Monday, April 12, 2010


Changes to GoogleDocs

Announced today: This video says it well. Also, the TechCrunch post today: Google Docs Gets More Realtime; Adds Google Drawings To The Mix. You know, I saw the Drawing icon when I signed in to Google Docs this morning. Now I see what it means. It just keeps getting better and better! Thanks, Google! My next collaborative ePortfolio planning workshops are going to be a lot more fun! And the output will be a lot more visual!
Official GoogleDocs Blog Post

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Saturday, April 10, 2010


ePortfolio Apps Needed?

Today, I received the following email message from a graduate student in the UK:
I am very interested in the mobile application development we have discussed and intend to make it the focus of my research.
I will be developing for the iPad, iPod, iPhone platform initially.

Just a thought, do you think the greatest need currently is for apps which connect to an ePortfolio such as: Wordpress, Blogger, Google Docs or similar, to enable uploading, editing and reflection of digital content? 
Or, is there also a need for a standalone mobile ePortfolio app?
Here is my response:

There are many purposes for ePortfolios, that require different types of tools (learning/reflection, showcase/employment, assessment/accountability). There are also many portfolio processes to be supported by different tools: creating/authoring digital content, collecting my work, reflecting on that work, selecting (hyperlinking or embedding) that work into my presentation portfolio, writing goals, presenting my work, getting feedback, etc.

With Web 2.0, an ePortfolio is really an aggregator of my work that is stored at many places online: video in video sharing sites like YouTube, Vimeo,, etc.; images in Flickr, Picasa; documents in GoogleDocs,, or lots of other locations; audio in Myna, etc. What we lack is an aggregator. We need a database to keep track of our online content, sort of like a database that we can use to organize our personal content, wherever it resides on the web. If you look at the report that was written by Ian Fox in NZ, a database of personal/academic content, that can be meta-tagged, is the missing link.

I imagine something that acts like my Macintosh in Garage Band or iMovie or Keynote, where I pull up Media, and it shows me my photos in iPhoto, my movies, my iTunes files, etc. I can select that piece of content and insert it into my document. We need a Web 2.0 equivalent, so that I can get to my content wherever it is stored online. What I need is not to insert the actual content, but to be presented with a choice of a hyperlink or an embed code that I can copy and paste into whatever presentation portfolio I am using. Right now, I have to do this task manually, link by link. For me, that is the need: a content management system for Cloud content, that is accessible on a website using any browser or mobile app. We can upload all kinds of data to the Web from our mobile devices... how do we organize all of this content?

Electronic Portfolio Components

Above is a diagram of eportfolio components as described in BECTA and JISC reports, and you will see where there is a need to organize the Digital Repository: online space to store resources and an archive of evidence.  I have also defined the Two Faces of ePortfolios, which are the workspace (reflection + archive/collection) and showcase (presentation+feedback). Most of the commercial tools organize the showcase... no one independently organizes the workspace right now (except what I do on my own in my blog or in a spreadsheet/matrix). And it needs to be easy enough for a 3rd grader to use! Maybe I'm thinking about a version of the MyLifeBits research that Microsoft conducted around "life store" of data.

So, we'd love some input: what type of apps are needed to support ePortfolio development using mobile devices with access to the Internet?

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Saturday, January 16, 2010


My Google Storage Activated

I woke up this morning to this message on my Google Docs page:

So, I found the three files that I have been using in my study of online storage systems, and uploaded them to my Google Docs account.  There were two PDF files (Google Docs has been able to store PDFs for the last year) and one 10MB MP3 file of my presentation at a conference. I proceeded to experiment based on instructions in a website that I recently found: How to Embed MP3 Audio Files In Web Pages With Google or Yahoo! Flash Player. I used the code for the Google Reader player, and I embedded it on a demo Google Site I was using for a class. It took a couple of tries, because I don't think Google is supporting the embedding of MP3 files, but I made it work by tweeking the download URL on the Google Docs download page for that document (removed the download suffix on the URL).

