or will the institutional adoption of electronic portfolios to meet high stakes accountability mandates supplant the needs of learners? Will we lose the power of the portfolio as a story of learning to the use of the portfolio as a way to check off a long list of standards? Or will the power of the technology help learners tell the story of their learning in ways not possible on paper?

Friday, August 06, 2004


Planning documents

Last spring, I provided feedback to Kathryn Chang Barker on a document to provide a Consumer Guide to ePortfolio Tools and Services. This document is aimed more at organizations who are seeking server-based systems and/or services, not at individuals who want to build electronic portfolios using common desktop software. But it is a good companion to my April 2000 article in Learning & Leading with Technology called, "Create Your Own Electronic Portfolio: Using Off-the-Shelf Software to Showcase Your Own or Student Work." I also developed a Word document to help individuals answer specific questions at various stages in the electronic portfolio development process.



iPods for ePortfolio storage

After Camp Apple, and the Duke University announcement about iPods for every freshman this fall, I realized that an iPod could be used to maintain a digital archive of student work and their electronic portfolio with lots of multimedia artifacts. Storage problems solved!

Of course, this should not be the only place a student's work is stored, but it is a very portable medium for organizing work, and will enable more efficient storage of large multimedia projects, especially during construction, when video is not compressed. Access to data on a firewire or USB 2.0 hard drive is much faster than on a network, CD-ROM or DVD.

I bought the Griffin iTalk microphone to go with my new iPod. The quality of the audio recording is marginal, better with my Radio Shack computer microphone that I can plug into the iTalk. At 8 Mhz, probably not the quality needed for digital storytelling. But with this add-on, learners could record self-reflections on their work; teachers could provide audio feedback to their students. I just bought the device last week, and haven't had a lot of time to play with it. Stay tuned!


Wednesday, August 04, 2004


iChat with Class

I did an online iChat with a class in Fresno last night. Most of the questions asked were very insightful (with a summary of my response):
We also used Tapped In to send web pages (type "/project URL" in chat window) to each participant logged in to the chat room. It worked on previous ocassions, but last night, I found it to be too distracting (based on the chatter in the chat session), and I think in the future, I will create a single web page with all of the links I want them to visit in a short time frame.


Learner Engagement

I try to keep my personal life out of my blog, but I will make an exception this week, since I am working with my grandchildren on their e-portfolios covering the last school year (3rd grade and Kindergarten, respectively). My older granddaughter (age 9) wanted to learn how to scan, so we are having a great time together, digitizing her work, using digital camera and scanner. This week they are both coming over to my place, when we will figure out how we are going to organize their portfolios, but the older one will be much more engaged than in years past. She remembers some of the things we did last year, including typing reflections into iPhoto on each artifact instead of writing them out on sticky notes, and doing "cool" titles in iMovie. So, more good times together to come! We are going to try new tools for organization, like Kidspiration. More new things to learn! It also tells me that the power is in the process and the relationships that are enhanced! They could not do this alone, and I would not put in this much work for just anybody's child!

I appreciate the new resource I found online in the ERADC forum on Engagement Theory. I also need to find my book on Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, since I think that has a lot to do with learner engagement as well.

Just found two new articles on portfolio assessment in teacher education, published by Education Policy Analysis Archives at ASU:


Monday, August 02, 2004


Home for a while

I've been traveling more than I've been home this summer. I have no trips on my calendar for August, but that may change soon. I'm going to work with Joanne on our book project, I'll probably go to Eugene to work on the extension of my PT3 grant, and I may go to LA. But otherwise, it will be a slow month! Even though I was on vacation for three weeks in Europe, it was a "bus driver's" holiday... we never stayed more than three days in one place at any time. Then, practically as soon as I came home, I was on Vancouver Island for the Connect2Learning Assessment Conference, then to Cupertino for the Apple Distinguished Educator "Camp Apple."

I was home for less than two days, and then off to Columbus, Ohio, for the Council of Independent Colleges Teaching and Learning Mentors Institute, where I led a conference strand on electronic portfolios for the first afternoon (an overview of electronic portfolios in higher education), a full day hands-on in a lab (ePortfolios with Office, Digital Storytelling with MovieMaker2), and the last morning (Balancing ePortfolio as test with ePortfolio as story). It was gratifying to hear people tell me how much better they understood what ePortfolios were (and were not). It was an exhausting three days, including the trip home on Friday afternoon so that I could be back to enjoy the weekend at our cabin in the woods.

I am hoping that Joanne and I can get re-energized on our book writing. AERA preparation took a lot of our time this spring. I did not submit a proposal to this year's AERA on purpose. It will be in Montreal, and I probably won't have travel money under my grant. I am also being very cautious about which conferences I send proposals. I am considering an education conference in Hawaii in early January, right after New Years, because it would be a good excuse to go to Hawaii. Haven't been there in years.

