Thursday, April 22, 2010


Language Translation programs

One of the benefits of an internationally-known website is to receive emails from educators throughout the world; one of the challenges is to understand what is being written in some of those emails; worse is the challenge to read papers that appear to be translated by computer programs. For example, here is the first paragraph of a document that was sent to me, where the author asked me to recommend a journal where this paper could be published:
The Psychology of the Education, while scientific area, in its flowing triple, basic, projective and technique, of has long date, has eventide, between many other subjects, a vast panoply of forms to learn and to teach, its advantages and disadvantages, relevancy and conditions of implementation, questions of validity and effectiveness, under aide of the quality of education, formation, education, in general, in any context of comment and intervention.
I'm not sure I have the energy to try to interpret what is being said. But even more difficult is trying to interpret the translation of the concept of the portfolio (whether paper or electronic) between different world cultures and education traditions. Just as I have discussed different metaphors for portfolios, there are also different issues with translation of the portfolio concept. Portfolios have been called "electronic file delivery" and I know some languages do not have comparable translation of the words reflection, assessment and accountability. These linguistic as well as cultural differences make communication difficult. Technology alone cannot solve that problem, as shown by the translation quoted above. I wonder which program was used?

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Saturday, April 17, 2010


ePortfolio on iPad & iWork

This morning, I read the following tweet:
Had a student bring an iPad with his digital portfolio to an interview. Keynote with pictures and video of him teaching. Cool! (@alvintrusty)
Since I bought Keynote for my iPad, I decided to give it a try. This is now the 37th version of my online presentation portfolio, but the first developed using my iPad. I found the 2007 version of my portfolio that I created in PowerPoint, and imported it into Keynote on my Mac (I found out later it was an unnecessary step... Keynote on the iPad will convert PowerPoint files). Then, I connected my iPad to my laptop and through iTunes, imported the file into my iPad. Once transferred to my iPad, I was able to activate through my Apple account and upload the keynote file to that website. Once there, I activated public sharing and received the link to share it publically (I was able to update the file the next day, but needed to make the link public again on the iWork website). I noticed that embedded hyperlinks worked on the iPad, but not on the website.

In the original Powerpoint, I used the Speakers Notes to record my reflections. When the file was imported into the iPad, the notes were stripped out. Interesting! It really didn't take me long to do this conversion with a few simple edits. The iWork website has a place to add notes, so there is a level of interactivity once it is uploaded. This was the first presentation that I edited on the iPad. It looks pretty easy to use. I would prefer a more interactive environment for a working portfolio, but this format is more appropriate for a presentation portfolio, and appears to be free when used with the Mac or iPad version of the iWork software.

I placed weblinks in the original Powerpoint, and they appeared in the iPad version. The links worked in presentation mode, but to get back into my presentation, I needed to open Keynote again... and I was not connected to a projector, so I don't know if the web pages would show through the projector. I did notice that the .mov videos that were stored on my .Mac account did not play in Safari on the iPad. Next time, I will see about embedding videos in my next Keynote presentation, to see how it works. I haven't yet figured out whether videos imported into the iPad through iTunes can be linked to play from within Keynote.

This ePortfolio can be viewed either online or on the iPad without Internet access. The real downside of this process is versioning: if I make changes on my iPad, I need to be careful if I transfer it back to my Mac, to make sure I am saving the most recent version... and I would need to upload the changed version to, which replaces the older version (but eliminates the public link, which needs to be reset on the iWork website). This illustrates the value of editing my GoogleDocs Presentation version: the latest version is always stored online. (However, right now I cannot edit GoogleDocs through the iPad's Safari browser.)

I am looking forward to future developments in the software for this platform. I have used Keynote to create a presentation portfolio and shared it using my iPad; there are blogging tools for maintaining a working/reflecting portfolio (WordPress and BlogPress on the iPad); and I can store files in many cloud storage sites, including GoogleDocs,, Apple's iDisk or These are all three main components of a learner-centered portfolio system: storage of artifacts, reflection/documenting learning over time, and a presentation/showcase medium. We just need a tool to tie them all together. I am anxious to see how this environment matures, and how easily it can be implemented by learners of different ages!

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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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Monday, March 29, 2010


WORDLE on ePortfolios

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic From Twitter today: "RT @chamada RT @RobinThailand: The Tweeple have spoken! A WORDLE on ePortfolios created by Twitter submissions. Thanks all."

My first impression: Why is the word assessment larger than the word reflection?
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Sunday, March 28, 2010


WordPress and high school ePortfolios

D. S. Watts (teachwatts) has posted a series of blog entries this spring on using WordPress as a blog for her high school students. 

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Sunday, March 14, 2010


TEDxASB Presentation

The video of my TEDxASB presentation has been posted to YouTube.

Electronic Portfolios have been with us for almost two decades, used primarily in education to store documents and reflect on learning, provide feedback for improvement, and showcase achievement for accountability or employment. Social networks have emerged over the last five years, used by individuals and groups to store documents and share experiences, showcase accomplishments, communicate and collaborate with friends and family, and, in some cases, facilitate employment searches. The boundaries between these two processes are gradually blurring. As we consider the potential of lifelong e-portfolios, will they resemble the structured accountability systems that are currently being implemented in many higher education institutions? Or are we beginning to see lifelong interactive portfolios emerging as mash-ups in the Web 2.0 cloud?