Euripides said... An update- I was told after uploading one of my podcasts that "sorry, we do not currently support MP3 files"
Obviously! The process I went through worked, but it was not for the faint of heart (or those who don't understand URL codes). I hope that there will be a gadget soon, that will make this process seamless, just like embedding YouTube videos. Using to embed audio with a player is much easier!

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Friday, December 25, 2009


The New Family Album/Diary

For the last six months, my daughter has been living with me, giving me an opportunity to observe how the younger generation lives with technology (not that I don't... but most of my generation of friends and colleagues only use email, not social networks). My Christmas presents from her today were: a windshield mount for my iPhone and a Phillips 8x10 electronic picture frame, to show up to 1,000 photos (one of the few electronic gadgets I have not already bought for myself!). She and I both have iPhones where we can both capture images... she just captures most of hers with the Facebook app and immediately uploads them to her account. Last weekend, we went to a Messiah concert, she took pictures, and had comments from her friends before the concert was over. She has developed a habit of documenting her experiences with her iPhone and Facebook, creating the 21st Century form of the family photo album and diary combined. She has demonstrated the "everydayness" of documenting her experiences because she has a handy tool, and the motivation to share among her far-flung community of friends... who provide feedback through comments.

The ability to immediately document (and also reflect) on experience, and receive immediate feedback from both peers and mentors, is what we need in the academic e-portfolio development process. I am not advocating using Facebook for academic portfolios, but I am witnessing many portfolio processes that can be supported by adding this capability to any number of available systems (already available with most blogs): a social networking app that works with a mobile device (including a camera... missing from the iPod Touch right now). The iPhone/iPod Touch also has the capability to record audio clips, important for younger learners, or those who reflect better with their voices than with their fingers. (There is Dragon Dictation on the iPhone that seems to do a fairly good job of translating spoken words to text... in a quiet place... it didn't work for me when I tried it in an airport Food Court... would that be similar to a busy classroom?).

The tools are slowly starting to emerge to facilitate the workspace/learning/process portfolio, or eDoL (Electronic Documentation of Learning). As we approach the end of this decade, and I reflect upon how much technology has changed in the last 10 years, it is pretty exciting to think about where it will be at the end of the next decade (an appropriate reflection for New Year's Eve?). It is an exciting time to be exploring the potential, and to help others find the relevance of these social networking processes in the service of lifelong learning. Such a gift!

Merry Christmas! (my annual Christmas letter)

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Thursday, December 17, 2009


Digital Narratives in Online Class

I just spent the afternoon reviewing and grading the final projects in the online class that I have been teaching this fall. One of the assignments was a narrated digital narrative, with the following instructions:
You will create a multimedia digital narrative (digital story with voice narration), that outlines your Technology Philosophy/Creed. This project will be submitted as a URL and embedded into your blog, and the script for your narration should include the references you used to support your statement. This digital narrative will be 4-to-5 minutes (400-500 words), recorded and illustrated with digital images, and posted online, either in YouTube/TeacherTube/SchoolTube (upload a digital video created with iMovie, MovieMaker or PhotoStory), or developed in, or developed as Powerpoint adding narration using Digital images should be either Creative Commons (from Flickr search) or digital photos that you have taken or Powerpoint slides you have exported to JPEG or screenshots of educational websites. No student faces should be identifiable (see Privacy statement). 
I provided step-by-step instructions for using one of the free video editors (iMovie, MovieMaker2 or PhotoStory), and two Web 2.0 authoring tools (VoiceThread or Screenr). Given those choices, the final projects were developed using a variety of tools:
All of the students maintained a bPortfolio (blog-portfolio maintained in and most of them embedded their videos using the following tools:
  • Youtube (8)
  • Screenr (5) (2 exported to YouTube)
  • motionbox (1)
  • voicethread (1) (one exported to YouTube)
  • vodpod (3) (to embed video in blog)
For many of these students, it was the first time they had created any type of digital video, or posted a video online. For an online class, there was no face-to-face assistance for the assignment, even though I offered to come on campus to provide a hands-on workshop (no one asked me). Some said that the hardest part of the project was embedding the video into their WordPress blogs (thus the use of There was some push back when the assignment was first discussed on our last Adobe Connect Conference, but I provided both a practical and theoretical rationale. I am so pleased with the resulting assignments. I am going to ask for permission to post a few of them on the class website.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009


