Dimensions and Dashboards

I have been doing some reflection recently around eportfolios and the different flavours that are out there to select from. I have categorised each flavour  as a ‘dimension’ below.

The basis for this discussion is really considering what an eportfolio should be and defining a tool that is as authentic as possible. The problem with most eportfolio systems is that the eportfolio is not the central working (learning) space, it is generally a space where learning is brought to and then shared and reflected upon. There is a lack of authenticity here and often a double handling of learning artefacts. So the question… is there a dimension of eportfolios that removes or minimises this issue? Enter the Google Teacher Dashboard, more on that below.

In a traditional sense this is a similar conversation to the portfolio book vs. book look debate. In this situation a dedicated book or folder is the portfolio and examples of learning are filed or glued in or completed directly on the page. A book look is just as it seems, students share the books they use during the normal course of their learning. The first could be considered as being artificial, the second authentic, one manufactured, the other raw…

When we consider this difference in a digital frame, what does it look like? Are current methodologies of eportfolio use really authentic? Do they clearly show the learning process? Are they capable of supporting all learning? Are eportfolios a true representation of the learning or just a snapshot?

Perhaps some clarity around this can be found in the dimensions…

Dimension 1: The Dedicated

A dedicated eportfolio system such as Mahara.

Dimension 2: The Managed

The eportfolio functionality or module built in or attached to a learning management system such as UltraNet, KnowledgeNet, Moodle etc.

Dimension 3: The Blogged

ePortfolios that are contained within an online tool such as Blogger, WordPress, Wikispaces, Weebly etc.

Dimension 4: The Mashed

An eportfolio that is not contained in any one place. It draws on the functionality of several online spaces and web technologies, using the best features of those tools to create and share learning. An example could be this netvibes dashboard.

Dimension 5: The Saved

ePortfolios that are created using desktop software and are not online. They are typically shared after being saved to a disk. Common software for this includes PowerPoint, Keynote, iWeb etc.

Dimension 6: The Integrated

ePortfolios that are seamlessly integrated into the way students are learning. It is a direct reference to the work being done by Hapara with their Teacher Dashboard.

You may consider the Teacher Dashboard as not being an eportfolio at all, more a customised Google LMS. I too do not see the Dashboard itself as an eportfolio, more a window into a student’s eportfolio. The more I think about it, the more I realises that the Dashboard is integrated into what can be seen as an extremely powerful eportfolio system, one that re conceptualises current frameworks. Current eportfolio systems (i.e. dimensions 1 -5 above) have not really done anything radically different in terms of presenting an eportfolio. I know that fans of Mahara and its views would probably disagree with that, but current eportfolios are still spaces where the learning is (generally) taken to, rather than produced and there is so much learning that is ‘missing’.

The Dashboard is built on students working in the cloud, learning with tools provided through the might of Google Apps. The Dashboard is the teacher’s window into this cloud, enabling managing and tracking these spaces with ease but more importantly seeing every step of the process, identifying progress and enabling more personalised and just-in-time feedback.

Student control and sharing is not lost with the functionality of sharing docs, sites or your blog retained, both within and out of the domain as per a normal Apps or Blogger account. The Dashboard and the behind the scenes set-up provides a framework for students to work and share in. Schools determine the framework for how the student environment is organised and what is seen in the Dashboard. Additionally, the Dashboard draws in other student data by integrating with your SMS.

So as a potential eportfolio system it is different… the key difference for me is that the central working (learning) space is accessible and therefore builds in more capacity for support and learning conversations than conventional eportfolio tools. This is the closest digital version of a book look I have seen.

Is the Dashboard the future of eportfolios? Take the time to read the post on the Hapara blog. Consider the potential. Don’t think of it with your current eportfolio hat on, look beyond that and what an eportfolio will look like when students are increasingly working online.

What makes the difference between the Dashboard just being a great way of managing and monitoring student activity within Apps and also being a great eportfolio system? Perhaps this hinges on access. If students are learning in a highly digital environment with 1-1 or similar access and in Apps, then it will work like a dream. To be honest even if student access is not that high, I would still grab the opportunity. If you have Google Apps for your school, you are going to want Teacher Dashboard. Whether that fits your eportfolio framework and dimension is over to you but the potential here is huge.

5 thoughts on “Dimensions and Dashboards

  1. Your post inspired me to have a go at what my own digital portfolio might look like.

    http://allanahk.edublogs.org/2010/12/13/digital-portfolio/

    The general consensus seems to be that I have a fairly decent digital footprint but not a digital portfolio. I think that space would probably need to be private cos it would probably involve privacy issues.

    My issue then is if it’s going to be private wouldn’t a real oral conversation with a guide/mentor/trusted other person a more productive use of time than writing, writing, writing.

    No-one that I can find is sharing their digital portfolio publicly so I have no benchmark with which to frame my portfolio. There are a number of learned professionals from universities who pontificate but I wonder how a digital portfolio looks in real life with real people!

  2. Hi Nick

    I like this post and think it would be a great source for creating discussion and challenging current pedagogy amongst e-Portfolio practitioners. The “Portfolio book” vs “Book look” debate must be held at our next meeting! :)

    Personally I currently lean towards the “Portfolio book” but your thoughts have challenged me to look some more at the “Book look”. I guess for many of us we start with a “Portfolio book”. I can see what you are saying about a “Book look” however will this only work as long as we have unlimited file space (unless we actively delete work)?

    Thanks again mate.

  3. Hi Nick – thanks for the kind words and a wonderful overview of Teacher Dashboard for Google Apps. Well said, and we’d love a permission to quote you! :)

    I’d like to think that what makes Google Apps / Teacher Dashboard combination so powerful is quite simple: Google Apps focuses on and empowers the learner, while Teacher Dashboard is focused on the teacher.

    We are working very very hard to get Teacher Dashboard ready for public release on the Google Marketplace and open it to more schools – it’s really cool to see feedback like this (although all feedback is good!), and for those with more questions – please do get in touch with us at http://hapara.com/contact-us

    Jan Zawadzki/CEO Hapara

  4. Hi Nick,

    You have a lot of entries on e-portfolios and I have them on my list to read. Can you please help me by recommending a good place to start for individual student e-portfolios that the teacher can access easily, but parents can only access their own child’s?

    Our year 5 & 6 team are going to give e-portfolios a go next year and I am really looking forward to it… but I just don’t quite know where to start.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Have a lovely Christmas.

    Brenda

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