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Thursday, March 11, 2010


Ning and ePortfolios

I'm visiting an intermediate school in Auckland, New Zealand, observing how they are implementing e-portfolios school-wide. They have chosen to use a variety of Web 2.0 tools, but the student portfolios are stored behind passwords in a local LMS, KnowledgeNET. Their storage in this system is limited, so they are using a variety of Web 2.0 tools to store their artifacts; they post their videos in YouTube (this is a school that doesn't block most websites) and Ning. While they can't link to work posted on a Ning page (requires an account to read the page), they can get an Embed code for a video posted on a Ning account, and can embed that video into their portfolios. The teacher sets up one account per class, and the students use that account to post their videos. Very creative!

UPDATE April 15, 2010: Ning just announced they are eliminating their free accounts. What other "free" websites will pull a Ning? How can educators predict and protect their networks and data?

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010


National Educational Technology Plan

I found two references to electronic portfolios in the National Educational Technology Plan:
Technology also gives students opportunities for taking ownership of their learning. Student-managed electronic learning portfolios can be part of a persistent learning record and help students develop the self-awareness required to set their own learning goals, express their own views of their strengths, weaknesses, and achievements, and take responsibility for them. Educators can use them to gauge students’ development, and they also can be shared with peers, parents, and others who are part of students’ extended network. (p.12)
Later in the publication, the following statement appears:
Many schools are using electronic portfolios and other digital records of students’ work as a way to demonstrate what they have learned. Although students’ digital products are often impressive on their face, a portfolio of student work should be linked to an analytic framework if it is to serve assessment purposes. The portfolio reviewer needs to know what competencies the work is intended to demonstrate, what the standard or criteria for competence are in each area, and what aspects of the work provide evidence of meeting those criteria. Definitions of desired outcomes and criteria for levels of accomplishment can be expressed in the form of rubrics. (p.34)
Is there some dissonance between these two statements? How will the two approaches (a student-managed learning portfolio and an analytical serve assessment purposes) co-exist? Or will we need to use two different environments: One that is student-centered, that allows personalization and communication, and another that can be used to hyperlink into student portfolios to "harvest" assessment data, without interfering with the student-centered representation of learning? Please?

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Saturday, February 27, 2010


Mumbai Musings

My meetings with teachers and my e-portfolio workshops are all over at the ASB Unplugged International One-to-One [laptop] Learning Conference in Mumbai, India. Heading for New York late tomorrow night... will be traveling for 26+ hours, from the time we leave our hotel at midnight until we get to Newark. It's been a wonderful nearly two weeks here in India. No health problems (other than my arthritic knee). Lots of new friends from all over the world. Hope to come back.

Wonderful work being done in this international school, and many others. They have a vision for integrating technology across the curriculum, for meaningful learning. I am even more convinced that this is the way to go to really change our educational system, especially after seeing a group of 3rd graders showing their Google Sites e-portfolios to a lot of adults in a presentation yesterday... with such poise and self-confidence. They and their talented teachers are leading the way developing e-portfolios in this school, and I've been privileged to work with them this school year... so inspiring to see my ideas in action modified with their practical strategies in the reality of their classrooms.

This school is going to be one of the case studies in the book I am writing. I was in the 3rd grade classrooms on Thursday, and had an opportunity to talk with students in one class, and observe the students showing their portfolios in all three classrooms. Then I attended the presentation of the threeteachers, with the assistance of about 20 of their students, who took their laptops (they each have their own) throughout the room, sharing their portfolios with a lot of strangers (most of them teachers or administrators from International Schools from Europe and Asia). It was inspiring!

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010


ASB India

I am working on my TEDxIndia presentation on Thursday in Mumbai. I've been in India for a week, and it has been a spectacular trip, both visiting the American School of Bombay, and spending the weekend in Delhi and Agra (including a visit to the beautiful Taj Mahal!). It has been fascinating to see what can be done within a 1-to-1 laptop program, beginning in 3rd grade. I have been meeting with a variety of teachers for the last week, answering questions about ePortfolios, and trying to demystify the process. This is a PYP elementary school, and the students have been maintaining paper portfolios for quite a while, so adopting an electronic portfolio is natural transition in their 1-to-1 program.

I've been working with some of the teachers over the year, with short web/audio conferences on a monthly basis, and I am excited to see what the 3rd grade students have achieved using Google Sites. They have set up pages for each content  area using the Announcements page type, adding entries on a regular basis. One teacher says some of the students are making entries on their own, without prompting. The school videotaped those students talking about their portfolios. Many of their comments were priceless! I am hoping they will post the video online, so that I can link to it.

I am preparing for my TEDxIndia talk. The narrative is posted as a GoogleDocs document, and the slides are posted to SlideShare.
I would love some feedback on the ideas about how the boundaries are blurring between Social Networking and ePortfolio Development, and the need for more intrinsic motivation, based on Dan Pink's book, Drive.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010


Exciting week in Brooklyn

I was in Brooklyn all week, conducting workshops for the New York City Schools, Office of Education Technology for South Brooklyn, Staten Island. I knew they were interested in electronic portfolios, because I had email communication since last spring. We held our first training this week, showing teachers how to create their own portfolios with Google Docs and Google Sites. The first two-day workshop was held Monday and Tuesday, and was overflowing (we moved to a larger room the second day). The second workshop was supposed to begin on Wednesday, but was postponed for a day because of the snowstorm that hit the New York area. I heard about 50 MPH winds hitting the Empire State Building, knocking out satellite dishes for cable TV, but it was just snow in Brooklyn. I had a day off, and postponed my flight to return later on Friday.