Changes over 25 years

I just received an email from my graduate school, offering me a free "branded" email address via their Google Apps domain and a free ePortfolio via Epsilen. What a change since I was in that program, when we struggled with online communication using private proprietary systems, then CompuServe, AOL, etc. Of course, I was immersed in all of the changes over the last 25 years; I defended my dissertation in 1990, prior to public access to the Internet. Now I think about the changes in this decade, especially Web 2.0, and wonder what will happen in the next decade. It is pretty exciting to be a lifelong learner today, especially with Personal Learning Networks, facilitated by Twitter, Facebook, Ning, Google, RSS, etc.! I made the following statement at the end of my dissertation in 1990:
It has been my opinion that through the process of learning to use a personal computer, adult learners can gain a better understanding of their own learning processes. For some people, the process may awaken a spark or capacity for independent learning that may have been unrealized. Perhaps the process of learning to use a personal computer has the potential to enhance our self directed learning skills as well as our self-esteem and confidence in our own abilities as lifelong learners.
In the future, personal computers and interactive multimedia will provide a whole new environment for self-directed learning, not just for learning about the technology, but as a process to explore new bodies of knowledge. A computer providing access to vast storehouses of visual as well as textual data, will be the catalyst for a major change in adult, self-directed learning.
I believe this prediction has been realized today, only the details have changed: from personal computers to mobile devices, and we aren't just exploring knowledge... we are producing it!

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Teaching a course with open tools

This week, I am beginning to team-teach a graduate course for Seattle Pacific University entitled, "Issues and Advances in Educational Technology" using a Google Site for the course content and a private Google Group for the class discussions.  David Wicks (my co-developer) and I thought it would be important for students to not only study these advances at a theoretical level, but also to experience these emerging technologies on a practical level. We also thought we should use tools that are free for teachers to implement in their classrooms. We are also using web-based readings rather than a textbook for the course content.

We recognize that there is a steeper learning curve with this approach, especially with most other SPU courses being implemented within Blackboard... but few schools use Blackboard. We are simply replacing desktop computer-based tools (bookmarks, word processing, web page authoring) with Internet-based tools (, GoogleDocs, Google Sites). We are encouraging our graduate students to think about the application of these tools to their own situations in their classrooms.

We also wanted to model the collaboration that is possible using Google Sites: we kept most of our comments on the pages where we discussed the content and development process of the course as it was being constructed. We also set up a Notes on Development page, using the Announcements page type in Google Sites, as a journal or page (with entries organized in reverse-chronological order) where we documented our development process... much like a blog without RSS feeds.

Speaking of RSS feeds... when you are a member of a Google Site, you can go to More Actions and Subscribe to Page Changes (for the page you are on) or Subscribe to Site Changes (for the entire site). Any time a change is made to the page or site, you will receive an email showing the changes. For collaborative projects, this feature is essential! But it can add significantly to your email volume. So, we provided advice to our students on how to manage email from this class. We will be asking the students for feedback on the process and using these open tools, and I will blog about the process periodically over the semester.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009


