Tag Archives: eportfolio solution

ePortfolios and mLearning Part 2

Time to look at mPortfolios options through the ePortfolio solution first. Listed below are some popular ePortfolio options, certainly not exhaustive, but cover a broad spectrum. I’m interested in how each platform can be accessed, edited, added too etc from a mobile device, once again specifically the iPhone or Touch, but will also add in info on other mobile platforms if available.

In no particular order:

WordPress (Edublogs): As mentioned in my previous post, any WordPress (version 2.7 or higher) powered blog/eportfolio is can be easily added to through the use of the WordPress iPhone app which works seamlessly when adding new pages or posts with images. Viewing and adding comments/feedback to the eportfolio requires the use of Safari on the iPhone. However some sites have been optimised for use on the iPhone, often through installing an iPhone friendly theme such as WPTouch allowing the browsing  commenting and administering of the site a simple pleasure! (this site has WPTouch installed so check it out on your iPhone/Touch). With a little work from the WordPress web host to set up the something like WPTouch (wordpress.com has, edublogs hasn’t, self hosted is up to the owner) mPortfolios are well catered for on the WordPress platform.
Andriod WordPress app info here, Blackberry info here. WPTouch supports both.

Google Sites: As part of your education addition or a personal account, Google sites offers another great eportfolio option. Google have an iPhone app which easily sets you are to connect to your google suite of apps, but not sites. Using Safari you can easily access your sites the traditionally way to edit and add new pages and posts. You can also insert images through pasting in thecURL but a lot of the features like inserting a Picasa image, document or calendar does not function well mainly due to the lack of Flash (?) support on the device. No really an enjoyable experience without having an iPhone/mobile optimised site like much of the other Google apps.

Blogger: If your eportfolio is a Blogger/Blogspot (also supports WordPress, Joonla, Drupal, MoveableType and more) blog then look no further than the app mentioned in the previous post, BlogPress. Easily the best option for creating new content and has the added feature of allowing YouTube video embeds. It is a shame it cost the extra money to get all of these extra features but the free version does the basics well. Commenting not catered for and Blogger is not really mobile friendly. I am still playing around with themes and layouts to find the best combination for a mobile friendly site. The best way is perhaps to view the site’s RSS feed rather than the web page, this utilises the iPhone/Touch’s built in RSS reader (go to reader.mac.com in mobile Safari if you are not familiar with this feature). Bookmark the feed to revisit the portfolio on the device.

Elgg: Like most eportfolio tools and certainly a lot of those listed below, Elgg can be accessed through the iPhone/Touch’s Safari app. Editing and adding content is not without problems (in v 1.6). Creating a new blog post is easy enough and adding the title OK but I was unable to enter any text in the body. However, searching through the Elgg community discussion forums there is some development in making iPhone specific themes and even a iPhone app to make accessing an Elgg site better. The user community for Elgg is nowhere near as big as that of blogger or WordPress but it is exciting to see that there is interest from the user base to get this type of initiative underway. That’s great use as I am a big fan of Elgg.

Blackboard: (Untested) I have no working knowledge of using Blackbaord as a portfolio platform but after reading an eportfolio report recently it was one of the most popular options. I have not tested it but have included here after reading that they have an iPhone app that they will custom build to fit your requirements: “Our open platform also lets you build and add your own applications so you can tailor Blackboard Mobile in the way you see fit.” Available for the iPhone/Touch and Blackberry. Potential here? I do know enough to say one way or the other.

PebblePad: (Untested) From the website: All installations of PebblePad include a version of Pebble Mobile. To access your mobile version of PebblePad simply point your mobile browser at your normal PebblePad URL and add ‘/mobile’ at the end e.g.: http://www.pebblepad.co.uk/eportfolio/mobile. Plans are seemingly afoot for an iPhone app: We are currently developing a PebblePad iPhone app which will allow users to work with PebblePad on the move. Features currently include viewing your assets, uploading a file, creating a thought and posting this to a blog. This is still an ongoing project due for release in the very near future (PebblePad Newsletter, 10/2009). Sounds great!

Have also not tested the following options: KnowledgeNet, My Portfolio/Mahara, UltraNet. (I do not have access to try some our the the time to try the others but will attempt to try).  As with the other options, I would image that Safari on the iPhone allows surfing of these sites and editing facilities as per a standard web browser with perhaps some limitations… please confirm if that is not the case!