I am impressed with the interest in e-portfolios in this program. It is also refreshing to see the emphasis on teaching portfolios as well as student portfolios… that to really appreciate the process, teachers need to construct their own portfolios before trying to implement them with students. I am also impressed with their commitment to learning portfolios for students, not for accountability. I am interested in being able to demonstrate the value of formative, self-assessment portfolios before they might get co-opted for summative assessment.

I just found out that New York City Schools is adopting a combination of ePals (for student mail and collaboration) with GoogleApps (minus GMail) next year. That makes the training that I did this week very relevant for them. They are also looking for schools in other parts of the world to collaborate. As more educational institutions adopt Google Apps, they have a ready tool for building interactive portfolios.

I'll be back in March (on my way back from India), and will be working under a different grant, where I will focus on e-portfolios as professional development environments for teachers (online personal learning environments).

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Thursday, January 28, 2010


Narrated Presentation

Balancing the Two Faces of E-Portfolios

I created a video tour of the new CIC website and added a narrated version of the presentation that was made at the Chief Academic Officers Conference of the Council of Independent Colleges, November 2009; audio recorded at Kapi'olani Community College, January 2010. I posted the presentation only in my video collection. This one focuses on a higher education audience, and provides my most recent rationale for eportfolios as both workspace and showcase, addressing both paradigms of assessment: improvement or accountability.

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Monday, January 25, 2010


AAC&U ePortfolio Symposium

It is a rare meeting where I will travel all the way across the country for a single day (and two nights) when I am not working or presenting, but the AAC&U meeting in Washington, D.C., was worth the miles traveled. I connected with friends and total strangers came up to me, acknowledging my work. The opening session was conducted by Bret Eynon and Elizabeth Clark from LaGuardia Community College, providing an overview of their program, a model for community colleges around the country. I then attended a breakout session conducted by Dr. Mentkowski from Alverno College, a pioneer in e-portfolios and "Learning that Lasts." I attended their Assessment Institute over six years ago, and their model of assessment-as-learning is the process underlying their use of portfolios and e-portfolios.

The lunch speech was given by Melissa Peet from the University of Michigan. She did an outstanding job with examples of a process of reflection that can transform students' perspectives on leadership and social change. I had an opportunity to have a very enjoyable dinner with her, along with Trent Batson and the two presenters from Laguardia Community College. I am anxious to read more about Melissa's work at UM.

After lunch, there were five mini-presentations, and then many more table groups where we could talk in-depth to one of the presenters. I sat at Gail Ring's table to learn more about the Clemson ePortfolio graduation requirement. They have students create their portfolios using Google Sites, and have provided a lot of support materials. They also created their own assessment management system to manage the collection of key assignments demonstrating required outcomes and scoring of the portfolios. There was also panel on assessment that included Trudy Banta (she told the story about the questions she asked at the IUPUI Assessment conference... described in my blog). Finally, Randy Bass gave the closing keynote, about ePortfolios in the "Post-Course" Era. It was a very thought-provoking presentation. I hope they will be posting podcasts of the major presentations.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009


TEDx India presentation

In February 2010 I will be in Mumbai, India, at ASB Un-Plugged 2010, an International Schools Conference. Prior to the conference, I have been invited to make a presentation at TEDxASB, which will be held at the American School of Bombay on February 25th, 2010 between 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm. The theme of the TEDx event is “Embracing Leadership, Innovation, and Change”. The audience will consist of the participants of ASB Un-Plugged 2010 and members of the ASB community -- parents, faculty and students.

Here is my proposed presentation:

Social Networks and Interactive Portfolios: Blurring the Boundaries

Electronic Portfolios have been with us for almost two decades, used primarily in education to store documents and reflect on learning, provide feedback for improvement, and showcase achievements for accountability or employment. Social networks have emerged over the last five years, used by individuals and groups to store documents and share experiences, showcase accomplishments, communicate and collaborate with friends and family, and, in some cases, facilitate employment searches. The boundaries between these two processes are gradually blurring. As we consider the potential of lifelong e-portfolios, will they resemble the structured accountability systems that are currently being implemented in many higher education institutions? Or are we beginning to see lifelong interactive portfolios emerging as mash-ups in the Web 2.0 cloud, using blogs, wikis, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, etc.? There are many similarities between these two processes; the major differences are in extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation (Dan Pink's concept of autonomy, mastery, and purpose). This presentation will draw on Pink's new book, Drive, and how blurring the boundaries between social networks and e-portfolios could motivate people to adopt the portfolio processes of collection, reflection, selection/presentation, interaction, and collaboration to support lifelong learning.

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Monday, December 28, 2009


Motivation and Selecting an ePortfolio System

I have pre-ordered Dan Pink's new book, Drive, which is all about motivation in business, but the more I read, from his newsletter and website, the more I can see application in education. Pink quotes Internet guru and author Clay Shirky (
...the most successful websites and electronic forums have a certain Type I approach [to motivation] in their DNA. They're designed-often explicitly--to tap into intrinsic motivation. You can do the same with your online presences if you listen to Shirky and:
• Create an environment that makes people feel good about participating.
• Give users autonomy.
• Keep the system as open as possible.
These criteria came to mind as I recall the following e-mail message I received a week ago:
My school district has been using a ePortfolio system for over three years now with limited success, and is currently researching ePortfolio alternatives.  While I have found numerous platforms that are currently on the market, I have not found any recent articles which compare and contrast these options.  We are particularly focused on adopting a system that will easily allow us to aggregate/export data surrounding student achievement of specific learning goals, primarily as they relate to gradation requirements, but also as a manner to track the consistency of learning and teaching which occurs across the school.