Open Action Research Project

Posted to my website today:
I am embarking on a new form of research, to be conducted online. Participation is open to K-12 teachers or teacher educators. To be a full participant in this open action research project, teachers need to do the following:
  1. Set up a new blog to document your process of implementing ePortfolios with your students. Use Blogger, WordPress, Edublogs, or any blog that has RSS feeds. Send your blog address to Dr. Barrett by email. Describe your context (grade level/subject, type of school, state where you are located, whether you are urban, suburban or rural, etc.).
  2. Create a blog entry that outlines your goals for implementing portfolios with your students - and create a web page that describes those goals for both students and parents. This web page could be on your school web space, or a Web 2.0 space such as Google Sites. Send the web page address to Dr. Barrett, when you get it posted.
  3. Maintain weekly blog entries about the process, including what you did, what your students did, examples of instructional materials that you used (or developed). Dr. Barrett will follow your RSS feed and will respond as time permits by commenting on your blog.
  4. Enroll in Dr. Barrett's Google Group on K12 ePortfolios with other teachers participating in the project. In this group, Dr. Barrett will post suggestions and answer questions about the ePortfolio development process using Web 2.0 tools. Due to limited time and resources, answers will be limited to the use of blogs, wikis, GoogleApps and other free Web 2.0 tools, not on using commercial or open source tools. The primary communication will be through email posts to the group. (This group is moderated to avoid spam.)
  5. For those who like to Twitter, use the following tag #web2eportfolios or join the group:
  6. Use the following resources to support implementation of ePortfolios in K-12 schools:

  7. If you are alone in your school, trying to implement ePortfolios, find a partner and get your principal's support! My previous research shows that it really takes a school team and strong leadership to effectively implement ePortfolios. Let's see what we all learn together!
If you maintain weekly blog entries, you may schedule periodic Skype conversations with Dr. Barrett to discuss your specific implementation strategies, issues and concerns.

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"Hot on Twitter"

I just finished a Classroom 2.0 webinar on Interactive ePortfolios, and there was some technical problem with my slides, so they started to use my SlideShare version. (For the first time in years, I printed out my slides... good thing! Paper? Oh, well... it all worked out.) I received the following email from Slideshare during my presentation:
"Classroom2.0" is being tweeted more than any other document on SlideShare right now. So we've put it on the homepage of (in the "Hot on Twitter" section).

Well done, you!

- SlideShare Team
Wow... 15 minutes of fame!

UPDATE on 9/22:  Another email from SlideShare:
Your presentation is currently being featured on the SlideShare homepage by our editorial team.

We thank you for this terrific presentation, that has been chosen from amongst the thousands that are uploaded to SlideShare everday.

Congratulations! Have a Great Day!,

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Monday, August 31, 2009


New Google Sites

I worked on developing two new Google Sites this weekend to support ePortfolio development in both K-12 schools and in higher education:
I am inviting other educators with experience using these tools to participate in developing these two sites. I intend to use these sites as part of the research for my book, also inviting teachers who want to implement ePortfolios with Web 2.0 tools to participate in the research. I will be formulating a plan which will be announced right after Labor Day.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009


Two diverse workshops

This week I was "on the road again" to Texas and Ohio. In Texas, I worked with 3rd-8th grade teachers in a school district, focusing on ePortfolios and the three levels of implementation using a blogging platform (they are using EduBlogs which is based on WordPress). In a previous entry, I provided a link to the diagram that I developed to explain the process between Level 2 (collection+reflection in blog entries) and Level 3 (selection+reflection in thematically-organized pages). After sharing this diagram with my colleagues at Seattle Pacific University, I modified the diagram for higher education, based on how they are actually developing "bPortfolios" using So I have posted both a K-12 version and a higher education version of my latest concept map. I also set up a Google Site to support my work with the district.

During the latter part of the week, I worked with a small college in Ohio to help a group of faculty members to adopt one new Web 2.0 tool in one of their classes this fall and next spring. I introduced a range of technologies, modeling the use of Google Sites and GoogleDocs. I love it when I learn something new while I am teaching: in a discussion of RSS, I learned how to subscribe to changes in a Google site (by eMail, not RSS). We also explored blogs, Twitter, networking through Google groups and Ning. I also wrapped up the workshop with an introduction to digital storytelling, with lots of higher ed examples. The participants downloaded Audacity, and explored ways that they could add audio clips to their courses in their CMS. From feedback, I hear that they want more on digital storytelling (no surprise!). I will be back there in January for a feedback and sharing session before the spring semester. I will also provide an introduction to creating digital stories (script development, image selection), so that they can prepare a digital story about their learning by the end of the school year. I will be back in late April or early May to do a hands-on workshop so that they can construct their stories. The faculty participants had new laptops (either Mac or Windows), but the experience was almost the same, since we were focusing on web-based tools. I am looking forward to working with them over the rest of this school year, to help these faculty tell the story of their Web 2.0 discoveries.