To wrap this post up though it is pretty clear that the eportfolio tools that have a specific app such as Blogger or WordPress have a big advantage over those that don’t. However this experience is not complete until the eportfolio host has taken some measure to also make the eportfolio system mobile friendly to aid viewing and commenting while on the go. While this and a dedicated app is not absolutely required, it makes the process of uploading and sharing learning and receiving feedback on that learning very easy and helps contribute to a collaborative eportfolio from a mobile phone.

ePortfolios and mLearning Part 1

I have been very interested in the concept of the mportfolio, the result of blending together the eportfolio and mlearning. I have blogged about this before, and here. This blog post is an attempt to pull together what is currently available now for options of creating and adding to an eportfolio through the use of a mobile device, specifically an iPod Touch or an iPhone.

Why these devices? Firstly as an ADE, I promote the educational use of Apple products. Secondly, I own an iPod touch (not an iPhone…). Thirdly, the developments of apps and mobile integration of the Apple mobile platform far exceeds any other option, so therefore if there is an appropriate app ready to use it is more than likely to exist on the iPhone platform.

This following breakdown is by no means exhaustive. Please let me know of any other solutions/apps that should be listed here.

mPortfolio options through Apps
Searching the term portfolio in the iTunes app store brings up plenty of stock or photographers portfolio apps, searching the term eportfolio returns 1 result for the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh web app. In reality there is no real ePortfolio app for the iPhone as such, and I wouldn’t really expect there to be. Instead the question really is what app best supports an existing eportfolio set-up or what app allows the sharing of learning, reflections and feedback? So here we go…

In no particular order:

WordPress (Free):If your eportfolio is contained within a WordPress blog (wordpress.com, Edublogs or self-hosted) this is the app for you. Allows new post and pages to be created, images inserted (taken on camera or saved from web) and comments moderated. Draft posts can be saved locally if offline and posted when connected. More than one blog can be administered, so you could set up a class of student blogs/eportfolios. The ability to post learning/reflections is excellent but the app does not directly facilitate other stakeholders giving feedback on learning. this would have to be done through a web browser. The app is very easy to use and has worked seamlessly for me when used on this blog. App in beta for BlackBerry phones.

Evernote (Free): Evernote for iPhone lets you create notes, snap photos, and record voice memos that you can then access any time — from your iPhone/iPod Touch, computer, or the web. The notes are synced to your online space on the Evernote site, this becomes the container for your eportfolio/learning. The notes can be made public or  shared with others at your discretion. However a note cannot be commented on directly, as in a blog post, for feedback purposes. If you were to upgrade your free Evernote account to premium (US$45/year) then others you have shared notes with can edit or add to them, allowing a kind of commenting/feedback feature. Also the free account has an monthly upload limit of 40MB. The app works well and syncs perfectly with the online space. The ability to embed or cross-post notes into a blog would be awesome! Limited to one Evernote account per iPhone/Touch.App also available for BlackBerry, Palm Pre and Windows Mobile phones.

BlogPress (NZ$4.19) & BlogPress Lite (Free): Similar to the WordPress app but dedicated to Blogger blogs. The full version allows uploading/inserting of photos (to your Picasa account) and movies (to your Youtube account) into posts. The lite version is limited to just photos. As with the WordPress app, draft posts can be saved locally if offline and more than one blog can be administered, so you could set up a class of student blogs/eportfolios. The ability to post learning/reflections is excellent but the app does not directly facilitate other stakeholders giving feedback on learning. this would have to be done through a web browser. An added feature unique to BlogPress is the ability to the post the same post to multiple blogs which could come in handy if as a teacher you wanted to post the same message to all or a group of students blogs/eportfolios at once.

Safari: The standard web browser on the iPhone/iPod Touch. Needs to be mentioned here as it allows connection to any online service that may contain your eportfolio or elements of. Works well and is the only way to add links and other features to the body of your text in blogs posts etc. Makes web browsing a great experience on a mobile but dedicated web apps are much more intuitive.

Tumblr (Free): Conceptually very similar to Evernote. Upload text, photos, quotes, links and audio (i.e. learning, reflections etc.) to your Tumblr blog/eportfolio directly from your iPhone/Touch. Post can be saved locally and uploaded at a later time. Integrates with other web containers such as Facebook and can also broadcast to such services as Twitter. Many more features through web site. Easy to use. Limited to one Tumblr account per iPhone/Touch. Comments and feedback on posts can be made through  your web browser rather than the app.

BlogWriter (NZ$2.59) BlogWriter Lite (Free): Allows posting to WordPress or Blogger blogs. Full version allows photo uploads with geotagging but free version is limited to text only posts. Also includes an RSS reader. Interface is a bit clunky and visually not that appealing but the app does what it says it will do. I have included it here but prefer the free WordPress and Blogger apps over this.

Tubey (NZ$4.59) Tubey Lite (Free): This app did not work for me but I thought I would mention it here as the concept is great and has potential to be used as a component or contributor to an eportfolio. Tubey allows the user to click, upload and share. Using the iPhone’s camera or any saved images, these are imported into the app, titles/transitions added, and the really fantastic part, narration can be recorded to explain what the images (learning) is showing, the movie is then uploaded to YouTube and cross-posted to your Blogger blog. Potentially cool, but kept returning an error for me and had no movies successfully uploaded.

