Sunday, April 04, 2010


Learning my new iPad

Yes, I waited in line yesterday to pick up the 16GB iPad I reserved. Daughter posted some Twitpix last night. Spent the afternoon exploring capabilities of my new iPad. I sent a long email and learned to type on the screen with my finger pads, trying to avoid my fingernails (not easy). I bought a Bluetooth keyboard, but am trying to get used to the keyboard.

I have been exploring the apps. I responded to a blog post using Safari, but couldn't scroll through the comment field beyond what I could see on the screen (no scroll bars or arrow keys on the keyboard). I created a blog post with the WordPress App (after figuring out how to publish) and am sending this entry to Blogger as an eMail. Tweetdeck works great. I am using the old Facebook app (not ready to pay for one). I am finding that the games I like on the iPhone are different on the iPad. Easier on the eyes, but harder on the arms (reaching with arms, not fingers). I am trying to limit the games, anyways.

So far, the major deficiency is Google Docs. I can read documents, but not edit them. In my long spreadsheets, I can't scroll to data that is off the screen (I can scroll and do minor editing on my iPhone). Haven't tried Google Sites yet. As a media consumption tool, it looks like a dream. But in education, that is not the model we want to perpetuate. Yes, I can see the potential for textbooks in this format, but I want to be able to use cloud computing tools for content development, not having to buy iWork for this iPad. I know this is just the first day, but if it is going to be more than a print/paper replacement, we need to be able to use online content development tools. Of course, I want to see how it can be used to develop and maintain e-portfolios! Since I will be attending the ADE Institute this summer, where we will focus on Mobile Technologies, I hope to explore these issues further.

Sent from my iPad

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Saturday, December 05, 2009


Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age

In October 2009, Google hosted a two day meeting called Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age. I've spent the afternoon watching some of the YouTube videos of the sessions. These are interesting viewpoints from some of the leaders of the technology community plus a few educators.
It is refreshing to hear the emphasis on learning, teaching, professional development, school culture, not really on the technology. I heard Linda Darling-Hammond call for another PT3 program for Teacher Education programs... yes!

I also discovered the blog that different participants contributed entries. A really interesting enry: Using Alternative Assessment Models to Empower Youth-directed Learning Including a high school senior's Digital Media Portfolio created using VoiceThread developed as part of Global Kids, Inc.

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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.
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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.

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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:

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Friday, March 16, 2007


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



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?

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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.

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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!

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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!


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.

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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?

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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").

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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.


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