Is there a particular ePortfolio platform that you feel is especially adept at accomplishing these tasks, or an article that you might recommend?
I really wonder what he means by "limited success" but here is part of my response: [after referencing my April 22 blog entry]:
So, you need to decide whether you want an electronic portfolio or an assessment management system. When you describe "a system that will easily allow us to aggregate/export data surrounding student achievement of specific learning goals, primarily as they relate to gradation requirements, but also as a manner to track the consistency of learning and teaching which occurs across the school" that sounds like an institution-centered assessment management system, not a student-centered ePortfolio.  For what purpose of assessment? Accountability or Improvement? (see my recent blog entry and the associated White Paper). There are a variety of recommendations in that blog entry.

In a recent presentation at the Assessment Conference in Indianapolis in October, I made the following point about "Opportunity Cost" (what you give up when you make a decision). You might also be interested in an article on the Limitations of Portfolios.

I don't know what systems you have considered. Do you have a server where you could install Mahara (an open source portfolio tool created in New Zealand)? Did you look at Digication? My research is on students developing student-centered ePortfolios using a variety of free Web 2.0 tools (that they can continue to use after they graduate), primarily GoogleApps (Docs, Sites) or WordPress/EduBlogs. These systems are not used to collect quantitative data about student learning. For that purpose, you could use a data management system that allows you to link to student-centered online portfolio artifacts.

I'm not sure this answers your questions, but the tools today are very primitive, and not well balanced between accountability and improvement. Also, most of the research has been done in higher education, not in K-12. If only we could just capture the engagement of Facebook into an ePortfolio system... but I do not advocate using social networks for ePortfolios... just incorporate those strategies into ePortfolio systems. The only one I know of that tries to include those social networking strategies in a hosted system is
So, in addition to the functional criteria for evaluating e-portfolio systems, what about some motivational principles for that are aligned with Shirky's three criteria, where students feel good about participating, giving them some autonomy, while keeping the system as open as possible? Can we also consider Dan Pink's motivating workplace environment that promotes autonomy, mastery, and purpose?

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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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Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Portfolio Visualization

Nick Rate, educator and portfolio deep thinker from New Zealand, posted some simple, elegant diagrams on his blog: These simple graphics help explain the progress of portfolio ownership and purpose over the school years.

There is something about these simple diagrams that help to explain a complex process. He also published a more recent blog entry that helps explain the inquiry process:

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Assessment, Accountability and Improvement - a paper by Peter Ewell

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) has published an occasional paper by Peter Ewell. I read an earlier version when I was at the Assessment Conference in Indianapolis in October, when I attended several sessions where Dr. Ewell discussed some of these ideas. The table below outlines two paradigms of assessment that represents two extremes along a continuum that represent tensions between improvement and accountability.

Assessment Portfolios are implemented somewhere along the continuum between those two paradigms. As I emphasized in an earlier blog entry,  the concept of Opportunity Cost should be considered here (what do we give up when we emphasize accountability or improvement based on these two paradigms of assessment?). How can we find a balance along the continuum between these two approaches? Here are some preliminary ideas for addressing the balance issues:


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Monday, December 14, 2009


10 Reasons to use a Blog for your ePortfolio

Here is another blog entry from a faculty member at Boise State University, where I visited last week. It is refreshing to see faculty members model the use of blogs as a reflection space. Both Barbara and Lisa's blogs are developed in, taking advantage of the pages in addition to the blog entries. As they implement a reflective journal (aka, learning log) with their graduate students in the Educational Technology Program at Boise State, they will be providing a model of reflection that their students can emulate in their K-12 classrooms. Bravo!

Of course, all blogging tools are not created equal. I am creating this blog in Blogger, because that is the tool I started using in May 2004. Blogger allows Labels (key word tags) but not the categories available in WordPress. Blogger doesn't allow additional pages, like in WordPress. When I first started blogging, I posted duplicate entries to both a WordPress blog on my own server space (but gave it up after a few months as duplicative), and developed a portfolio using the pages and sub-pages available in (version 2.0+).  I keep a private personal blog in WordPress because I require a password to access the blog (or any individual entry in a public WordPress blog can require a password). So if WordPress has so many more features, why am I still writing this blog in Blogger? I think it is the user interface: Blogger is clean, simple, easy to use; I find the WordPress interface to be more cluttered, complex, but I can see its advantage for institutions that want to host the system on their own servers. For me, the major difference is that I can embed audio, video and slideshare files into my Blogger blog, but would require me to upgrade my account with VideoPress for an annual $60 fee (not applicable for sites hosting WordPress on their own server).

I just finished reading a dissertation written by an elementary teacher who implemented an electronic portfolio to support process writing with her fourth grade students using WordPress on a server in her school... in Greek! In the school where I worked in Turkey last month, that school is implementing e-portfolios with fourth and fifth grade students, making a transition from PowerPoint to WordPress on their own server... in Turkish! It helps to have a technology support staff! The value of this open source tool that can be installed on an institution's server, and modified to be implemented in the native language of the school, provides an easily modifiable environment to facilitate the reflection that is "the heart and soul" of a portfolio. My next project will be to test out the blogging capabilities built into the Mahara open source e-portfolio tool.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009


Fun day at Boise State

I just spent a fun day at Boise State University, working primarily with faculty members in the Educational Technology program, to help them streamline their graduate student summative ePortfolio process. We used my "Balancing the Two Faces of ePortfolios" presentation and diagram as the framework for our discussions. It was really fun to talk with faculty members who knew the technology, and we were able to brainstorm strategies for building a reflective learning journal over time, to help students capture their learning (probably in a blog) throughout the program. Then, they would be more prepared to develop a final assessment portfolio at the end of the program, tied to the program standards. Overall, I was pleased with the discussion and I enjoyed seeing how a group of faculty worked together to improve their program.

