Tag Archives: eLearning

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.

Summer Reading

If you are anything like me you have a folder on your laptop containing numerous readings, research reports and other publications just waiting for you to find the time to read them.

Here are some of the current contents of that folder, some summer reading for you before the new school year starts again.

eLearning/21st Century Learning:

The impact of digital technology: A review of the evidence of the impact of digital technologies on formal education. BECTA. “There is now a growing body of national and international evidence demonstrating the positive impact of digital technologies on measurable learning outcomes…”

The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age. Cathy Davidson and David Goldberg. “Modes of learning have changed dramatically over the past two decades—our sources of information, the ways we exchange and interact with information, how information informs and shapes us. But our schools—how we teach, where we teach, who we teach, who teaches…”

The MILE Guide: Milestones for Improving Learning & Education. Partnership for 21st Century Skills. “The MILE Guide helps districts determine where they are on the spectrum of 21st century skills integration and then use that information to plan a path for future work that brings 21st century skills in their systems of learning.”

Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning. US Dept. of Education. “Online learning—for students and for teachers—is one of the fastest growing trends in educational uses of technology.”

School libraries building capacity for student learning in 21C. Foley and Hay. “An effective school library contributes to the school’s program for integrating the development of information literacy and digital literacy…”

The Pedagogy Strategy – Learning in an online world. MCEETYA. “Pedagogies that integrate information and communication technologies can engage students in ways not previously possible, enhance achievement, create new learning possibilities and extend interaction with local and global communities.”

Equipping Every Learner for the 21st Century. CISCO. “Although the vision is global, the path to 21st century education requires a local journey; one that recognizes and responds to specific challenges and opportunities.”

mLearning:

iPod Touch Research Report. Department of Education, Early Childhood Development., Victoria. “Primary school children today use mobile portable devices as a matter of course in their lives outside school. While the gap between technology devices used in everyday life and those used in schools continues to widen, many schools have decided to trial mobile devices in an effort to keep pace with emerging technologies.”

Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children’s Learning. Carly Shuler. “Pockets of Potential argues that despite legitimate public concern about the “disruptive track record” of mobile devices in schools, there is reason to be excited about their potential.”

Professional Learning:

Evaluating Professional Development. Thomas R Guskey. “Using five critical levels of evaluation, you can improve your school’s professional development program. But be sure to start with the desired result – improved student outcomes.”

Designing Powerful Professional Development for Teachers and Principals. Dennis Sparks. “This book has a simple three-part premise: First, quality teaching makes a difference in student learning. Second, the professional learning of teachers and principals is…”

School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why. Professor Vivianne M. J. Robinson. “This Best Evidence Synthesis identifies the leadership activities that make a greater difference for students. The findings of the BES provide direction for leaders about where they can most effectively invest their time.”

Teacher professional learning and development. Helen Timperley. “This particular booklet is based on a synthesis of research evidence produced for the New Zealand Ministry of Education’s Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis (BES) Programme, which is designed to be a catalyst for systemic improvement and sustainable development in education.”

Managing Professional Learning and Development in Primary Schools. ERO. “Teaching is a complex and demanding profession. Teachers require high quality support and training throughout their careers to ensure they have the strategies and skills to meet the needs of learners…”

What else can you recommend?

Next Generation Learning

Scrolling through my feeds I came across this video which I was hoping might back up my thoughts from my last post.

After watching it, it doesn’t go quite far enough for me as there are still views of children sitting in rows, idle computers and the overuse of interactive whiteboards. However, there are plenty of parallels I can make with my own thoughts. It will certainly provoke discussion within our staff as to how it relates to our school.

This is just a snapshot of the work being done in the UK where the government is backing Next Generation Learning to

inspire children’s learning with better technology in schools and at home.

Plenty of other great reading and viewing there.

eLearning Expectations?

Within our school leadership team we have been having a few interesting conversations as of late centered around the current immersion of elearning at our school. Not the run of the mill use of technology, but the really powerful higher order or  integrated project based use. Our discussions have caused us to look honestly at our school wide practice and realise that a cohesive understanding of our beliefs and to a certain extent our expectations of technology usage and the direct planning of, needs to be looked at and discussed.

We have excellent access to ICTs throughout the school. Our digital classes are highly immersive environments. We have sent teachers to iSchools, Apple Bus Tours and ULearn conferences consistently over the last 4 or  5 years. We have a handful of staff who also participated in the ICTPD cluster we lead from 2001-3. While PD in elearning has not been a priority for a number of years, we have maintained fortnightly iTips sessions throughout the year.

So why is it that when walking through some classrooms, computers are wearing out their screensavers? Why in some classes is there not a sustained use of technology throughout the day? I will be the first to admit that there are some parts of learning that are simple best done in a blended approach or traditional ways with no use of technology. However, for me this is still not a valid reason for having times throughout the day when technology is not being used, apart from of course those whole class teaching/discussion situations. The concept of the 21st Century classroom and learning removes that traditional approach where all students are involved in the same learning at the same time. A multidimensional approach to facilitating learning allows the teacher to orchestrate learning that sees different ‘packages’ of learning, for want of a better word, happening simultaneously. Why can’t a group of students being researching and creating knowledge digitally while others are working with the teacher in numeracy. Why can’t students be blogging while others are completing art or following up their numeracy with an activity or game? At the very least, if all students are, for example, working on their written language, why isn’t there one student on each computer completing this digitally? When you complete handwriting, or should that be, if you complete handwriting, why are there not students practicing their typing on the computers? Is one not the digital equivalent of the other?