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Friday, July 31, 2009


David Warlick's ePortfolio features

David Warlick wrote about The Next Killer App? (e-portfolios!) in his blog, where he outlines a very nice list of features for eportfolio assessment. My response to his blog and the very interesting comments that followed:
I applaud your list of features, which exist in one form or another somewhere on the internet. The challenge is putting them together into one system without making it very complex. I have experience with a lot of the commercial and open source e-portfolio systems, and the learning curve/ease of use is a challenge. In my blog– –I am discussing a lot of the issues of e-portfolios for learning. I have seen e-portfolios in teacher education programs move from stories of deep learning to checklists of standards/competencies. There exists a lot of confusion about e-portfolios: are they reflective journals? or are they assessment management systems? I believe the current collection of commercial tools were developed in response to the NCATE 2000 Teacher Education Program Standards. The problem with ePortfolio tools today is their genesis in higher education. There are very few tools that were created specifically for K-12, and especially usable by primary students.

After the last NECC, I wrote a blog entry ( where I discussed ePortfolios and the new Accountability Systems discussed in the Obama Education Plan. There needs to be a wider discussion of the implementation of the e-portfolio process in K-12 schools, that is not tool-specific, but provides educators with a range of Web 2.0 technologies to support BOTH student learning and institutional accountability. Right now, I advocate using separate tools to meet these disparate purposes, because I believe that the capability for student personalization and creativity always takes a back seat to data collection and aggregation in these all-in-one systems. My blog entry on Which ePortfolio Tool? ( outlines some of these issues. I also discuss “Balancing the Two Faces of ePortfolio” on my website and in conference presentations and keynotes: (I believe we need to separate the workspace from the showcase; the process from the product; the learning portfolio from the presentation portfolio.) David, your work on Classroom Blogging is, for me, the foundation of a reflective Learning Portfolio.

Let’s keep up the dialogue. I think some of the best thinking on ePortfolios is happening in New Zealand, where they have published several interesting White Papers, and they are addressing the issues from the students’ learning needs. They have developed a very interesting e-portfolio model ( that includes a database to store artifacts or links to documents stored anywhere on the Web. Such a database could be used to organize all of the artifacts for use in a portfolio (regardless of the tool to be used to construct the presentation portfolio). With the Internet, the process is really one of hyperlinking and, as I learned from Hall Davidson at NECC: “All you need is an EMBED code!”

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Thursday, July 23, 2009


Another ePortfolio Model

Derek Wenmoth, of CORE-ED in New Zealand, published this image in his blog last year, focusing on Conceptualising e-Portfolios. I found this link in a discussion group established by the Ministry of Education in New Zealand on Managed Learning Environments (MLE), "the software and digital content that suppoort learning."

This diagram is very similar to several of my model diagrams, where the storage/repository is separate from the presentation portfolio that I might construct in different systems (as I have done in my "Online Portfolio Adventure"). In all of these diagrams, I have focused on the storage issues with ePortfolios; if we could solve the storage/management issues (a lifelong repository?) then the ePortfolio presentation issues will be more manageable. In the NZ MLE discussion, Trevor Storr made the following suggestion:
Lets assume that we have a national data store for our ePortfolio Applications (note the 's'). Different ePortfolios would access the data store (I could imagine at least one funding model for this). Now if the data store was a simple database that could be mapped to open ePortfolio standards then the data would easily be used by different applications with little user intervention.

The benefit of this approach is that to use the national ePortfolio data store vendors will have to map the database to whatever standard they choose. Secondly, the problem of portability (at a user level) is avoided. Finally, as standards evolve, database fields can be mapped to match the standard.

