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Saturday, 27 February 2010

Impact of ICT on Language Learning

The full title, as in the graphic should be, 'The Study on the Impact of ICT and New Media on Language Learning', recently published by the European Commission. The full document can be found here, or the executive summary here.

For me there are two major matters of concern: firstly as many will be aware, is the concern for the slow adoption of ICTs amongst many teachers. An extract from the conclusions is worth noting:

"Pedagogical applications do not keep pace with and are not integrated into technological innovation and change. Educators are often resistant to using technologies which do not reflect what they consider to be current pedagogical best practice. Programmes of professional development for teachers do not always encompass current technological developments. Teachers often feel daunted by the speed of technological development which may threaten their relationship with learners who may be more skilled.

The application of new technologies in learning implies fundamental changes for the role of the teacher. These changes are often not addressed in professional training programmes or in continuing professional development.

Practitioners on the ground, even at national level, are often not aware of existing resources and support streams. Professional formal and informal networks are not tasked with seeking funding for plans to incorporate ICT and new media to support language learning."
Obviously what applies to the teaching of languages equally applies to most other subject areas. When a report of this stature makes such statements is it not time that the teacher training institutions and those providing CPD made specific attempts to address this situation?

My second area of concern is more specific, that of the place of the e-Portfolio in addressing language learning in particular. I find it sad to note that although MP3 players are briefly mentioned, the role of the e-Portfolio in providing collaboration and peer-assessment or even 'expert-mentoring' is not mentioned. Such activities can easily and simply be addressed for language learning - and yet it appears that the authors of the report did not feel able to think 'outside of their box'.

If one considers the e-Portfolio to be a form of PLE (Personalised Learning Environment) then there is one final paragraph that hints at a solution but does not suggest how this may be accomplished:

"New technologies allow for increased learner control leading to the development of personalised learning environments (PLEs). The provision of appropriate resources, learning management systems and infrastructures to allow individuals to take control of their learning are generally not in place. "

Friday, 26 February 2010

e-Portfolios under the microscope

Picture of a scientist looking down a microscopeJamin Lietze has produced an excellent and concise summary of his recent presentation. Well worth checking out, once one gets used to the Prezi format - best seen in Full-Screen mode.

I have know of Jamin's work in New Zealand for almost two years now. A credit to his school and nation!

The details of his document on 'Set your criteria...' must be taken seriously. I hope that we can soon have an audio transcription of the presentation or perhaps an extended article as a backup to this work.
Jamin, Congratulations on an excellent show!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

ascilite 2009

An impressive paper by Gordon Joyes and Lisa Gray(In Same places, different spaces. Proceedings ascilite Auckland2009) entitled, 'Effective practice with e-portfolios: How can the UK experience inform practice?' makes a good read, even if only 10 pages. As Lisa Gray reports, '... Gordon Joyes, myself (Lisa) and Elizabeth Hartnell-Young presented on our work at the Ascilite conference in Auckland in December, and won an 'outstanding paper award' for it .'

Under the heading 'Why is JISC exploring e-Portfolios' the following extract should be noted:

"Before learners enter higher education,within schools and 14-19 sectors, there has been an increasing focus on a national curriculum that values skills. A new qualification, the Diploma has emerged, with the development of personal, learning and thinking skills (PLTS) at its core. e-Portfolio technologies provide ways in which these skills can be evidenced. But perhaps the most important reason for considering the potential of e-portfolios to support learning and teaching is the emerging evidence from practitioners and learners of the value of developing e-portfolios, not only to support more profound forms of learning, adding value to personalised and reflective models of learning, but also facilitating the transition between institutions and stages of education, supporting application to education and employment, staff appraisal and applications for professional accreditation, and supporting learners based in the workplace. "

However, many of the points referring to mainstream education remain undeveloped. As part of my ‘evangelical’ efforts to promote e-Portfolios in mainstream education, therefore, I wonder if we should be creating a paper entitled,

Effective practice with e-portfolios: How can the UK HE experience inform practice in mainstream education?
To this end I would dearly like to discuss with practitioners (possibly at Cumbria?) how the lessons learnt in HE can be developed for a nationwide and all-age implementation.


Title strap: “A generation of disengaged children is waiting in the wings…”Demos (in the UK) has just published a most disturbing report, 'EX CURRICULA' documenting what most of us know or suspect. It addresses the growing and often ignored problem of NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training). The opening paragraph of the summary states:

"The number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) continues to confound policy makers. Policy initiatives have not worked to combat this seemingly intractable problem, largely because they are designed to impact too late, when a young person’s disengagement from their education is already endemic."
The 334 page .pdf document loaded surprisingly quickly, but takes a long time to read through. The report is disturbing if not at least downright challenging. The authors, Sonia Sodha and Julia Margo are supported by contributions from a myriad of distinctive writers and organisations. Political parties of all colours and particularly education fora need to seriously consider its challenges.

For me, as yet again, I was disappointed to see no reference throughout the 334 pages to e-Portfolios. It is my contention that the e-Portfolio in the contexts of NEETS cannot be ignored. The e-Portfolio (and in particular eFolio) is specifically designed to meet two very obvious needs: The need felt by children to give expression to their own perception of 'ME', and secondly the e-Portfolio can give an enhanced view of the young person's background and feelings which family, carers, education staff, mentors and club leaders etc can do well to read and understand.

So, perhaps my readers might start the ball rolling by suggesting clear examples of how an e-Portfolio can do for NEETS what the high ground of HE so regularly claim!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Creating future-proofed graduates

Graphic: On the RSC-West Midlands blog, Kevin Brace reports back on the recent BCU conference. What he reports makes good sense as far as Higher Education is concerned.

