With the first term of teaching all wrapped up it is time to reflect on how the eportfolios have performed to date. After making the decision to move from our self-hosted install of WordPress MU to Edublogs, the technical side of the move has been reasonably seamless. There has been some new learning for both the students and teachers but these will become more automated and natural the more the actions are performed. Some how to tutorial links are provided below as well.
Flickr has been extensively used to host any images that are embedded in the eportfolios. The great thing about this is that you can embed images that you have set as viewable only by you in Flickr. This allows you to keep images private if necessary. Uploading to Flickr is incredibly easy especially if you have iLife ’09 which comes complete with iPhoto Flickr integration where you can upload and set permissions all with the click of the mouse. Also we can bulk upload scanned artwork, draft learning, planning etc. direct from our photocopier to Flickr making it easy to get learning online.
If you are interested a worksheet/tutorial is here for you to see the process.
We have used TeacherTube for a couple of years now to embed video content into our school blog and now we are using it for eportfolios as well. This is generally going well but is not the best solution to use. Firstly, making videos private in TeacherTube makes them unable to be embedded so video content is public. Any video not suitable for public viewing is naturally not shared in this way. TeacherTube has so far proven to be safe with no undesireable content seen, unlike YouTube which has caused us a few problems in the past. TeacherTube is also a bit if a pain for a Mac user as most of the video content produced and shared through iLife is either in a .m4v or .m4a format which is not accepted. This can create an extra step in getting content online by having to convert it to a .mov, .mp4, .avi etc. There are other sites out there that will accpet the default Mac formats but these may compromise the relative safety of the TeacherTube environment. Hopefully the soon to be released new revamped TeacherTube site will change this…
Worksheet/tutorial is here.
SlideShare is proving to be easy for the students to use to get their iWork Keynotes online. While we could produce these using Google Docs or SlideRocket and embed them, Keynote is such a great program that the students are so familiar with that it just makes sense to maintain using it. Sure you loose any fancy animations when uploading to SlideShare but as I keep asking my students, do whizzing words and spinning pictures actually add to your learning and sharing of information? Apart from the same privacy issues as mentioned above for TeacherTube, SlideShare is working perfectly for embedding content.
Worksheet/tutorial is here.
Finally, students have also been sharing their draft and reworked versions of their writing through their eportfolios by pasting in their Google Docs documents. While pasting in their writing in this way is not perfect, it is working well enough and there were just not enough hours in the day to take the students through the process of cross posting their docs to their blog. Maybe next term.
So that is the technical side of the progress to date. The next post will discuss parent engagement in the commenting/feedback/feedforward process.
As we decide on our eportfolio solution for ’09, it makes sense to revisit our criteria to remind ourselves exactly what we are looking for. WordPress MU allowed us to nail most of our criteria, but it was not the perfect eportfolio solution, and to be honest I don’t believe there is one out there, despite the claims that there are products suitable for 5-95 year olds. Our criteria has not really changed since this time last year, the only addition to it is the ability of the product to support the use of mobile/portable devices, especially as I have just ordered some iPod Touches…
With WordPress MU we dropped the social networking aspect, and while it would have been great, you can manufacture a social/learning network yourself with your class and school community which has the same outcomes on learning.
Last week I was fortunate enough to visit Jamin Lietze at Bethlehem College. We bashed around the topic of eportfolios in the hope of finding the perfect solution for his school that will cater for 5-18 year olds. Jamin has developed his own criteria (see below) for eportfolios. It is always useful to look beyond your situation and see how others attack the same problem.
So what does all this mean for Russell Street? Well it hasn’t made our decisions any easier but it does reinforce that the search for the perfect eportfolio solution is neverending. It also reinforces, if you are self-hosting it yourself, how you have to make your solution work and comply to all of those listed criteria. As mentioned in other posts this is not sustainable over the long term.
So if not self-hosting a WordPress MU install, the questions is not what is the best other option but perhaps the one that is going to make the easiest transition from what we had last year. If we look at the two options that seem to be top of the list at the moment, Edublogs or 21Classes, Edublogs, a customised souped up version of WordPress MU, would have the smallest transition from current practice. The backend is the same so creating and editing posts requires no new learning for students and teachers.
So… a decision? Hmm… will run some of these thoughts passed the other stakeholders.
Jamin’s ePortfolio Criteria Feb 09
The new year is well under way and now that my research project has finished we are faced with making a decision about how we provide eportfolios for our students for 2009 and beyond.
For the duration of the research, Inspire proved its commitment to schools by hosting our WordPress MU install for free. This was absolutely fantastic and allowed us to have a secure, online environment that catered for almost every need we had regarding our eportfolios. However that arrangement has expired and Inspire are in the process of considering what this may look like for 2009 and if there may be a cost involved.
2008 saw 60 student eportfolios with that number potentially growing this year into the 100’s. As our media content was all uploaded within the WordPress install, rather than being embedded from a number of other sites, this used up a large amount of disk space and data, averaging at about 100MB per student. Thanks again to Inspire for allowing this to happen.
Let’s look at the positives of this (beyond the fact that it was free):
- We had complete control over the site from being the ‘super’ admin, to available themes, plugins, capabilities, privacy etc. customizing it to suits our needs and our eportfolio vision
- Unlimited blogs (eportfolios) meant the system could grow as our school rolls out eportfolios and blogging to all students
- Private, safe and secure environment.
- A one stop shop for uploading and displaying learning. No need to use, and log into, other sites to store and then embed content (unless it was created and stored online like an Animoto movie).
- One password to remember for students to access and edit blog.
- No adds
And the disadvantages:
- Full responsibility for setting up, problem solving, testing plugins, backing up, updating etc. all responsibility rests with us (or should I say me).
So, only one disadvantage, but it’s a biggie. Is it sustainable? What would happen if I left? Is there someone ready to learn the ropes and share the responsibility?
And it all takes time. Problem solving, backing up and updating all while teaching and being a DP. Hmmm…
Additionally, if there is a $ value attached to it from now on, how will this service compare to other services such as an upgraded 21Classes blog portal or signing up for an Edublogs supporter subscription?
Time for a good old fashioned PMI. A more detailed discussion of these options will follow.