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Monday, 21 June 2010

3-Way Interviews

Graphic: From Jamin Lietze's postMy friend Jamin Lietze wrote a very interesting post back in May. I have a very high regard for the work that he has put into developing e-Portfolio understanding for Primary schools in NewZealand. However, he raised an issue that I first came across in the work of John Pallister (some 4 years ago) in the UK and his work for MOSEP.

At that time John Pallister was running his 'eME' portfolio system 'in house' and, just like Jamin, used the student's e-Portfolio as the medium for discussion at short school-based 'Parent-Teacher Interviews'. The children would show their parents examples of work showcased from their VLE-based 'eME' system, parents would "Ooo!" and "Ahh!" at the right places and generally would see work that they had not seen before or did not even know about.

Obviously, as long as the majority of parents do not have on-line access to their child's VLE this 'shock-of-the-unknown' will continue in the same way as parent-teacher meetings did long before computers arrived in schools. But this brings out a valuable point. As more and more schools are opening up their VLEs for home access so the shock of the unknown or misunderstood should soon disappear. The regular sharing of learning experiences by children with their parents, mentors and peers will encourage both face-to-face and on-line feedback which will make the traditional parent-teacher meeting obsolete. Instead, one would hope that the 3-Way meeting will become a time of social pleasantries, celebration and constructive discussions where all are better informed. - Even cups of tea and cucumber sandwiches to talk over! (Never like that in my day!)

Perhaps the traditional 'Parents Evening' might even become a thing of the past?

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Blogs as Web-Based Portfolios

Photo: child blogging on a laptopI pounced upon this free book (13 pages) by Jeff Utecht as soon as I saw the title, 'Blogs as Web-Based Portfolios' for two reasons. Firstly, because I found Jeff's easy to read style to be quite fascinating (I have referred to this in my previous post) . However, unfortunately, my second reason for it grabbing my attention was that the title was like a red rag to a bull - and thus for this post!

For several years now, and almost every day, I have been reading the various blogs, wikis and e-Portfolios of undergraduates, trainee teachers and students. Repeatedly I have found myself asking questions about how much guidance the students have had relating to e-Portfolios and what sort of challenges teachers or lecturers have been presenting to their students. Even the most articulate of students I find referring to a blog as their e-Portfolio.

Despite my interest in 'all things technical' I still think as a teacher and a leader of staff. To this end I would argue against the many who think that a blog or a wiki is a suitable tool for presenting an e-Portfolio. Quite simply, a good e-Portfolio is so much more. Yes, it can include blogging tools or wikis, it can include links to a whole range of Web2.0 tools, but, as Nick Rate points out (slide 15), these are all contained within the e-Portfolio. I just do not see a tool like Wordpress meeting the vast range of pedagogical activities one would expect within an e-Portfolio.

As I have repeatedly said, if the e-Portfolio is to be fully portable, learner owned and lifelong it must be hosted externally to any institution and yet, at the same time afford the security and reliability that schools require and without adding an additional workload for staff.

Building Communities and Networks

Book cover: a hand reaching upwards to the lightI am very grateful to Jeff Utecht for releasing as a free copy, his book 'REACH - Building Communities and Networks for Professional Development'. The book is easy to read and is an excellent introduction to what the 'C' in ICT is all about. I would think that the book could easily be used as a pre-reader for a staff development day or series of workshops. My only wish was that this book could have been available some ten years ago!

Although the word 'e-Portfolio' is strangely not mentioned in the book, the whole mind-set that Utecht describes is that of the e-Portfolio user. It is not surprising, therefore, that he has written another book, 'Blogs as Web-Based Portfolios'.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Nick Rate on e-Portfolios

I have long appreciated the thoughtful and challenging work of Nick Rate, no more than in this Slideshare. It is worth going to his blog post for some further questioning thoughts.

Much of what he writes makes for very good pedagogy although he raises several questions which we at eFolio in the UK believe we have the answers. One typical 'error' in my way of thinking, is to consider an e-Portfolio as a tool for Assessment OR a tool for recording Process(es) OR a tool for Showcasing. In eFolio it is quite possible for the one e-Portfolio to be used for all three (and more) functions at the same time. This can be done as soon as one understand the principle of writing for a specific 'Audience'. In eFolio artefacts can be uploaded once and yet repurposed according to the 'view' presented to specific readers.

