Category Archives: Web 2.0

We Think

Thanks to Greg, who posted this video.

We-think: mass innovation, not mass production. Certainly thought provoking.

Ideas take life when they are shared…

How do we earn a living when everyone is freely sharing their ideas?

In the past you were what you owned…. now you are what you share…

We Think is a book written by Charles Leadbeater and the first 3 chapters can be downloaded here.

Look no further than Google Apps for eportfolios?

Helen Barrett in her latest blog entry has made a big claim regarding Google Apps, formative assessment and eportfolios.

I am now convinced that in GoogleApps (Sites, Docs, etc.) I have found the best free Web 2.0 tool for maintaining an online personal learning environment that can be used for formative assessment in education.

I have a lot of respect for Helen Barrett and have used and referenced her work and research many times. However on this occasion, I do not fully agree.

Google Apps are fantastic. They continue to offer new apps and improve on existing ones all for free. I would be lost without my gmail, docs, calendar and reader. If you were to take a snapshot of my personal learning environment (PLE) and time spent in various web 2.0 tools, GoogleApps would far and away take up the largest slice of the pie.

However, my experiences with Google Sites as a means for pulling together all the strands of an eportfolio for the students at our school, were not entirely successful. I base these thoughts on the set of criteria we developed in order to select the eportfolio tool that best fit what we required to support teaching and learning.

If I take one of the criteria, based on the concept that viewers should not have to click links and download files, it should just be there, embedded waiting for the play button to be clicked…

Ability to demonstrate learning: The ePortfolio solution needs to be able to display (show within the portfolio not provide a link to file) all the possible media that the students will generate or want to share. This includes but is not limited to: podcasts and movies (m4v, m4a, mov), documents (pdf), images (jpg, png, gif) and embedding Web 2.0 content.

In my experiences with Google Sites, this is not possible. Embedding Web 2.0 content just doesn’t seem to work, apart from Google related products. This has caused me many frustrating moments as the embed code is stripped for other content. Again, Google Sites is a great product but are we trying to fit an eportfolio in a package that doesn’t really work?

Regarding the statement of GoogleApps and formative assessment, any tool that supports feedback, reflection and commenting can theoretically support formative practice. However, when one looks at Barrett’s process for developing eportfolios using Google Sites, what I believe is one of the most important aspects of a formative eportfolio, the student acting on feedback and their own assessments to improve their learning, only gets a passing comment at the very end.

The portfolio developer should be given the option of updating the work, based on the feedback and the rubric.

I see formative assessment as being cyclic in nature with the student action as I described above central to the process. After all, self-direction and self-regulation by the student are two very important outcomes. The following diagram (click for larger version) was developed to reinforce this point as part of the big picture of developing eportfolios for learning.

So what do you think? Is the student action component as important as I believe? Are the GoogleApps really the best solution despite my reservations? Let me know!

Using for eportfolio comments and feedback

Thanks to Toni, another of the 2008 eFellows, for prompting me to think about how can potentially add an exciting dimension to our web based eportfolios.

Utterli is an online social networking site centered around creating and following discussions using a mobile phone or a computer. Utters can be audio, video, pictures or text.

By registering your mobile phone number, you can use your phone (NZ number 09 4427356) to access, initiate or participate in a discussion. Within a 10 minute time frame, you can also email in text, video or images to accompany your utter.

The really great thing is the ability to cross-post your utters to other web sites. For example, my utters will automatically be posted to this blog.

So here is how I can see this working in the context of a students’ eportfolio. For the age of the students we are working with, one of their parent’s mobile numbers would be registered.

The child would post learning and thoughts to their eportfolio as per usual, but now the ability to comment and feedback by the child or their parent is made more accessible. Learning can be shared and a quick phone call will enable a voice comment or feedback to automatically be posted into the child’s blog. Cool.

