Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Becta Schools Update - Sept 2009

For the sake of those who do not receive the Becta newsletter I have copied the following (with permission). Although the word e-Portfolio is not mentioned anywhere in the article I feel that so many of the initiatives mentioned here would benefit from e-Portfolio connectivity. I quote Niel McLean, Executive Director, Schools and Families:

Photo: Niel McLean"In this edition I’d like to draw your attention to the idea of Learner Entitlement. We are making good progress towards developing a technology-confident education system. One of the key challenges we have to address is improved teaching with technology and promoting a technology-related learner entitlement. Delivering such an offer requires schools and teachers to consider how they are going to develop their teaching through technology, and what this might mean for their learners. Working with subject and phase experts from the field, Becta has produced guidance on the importance of providing learners with opportunities to use ICT tools to support their learning in all subjects. This will assist teachers in improving the ways in which they and their learners use technology.

"In future editions we will be updating you on some of our other major areas of work, including improving parental engagement through online reporting. Take a look at our new case study videos on this theme, starting with South Dartmoor Community College.

"You can access further information on each item featured below on our website. Please contact us with any suggestions or comments you'd like to make. Do feel free to share this newsletter with colleagues who may also be interested in what Becta is doing.

Niel McLean, Executive Director, Schools and Families"

News and features

You can always catch up with our latest news by visiting the Schools website.

The Home Access Programme
For those interested in the progress of this important programme see the PowerPoint.

Learner entitlement to ICT
Pupils should be given opportunities to apply and develop their ICT capability through the use of ICT tools to support their learning in all subjects. Which are the areas of the curriculum that can be truly enriched and enhanced through the use of technology? Becta, in partnership with Teachernet, have published a series of entitlement documents written by subject and phase experts to guide teachers on making the most of ICT in these areas.

Self-review framework: Share your views
With over 16,000 schools now using the self-review framework we know it is well used. But how useful is it to you? We are conducting an evaluation of the effectiveness and usefulness of the self-review framework and want to hear your views. The questionnaire will be available until 16 October 2009. There will also be the opportunity to take part in more in-depth interviews with our researchers in due course.

A guide to the use of e-learning for Diploma delivery
Are you part of a 14-19 consortia? If so our new guide will help you to build e-learning in to the design, provision, management and implementation of the new Diplomas. As well as providing strategic advice and practical support, the guide contains real examples of how e-learning is being used to support Diploma delivery.

Professional development for teachers
Regular, timely and appropriate staff training in the use of technology is essential if it is to be embedded within curriculum delivery and support services. The professional development area of the Schools site has been updated with new resources that can help your staff get the most from technology.

Visit us on YouTube
Our new Becta YouTube channel offers video material covering a wide range of topics on the use of technology in education. The aim of the channel is to share knowledge, advice and personal experiences of learners, leaders and teaching professionals to a wider audience.

Upcoming events
Becta runs and attends many events throughout the year. These are regularly added to the events section of the Schools website.

Handheld Learning Conference
5 October to 7 October 2009, London
Becta is pleased to support this conference, which this year has a theme of 'Creativity, Innovation, Inclusion and Transformation'. There will be opportunities to demonstrate, debate and explore how mobile technologies can be deployed to enable transformational improvements in learning across schools, home, further education, training and business.

NB. All of the above originally posted on the Becta Newsletter September 2009.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The Advantages of E-Portfolios in Teaching

Photo: Adrienne CarlsonE-portfolios are beginning to gain in popularity as the entire world embraces digital technology and the online way of life, but e-portfolios still have a long way to go before their full potential is realized. For those in the dark, an e-portfolio (when used in connection with teaching) is a collection of the work of someone in the pedagogical field which reflects their ideology, their views and thoughts on teaching, a list of their accomplishments and talents, the courses and classes they teach, and so on. In short, an e-portfolio for a teacher is similar to the portfolio artists carry around in order to showcase what they’ve achieved and provide a teaser of what they’re capable of. There are various advantages in using e-portfolios when you’re a teacher:
  • It’s easy to update and rectify: Any data stored in a digital format is easy to maintain because you don’t have to rewrite entire documents when you make a mistake. Updating information also becomes a piece of cake because the process is almost effortless.

  • It helps you become a better teacher: When you have a readymade package of all your work and your ideas and thoughts, it’s easier to analyze your style and refine your presentation when you have a plan for the future and work towards it. When you’re able to show others what you stand for as a teacher, you can prove yourself more effectively, especially when you’re aiming for a promotion.

  • It proves you’re tech savvy: When you show that you’re familiar with the technology used to create and maintain an e-portfolio, you prove that you’re tech savvy, a skill that many teachers lack. In today’s world, you must know and love technology if you want to keep up with all that’s happening.