Again, Nick raises issues of ownership and portability which need to be resolved by each individual school. Unfortunately, he leaves these questions unanswered, and, until they are, schools cannot really start on a track that they might regret later. eFolio has been purposely designed to overcome the questions that Nick leaves unanswered.

Well, apart from my gripes, New Zealand should be very proud of the work of such energetic leaders!

Monday, 14 June 2010

e-Portfolios in Primary schools?

Photo from Primary classroomI was recently asked the questions, "How do I start using e-Portfolios in a Primary school?" - An important question that needs a serious answer. But, in simple terms, as with much of education, my answer is simply, "Start with the known and move to the unknown."

eFolio is exceptionally configurable to the needs of even the youngest children - a simple clear layout, in easy English, inviting the youngsters to take ownership of their eFolios right from the start. At this stage it should be noted that the eFolio is set by their age to be a private account and is not discoverable by search engines.

In discussion with eFolio staff, the teacher can decide what template, font styles and page tabs should be set as the default profile along with any scaffolding.

To begin with, say in yr5, it might be that only one task per term is asked for, and children find it very easy to start off with a topic such as 'All about ME!' Once the children are comfortably working at this writing task, it might be that the teacher asks the children if they have a digital photograph at home that they would like to use in their eFolio. This then becomes a great opportunity to get parents/carers involved. The teacher, at this stage, will have to enable access for the parents who can then assist in uploading an appropriate image to their eFolio. (removing the task from the teacher!)

Perhaps, in the next term, children could be asked to write about 'My favourite school subject(s)'. This, as with the previous topic, allows not only the teacher to understand more about each individual child and their backgrounds but also begins to help parents have a better insight as to their child(ren)'s learning.

Thirdly, children begin to develop their own identity through working on a further page, 'My hobbies and clubs'. By this time the children will have begun to develop their own self-identity within their eFolio and could be encouraged to allow two or three of their closest friends to have access to each other's sites. This will enable formative feedback, polls, surveys, Likart scales or peer review and thus stimulating the documentation of discussions often left uncaptured in the normal classroom environment.

In yr6 it might be that teachers want to start encouraging children to think about transition to 'the big school'. An enduring theme can start with the title, 'In the Future' - which could be as imaginative as the teacher wants. The student may change this title at a later date to 'When I grow up', and even later, 'My Career plans'. Apart from anything else, this begins to establish the concept of the e-Portfolio as being an ever-living, lifelong and ever changing document.

Another useful page could be, 'My awards and honours' which begins to document any credentials that the student feels are applicable. This might encourage the use of scanned images or additional photographs. I have found this particularly useful when interviewing children before their transition to Secondary school. In later years this section will provide links to the Learning Records Service (ex MIAP).

Well, that's the short version of my answer to what I call the evolution of an eFolio! For some more examples of this evolution, see:

Saturday, 5 June 2010

The Blind Leading the Blind?

Dreamstime Photo: Being welcomed by a blindfolded man.As an avid e-Portfolio watcher I spend hours every day reading students' e-Portfolios and academic articles, from the most naive to the extremely erudite. However, what was exciting some four years ago has made me become increasingly frustrated as I repeatedly read the same sort of academic papers describing small-scale 'Pilots' which never seem to get anywhere. Similarly, students from all around the world write of their requirements to explore, investigate or design e-Portfolios as an ICT competency excercise imposed upon them by their tutors.

This set me thinking: Why is it that apparently intelligent people, tutors or faculty in particular, appear to lack any reasonable knowledge of the full functionality or benefits of using an e-Portfolio system?

After some 20 years of e-Portfolio thinking it seems strange that so many school leaders have no working familiarity with the tool. If students can benefit so much from e-Portfolios, what confidence can they have in faculty who don't use them. What sort of duplicity is it that says, 'You must do this, but I don't.'

Perhaps one might ask, 'Who blindfolded you?' Is it the institution that says this would cost too much to implement? Is it faculty who say we haven't got the time? Is it educators who have not adopted Web2.0 thinking? Have staff been confused by misleading advocacy? Or is it an hierarchy that intend maintaining the status quo?

Perhaps nearer the truth is the fact that many students can see through the weaknesses of a profession that relies on orthodoxy rather than exploring a brave and exciting new world of Teaching & Learning?

As I have said in several other places, 'Without a vision the people perish!' No where is this more true than in the world of e-Portfolios. Let us therefore stop all 'Pilots' and get involved in implementing whole-school policies for e-Portfolios, NOW!