Not only that, but utters can be posted about the students even when there is no deliberate sharing of learning intended. If a student took home a reader to share with their parents, after reading and discussing the story the parents could just phone in a comment about how well the student read and what they needed help with. Doubly cool.

This would be especially great for those who prefer the ease of a quick spoken comment to that of sitting down and typing. It is also familiar technology, everybody knows how to make a phone call, whereas the blogging eportfolio software we use could in itself be a barrier to the technology reluctant parent.

So my next post will need to be an utter. Coming soon…

Photo courtesy of:

Networking, links & teachers.

Today I had a really good discussion with some other staff from school. We were discussing the best solution for pooling together the wealth of information teachers often collect individually to help facilitate a new learning context, especially web links and tools.

The discussion came about from the teachers’ use of forums, used to generate discussion around their personal goals, progress and feedback from mentors, of school and EHSAS cluster goals.

The forums are starting to be used for more than just of goals, and teachers are throwing in web links and ideas, not directly related to the forum topics. You know what it is like, throw a bunch of teachers in a room and they’ll talk shop, jumping from one idea to the next with a bit of personal news thrown in. Transfer this to a forum environment and you know what I mean.

Does this unorganised jumble of links needs to be addressed? Reorganised to allow easier access to the links? Or should we just leave it as is?

Some other questions raised:

  1. Do teachers want to have a list of elearning resources (i.e. web links) gathered for them before a context of learning is about to begin?
  2. Do teachers generally find these resources a week before they need it, when the plan it, or just in time?
  3. How do they access or find them? Word of mouth? Delicious? RSS? Googled?
  4. Should we expect teachers to understand RSS? subscribing? news readers?
  5. Do we need to teach specific skills related to the use of online forums?

Lots of questions and to be honest, we came up with no one-answer-fits-all solution, or if there even needs to be a solution.

What is important is that teachers are engaged and active with online forums to support, improve andss share their classroom practice. That is just great!

Elgg 1.0 released

Elgg, an open source social networking platform, has released its long awaited update available here.

Elgg allows you to create and customize your own social networking site. User blogs, forums, file repository, friends, activity feeds, bookmarking, messaging, plus a host of other features allow you to create your own Facebook-like site. Except you host it yourself giving you complete control.

This is a significant release bringing with it a multitude of enhancements over what is now called Classic Elgg. It supports all the common protocols of interoperability for social networking sites including OpenDD, OpenID and OpenSocial.

Curious? Here is an example of an Elgg site for all those rugby fans out there,, or the well known Eduspaces for education.

Classic Elgg, when used with the excellent Folio plug-in, is still a great solution for an eportfolio system, with the added addition of social networking built in. (This feature is missing from the WordPress MU that we are currently using, but projects like BuddyPress are currently being developed to remedy this).

The blend of eportfolios and social networking seamlessly allows friend or peer feedback and assessment to take place on learning artifacts that are shared with other users, or alternatively made public for others to comment on.

When selecting a solution for our eportfolio requirements, Elgg rated very highly. It did not become the favoured option above WordPress MU, for the reasons noted here in my research notes:

An excellent application with all the features required to effectivly create a learning portfolio (when using the Folio plugin). Has the additonal benefit of the social networking environment to facilitate learning conversations between learners. The support is poor and the documentation virtually nonexistant. Also some examples of learning such as podcasts, could not be embedded in the pages only a link could be provided for downloading the file. With more support and documentation, this product would be very hard to beat.

I really look forward to Elgg 1.0 being developed further. Hopefully we can look forward to some fantastic plug-ins being developed to fill in the gaps of the developers and make the software more suited to a wider range of applications. I say this from an eportfolio perspective! The developers have created a fantastic product and if I were looking for just a social networking platform, then it would suite me very nicely.

Why not try it out on the demo site to give you an idea.

Dipity Timeline Creator

I have been having a play with Dipity an online timeline creator. I would have to say that it is pretty cool. Like most social sites, you can make your timeline public and receive comments, as well as invite other users to contribute and have editing permissions. Collaborative timeline building – not bad.