  • It allows easy access to your work: When you have an e-portfolio, it’s easy to put your work online so that more people have access to it. This way, you’re showcasing your skills to a larger audience and providing yourself with appropriate exposure.

  • It allows you to use multimedia: When you’re able to include pictures, videos and music in your e-portfolio, it gives it much more depth than using just text alone. E-portfolios allow you to use multimedia to your advantage and showcase your ideas and skills with much more strength.

  • E-portfolios save space: No matter how much information you want to add to your e-portfolio, you can do so without worrying about space constraints. It’s easy to include information and events as they happen, because digital information is compact and concise.

E-portfolios are just becoming well-known as tools of the trade for teachers, as well as within some other sectors such as Health Care & Nursing. With more from the pedagogy field embracing them, they’re soon going to become the norm rather than the exception they are now.

This guest article was written by Adrienne Carlson, who regularly writes on the topic of online degrees . Adrienne welcomes your comments and questions at her email address:

Monday, 21 September 2009

What IS an e-Portfolio ?

People are continually asking this question and using generally outdated text to thus argue for outmoded Teaching & Learning styles. A recent post on this issue caught my eye, primarily from the succinct cartoon as above. The student wrote:

"I am currently researching eportfolios as part of the #H808. In my professional life as an elearning advisor I have vowed never to use the word eportfolio on its own. This is because the same word is used for very different types of system. Instead I use the following terms which I hope we will get to acknowledge and understand more as the course progresses. "

The complete post can be seen here.
My response was inevitable:
I love the e-Portfolio cartoon - it really expresses the dilemma. And this is the point: too many people have avoided the issue, like you, by disaggregating what in essence is ONE tool which can be used in a wide variety of purposes and functionalities and by a very wide range of users.

Writing with a mixed academic perspective, I was once asked who were the potential users of an e-Portfolio. At that time I listed off some 18 different users, see:

Quite simply, my plea to you is that you do not go down the route of different e-Portfolios for different purposes. Each learner has a multitude of different needs - and the e-Portfolio can meet many of these various needs through differing functionalities.

Certainly, one of the best features of an e-Portfolio is the ability to store a variety of artefacts such that they can be reused for different purposes and persona.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

What is Feedback ?

Graphic: A Traditional ChecklistFor far too long we have assumed that 'Formative Assessment' and 'Feedback' are one and the same thing. Students say "I don't want to know about the feedback, just tell me the grade I've got." Teachers, too, tend to give feedback towards the end of a project and invariably only once.

It is time that both teachers and their students began to learn a few home-truths about Formative Assessment.

I always enjoy Sarah Stewart's blog - she is a hard-working and adventurous professional and her recent blog on Formative Assessment set me thinking. One quote in particular stands out:

"As a teacher, in the past the only time I heard from students about the feedback I gave them was when they wanted me to increase their grades. Very rarely have I heard from students who have wanted to discuss my feedback so they can learn how to improve their 'performance'."

I see Formative Assessment very differently. Firstly, as a teacher I see formative assessmentGraphic: One-to-one conversation in a relaxed and undisturbed environment. as being the pre-emptive strike that ensures that we are both understanding each other. This, I hope will ensure that the student does not waste valuable time going off in the wrong direction. Secondly, I am concerned that the student should feel that I'm really interested in what he/she is doing - one visit hardly demonstrates interest. Apart from anything else, as we increasingly encourage independent investigation and lateral thinking, there is a fair chance that I may need to 'mug-up' on some areas into which I think that the student might venture. And, leading on from this, feedback is seriously NOT uni-directional. - Feedback from the student may suggest that the teacher needs to modify his/her presentation techniques or coverage of the syllabus.

Sarah referred to the University of Technology, Sydney and some very useful links to the whole discussion on assessment. For me one paper in particular made very pleasing reading, 'Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice.' A bit of a mouthful, but well worth downloading. I quote the seven principles:

Good feedback practice:
1. helps clarify what good performance is (goals, criteria, expected standards);
2. facilitates the development of self-assessment (reflection) in learning;
3. delivers high quality information to students about their learning;
4. encourages teacher and peer dialogue around learning;
5. encourages positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem;
6. provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance;
7. provides information to teachers that can be used to help shape the teaching.

I've referred elsewhere to W.J. Popham's book, 'Transformative Assessment' but would again commend it here for its very clear message to teachers about how feedback can influence the work of both students AND teachers.

The argument for e-Portfolios
From the above propositions I can almost hear teachers saying, "But when have I got the time to arrange all these interviews, MULTIPLE interviews, with all my students????" And this is where the e-Portfolio enters in as the perfect solution. Teachers can 'chat' privately with their students as and when they choose, synchronous or asynchronous. Staff can access the students' work in progress and even chip in with a suggestion without the student asking. Perhaps, more importantly, the e-Portfolio allows staff to look, as it were, 'behind the scenes' and better understand where the student is coming from, in all senses of the word. And eFolio, being a 'rich media tool' is an excellent solution to the whole problem.