At the beginning of the day, I asked how many of them had their own e-portfolios. There was a few tentative hands that went up... but at the end of my presentation, many of them who kept a blog (most using were able to say that their blogs and the associated pages really represented who they were professionally. Lisa Dawley, the program chair, raised an interesting idea: to incorporate students' blog-folios into the LinkedIn professional network site, to begin building their professional network before they graduated... an interesting approach, especially as a showcase portfolio for employment and self-marketing. The LinkedIn site appears to work well with a blog. I am talking with schools that are using the Ning social networking site for similar purposes, all part of embedding academic work into a larger context. More to explore!

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Thursday, December 03, 2009


T.H.E. Article on E-Portfolios

This article, published by T.H.E. Journal provides a shallow overview of e-portfolios in K-12 schools, mostly providing an incomplete look at the types of tools available. The author also made the following statement:
Google is probably the leading provider of mashup services and software for the creation of e-portfolios. The search giant isn't yet offering an e-portfolio product, per se, but in 2007 it began publishing a step-by-step process for combining its Google Apps software into e-portfolio mashups. On its "Google Apps E-Portfolios Mashup" web page, the company has published a series of documents describing how to mash up such applications as Google Docs, Gmail, Google Notebook, Blogger, and the iGoogle portal to, essentially, create an e-portfolio.
Google is also providing guidance specifically aimed at K-12 education. The company has published descriptions of three levels of K-12 e-portfolios: e-portfolio as storage; e-portfolio as workspace; and e-portfolio as showcase.
Lowendahl [Garner Group] is pleased to see Google getting into the e-portfolio business. He says interest from companies of such stature is necessary to secure the application's future.
I agree, it would be nice if Google was getting into the e-portfolio business, but they aren't. What the author is referencing is MY website. Here is the comment that I added to the article:
 This article provides interesting information about e-portfolios, although some of it is inaccurate and incomplete. It is true that most of the research and implementation of electronic portfolios has been in higher education. My reading of the Gartner Hype Cycle for Education, 2009, noted that ePortfolios were listed in the stage of "Sliding Into the Trough" (...of Disillusionment). To move to the next stage of the cycle (Climbing the Slope... of Enlightenment) we will need to have more research on the most appropriate strategies and "best practices" to support student learning, especially at the K-12 level.
Your reference to Google's support of ePortfolios was actually posted on MY website ( ). I wrote the K-12 support materials for both GoogleApps (and WordPress), linked from my web page ( and published using Google Sites). I developed the three-level model, based on my collaboration with both Washington State University and several school districts in California and Texas:
1. portfolio as storage (collection of artifacts)
2. portfolio as workspace (collection plus reflection/metacognition)
3. portfolio as showcase (selection, summative reflection and presentation)
It is also important to recognize that reflection is the "heart and soul" of a portfolio... not the technology or collection of artifacts. The real value of an e-portfolio is in the reflection and learning that is documented therein, not just the collection of work.
My note to the author: To whom at Google do I send the bill for all my development work over the last two years? ;-)

UPDATE: After having a nice conversation with the author, the online article was corrected to read:
Google is probably the leading provider of mashup services and software for the creation of e-portfolios. The search giant isn't yet offering an e-portfolio product, per se, but in 2007 educator Helen Barrett, who has been researching strategies and technologies for e-portfolios since 1991, began publishing a step-by-step process for combining Google Apps software into e-portfolio mashups. On her "Google Apps E-Portfolios Mashup" web page, she describes how to join such applications as Google Docs, Gmail, Google Notebook, Blogger, and the iGoogle portal to create an e-portfolio.
Barrett also provides guidance specifically aimed at K-12 education. She has published descriptions of three levels of K-12 e-portfolios: e-portfolio as storage; e-portfolio as workspace; and e-portfolio as showcase.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009


A Wonderful Week in Istanbul

We just finished a wonderful four days at Enka Schools in Istanbul, working with 4th & 5th grade teachers on ePortfolios, and a few of their students developing digital stories... in English, their second language! They were wonderful, very short stories about themselves or their best friends, and their enthusiasm was energizing. They have new skills to enrich their ePortfolios, now in Powerpoint, but soon they will explore more interactive tools, on their own WordPress server.

It was an interesting experience having all of my presentations translated... forcing me to slow down, reduce my content to the most critical elements. An interesting insight: There is no word for REFLECTION in Turkish, so they had to use a version of "thinking about your thinking/learning."

On Saturday, we had a tour of the historical center of Istabul. Now we are getting ready to leave for Spain. More later... with photos!

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Saturday, November 14, 2009


mPortfolios (m=mobile)

Nick Rate, an educator from New Zealand (and fellow ADE) who published a paper last year for the Ministry of Education on Assessment for Learning and ePortfolios, has just written a few blog posts about using mobile devices to maintain student-centered mPortfolios using the iPod Touch. As he said in a previous post last year:
I see a huge potential in how mobile technologies can contribute to this area and it relates closely to some of the core beliefs I have about ePortfolios. The ability to share, for the purpose of receiving relevant and constructive feedback to improve learning, can only really happen if the learning is shared or made available almost immediately.