Some other apps that could potentially be useful for contributing elements to an eportfolio include PixelPipe and Qik (both free but iPhone only) which record and upload video/photo content to up to 110 different online sites including most well known blogging platforms and video/photo sharing sites or can cross-post content to your blog. Unable to test due to having no iPhone…

So what does all this mean? Essentially what this shows is that the mportfolio can happen and quite easily if the container for it is a well known blogging platform such as WordPress or Blogger. These two platforms are well catered for in terms of apps that can post content.

However for me it has opened another chapter of my own eportfolio developemnt to the reality of a more streamlined, less time consuming eportfolio through sites such as Tumblr or Evernote which are easily catered for on the mobile platform and through traditional means. That would be an eportfolio that captures the process instantly through rethinking the capturing and posting learning, and thoughts including written, visual and spoken with the use of an iPhone (or the continually rumoured iPod Touch with camera).  I had never really considered Tumblr or Evernote to be a serious contender in the eportfolio stakes but when I see the ease of capturing learning evidence on a mobile device and uploading it, I am almost converted! Others are too, various blogs post describe the potential such as here. However before I convert fully, I need to read some of the fine print regarding accounts for students and also investigate privacy/security issues.

So to finish, there are plenty of apps that support an existing eportfolio especially if it is contained within a blogging platform. However these apps are only designed to post new information or edit existing content, but  don’t support the ability to directly participate, comment, provide feedback in the eportfolio. To do this one must use a web browser either on the mobile or on desktop computer. What would be really great is if an app was developed specifically for commenting on blogs, much like the WordPress or BlogPress apps allow specific posting to their respective blogs, an app could allow commenting to a WordPress blog and a different app to a Blogger blog. Either that or it could be a feature of the already existing apps.

Next post will look at mportfolios from the eportfolio tool perspective. For example, if your eportfolio is contained in an Elgg installation, how can the iPhone support and allow posting to it? Should be interesting.

ePortfolios for 2009: Part 2

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…

eportfolio criteria

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

ePortfolios for 2009: Decisions, decisions, decisions…

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):

  1. 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
  2. Unlimited blogs (eportfolios) meant the system could grow as our school rolls out eportfolios and blogging to all students
  3. Private, safe and secure environment.
  4. 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).
  5. One password to remember for students to access and edit blog.
  6. No adds

And the disadvantages:

  1. 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.

ePortfolios at EDTalks.org

CORE Education has a newly developed web portal, EDTalks, a growing collection of videos featuring New Zealand and International educators talking about learning.

Of interest is Ewan McIntosh speaking on eportfolios and the tools that can capture the learning journey.

He talks about off-the-shelf eportfolio products and how they generally only capture the final product of learning and forget about the process that was involved. Free Web 2.0 tools are discussed and offered as solutions that will allow the eportfolio to ‘move’ with students throughout their life time.

Well worth a watch. Don’t forget the other growing collection of EDTalk videos including, thinking, inquiry, new curriculum, games, Internet safety and assessment.

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, rucku.com, 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.

Edublogs – the perfect ePortfolio solution?

Edublogs has always been a fantastic service for educational blogging by both students and teachers. The service utilises the same WordPress MU software that this site uses to present student’s learning and facilitate reflection and feedback.

Edublogs have recently upgraded and now include a number of new services including domain name hosting so that you can now have your domain name i.e. http://www.mysite.com point directly to your Edublogs blog (instead of the usual http://mysite.edublogs.org). This opens up a number of new hosting possibilities for you or your school and lets you secure your online identity through Edublogs.

If you are looking at investigating or setting up eportfolios then you really need to look no further than Edublogs Campus. This service allows you to create a secure portal for all of your eportfolio requirements and even your school’s website using WordPress MU.

Features include:

  • Create, manage and control all your blogs
  • Run your site at your own domain, with your own look and feel
  • Enjoy private, safe and secure blogging
  • Simply embed videos, podcasts, slideshows and more
  • Over 90 highly customizable themes to choose from
  • Import from other blogging sites, or export back to them
  • Great tutorials, personal assistance and a thriving community
  • Unlimited bandwidth, storage, upgrades and support

Awesome. A great service that takes the technical know how and worry away from you so you can get down to facilitating learning and with unlimited storage and bandwidth, you can truly archive student learning from the time they enter school until… well, who knows!

There is a cost involved for the Campus service but if you are serious about eportfolios and want to provide an environment that incorporates all the possible features necessary to promote learning and reflection, I would think it is money well spent.

Why don’t you have a look or at least sign-up for your very own free Edublogs blog.