Monday, 14 September 2009

The New Literacy?

Graphic: Relaxed writing by the seaside.Thanks to a brief post from Leigh Blackall I read this eloquent item from Rachel McAlpine. It talks of young people enthusiastically writing away on their netbooks or laptops - and that whilst they were away on holiday! If ever there was an example of learning taking place outside of the classroom, I think that this is it!

Writing, however reflective, can still be very introspective and misses something of the point of learning as far as I understand it. Even some three hundred years ago we read of Isaac Watts putting together his great works on Logic etc by comparing the writings of two or three others and compiling a single work from the synthesis of both the other writers and his own perceptions. Perhaps, although not interactive, this could be seen as a form of collaboration?

Certainly, for today's learners, Rachel McAlpine's observations are but just the beginings of e-Portfolios as the store of fond and sometimes private memories only to be trusted by a select few. I wonder how many of Rachel's holiday writers will publish their rich gems of observation, refined by the collaboration or peer-review of others.

e-Portfolios? Let's get going!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The Australian ePortfolio Toolkit

Image: Part of front page of ePortfolio Concepts for LearnersIn trying to under-stand the state of e-Portfolios around the world, I rediscovered the Australian ePortfolio Project Report of August 2008 that I'd neatly stored away and then forgot! As they state:

"The AeP project team has developed the Australian ePortfolio Toolkit for use by ePortfolio practitioners in their institutions. The ePortfolio Toolkit comprises a series of ePortfolio Concept Guides designed to inform the diverse stakeholders in higher education about issues and opportunities associated with ePortfolio learning."

However in re-visiting their site I found it refreshing to study their 'Concept Guides'. To my mind they are one of the clearest expressions of JISC advice. However, they are just that, advice for HE and VET students, staff, technicians and employers of graduates. What we now need to do is translate these excellent documents into exemplar materials for the rest of the 90% population who are not on the HE conveyor-belt.

Excellent as the advice is, I cannot see much evidence of what is actually happening in the classroom or late at night between peers reviewing each other's work or collaborating in larger projects.

So, good as the Australian venture is, whatever nationality you belong to, please come back to me with examples of the work done in your country - and let me 'wave the flag' for your nation.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Crystal ball gazing?

Serge Ravet posts some tough lines of enquiry as to the future of e-Portfolios. The question therefore comes to mind, quite simply, where shall we be in ten years time? The answer does not come from Doris Day's rendering of 'que sera, sera - whatever will be will be'. Rather, the future of e-Portfolios is what we make it. We are now well passed the position of 'This looks like a good idea.' It's now time to get down to some serious business!

Serge writes a post entitled '10 ePortfolio Challenges' the opening paragraph sets the scene for some hard questioning:

"For the 7th ePortfolio conference, and in order to give directions to our work towards our 2010 goal (ePortfolio for all), EIfEL decided to address a number of challenges to the ePortfolio community and beyond —many of the problems the ePortfolio community faces today will not be resolved if they are not addressed beyond the ePortfolio silo. The goal of these challenges is to move beyond the current state of ePortfolio development, in particular in the field of interoperability as interoperability is not just a technical issue, but a means to enable new practices and the emergence of truly lifelong and life wide ePortfolios."

Another challenging paper by Serge must be studied: 'What is the problem with personal data today?' I quote the opening paragraph:

"Digitised personal data records now play a central role in our life, from the record of a birth at a hospital (and the photos of the new born!) to the delivery of a death certificate at the registrar. The increasing number of digital data, by and about ourselves, lead to the emergence of what is now referred to as 'digital identity', i.e. all the attributes and digital production by and about a person —school records, health records, employment records, business records, credit records, surveillance records etc."

Where in the world are we?

The recent post from John Pallister set me to think, Is it not time that we had a world-wide audit of the current usage of e-Portfolios?

I am aware that there are some 2,500+ readers from 77 countries visiting this blog, some on an almost daily basis.

Can I ask, therefore, that you all tell me your opinion of what is happening in terms of e-Portfolio usage where you are? If you can collect any local data all the better. Short articles that I can publish a link to would also be helpful.

In the next day or two I will set up a simple questionnaire to collate your responses, but meanwhile, any comments or e-mails to me will be helpful.

Thanks in advance.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Web2.0 & e-Portfolios

 The Educational Technology Site: ICT in Education - THE site for users, teachers, leaders and managers of educational ICTIf you need a strong argument for introducing e-Portfolios into the classroom, and more importantly, into the wider experience of your students, look no further than the reality of being able to use Web2.0 tools within an e-safe environmet such as eFolio.