The web can make his happen. A blog post with embedded media takes minutes and then it’s there, ready to share. But a web based portfolio does not necessarily mean that parents will view it and share in the learning. And if they do, will they leave a comment? Will they view the learning with their child?
The physical presence of a portable device, like an iPod touch, could significantly change this. A child bringing home an iPod containing their learning gives an opportunity for sharing, not dependent on a broadband connection, taking only on a few minutes of time with mum or dad. Feedback is instant. Praise here and a suggestion here. Done.
His most recent blog posts focus on some of the software available for the iPod Touch that could be used to support mPortfolios:
I learned about a few new apps available for the iPod Touch/iPhone, and his discussion raises a lot of possibilities for developing mPortfolios. The challenge is in the interactivity: a web browser is needed to add comments and provide feedback. It looks like these tools can support the presentation but not necessarily the conversation about learning. Still, these developments are in the right direction, especially when combined with web-based solutions that provide the interactivity.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009


CIC CAO Presentation

Here are my slides for the Council of Independent College' Chief Academic Officers Institute, held in Sante Fe, New Mexico over this last weekend. I found it interesting that there was no Internet access provided by this conference, although the hotel charged a daily fee. I ended up just using my iPhone, and found a cafe with free wifi (to clean out my Inbox). I am now in the Albuquerque airport with slow but free wifi.

I will be developing a guided tour to my part of the Teach21 website that was developed as part of CIC's project developed under a Microsoft U.S. Partners in Learning grant. As part of that tour, I will be creating a narrated version of this slide presentation, which will also be posted to the CIC website. The narrated version should be available by the end of the year.

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Friday, November 06, 2009


CIC Website: Teachers for the 21st Century

I have been working on this new website for the last five months, and it will be announced and showcased at The Council of Independent Colleges annual Institute for Chief Academic Officers, to be held in Santa Fe on November 7-10, 2009. The website includes the ten webinars that I did for CIC under a Partners in Education program funded by Microsoft (seven on electronic portfolios, three on digital storytelling). I also helped the faculty members develop the digital stories that are embedded in this site.  I learned a lot about converting WMV-to-Flash video and discovered Motionbox as a website to store videos online. I also published a simplified version of the content on my website.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009


[Portfolios] Here, There, & Everywhere

Campus Technology just published another article about ePortfolios (where I am quoted extensively). I'm not sure if she quoted my blog, or the ePortfolio Track keynote that I did last week, when I said I thought that universities should be getting out of the portfolio storage business, giving students control of their own web space to store their portfolio documents, using Web 2.0-based storage systems. My response to the article:
Thanks for quoting some of my work. There are some standards under development in the U.K. (LEAP2A) which resemble blogging standards for interoperability. There is a student side and an institution side to the e-portfolio process. The student side is the Personal Learning Environment (as indicated in the article); the institution side is more of an assessment management system. We need to be careful that the standards don't over-structure the PLE side of the e-portfolio so that personalization and creativity are diminished... that is the situation today with most of the commercial and open source e-portfolio tools. The article didn't mention WSU's Harvesting Gradebook which keeps track of assessment data, letting the student use a variety of Web 2.0-based portfolio artifacts. We need more R&D on better tools that keep the portfolio development and assessment processes distinct but interconnected. At the Assessment Institute in Indianapolis last week, I proposed that there is an Opportunity Cost in the way we implement portfolios for accountability vs. portfolios for learning/improvement. Student engagement supporting lifelong learning strategies should be as important as collecting data for accreditation. Finding balance in the process is the challenge.
 The article mentions the Gartner Hype Cycle for Education, 2009, and ePortfolios were listed in the stage of "Sliding Into the Trough" (...of disillusionment, where we say "woah, we were sold down the river"). To move to the next stage of the cycle (Climbing the Slope... of Enlightenment, where we say, "no, come to think of it, used in the right way, this can be good") will be a challenge: figuring out "the right way" from which philosophical perspective? Accountability or Learning/Improvement?

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Monday, November 02, 2009


E-portfolios in formative & summative assessment in UK

The final report, plus case studies (34 in total) from the "Study on the role of e-portfolios in formative and summative assessment practices" by a team led by the Centre of Recording Achievement (U.K.), are now available from JISC:
Interesting reading from higher education in U.K.

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Saturday, October 31, 2009


Northwest eLearning Conference

I just finished attending another conference with my daughter: the Northwest eLearning Conference held in Nampa, Idaho. She and I led a pre-conference workshop entitled, "Voice and Reflection in ePortfolios: Multiple Purposes of Digital Stories and Podcasts in ePortfolio," and our slides are posted on SlideShare (embedded here).
It was the first event we have done together since she attended the Center for Digital Storytelling workshop in August. We didn't have time to do anything hands-on, but we were able to show many examples and cover the process, as shown in these slides. Most of the examples are online, with the links on the slides. (I won't comment too much about the difficulty I had in hooking up my Macbook Air to their projector… I ended up using a monitor for the small group, with my own speakers. Later that day, I took all on my videos out of my keynote presentation, and just transferred my slides over to the presentation computer… which was being used for both projecting to the room and on Adobe Connect. Ah, the frustrations of being a Mac user… still!)

