Sunday, April 11, 2010


Audio in ePortfolios

Mobile devices are great at capturing the moment: audio reflection, video clip, text comment. I'm not sure they are good at organizing all of the data into a coherent presentation. It would be interesting to have an app that would show me the videos that I have uploaded to YouTube, or the blog entries I have written, or the audio clips I have stored online.

Audio is the major void in the space. We can use Aviary's Myna to capture and store audio, and give a link or embed code. But I think you need a desktop computer to use that tool. I wonder if Aviary is planning an App? The Aviary tools are now available as a menu in my Firefox browser and can be embedded into GoogleApps. Of course, if the software is based on Flash, it won't work on an iPad. I have AudioBoo on my iPhone (but haven't used it yet... maybe that is the solution?).

Here is are two common situations with a need for easy audio recording and embedding:
There is a need for a web-based version of using audio this way (requiring just a microphone and Internet connection). I also think we need an easy way to record reflections. Before students can easily write, they can talk. How can we manage all of these audio files in an online repository, all dated and organized for easy retrieval, and embedding into a blog or ePortfolio page? Can it be made easy enough for a Kindergarten student to manage, but still sophisticated enough for adult learners? Just dreaming... and hoping.
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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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Thursday, January 29, 2009


A New Educational Experience

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

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

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Thursday, September 11, 2008


ePortfolios in New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Thursday, May 08, 2008


Follow up on WSU ePortfolio work

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

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Sunday, April 27, 2008


Web 2.0 Conference Presentation

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

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Sunday, March 16, 2008


Digital Archive for Life Diagram

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

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006


E-Learning 2.0

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

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

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

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Comments from eMail

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, June 11, 2006


Me Publishing

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

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

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


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