For some time now I have been considering the benefits of Web2.0 ever since Terry Freedman published his first book on Web2.0. His website and newsletter are well worth following. However, in thinking how things have progressed in terms of e-Portfolios over the last two years in schools, we might say 'Not a lot!' It seems to me that not only are teachers afraid of being accused of being members of a '5th column' but that technicians and Network Managers in particular are not keen to incorporate every different configuration of a very fluid Web2.0 supply. And, of course, as students mature, they will want an ever-increasing set of tools not available on their school's VLE.

What I am trying to underline is that there is a lot of progress being made in Web2.0, whether it be for 'free tools' for the Home Access netbooks or advanced tools for personal development (see my post on Chan Sook). However, I feel that these tools are not being successfully embedded within our classroom culture.

MY solution, as the title of this post implies, is that the e-Portfolio is that place where students can embed their own personal preferences of Web2.0 tools, as and when they are ready for them, without any intrusion into the 'high-security' domain of the VLE.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Thinking Differently in a Digital World

'The Digital World' from Dreamstime.comI had thought of a more slick title such as 'Get Real, man!' - but thought better of it. However, the principle still stands. Two different posts recently reminded me of the vast gulf which still remains fixed between those in their ivory palaces of academia and the real world of day-to-day learning and living. How we can best use the communication systems that we have and how we relate to one-another in the digital world still needs to be understood.

The first post, from Wayne Mackintosh in New Zealand, mentions an incident which is quite common, that of moving house, and even, in this case, from one country to another. He writes:

We have recently relocated back home to New Zealand after working a few years in Canada. My son is in Year 11, and due to curriculum differences between the two countries, in some subjects he had already covered aspects of the NZ curriculum in Canada. He had an assignment to write a book review and had already done one in Canada. So he simply copied the digital version of the book review for submission here in NZ. Educational issues aside -- he was able to reuse his efforts and investment in learning from a previous learning experience.

Similarly, in subjects areas which adopt a concentric curriculum design on increasing levels of difficulty a student may want to rework last year's assignment covering the same topic. Part of our responsibilities as educators is to prepare our students for a changing digital future .... This may place interesting challenges on traditional notions of property and ownership of learning outputs.

In a completely different scenario the writer, Julian Beckton, was extolling the virtues of a rendering of Mahara into which, credit where it's due, he has put a lot of work. However, it appeared to be a very introspective HE solution and lacked little reference to the wider world. I responded somewhat critically but, I hope, constructively:

If you can consider that an e-Portfolio is ‘for life’, or ‘from 5-95′ or as Dr Barrett says, ‘from sperm to worm’, you will appreciate that the one tool must be far more user-friendly than your somewhat technical solution suggests.

Secondly, the e-Portfolio is the centre for all sorts of learning external to ’school’ or ‘college’ and as such must have within it a number of e-safe tools which allow peer-review, collaboration, polls, surveys and questionnaires etc.

Thirdly, within the context of the percieved audiences, there must be simple tools to control who sees what and when.

Fourthly, and this is my chief complaint with Mahara, the e-Portfolio tool must be capable of using a number of templates, colour schemes and fonts which allow some degree of personal self-representation.

Fifthly, you mention nothing as far as I can see, about ‘transition’. Although there are ‘fixes’ for allowing some level of interoperability with Mahara, you do not warn people that the Mahara solution will probably not be of any use to learners once they move on from their present institution.

So, the bottom line is still the question that I often ask, 'How can we use e-Portfolios to enhance or even revolutionise Teaching and Learning in a Digital World?'

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Clouds in the Sky?

The hypothetical Chan Sook - original photo from:'m not the most enthusiastic user of 'Cloud Computing' but I have genuinely tried to understand the mind-set of those who are. Perhaps, the cry of 'Is it free?' does not naturally burst from my lips. Perhaps I never did belong to the 'hippy-generation' and I very rarely get impressed with the Graffiti artists who ply their trade on every brick wall available. Perhaps my well-earnt salary makes me feel a bit more comfortable with paying for a product that is backed-up with a solid and free support service. Or perhaps it is my somewhat cautious fear of leaving my muddy footprints all over the ether.

However, I have recently been quite impressed with the thinking of others on this subject. Firstly, I came across Hazel Owen's blog. Her post on the hypothetical Chan Sook paints a very clear picture of the mindset of our young (and possibly not-so-young) students. Probably others could add equally competitive Web2.0 applications to her list, impressive as it already is. Her mindmeister mind-map is really something to browse. However, I took the liberty of producing an A4 'compression' of her map which is just about readable.

At the other end of the spectrum, I am very grateful to Paul (see comment on 'Cloud Computing?', below) for the link to a most comprehensive 26-page document from Sun Microsystems. If other readers have good documentation or links please respond by commenting.