Then, I provided the opening keynote address entitled, "Interactive ePortfolios: Using Web 2.0 tools to Provide Feedback on Student Learning." My slides are also posted here from Slideshare.
I think I opened a lot of eyes about the multiple purposes for portfolios, and the challenges of balancing formative and summative assessment in portfolio development. The pressure of accreditation seems to be driving the push toward portfolios; I think my message of "what's in it for the students" is starting to make people think about the tension between the two approaches. My conversations with faculty after my presentation led me to the conclusion that there is not a lot of experience with ePortfolios, and therefore, not a lot of research to support their implementation in many of these small colleges and universities. I probably unsettled a lot of people who were considering the adoption of different tools. My focus was on the process, and I only talked about a variety of Web 2.0 tools, and none of the commercial tools available. My presentation was recorded with Adobe Connect and is available online.

Later in that afternoon, Erin made her first conference presentation on teaching English Language Learning in Second Life. She was much braver than me… I never count on a live Internet connection for my keynote presentations… only for hands-on workshops. She included participants in her Cypris Chat community, both the founder of the group and some of the student participants. She uploaded her slides into Second Life, and made her presentation "in-world" for both the guests in-world as well as those of us present in the room. I was very proud of her and thought the presentation went very well. She will be repeating the presentation in-world with a group of graduate students from UNLV next week, and then will be doing a conference presentation at the Hawaii International Conference on Education in January, where she cannot count on Internet access. So, she will create some videos to use in her presentation to substitute for a live demo.

In all, most of this has been a good trip, including the eight hour drive each way! I hope I made some contacts that will lead to more collaboration with higher education institutions in the Pacific Northwest.

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Monday, October 26, 2009


Assessment Institute

Yesterday, I conducted a day-long pre-conference workshop on Web 2.0 Tools for Formative Assessment and Interactive ePortfolios. Today, I gave the ePortfolio track keynote (my slides are embedded here) at IUPUI's Assessment Institute. I recognize the perspective on assessment in the ePortfolio process in higher education that I see here at this conference. It was interesting at the opening session to see the number of people who stood up when asked if they were using standardized assessments (or e-portfolios) and sit down if they thought that method did not enhance student learning; most people using standardized measures sat down... more people using e-portfolios remained standing. An interesting response! In my keynote, I emphasized the concept of Opportunity Cost (what do we give up when we emphasize accountability or improvement (learning) based on Two Paradigms of Assessment (Ewell, 2008). Here are the slides that emphasized these concepts:

This was the first time I have presented these slides, but I intend to write more about these ideas, and share them with other educators who may (or may not!) be wrestling with this tension.

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Friday, October 16, 2009


Limitations of Portfolios

Today, Shavelson, Klein & Benjamin published an online article on Inside Higher Ed entitled, "The Limitations of Portfolios." The comments to that article are even more illuminating, and highlight the debate about electronic portfolios vs. accountability systems... assessment vs. evaluation. These arguments highlight what I think is a clash in philosophies of learning and assessment, between traditional, behaviorist models and more progressive, cognitive/constructivist models.
(It reminds me of the current culture clash we are seeing in our larger society today. Is this the equivalent of a red-state/blue-state perspective on assessment/accountability?)

My viewpoint on assessment is through my work with e-portfolios, which are not always developed for the purpose of assessment or accountability. My track keynote at the Assessment Institute in Indianapolis on Monday, October 26, is on "Balancing the Two Faces of E-Portfolios." Those two faces are:  the "portfolio as workspace," a formative approach to support learning with feedback for improvement; and the "portfolio as showcase" of achievements, often used for summative assessment, accountability, or marketing and employment.  I am concerned with the "opportunity cost"* of using ePortfolios for summative assessment.
*opportunity cost: the alternative you give up when you make a decision…the cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009


The Digital Down Low

Just saw this link on a New Zealand listserv. Great resource on using GoogleApps for ePortfolios.
Also a nice video to introduce ePortfolios to students (the author, Matt Montagne of Palo Alto, quoted my Google blog entry... several times!):

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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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Sunday, September 13, 2009


Some Interesting New Links

Google Wave – how will it change the online learning landscape?

This blog entry, from a university in New Zealand, points out the potential advantages of Google Wave over a traditional Learning Management System (LMS). I love the quote,
"On every investment, one expects at least some positive return. As far as LMS’s go the students actually get none! All the work they do in a course over the semester is lost as the courses on LMS’s are recycled for use next semester. As far as the notion of ePortfolios go, Google Wave will have a huge impact upon selection of what tool to go with and a positive spin for the students who’ll be able to showcase all of three years work to prospect employees." 
Amen! I am so anxious to get my hands on Google Wave! I hear a beta release is due out September 30, 2009, to a select group of users. Other recent blog posts:

A Virtual Revolution Is Brewing for Colleges -

Will the Internet Revolution have the same impact on Higher Education as it has on the newspaper industry? This quote is disturbing to me:
The typical 2030 faculty will likely be a collection of adjuncts alone in their apartments, using recycled syllabuses and administering multiple-choice tests from afar.
To me, that statement reflects a misunderstanding of both teaching and assessment.