Does this interpretation of the 21st Century learning environment, that simultaneous multidisciplinary approach to facilitating learning, mean relearning classroom management strategies? Taking a whole new approach to planning and implementation? Modeling and facilitating independence, self-management and thinking in students? Yes to all. Unquestionably.

So am I actually talking about elearning expectations here? Is it best looked at as 21st Century learning environments? Do we need PD in and/or develop a school wide vision/guidelines/expectations in what learning looks like in our 21st Century classrooms? Is that being too prescriptive? Our school already has assessment guidelines, describing clearly what assessments are required and why, we have an AtoL booklet that describes what formative teaching looks like in our classrooms and the learning language we will hear. Is it time for 21st Century learning expectations, of which elearning becomes a strand, intertwined with a formative approach and other skills and competencies? Is that any different from unpacking and implementing the NZ Curriculum?

As a side thought this is where I have problems with the way that some learning, such as numeracy, is demonstrated and described as best practice and what you should see when numeracy is happening in a classroom. I really bothers me that the ideal model of numeracy teaching sees all students being ‘numerate’ at the same time. To me this leads to a poor use of elearning where students use the technology for computer directed instruction, completing drill and practice activities or ‘games’ that are ultimately controlled by the computer. I don’t want this. I want my students being innovative, creating their own knowledge and sharing it with others.  Don’t get me wrong, I value numeracy very highly, but simply don’t agree with they way I have interpreted the perceived numeracy programme model classroom.

Another bug bear I have at the moment is with the one off use of an application or tool. While it is OK to try out something new, such as a new Web 2.0 site, how often are these tried but not sustained over a long period of time to really embed a deep learning intention or big concept? This thought was backed up by a statistic I recently read that stated that 60% of Twitter users quit within the first month of signing up. Do we jump on band wagons too quickly?

I think it is the sustained use of a technology or software that really makes us understand how it best can be integrated. I have always held the belief that a core number of applications for the students is best. It allows them and the teacher to become really proficient in their use, building a skill capacity to a high, independent level over a number of years. In my experience, when students are given the choice about how they will present and share their learning and new knowledge digitally, they always choose the tools they are most familiar with and enjoy using. While once this frustrated me as they chose not to use that really cool Web 2.0 tool I had given them a snapshot of the week before, they are happy, engaged, being successful and creating. I guess that is what we mean at our school when we state that the use of ICTs is normalised. It is part of everyday learning and how our students learn not a showcase of the latest and greatest.

So what am I trying to say here? As usual I have asked a lot of questions and provided few answers.

I believe elearning is a vital component in the 21st Century classroom. I have championed the idea that the effective use of ICTs provides the catalyst for teachers to change from traditional models of teaching. I look back over the years and see how professional development has moved away from the skill based technology first->pedagogy second model to the elearning pedagogy first->technology second model. That is the way I interpret the difference between ICT and elearning. ICT is about technology, elearning is about learning in new and different ways.

Will having a document describing elearning expectations really promote change? It may well do but only on a surface level, but for a deeper use rich in effective pedagogy it is that concept of the 21st Century learning environment that really needs addressing.

Being literate today…

I have been asked to present some thoughts about what it means to be literate today to an EHSAS cluster conference involving Ashurst, North Street and Roslyn schools from the Manawatu.

The presentation is not designed to provide a list of what is required to be literate in the 21st Century but instead to prompt thought and discussions regarding some of the trends and issues in educating students today all based loosely on what it could mean to be ‘literate’.

I remember a discussion we had on the eFellow forum about this very topic. One can argue that there are no skills or literacies specific to the 21st Century learner. I agree with this to the better part and my main message to come out of the presentation (hopefully) is that we do need to change how we teach to incorporate new technologies and existing literacies that will enhance the ability to create and share new knowledge and understanding. This blend will effectively set our students up for success.

Better explained by the experts, as in the CISCO publication, Equipping Every Learner for the 21st Century (PDF link) describes:

…a key component is the integration of technologies that can fuel new forms of teaching and learning, nurture 21st century skills, and prepare learners for participation in the global economy of this century.

Being Literate Today

View more presentations or upload your own. (tags: ehsas north)

uLearn08 Workshop Presentation

Here is an abridged version of my uLearn 08 workshop presentation, minus any audio or video content, activities, links and of course the all important commentary. If I have time, a slidecast version will be added in the future.

Any feedback would be welcome either here or on SlideShare.

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: 2.0 web)

eLearning and ePortfolios

I presented to a group of Hawke’s Bay principals today on how how my research and implementation of eportfolios is beginning to effectively pull together the strands of elearning, assessment for learning and the NZ Curriculum. This will be increasingly so as the process of facilitating learning through eportfolios is increasingly embedded in the teaching and learning process.

eLearning ePortfolios

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: assessment formative)

When putting this presentation together I used the coloured pencil as a visual metaphor for the themes and elements of elearning, assessment for learning and the NZ Curriculum. There are lots of different coloured pencils out there just like there are lots of options for designing your schools curriculum delivery model…