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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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 (http://electronicportfolios.org/google/ ). I wrote the K-12 support materials for both GoogleApps (and WordPress), linked from my web page (http://electronicportfolios.org/ 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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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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Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Official Google Docs Blog entry

I just wrote a guest blog entry on the Official Google Docs Blog on Electronic Portfolios in GoogleApps. It was an interesting process... trying to compress my thoughts into 500 words! But we used a shared Google Doc document that currently has 597 revisions! It was fun to edit a document with someone who really understands the collaborative editing capabilities of Google Docs.

Also made it on the Google Student blog as Creating your digital resume. I've been given a lot of titles (ePortfolio guru, the grandmother of ePortfolios) but on Twitter today there was a first: ePortfolio jedi master!

Another 15 minutes of fame on the Internet! And another public mention of writing a book... I guess I need to get it written!

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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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Wednesday, July 15, 2009


ePortfolios - Celebrating Learning (in NZ)

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

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

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Thursday, May 28, 2009


Wordle of this blog

Just for fun, I've been taking some of my digital documents and putting them through wordle.net. The Wordle above is for this blog before today... sort of looks like a footprint. Hmmm... It is fun to see the themes that come through the most-used words in a document. Below is the Wordle for my latest article, Balancing the Two Faces of ePortfolios:
An interesting way to learn from a word cloud! Almost better than an abstract!

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Sunday, May 17, 2009


Technology Trends and Gartner's Hype Cycle

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

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Friday, May 01, 2009


ePortfolio Surveys

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

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Sunday, March 15, 2009


More Interesting Reading

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

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Feedback on Diagram

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

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

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Friday, January 30, 2009


Balancing 2 Faces of ePortfolios

Balancing the Two Faces of ePortfolios

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

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Thursday, January 15, 2009


More online publications

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Papers about ePortfolios in Higher Ed

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

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Friday, March 14, 2008


MOSEP - More self esteem with my ePortfolio

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

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

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Friday, January 25, 2008


Sticky ePortfolios

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

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Their Space

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

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Friday, July 13, 2007


My Vision of a Digital Archive for Life

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

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007


New web pages

I created two new web pages while in Australia:

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Sunday, March 25, 2007


Launching a new Book in Melbourne

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

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

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