In summary: the data does not have to move between ePortfolio applications if applications are able to access a single data store that can be mapped to the relevant standard(s).
That is the model that I have been advocating for several years. A year ago, I explored different online storage systems for creating this digital repository. A database of artifacts that is maintained over a lifetime is the centerpiece of Derek's diagram, and should be central to our thinking about next generation ePortfolio tools. In the MLE discussion, Russell responded:
I'm with Trevor here,
I don't think interoperability is about where the components of artefacts/DLO's or artefacts themselves sit or are stored. I think its about the ability of LMS's/Eportfolio's to aggregate that stuff in a way that preserves some chronology and preserves a time stamped example of work. (along with appropriate related assessment) We're already in an age of mashups where a creative online artefact or piece of work may be sucking a component out of flickr or animoto and being combined with text in a blogger type environment. We have a whole cluster of kids in Tamaki, from Y1 -Y13 already creating content in this environment. For me, & I think our cluster, an eportfolio needs to be able to access a set of time stamped artefacts that were created on or offline, (some of the online ones being multi-sourced mashups), that the school & student identify as being part of the student's cumulative record of work. Copies of these artefacts/DLO's could sit in one central repository (as Trevor suggested) and individuals ought to be able to rearrange their portfolio's with different examples of content to suit different purposes over time. I see the portfolio as an overlay and an organiser for this content. I see a developmental continuum of teacher organisation gradually giving way to learner organisation in respect of how this stuff is managed and owned.
OK, Google, when is the Google WebDrive going to be released? The ePortfolio community is ready! What do we need? EMBED codes or drag-and-drop HYPERLINKS to our artifacts in an online data storage system!

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009


ePortfolios - Celebrating Learning (in NZ)

The New Zealand Ministry of Education has just posted a report that discusses these questions:
  1. What are the important features of a platform to support ePortfolios for NZ education?
  2. Is it possible for one system to accommodate the entire spectrum of requirements across the education sector?
  3. How important is interoperability of ePortfolio data?
  4. What are the key criteria for selecting a system?
This report was written by Ian Fox, Sandy Britain and Viv Hall, and provides a good discussion of the issues of implementing ePortfolios across the K-12 age span. I was impressed by the five case studies included in the Appendix, as well as a brief comparison of the two ePortfolio technical standards: the IMS ePortfolio specification and LEAP2A, developed by CETIS in the U.K. (hint: the report recommended adoption of the LEAP2A standard).

At NECC, I heard a rumor that ePortfolios were proposed as part of the National Educational Technology Plan. After reading this report, I am wondering whether individual states and/or the U.S. Department of Education would consider the ideas presented in this study. I am always so impressed with the implementation of ePortfolios in New Zealand, and I've blogged about them frequently. I am trying to figure out how to get down there in February or March 2010, when I am also going to conferences in India and possibly Singapore. A visit to NZ will wrap up the research for my book!

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009


My 21st NECC

I just finished my presentation at the 30th (and last) National Educational Compting Conference (NECC). Next year the conference will just be called ISTE 2010 in Denver. I uploaded my slides again to Slideshare... it seems a lot easier than converting a .pptx file to .ppt and then uploading to GoogleDocs, publishing it, and then capturing the Embed code. I have a new saying that I got from Hall Davidson's presentation on digital video: "All you need is an Embed code!" (to embed artifacts into a Web 2.0 site, just as I have done here!)
It has been a lot fun introducing my daughter to this community of educators... my 21st NECC, her first. She is much more experienced with social networks and Second Life, which will be an element in my book. We are already learning from each other, as she pursues a Masters in Educational Technology and I write a book on Interactive Portfolios for Learning. I just posted a new document on my website, inviting K-12 schools interested in participating in helping me build some case studies for this book.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009


Video Sharing Website

I've been exploring new video sharing services, since Google Video is now limiting uploads to either Business or Education GoogleApps accounts. I don't want to upload my videos to YouTube, partly because the site is often blocked in schools, and partly because uploaded videos are limited to ten minutes. Over a year ago, I created my own branded site, which doesn't have the size limitations, but the movies didn't always play back in full screen mode. I haven't yet set up a TeacherTube or SchoolTube account, but I think they have some of the same limitations as YouTube.

