We've been seeing an ongoing theme in the discussion threads and during our web conference about how to effectively use tools for eportfolios. People have mentioned WordPress, Mahara, Moodle... We'd love to hear more about what you're doing. Here are some guiding questions to start us off:
1. What tools are you using for ePortfolios? What influenced your choice? Can you share a link to an example of an eportfolio with this platform?
2. What are the benefits of this tool choice?
3. What are the challenges you've faced in using this tool?
We look forward to hearing your responses.
All the best,
Among benefits of using Edublog pages as foundations were:
Accessibility anywhere you have a computer connected to the Internet;
Flexibility of display, design, formatting, layout, and page structures (including hierarchies);
Free-ness though, as I noted above, no longer ad-free-ness; and
Student ownership, which at the time was co-ownership with the educator who had created the blogs for student coursework.
One of the initial challenges, above and beyond students' comprehension and use of EAL for coursework, was getting them to choose a blog template that afforded comments on pages. I could have picked such templates for them, but that would have put a damper on individual choices, and freedom of expression via choices of available designs. Other challenges included what many of you may consider basic technical achievements such as creating hyperlinks showing reader-friendly display text rather than raw URLs, say to individual blog posts or group wiki pages, or embedding audio or Google Spreadsheets and Presentations (slideshows and commentary) in their blog posts and pages.
Perhaps the biggest challenge was time management. During the most recent iteration of a two-semester, intermediate-level, EAL communication course series in which I had previously asked students to create portfolios, after considering the possibility of distributing boilerplate for use in individual portfolios to boot-strap the portfolio development process, I decided that our time might better be re-concentrated on other activities such as extending group learning projects already discussed on blogs and documented on course wiki pages, rehearsing and polishing group presentations, live peer-to-peer feedback sessions after presentations, and written reflections thereupon that should remain accessible to their owners as long as Edublogs and Google are around.
The person to talk to about Wikieducator and Moodle is Nellie Deutsch.
Take a look at these public classes she conducted on WiZiQ
One of the biggest problems I have had to face however in the university teaching sector is the university decision to make all blogging and e-Portfolio creation "safe" for students. This has meant that all blogging has to take place behind a university fire-wall. Consequently students and staff are no longer open to the big wide world. I have found this incredibly debilitating. It seems to destroy the very purpose of working on-line. I don't know if you or others have any thoughts about this, or know of how other educational institutions are handling this whole issue.
Thanks for your input.
I'm fortunate to be in a situation where, for the time being at least, colleagues and I can choose which blogging venues we ask our students to use. You might say we've dug in quietly, outside university firewalls, where we've worked since almost before there were firewalls, certainly since before Moodle or similar dedicated content management and communication toolsets became available on the campuses where we teach. Our choices have ranged from Blogger to Edublogs, Ning (with blog feeds from Edublogs), Wordpress, and Vox. The option of pages on Blogger blogs now makes portfolio collections and reflections possible there, outside push-down post pages, though affordances for commenting on stand-alone pages are still lacking.
Suggestions elsewhere that giving students back their semesters or years of work in an HTML suitcase, when they finish courses or programs, may fulfill educators' and system administrators' responsibilities with regard to content ownership and portability strike me as enormously short-sighted. I wonder what proportion of such portable content ever again sees the light of day. Perhaps someone who works with adults in a contained computer-mediated venue can shed some light on this issue.
I too feel that the suggestions we give back students' work at the end of semester is totally useless. It is the ongoing interactivity and the joy of having an open space that enthuses students in their creativity.
I have looked briefly, but with interest at the suggestion made in a previous post about the open source Mahara (http://mahara.org/) which looks like it might fulfill a number of uses (blogs, eportfolios, wikis) while being sufficiently sophisticated to satisfy local authorities that users have complete control over their work. I hope (once my marking is finished - and before this discussion finishes) to report back on what I see in Mahara.
