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E-Portfolios, Blogs, and WIKI's by Hellen C. BarrettPosted by Bob Tozier on 10/24/2012What is an ePortfolio?
An ePortfolio (electronic portfolio) is an electronic collection of evidence that shows your learning journey over time. Portfolios can relate to specific academic fields or your lifelong learning. Evidence may include writing samples, photos, videos, research projects, observations by mentors and peers, and/or reflective thinking. The key aspect of an eportfolio is your reflection on the evidence, such as why it was chosen and what you learned from the process of developing your eportfolio. (Adapted from Philippa Butler’s “Review of the Literature on Portfolios and Eportfolios” (2006), page 2.)
An ePortfolio is not a specific software package, but more a combination of process (a series of activities) and product (the end result of the ePortfolio process). Presentation portfolios can be created using a variety of tools, both computer desktop tools and online (Barrett, 2000; Barrett, 2004-2008). Most commercial ePortfolio tools are focused on the product (right-hand) side of the diagram below, although some open source tools contain some of the Web 2.0-type tools that enhance the process (left-hand) side of the diagram, such as blogs, social networking, and RSS feeds.
The real value of an e-portfolio is in the reflection and learning that is documented therein, not just the collection of work. In fact, here are two of my favorite quotes from a book and a resource created by JISC in the UK:
" The overarching purpose of portfolios is to create a sense of personal ownership over one's accomplishments, because ownership engenders feelings of pride, responsibility, and dedication." (p.10) - Paris & Ayres.(1994) .
" The e-portfolio is the central .and common point for the student experience. It is a reflection of the student as a person undergoing continuous personal development, .not just a store of evidence.".. (Geoff Rebbeck, e-Learning Coordinator, Thanet College, quoted in JISC, 2008)
What is a blog? What is a wiki? How are these tools used in ePortfolios?
A web log, or blog, is an online journal that encourages communication of ideas, and individual entries are usually displayed in reverse-chronological order.Blogs were one of the first Web.2.0 tools, built on an architecture of interaction, allowing subscribing through RSS feeds, and feedback in the form of comments on specific entries. Blogs provide an ideal tool to construct learning journals, as discussed by Crichton and Kopp (2008) from the University of Calgary. Their research suggests:
... that eJournals help to make ePortfolios more authentic and relevant to the students’ lives. Focusing on reflection and inquiry, [their] study explored the use of social software as a tool to build and sustain a community of practice, recognizing that teacher education lives in a community well beyond the university experience. (p. 2)
According to Wikipedia, "A wiki is a collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone with access to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites. The collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia is one of the best-known wikis." (The first developer of wiki software named it after the WikiWiki Shuttle in the Honolulu airport, because wiki meant quick in Hawaiian.) A wiki tool, such as Google Sites, can be used to construct hyperlinked web pages, organized thematically.
Before I discuss the diagram below, I want to share an excerpt from my blog, written while at the National Educational Computing Conference in June 2008:
I just had a wonderful conversation with a high school English teacher, who used my website for resources on working with her 11th grade students on electronic portfolios (she showed me some examples). She started her students with a blog, but many of them went far beyond the blog and created their own presentation portfolios using one of the Web 2.0 tools. She herself had to use one of the commercial e-portfolio/assessment management systems in her graduate program, and she said, "It took all the thinking out of it. They gave me the standards and told me which artifacts to put into each one! It wasn't as effective as what my students did!"This story points out the challenges we have in the implementation of ePortfolios in education: the tension between what I call the "two different faces" of ePortfolios. I am promoting the concept of two portfolios: the Working Portfolio, which WSU calls the "workspace" or some schools have called the [digital] shoebox; and any number of Presentation Portfolios (depending on purpose and audience) which WSU calls the "showcase" and schools call "showtime!" In order to build more formal presentations, we need the digital archive or the storage of work samples (collection) to draw upon (selection) for inclusion in these presentations.
Giving Every Student a Voice Through Online Discussion By Catlin R. TuckerPosted by Bob Tozier on 10/19/2012Discussion was the element of my college classes I enjoyed most. I loved sitting in a class with a diverse group of people discussing literature, historical events, and political issues. In those discussions, I was challenged to stretch as a student and a person. I found I learned most effectively by talking with and listening to my peers.
My belief in the power of discussion drove me to focus on it while pursuing my master's degree in education. I wanted to create a safe space in my high school classroom to lower students' affective filters and engage them in dynamic discussions to drive higher-order thinking.