For another website project that I am developing, with a lot of webinar videos that we want to embed, we found The site allows longer videos, which can be viewed in full screen mode, and allows 750 MB of movies stored for free. However, for $29.95 per year, the Premium service allows unlimited video storage, maintains the original video file, and also allows the video to be downloaded into iPod/iPhone format. When logged in, the web page includes the code for embedding the video clip into another web page, such as this blog. The digital story below was developed at a workshop in 2005, focusing on the importance of developing digital family stories. We need online spaces to store these "legacy" stories!

I set up a Premium account to share all our family videos, with a privacy setting for family only to view. The system allows setting up folders to hold the videos. My first folder was for the videos which I uploaded directly from my Flip camera. The service has a basic video editor for files stored there. If you can take movies with your cell phone, you can email them directly to:
Maybe when I upgrade my iPhone, I'll be able to record videos, too!!!

I've been concerned about finding online spaces to store full quality video, not the low quality videos I see on YouTube. Premium Motionbox accounts also allow storage and downloading HD videos (just requires a high speed Internet connection). The normal playback is High-Quality, Low-Bandwidth (SD). I hope their business model is profitable enough to make this service viable for years to come. It meets a real need for families to store their video memorabilia.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Signed a book contract today

Over the years, I have had an avoidance of book publishing... I've canceled two book contracts over the last ten years. With the #1 website on "electronic portfolios" (based on a Google search using that term), I've wondered whether writing a book in the age of Web 2.0 was an oxymoron. With the changing nature of the Internet, wouldn't a book be quickly outdated? I'm glad I didn't publish the book I outlined ten years ago, since my vision has changed radically since that time.

Well, today I signed a book contract with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) for a book on ePortfolios, focusing on K-12 students and teachers at all levels of their careers. The content will focus on creating student-centered interactive portfolios using generic Web 2.0 tools and processes. I have a lot of the components already on my website and written in this blog over the last five years. I feel like a sculptor... all I have to do is cut away all of the irrelevant stone/words and the statue/book will emerge! I intend to develop the book around themes of interactivity, reflection, engagement, and my vision of Balancing the Two Faces of ePortfolios.

So, I have seven months to write the first draft of the book! I am looking for case studies from across the world on using Web 2.0 tools for ePortfolios. I am also looking for a few good teachers who would like to implement the portfolio process using "safe" Web 2.0 tools, primarily GoogleApps for Education sites set up as "walled gardens" to protect student privacy. I am also willing to work with schools who have adopted other Web 2.0 tools to implement ePortfolios. I would provide training and then regularly observe some "real life" classrooms implementing ePortfolios using these tools across the age span: primary, intermediate, junior high and high school.

I am interested in finding teachers who are already familiar with the paper-based portfolio process, and who are already comfortable with the use of technology, who would be willing to work with me on implementing ePortfolios over the next school year. I would work with appropriate IT staff and a handful of teachers in their classrooms, on a mutually-agreed-upon schedule, to establish the free Web 2.0 services, and integrate ePortfolios throughout the school year, including student-led conferences, where appropriate. We could collaborate virtually over the Internet, or face-to-face in the Puget Sound area of Washington state.

Interested? Send me an email!

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Monday, June 01, 2009


New Google Tools

The Google I/O Conference last week provided a glimpse at some very exciting new tools, some available now, some in the near future.

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Friday, May 22, 2009


Public Workshop available

I am conducting a "Bring Your Own Laptop" workshop at the National Educational Computing Conference on Saturday, June 27 (8:30-3:30):
Web 2.0 Tools for Classroom-Based Assessment and Interactive Student ePortfolios
Web 2.0 tools facilitate interaction and feedback. Evaluate free online tools to create Interactive ePortfolios that support formative assessment, focusing on academic standards and NETS-S. (We will focus on GoogleApps, including GoogleDocs and GoogleSites.)

My presentation during the conference is on Wednesday, July 1 (12:00-1:00):
ePortfolios 2.0: Web 2.0 tools to Improve/Showcase Student Technology Literacy
Learn how to implement free interactive Web 2.0 tools to facilitate classroom-based assessment of student technology literacy, including the advantages/disadvantages of blogs, wikis, and GoogleApps.