It is really easy to use and requires no tutorials or help. Just follow your instincts. Any event you add can have an associated image (either uploaded or linked) or a movie, a URL and a location. You can also insert a feed from common services like Twitter,, YouTube or any RSS feed. Below is the RSS feed timeline for Ewan McIntosh’s blog to give you an idea of what you can do from importing an RSS feed.

You can view the timeline full screen, select to view it by hours, days months or years, or as a flipbook or list. The flipbook view is nice and kind of cover flow iTunes’ish. The location view mashes up the data with Google Maps to give you a location based timeline, lots of uses for that. Uses in education are pretty obvious really; biographical or autobiographical information, historical events, life cycles, product development, project time management… endless potential to support learning.

One negative for me is when you add an event that spreads over time, for example from 2001 to 2003, like a 3 year contract or programme. I would expect the entry to graphically reflect this time frame and go from the beginning of 2001 on the timeline to the end of 2003. However from my initial experimentation this is not possible as each event seems to have a maximum size and starts in the correct position but ends at the end of the event. It would be nice to have the option to ‘represent events in actual time frame length’ or something.

Otherwise, cool. Try the timetube YouTube Dipity mashup, like this one on Web 2.0:

Or the flickr or digg mashups.

Make the time to have a play with Dipity.

The benefits of Web 2.0, RSS, XML, Atom, tags & categories in ePortfolios

As a follow up to my last post I have just read the following article as part of my efellow research.

This may be of interest to those of you who would like a further and much more detailed (yet easy to read) explanation of using the benefits of Web 2.0, RSS, XML, Atom, tags, categories for organising ePortfolios and promoting learning.

In the right environment the social networking potential of the learning landscape and eportfolio-related tools are features that facilitate and enhance the making of connections and the linking together of people, ideas, resources and learning… (pp. 30)

The Learning Landscape: A conceptual Framework for ePortfolios.

Chen, H., Haywood, J., Light, T., Tosh, D., & Werdmuler, B. (2006).

Available in: Handbook of research on ePortfolios. Hershey PA: Idea Group Reference, pp. 24-32.

Well worth a read if you can get hold of it. There is certainly a lot more worthwhile reading in the full handbook which contains contributions from over 100 of the world’s leading experts.

Aviary – tools for people who create

Aviary is a suite of web-based applications (RIAs) for people who create. From image editing to typography to music to 3D to video, they claim to have a tool for artists of all genres.

RIAs are Rich Internet Applications.

Still in beta development mode, you can get an early bird invitation here. Note the early bird invitation. All of the applications are named after birds, hence the name Aviary. For example, the image editor is called Phoenix and the video editor, Starling.

My invite gave me access to Phoenix and Peacock, a computer algorithm-based pattern generator. I am not sure if this is because I indicated that image editing would be my focus when I signed up for the invite or whether it is just what everybody gets…

So how does it rate? There are plenty of alternatives out there for online image editing such as Fotoflexer or Photoshop Express. Initial reactions are mixed. The interface and styling are kind of funky, a bit like SlideRocket the online presentation tool. I had a few issues with uploading my own images as the process kept stalling but all the other features worked without any problems.

Phoenix was straight forward to use for anyone who has used any Photoshop like editor. Hummingbird took a bit of playing around with to learn what was for me a new work flow to create the patterns.

The concept is awesome and the list of features and tools is very impressive, and as far as I know is not matched by any other developer, certainly not with all those tools in one place. I am totally for supporting this type of development especially if it remains free, as the developers possibly indicate in the FAQs. The list of features for the fully fledged product is very cool, with options such as AIR versions and API app accessibility.

Overall, it is a bit early to say definitively if this is a winner for me. More playing is required when time permits! Why not have a look yourself and sign up for your invitation. Or let me know if you would like one of my remaining invitations, (nickrate at gmail dot com).