Ask-Dr-Kirk: E-portfolios A Useful Tool For Both Students And Faculty 

The attachment on this page is by J. Elizabeth Clark, Professor of English, and Bret Eynon, Assistant Dean for Teaching and Learning, both of Laguardia Community College, CUNY entitled "E-portfolios at 2.0—Surveying the Field" published by AAC&U, Winter 2009. This is a good overview of the current issues in implementing ePortfolios on a national and international scale. Providing a good counter-argument to the Washington Post article, the paper identifies the Four Major Drivers of Portfolio Use:
  1. pedagogical change in higher education, a growing interest in student-centered active and integrative learning
  2. technological capacity to document and publish diverse forms of student learning online... and the experience of learners with social networking tools
  3. the pressure for increased accountability in higher education, facilitating a more classroom-based and faculty-driven alternative form of assessment
  4. the need for “an education passport,” a way for mobile students—and professionals—to represent their learning and carry it with them as they move from one setting to another.
One emphasis of the LaGuardia ePortfolio is their attention to visual rhetoric in students' portfolios [increasing personalization and creativity]. A quote from this article supports the notion that the loss of visual richness in "fill-in-the-blanks" types of ePortfolio systems does not allow the level of student engagement that an ePortfolio should encourage, along with my issues of balancing student ownership with institutional accountability:
Through e-portfolios we have an opportunity to harness the power of imagery and digital media to advanced cognitive processes. If standardized presentations become the norm, it may jeopardize student enthusiasm and miss an opportunity to connect academic discourse to the visually rich multimedia universe. (p.21)
...if e-portfolios are only assessment tools, without value or meaning to the students who create them, they will lose vitality and become an exercise in discipline and surveillance. (p.23)
Another Amen! The article also quotes me (about different approaches to ePortfolios and assessment) during a panel at the ePortfolio Conference held at Laguardia in April 2008.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Discovering your "something"

Today, President Obama said:
Every single one of you has something you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That's the opportunity an education can provide.
He also told students, "stay focused, find something you're passionate about... set goals and work hard to achieve them." I would add: How will you know what that "something" is? We all need a space where we discover, explore, and document what we are good at... what we have to offer. What better place for than exploration than a reflective portfolio, to highlight our strengths and passions? In an online journal/portfolio, we can share our goals and dreams with ourselves and our teachers, friends and family. That's an opportunity an ePortfolio can provide.

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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 29, 2009


Google Apps/Sites updates

It just gets better and better! For a large company, Google is very responsive to making upgrades to its software. Now we can transfer Google sites between owners (i.e., from an education domain to a personally owned Google account). Now, ePortfolios created in one domain can be transferred to another! That is just what we have been waiting for! Now these ePortfolios can be transferred between accounts, making these sites as portable as blogs! They also improved the Announcements page.
In July, Google also announced changes to the Navigation Bar in Google Sites, to automatically generate links to pages as they are created (the option needs to be set for sites created prior to July 2009: More Actions -> Manage Site -> Site Layout ->edit [Navigation] -> Automatically organize my navigation). They also allowed more flexibility in HTML coding embedded in Google Sites pages.
In the last entry, Google announced a new attachment section was added to the Google Sites management section for easier management of all uploaded attachments to Google Sites. Now you can see all attachments and which page they appear! Very useful for an ePortfolio. I wonder if you can generate a link to an attachment from another page?
(Thanks to Kathy Schrock's tweets for keeping me current on these changes. Her recent blog entry on how her district is implementing GoogleApps is very insightful.)

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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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Monday, August 17, 2009


Blog Portfolio Model

I am in Texas, working with a school district, where they are implementing ePortfolios using EduBlogs (WordPress). Here is a new model that I created to help explain the process. I was reading David Warlick's Classroom Blogging book on the plane ride from Seattle to Dallas, and the concept of blogging as a conversation really resonated with me, as the left side of this diagram reflects. This model works with any blogging tool that also allows pages, such as Movable Type. I added a full size version of the graphic on one of my web pages.

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Monday, August 03, 2009


What if...

This teacher's application to the Google Teacher Academy... the essence of an ePortfolio. I hope he got in!

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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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Friday, July 24, 2009


Conversation with Teacher Educator

Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with a teacher educator from a college near me. Several years ago, they had adopted one of the commercial tools but just recently gave up on it. Instead they have their students sign up for accounts so that they would own the site after they graduate. I also pointed out the fact that blog content follows an interoperability standard that allows them to transfer their content to another blogging system, should they want to. He had read some of my website (but not this blog) and decided that student choice and creativity were more important than data aggregation! He noticed immediately a change in students' attitudes toward their blogs compared to those who used the rigid commercial system.

We also talked about confidentality and the ability to password-protect individual entries or the entire site. I like the ability to document learning over time in tagged blog entries and then construct pages around specific themes (outcomes/goals/standards). I just wish WP would automatically generate permanent pages with aggregated entries based on tags... but that is a topic for another day.

When asked about how they are managing the data aggregation, he said they are using the gradebook function of the college's CMS to collect faculty evaluation data. We are planning to meet next month to talk about their process.

This discussion reminds me of the discussion held at the NCEPR meeting earlier this week. When talking about technology challenges, more than one person mentioned "rigid" systems, either home-grown or commercial. Once again, the needs of institutions for data aggregation often overshadows the importance of student choice and voice, especially in how the visual presentation truly represents the learner's own vision and creativity. This Teacher Ed program has figured out how to balance the needs of the institution with the needs of their teacher
candidates... who just might want to replicate the process with their own students... with tools that are free and available in schools.

Follow-up: The teacher educator, David Wicks of Seattle Pacific University, gave me permission to share his FAQs about WordPress and his blog entry where he discussed their decision to adopt WordPress, a process he calls bPortfolios (b is for blog).

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