I received a call from the person helping to organize the ePortfolio conference in France. My keynote is on the second morning, not the first (I guess that is OK) and I get to name my topic. I suggested "ePortfolios: Your Digital Story of Learning." Then I can incorporate a lot of my focus on digital storytelling. But it looks like they don't have anyone interested in doing a breakout session on digital imagination! I also suggested that they organize a showcase session where individuals could show examples of their e-portfolios, much like we do in the ISTE Assessment & Technology Forum Gallery Walk.

Sunday, July 25, 2004


Home from Camp Apple

It was an inspiring four days. I learned so much about blogs, and using Userland's Manila. It was also an opportunity to spend four days with a group of people with the same values, at least when it comes to learning and technology. It is apparent to me that the tools are very close to being ready. I downloaded and installed the update to iBlog, but haven't tried to use it yet.

When I had an opportunity to share my professional achievements, I said, "showing learners how to use technology to tell the story of their learning, whether through e-portfolios, digital stories, or blogs." My highlighted personal achievement was working with my grandchildren to help them develop their e-portfolios.


Friday, July 23, 2004


Camp Apple Project

Today, we chose the teams we would work with on a group project. There were many that interested me, including electronic portfolios and several different digital storytelling projects. But I decided to join the small team working on Blogging! I am learning so much about using Userland's Manila for maintaining a group blog. It had many elements of a wiki (it was set up so that we could edit each other's posts). I also spent some time finding links on blogging in education. I can see many possibilities for using a tool like this for a learning portfolio.

I had downloaded iBlog last week, so I installed it today. Then I read about another tool that is an update to iBlog, not free ($20). It's called Blogwave Studio for .Mac. Both tools are integrated with some of the iLife tools, which is a good start. More experimenting ahead! I'm not sure I want to change tools so early in the process. I am pleased that we have a blog set up on the ADE Community. Maybe we can interest more ADEs in sharing their thoughts and activities using this tool. The time is late!


Thursday, July 22, 2004


Apple Camp

I'm in the first full day of Apple Camp with Apple Distinguished Educators, after a day of travel. Up early this morning to provide a 90 minute iChat teleconference with the Florida Deans and Directors....all before breakfast! Being with fellow Mac users who are devoted to lifelong learning is always a high! I'm hoping to make connections with others here who share my interests on creating new tools to support our content management needs for e-portfolios. The vision I saw this morning was very encouraging (but I probably shouldn't say any more in a public environment being under non-disclosure). The conversation with Linda Roberts is exciting.

Monday, July 19, 2004


Day 3 Assessment Workshop

After spending more time on Sunday working on my latest paper, and adding more ideas on Assessment FOR Learning, I have shared my new chart with others. I am trying to compare portfolios used as assessment OF learning with portfolios that support assessment FOR learning. Today I am sharing examples of e-portfolios and digital stories with participants in the workshop. The feedback I am getting is very positive. Teachers see the advantages of digital storytelling and portfolios used as assessment FOR learning. I'm not sure this distinction is used in higher education.


Saturday, July 17, 2004


Day 2 Assessment Workshop

After the second day, the fog is beginning to clear. I won a copy of Anne's book on classroom-based assessment, which I plan to read this weekend. I also received an e-mail from a colleague about a new article posted to the ERADC website about blogging in e-portfolios. Since the authors quoted my article on "Electronic Portfolios as Digital Stories of Deep Learning" I decided that I had better finish it. So, I took a few minutes and polished it a bit. It still needs some more work, but from the readings at this meeting, I now had the link to Rick Stiggens article that explains the assessment crisis and the difference between assessment OF learning and assessment FOR learning. I can now work on adding that piece to my presentation to the Florida deans and directors next week.


Friday, July 16, 2004


Assessment FOR Learning Workshop

I am participating in a very interesting workshop on Assessment FOR Learning led by Dr. Ann Davies from British Columbia. The process is very engaging and the ideas that are being discussed are enlightening. I was so pleased when the first resource person, Dr. John Gardner from Ireland, presented the Assessment for Learning model from the UK, the one I found online as I was preparing for the Assessment and Technology Forum in June. It is almost as if there is serendipity in the air. We even received their CD-ROM and a printed copy of the "sunrise" chart on Assessment for Learning.

I had an opportunity to make a short presentation on international perspectives on electronic portfolios. But mostly I talked about my concerns about the direction that e-portfolios are taking related to high stakes accountability and I presented my "balanced" model. It was delightful to get to know Doug again, after years ago and his work on the Scholastic Electronic Portfolio. I am so pleased that he has the same concerns that I have. I am looking forward to the next four days.


Wednesday, July 14, 2004


New links on e-portfolios

Now that I am back from my European vacation (and back to wifi web access!), I can get caught up on some online reading. Thanks to David Tosh's and Jeremy Hiebert's blogs, here are a couple of recent web-based articles:
An article in the Washington Post on July 6 on portfolios
A summary of a debate held in the UK in late June on e-portfolios for recording achievement
Gary Greenberg's recent article in July-August Educause Review