Michael Griffith wrote,
For some areas, where students are sorting out their ideas, thinking aloud etc I think this is fine. In my opinion. I regard the Moodle=walled garden as a feature, not a bug.
This has meant that all blogging has to take place behind a university fire-wall. Consequently students and staff are no longer open to the big wide world.
But on the other hand, Moodle plus wordpress open to the world is a cool combination.
A button in a Moodle Forum "Send to Blog" could be a cool tool.
Michael Griffith wrote,
Very sorry Michael. Time may help shift things into a more middle ground.
Unfortunately I was warned that if I didn't stop doing what I was doing there would be serious repercussions.
As part of some research I was doing, I created a portfolio in Mahara and one in Wordpress to get a sense of the differences. I think both work well. Mahara has more system tools such as group functionality and the ability to submit portfolios to a “tutor” for assessment. It is also evolving close integration with Moodle, which we also use. I understand that they are working on a way to submit “views” or pages from Mahara to Moodle for assessment so that students don’t have to duplicate effort. The newest version of Mahara also allows the export to a standalone HTML zip file which is handy.
So from a system standpoint there may be advantages to dedicated applications like Mahara for those looking for an integrated system--but we don’t know if we are yet. I think Wordpress or other blogging tools offer more individual freedom and control. If we really want students to own their portfolios, this is a really important piece.
I am trying to move us from the dabbling stage to a more formal evaluation phase where pilot participants start to identify the key tasks for their projects and develop evaluation plans so we can see how well Mahara really does meet these emerging needs (or if there really are emerging needs).
For those interested in a look at Mahara, see: https://cranberry.kwantlen.ca/mahara/view/view.php?id=515 (there’s a link there to the WordPress version).
Thanks for the opportunity to hear what others are doing in this area.
Took me a while to find the link to Wordpress.
You say "I think both work well"
What about the difference in the level of technical skill needed?
Did you have other options for presentation in Mahara? I know there are other ways in Wordpress.
And my final question: what makes this an e-portfolio. Is it the surrounding comment to your formal paper.
By the way, I did read part of your report, and you have done well. I note this comment (p41) in comparing Mahara and Wordpress:
"Mahara is a dedicated eportfolio application while WordPress is primarily a blog publishing platform.
WordPress is a more mature product, first released in 2003, while the first version of Mahara emerged in 2006. The maturity of WordPress is reflected in a more sophisticated and more familiar interface, as well as in a wider selection of themes and widgets that are currently available.
WordPress allows built-in linking of pages while Mahara requires
page links to be created manually.
Mahara has its own internal blogging tool, messaging system, and eportfolio specific features such as a resume builder.
Mahara also allows artefacts (files, media, images, etc.) to be grouped and displayed in different configurations for different audiences.
Mahara provides the ability to create user groups and to allow group members options for sharing pages and instructors or tutors options for assessment management such as the ability for students to submit views for assessment.
Mahara has also been purposely designed for integration with Moodle, a popular open source learning management system"
It seems the views for different purposes is the key difference.
Is this enough to warrant another tool?
Grateful for your comments (and that someone other than my project supervisor [and my mom] would take the time to look into my report). You ask about:
>>the difference in the level of technical skill needed?
- From my perspective, I would predict that there would be little difference in the amount of technical support required for novice or timid users for either system. Those happy to tinker would work either out without much trouble.
>>Did you have other options for presentation in Mahara?*
- You can select the number of columns (1-5) and to set column widths. The theme is currently set by the administrator but I suspect that more themes will become available, and ideally, a way for users to control their own theme. WordPress definitely has a big advantage in the number and quality of themes available—being a very novice WordPress user, I don’t really know to what extent users can modify or add their own images to an existing theme.
>>And my final question: what makes this an e-portfolio. Is it the surrounding comment to your formal paper.*
If you mean my own examples, I think what makes it an eportfolio is that I can bring forward or highlight current projects quite easily, and in this way Mahara makes this mixing and matching of artifacts into different “views” or pages quite easy. I’m by no means an experienced user of WordPress so I can’t really compare this yet. I suspect it is also easy to do there once you know how.