But is this not also true for all sectors of society? Should we not already be doing this with our youngsters aged 5-16? Is this not the purpose of our 14-19 Diploma courses? Is this not what we should be doing in Adult Education? Even those anticipating retirement may still have some 20-30 years of a future to look forwards to. Just because we might have retired from full-time employment does not mean that we have rejected all chances of further employment or productivity.

Whatever education sector(s) we may belong to we need to look more carefully at the implications of Kevin's report. For instance, if blended learning is seen to be more effective, should we not be looking at ways of delivering this within Secondary education? Should not Employers be looking more carefully at how their VLEs or e-Portfolio systems support CPD or re-location etc? Should not e-Portfolios become mandatory for examining student suitability for courses even before interview? Should not Primary schools be looking more closely at how an e-Portfolio system can enhance transition to Secondary schools?

Is it not time that, even if Becta cannot get its act together concerning e-Portfolios, the DCSF and JISC got together to constructively resolve this present debacle. Surely it is time for the e-Portfolio to be seen as a Lifelong and Lifewide facility, and even centrally funded as in parts of the Netherlands? - Or even state-wide as in Minnesota or New Zealand?

Saturday, 13 February 2010

RPLO for all?

Image: the RPLO logoI recently attended a one-day conference organised by Prof. John Konrad and hosted by the Newcastle College's Centre for Excellence in Teacher Training. - A quick note of thanks to the in-house caterers - 'Wow! Thanks for a really 5-star buffet lunch!'

The meeting was well-attended, to capacity, and delegates came from a variety of backgrounds, all experts in their own fields. I will not here pre-empt the proceedings which, I anticipate, will be published shortly. Click here for the RPLO website. However, two observations I feel are worth noting:

Firstly as every speaker presented their case and throughout the several discussions I repeatedly felt, sentence by sentence, that the real solution to the documentation, justification for a learner's RPLO, the ability to better provide for inclusion etc were all best able to be resolved through the medium of an e-Portfolio system such as eFolio. In simple terms, eFolio allows the learner to express themselves as they choose through any form of media, page organisation or choice of 'cosmetic' features.

One of the points which really attracted my attention was the statement:

The RPLO Project will pilot these Guidelines in the Vocational Education and Training [VET] Teacher and Trainer Sector using the Lifelong Learning UK Standards through the development of user-friendly tools, methods and support materials.

Wow! I thought, just the sort of project for which I want eFoilo to be the solution!

However, in retrospect, is not the recognition of prior learning what any teacher does anyway? Apart from any formal qualifications that a student might have acquired, is it not just plain common sense to find out more about a student's background, their personal learning styles, their interests and hobbies etc? So, returning to the title, 'RPLO for All?' I wonder if the lessons learnt from this pan-European exercise will help to reinforce good practice throughout all sectors of education?

Monday, 1 February 2010

e-Safety and eFolio

e-Safety logo: thanks to the Ann Edwards School for permission to use.Mainstream schools in particular have a duty of care towards minors. To this end, advice, clear teaching and Acceptable Use Contracts are not always sufficient. In a previous life-form it was my responsibility to ensure an e-safe working environment which included all of the above. However, it was, for the children, the fear of being found out, with date-stamped hard-copy, that really won through.

This is now a feature of our eFolio system that any suspect child or reported incident can easily be checked out. Again, regular alphabetic or random trawls can also ensure that reasonable on-line behaviour is occurring.

I do not think that where an e-safe system with published rules and sanctions is in place there should be any problem. After all, the institution's system is there for work and, like any exercise book, the ePortfolio, although deemed to be owned by the student, is still open to view by any teacher, parents and mentors or even the Headteacher or a Schools' Inspector!

Increasingly, students of any age can use their own systems for collaboration or investigation and can reserve any 'non-school' activities for systems external to the institution. So much so that some children have objected to their school's use of FaceBook as an intrusion upon their private lives.

Facilitation and e-Portfolios

Photograph: Dr Carl RogersI recently attended a BILD seminar on Facilitation. It was a good day with a range of speakers, plenty of practical activities and time for networking with a wide variety of 'top people'.

I had not anticipated how clearly the aspects of Facilitation equated to some of the functions of an e-Portfolio. The photograph of Dr Carl Rogers - 'The Godfather of Facilitation Theory' was subtitled, 'The person-centred approach' - and this said it all for me.

The paper presented by Graeme l’Anson particularly excited me and, with his permission, I list some of the points that he made which equate with e-Portfolio thinking:

Facilitation Theory:

This theory emphasises the learner’s involvement in the learning process, and de-emphasises the trainer’s involvement.
It says that you are there to facilitate a learning process, not to teach.

It recognises:
•a belief that human beings have a natural eagerness to learn,
•there is some resistance to, and unpleasant consequences of, giving up what is currently held to be true,
•the most significant learning involves changing one's concept of oneself.

Benefits to the User of Facilitation:

•Better learning
•People more motivated to improve themselves
•More open to new ideas and change
•People learn to problem solve
•More effective meetings

Three telling quotations:

“A training course is not something you do TO people or even FOR people, but WITH people”

Dave Meier - The Centre for Accelerated Learning

“You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him discover it within himself”


“My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people.”

Jack Welch (ret CEO of GE)

Some have argued that 'The Sage on the Stage' is dead and that 'The Guide by the Side' is the way forward in education. I would argue that there is still a place for both. The performer, the challenger, the provider of rare bits of knowledge or information that interest or provoke discussion or even argument still has a place in education. But so to does 'the Guide by the Side' who provides that 'still small voice' of reason and reassurance'. Whether asked for or not the mentor, counsellor, supervisor, peers and parents all have a place to add to one's learning and self-esteem.

So, my challenge in this post is aimed at all teachers, support staff and technicians, that they should reflect upon Graeme l’Anson's points as above and consider how the e-Portfolio can best be that 'Facilitator' of learning.