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Thursday, 4 November 2010

Escaping the Stone Age

I was recently in conversation with a respected colleague, and we were bewailing the 'Stone Age' mentality of some of our teachers and how they were holding back our children's learning. Inevitably, I wanted to shout out that the ePortfolio, and eFolio in particular, was the answer to the whole problem. However, in a more reflective moment I came up with four suggestions:

1. The ePortfolio can act as an information service found by all permitted parents/ carers/ mentors/ grandparents etc. This facility should act as a structured information service, an educational 'agony aunt' and also a confidential hot-line where questions about educational practice can be properly and securely discussed.

2. It is essential therefore that schools start understanding that Personal Learning Environments are the way forward and that tools are urgently required that can enable students to move forward at their own speeds and enable the following of their interests. Eventually, I suspect, this will be a Web3.0 environment but certainly an ePortfolio will be involved.

3. I do hope that when schools do manage to catch up with the technology, teachers will be able to check HWKs (and for that matter classworks) on-line, provide feedback to the kids, and modify their lesson plans if necessary, BEFORE the next lesson.

4. It is an absolute MUST that schools should publish their schemes of work in Easy English over their VLEs but preferably within the ePortfolio scaffolding, so that any parent, carer or mentor can help the child to understand 'where they are, where they want to go to and by what processes they will get there'. These should be specifically and constructively written for every subject area. Schools must recognise the benefits of 'the Home-School Nexus'.

However, rather than just describing the ePortfolio as a tool to support 'good practice', another approach would be to try and identify the prefered educational outcomes - and then decide what tools could best achieve the required results. Below are two fundamental questions and my suggested responses:

Q) What do parents, governors and politicians think ought to happen more or better to create better learning?

A: Pupils should be more engaged with their learning and as a consequence would be more productive and would be more proud of the ownership of their learning. They should have access to their work 24/7 so that they can work as and when suits them.

Q) Imagine yourself saying "The use of ICT has got the pupils ?????????.......... so much more/so much better". What, as a teacher would you hope to see?

A: Children are now more able to explore safely for themselves. They know how to phrase the right questions when searching for information. They can learn things not immediately obvious from the school curriculum or exam syllabii. They communicate better with both their peers and teachers. They are more able to learn from and to provide feedback. They will not take one person's opinion as 'gospel' but will clarify/verify what they have been told. They are more aware of things happening around the world. They understand more about different cultures or mindsets. They understand that learning is not a 9-4 occupation but that learning happens all the time. They are more questioning - they will not take 'impossible' as an answer but will explore alternative solutions.

I can visualise so many scenarios where the use of a collaborative ePortfolio is the right place for all of these learning experiences - and possibly with no teacher in sight! And not only 'learning' but also reflection, internal adoption and, inevitably the pride of ownership of ones learning as seen through the showcasing of appropriate artefacts and reflections.

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