>>Is this enough to warrant another tool?*
- Judging by the number of institutions who have developed and still choose to develop their own custom tools, I would say that it is still early days and we should expect to see lots of different dedicated and multipurpose tools come forward and fade away. I think most of us in the ed tech area have learned a great deal from our experiences with learning/course managements systems and (hope) we will have more realistic expectations from eportfolio tools and systems.
In many ways it makes one of the reasons for keeping a portfolio very clear in terms of its use in the 'real world' outside of study. I like that it can link out and include all kinds of media too, so the portfolio isn't self contained. I think this is important in terms of developing digital literacy skills. The portfolio needs to be inclusive of whatever sts are doing or creating on the 'real' web. A tool that is self contained will only ever be percieved as something sts use 'for school'.
Nik Peachey | Learning Technology Consultant, Writer, Trainer
Teacher Development: http://nikpeachey.blogspot.com/
News and Tips: http://quickshout.blogspot.com/
Student Activities: http://daily-english-activities.blogspot.com/
On Social media: http://bloggingandsocialmedia.blogspot.com/
On Twitter: http://twitter.com/NikPeachey
My take on this would be to have learners create their own e-portfolios -- which I'll henceforth refer to as blogs -- using whatever platform they see fit (I agree with a previous post that Blogger is a good choice).
There they could control their learning space as they see fit -- fill it with resources, products, plans, communications, etc -- whatever they want to have at hand and show the world.
All the individual blogs could be linked to on a common page in whatever LMS was being used for the course -- so all learners would have easy access to each others' blogs.
What the institution loses is trackability -- which could still be done to a limited extent in the central LMS.
What the learner gains is a digital portfolio that they can take forward with them to keep building on and displaying (to future schools and employers, as stated in a previous post).
The bridge between the two for me is assessment -- systematic assessment of the individually organized blogs according to clear criteria (easier said than done) -- the results of which can then be fed back into the central LMS.
(Thank goodness for RSS feeds, which can help)
Nice to chat on the live session last week.
Thanks -- always good to have the sobering voice of experience.
Again, the sticking point seems to have been assessment -- which is sometimes more of an institutional than a learner need.
As a student in a learning tech program, one of my first activities in one of the first courses was the creation of a personal learning environment (or blog). Worked great because of the loose assessment applied by the prof (what was assessed was the work done inside the LMS itself).
I continue to maintain the blog -- which has grown from educational to professional -- which I see as an important part of my professional digital footprint.
In terms of identity, I think, having a pre-fabricated and managed portfolio puts me in the role of novice -- whereas my personally managed portfolio allows me to be a practitioner.
In the long run, the latter has supported my development much more than the former -- but that development will never be tracked and quantified by the institution(al LMS).
Can it be?
Some influences: low cost, open source, friendly user interface, flexibility of multiple presentations of content to meet program requirements & provide for end user creativity & alternate uses, broad user/development community, ability to build communities from within institution and external to the institution, ability to tag content, ability to export as a website, ability to support a range of artifacts/file types, having the tech expertise for install—luckily we had in-house expertise in terms of Brent Lee (mentioned in another thread in this Seminar)—and resourcing for tech support/training via my position in addition to the instruction/training via courses taught by the faculty.
Challenges: buying a server (done) to house content---a few IT hoops to jump through from an institutional perspective; training faculty; need to determine phases of roll-out; getting faculty to refer to assignments in terms of where/how they could be used in a portfolio as a common practice through every course; designing & developing the templates we want to create
Before Mahara--when I started with students this year-- I gave students a choice to present their portfolios as web page, using Moodle via a course shell we developed for eportfolios, via the LiveBinders site http://livebinders.com/ , Voice Thread http://voicethread.com or other tool/platform.