I am also doing a day-long workshop on the pre-conference day at the next EIFEL Conference in London, June 22, 2009:
Your Digital Self: Web 2.0 as Personal Learning Environment
Web 2.0 tools facilitate self-expression, reflection, online interaction and feedback. This hands-on workshop will focus on Web 2.0 tools that can be used to construct a PLE for a variety of purposes, and provide a broader look at using these tools within the context of ePortfolios and Digital Identity: Web Aggregators/AJAX Start Pages, Blogs & RSS Feeds, Social Networks, and Interactive Productivity Tools.

I will also be doing a keynote during the conference:
Lifelong ePortfolios: Creating your Digital Self
In the age of the participatory Web, popular social networks are creating new opportunities for reflection, collaboration and self-publishing. This keynote will outline a scenario of lifelong ePortfolios, from families to formal education to the workplace to retirement legacy stories. What are the common themes that support ePortfolio development across the lifespan? How can individuals and institutions adapt their ePortfolio strategies so that they are more engaging, and learners will want to maintain their ePortfolios for life?

Postscript: This happens to be the 5th anniversary of this blog. A few weeks ago, I created a complete page of this blog (all 330+ entries...more than 250 pages) on one web page.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009


Technology Trends and Gartner's Hype Cycle

I found this diagram of Gartner's hype cycle in a blog entry about cloud computing and the Tech Crunch blog.
Essentially, industries, companies and people go through the 5 stages of: 1) heh, this is cool, 2) yeah, we all think this cool, 3) woah, we were sold down the river, 4) no, come to think of it, used in the right way, this can be good and finally 5) this has become part of what we do." (Source: Buzz Canuck)
Where are ePortfolios along this continuum? I think Higher Ed is generally in stages 2 and 3... what needs to help move into stages 4 and 5? In my opinion, K-12 is just entering the cycle. I found a couple of online publications by the New Media Centers Consortium that outline emerging technologies:
It is interesting to note that the NMC sees K-12 following higher education in some technologies that I think are going to have a big impact on ePortfolios: Cloud Computing and The Personal Web. It is encouraging that Collaborative Environments and Online Communication Tools are imminent adoptions in K-12 (already adopted in higher education), and I believe both of these technologies are essential to an ePortfolio 2.0 environment.

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Friday, May 08, 2009


VoiceThread for ePortfolios

There has been a lot of chatter online about using VoiceThread as an ePortfolio publishing environment. In an online class, I became aware of the following link: VoiceThread as a Digital Portfolio - a teacher blog entry with instructions and two examples of digital stories using VoiceThread for student-led conferences in fifth grade. In the first example, the feedback is in the form of text, in the second there are several voice comments; a great way to involve parents! There are two really good examples of reflection that focus on what the students learned, the challenges, and their goals for improvement in different content areas.

I recently wrote to the teacher who wrote that blog entry, requesting a copy of the booklet that she used to scaffold the students' reflections. This is the response that I got this morning:
I'd just like to share with you this little thought too. Do you remember speaking in New Zealand a number of years ago, at the ULearn Conference in Auckland? You were one of the keynote speakers and you spoke about the power of telling stories - you shared with us one story that combined photos, pictures, music and voice. Your keynote really struck a chord with me, as you emphasised the beauty and power of simplicity and choice. I base most of my digital storytelling and digital portfolio work with students on the things I took away from your keynote.
You can imagine how "tickled" I am now to be giving back something to you. Thank you for the inspiration back then and for the continued inspiration into ePortfolios.
Wow! It is thrilling to get this type of feedback from a keynote presentation that I gave in 2005.

Early childhood technology expert Gail Lovely, quoted in an article in T.H.E. Journal, says "The power of this [tool] in the commenting." Here are some resources from the VoiceThread website:

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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.

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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.

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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

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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?

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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].

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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..."

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.


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!

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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.

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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.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008


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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008


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".

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008


GoogleDocs updates

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

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