Was I successful in this as a new teacher? No. In fact, I failed for seven years to make any kind of meaningful discussion happen in my classroom. Each time I presented a discussion question in class, the same three or four students dominated the discussions while the rest of the class sank low in their chairs and avoided eye contact.
I eventually decided to try using a free online-discussion platform (I chose one called Collaborize Classroom) to replace some of my pen-and-paper homework. I was skeptical, but desperate for a better way to engage my students.
To my shock and delight, the night I posted my first discussion question online, the first three students to respond were kids who never spoke in my class. It was my "ah-ha" moment. These kids wanted a voice but previously I had not found a way to give them an opportunity to comfortably engage in the class dialogue. It turns out that my students were interested, insightful, curious, and quite vocal ... online.
The eagerness with which students took to the online space was stunning. I asked my students about this transformation. They said things like, "I like having time to think about the questions," "It is interesting reading what other kids in the class have to say," and, "It isn't as scary discussing stuff online." It was clear that they'd had a variety of reasons for choosing not to engage in the classroom.
Setting the Norms for Online Exchanges
Much of my students' success was the product of the foundational work I did in the beginning stages of our online discussions. I approached the work with careful intention to create a safe space online that mirrored the respectful environment in our physical classroom.
Despite being "digital natives" who regularly engage with their friends online, I realized my students had no idea how to contribute to an academic conversation online in a respectful, supportive, and substantive way. Rarely do they see the look on the face of the person receiving a hastily written text or Facebook message. In short, they did not know how powerful their words are. They had to be taught how to communicate online.
I began slowly. I created a "Do's and Don'ts of Online Student Communication," which I shared with students prior to our first conversation. I wanted them to know exactly what was expected of their participation online. This was a digital extension of our classroom, but it was a different environment that demanded some specific guidelines.
To begin with, I stressed the importance of using names when replying to each other's postings. This creates a friendly atmosphere and helps foster community among classmates. I reminded students that their peers cannot see their body language or hear their tone of voice online, so everyone must keep their language direct and respectful.
I put emphasis on proper etiquette in our online space: Compliment classmates for strong, original postings, and critique the comment rather than criticize the person.
I underscored the importance of staying open-minded, avoiding slang, and not using all caps, which can be interpreted as yelling. I explained that sarcasm is counterproductive and can make other students feel unsafe sharing their ideas. I advised them to avoid emotional punctuation, like exclamation points, unless they were complimenting an idea shared, and to always be courteous when answering questions addressed directly to them.
Here are some additional strategies I gave my students:
• Read questions and conversational postings carefully to avoid unnecessary confusion.
• Ask questions. If anything is unclear or you want further information, just ask.
• Listen to all ideas presented. Remember there is no right or wrong in a discussion. A variety of perspectives add depth.
• Respond instead of reacting. Do not write a response if you are angry or upset. Instead, wait until you have had time to calm down and collect your thoughts.
• Really read your peers' responses. Avoid skimming. Respect the time your peers spent articulating their thoughts by reading carefully and thoughtfully.
Once the expectations for behavior were clear, I focused on developing an online community by using icebreakers to help build relationships. This gave students an opportunity to practice the "Dos and Don'ts of Online Communication," and it provided me with examples of student work so I could gently correct missteps and highlight strong contributions online.
The results were vibrant, interesting discussions that evolved from me asking the questions to my students designing questions for their peers to discuss.
An Unexpected Shift
Our brick-and-mortar classroom experienced a transformation, too. Students began entering the room discussing topics from the previous night’s homework, addressing each other by name, and freely engaging in real-time conversations.
About six weeks into the first semester, I posted a controversial debate topic online, and then allotted 10 minutes for a follow-up debate in class. Twenty-five minutes into the debate, there were seven hands in the air and the bell rang. For the first time ever, I had to stop an in-class discussion. It was the most exciting moment of my teaching career up to that point. It demonstrated how transformative technology could be when used to give every student a voice.
From there, my classes became increasingly dedicated to student-centered activities that built on our online discussions, debates, writing assignments, and collaborative group work. Now, instead of passive observers, my students are active and eager participants who are confident that their voices have value.
Catlin R. Tucker teaches English language arts at Sonoma County’s Windsor High School and is the author of Blended Learning in Grades 4-12: Leveraging the Power of Technology to Create Student-Centered Classrooms (Corwin).
Last Modified on November 12, 2012