Archive for the ‘Mosep’ Category

Using media for e-portfolios and Personal Learning Environments

March 17th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Another quick article in the ‘rethinking e-Portfolio and Personal Learning Environments’ mini series.

One of the problems in Technology Enhanced Education, I am coming to think, is that new media are very different from traditional paper and book based media. And as Friesen and Hug (2009) argue that “the practices and institutions of education need to be understood in a frame of reference that is mediatic: “as a part of a media-ecological configuration of technologies specific to a particular age or era.” This configuration, they say, is one in which print has been dominant. They quote McLuhan who has described the role of the school specifically as the “custodian of print culture” (1962) It provides, he says, a socially sanctioned “civil defense against media fallout”  – against threatening changes in the mediatic environs.

So what is appropriate content for an e-Portfolio may not be that required by our education systems and institutions, Much of university education is based around essays. Research is still judged by publications in scholarly journals.

Essays and journal content do not make for inspiring web content, however good. Indeed like most other people, I simply print out papers I want to read. But more importantly such paper oriented publications lack the richness that the web can bring, through linking, through the use of multi media, through links to people and increasingly through location specific enhancement.

This problem is not unique to education. As the Guardian newspaper reports, it is also a pressing issue for publishers nervously awaiting the arrival of the iPad and wondering how to produce materials for both print media and for use on a mobile device.

The Guardian interviews Wired editor Ben Hammersley who says “Digital convergence pushes content to more and more devices, but for the requirements of each can be very different. For example, location data can be important for reading stories on the iPhone, while linking is essential for web publishing, and typography has to change for publishing on a tablet computer.”

Hammersley is developing a new content managements system to overcome this problem. Called ‘Budding’ , the system appears to be based on mark up code to allow multiple use of texts.

“Having to learn to write in markup isn’t an imposition, any more than having to learn shorthand or telegraphese. And as with learning any new language, you gain a new soul: writing in markup would allow you to embed code” Hammersley explains on his blog.

“The ability to embed code within a story gives us whole new realms of possibilities for journalism and publishing. Digital platforms are connected and location aware, so why not use that? At the moment the answer is “because your infrastructure won’t let you,” but if it could, the potential is extraordinary.”

In another blog entry he says: “One of my basic points is that having lots of metadata means you can do lots of really nice stuff when you transition from print to online, or print to multimedia. But that metadata needs to be captured and stored as close to the original author as you can. The moment when you can write this stuff down and store it is fleeting, and once it has passed, it has passed forever, for profitable values of forever at least.”

And according to the Guardian: “Budding should also provide an archive for writers as the project aims to transfer the writing and editing online to the cloud, and export it from there to multiple formats such as Indesign or blogging software.”

This sounds very much like part of a Personal Learning Environment to me: a tool which can allow us both to capture contextual learning where and when it happens and to repurpose it for presentation in different media, including on-line through an e-Portfolio and in written formats for essays and scholarly publications.

The only draw back I see is the mark-up language – would academics, students, learners use mark up. Maybe they would, if there was enough obvious gain. And maybe we could develop a simple menu allowing the markup to be added from a visual editor. After all, word processors juts use a menu system to add mark up to text (and a long time ago with Word Perfect the mark up code was written).

Ben Hammersley says he is going to offer Budding free to authors. I’ve signed up for a trail. But could we work out a mark up code for a PLE or e-Portfolio?


Friesen N and Hug T (2009), The Mediatic Turn: Exploring Concepts for Media Pedagogy, In K. Lundby (Ed.). Mediatization: Concept, Changes, Consequences. New York: Peter Lang. Pp. 64-81.

McLuhan, M. (1962), The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

e-Portfolios – WTF

September 4th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

Last year’s F-Alt fun was kicked off by a strange tweet by Scott Wilson from Warrington Station, if I remember rightly. Pondering, he said on e-Portfolios, WTF. WTF, we asked him, what are your ideas? And so the debate was born.

A year on, it seems apposite to think again about e-Portfolios. Over the past few years, I have worked on a series of e-Portfolio projects, including the European MOSEP project and a series of projects seeking to develop e-Portfolios for both advisers and students for careers advice, guidance and counselling.

We have used a variety of applications including Mahara and Freefolio (based on WordPress) with varying success. The projects have generated a fair bit of enthusiasm (and certainly have attracted much effort from teachers, researchers and other learning professionals). Yet I cannot really say any have been an unreserved success, nor are they really sustainable. Hence the return to Scott’s question.

The problem as I see it, is that however designed and configured, e-Portfolios are only a container for student work. At worse the recording and reporting of such achievement is constrained by course objectives or outcomes, at best learners are encouraged to report on wider learning from outside institutional courses. But the limitation remains.

There are four key functions an e-Portfolio could fulfil to help learners.

The first is in developing their digital identity – as a learner – though a dynamically generated profile.

The second is in reflecting on learning.

The third is in reporting on that learning – flexibly and creatively.

The fourth is developing and sustaining a personal learning network

The problem is that e-portfolios are remarkably poor at doing any of these. A profile is something you fill in when you set up your e-Portfolio and all to often little happens to it after it is set up. Reflection is something everyone says is important but then passes on quickly to the next issue. reporting is still horribly static and usually amounts to little more than the ability to develop a slideshow or to write about a collection of artefacts. And as for social networking, most e-portfolios still assume learning and achievement is something that either takes place through classroom or assignment groups or as an individual activity.

However, I think we can develop Technology Enhanced Learning applications to support all of these activities – if we break away from the idea of e-portfolios as a container. I am working with a group of Careers Personal Advisers in the UK on a project. Instead of trying to implement an e-portfolio application, we are working on developing loosely coupled web tools to support instances of reflection and learning., The enthusiasm and creativity of the Personal advisers is truly awesome. Freed up from the constraints of the e-portfolio, they are developing ideas which they see as promoting effective learning. many of those ideas are focused on helping learners to explore their own identities as learners – and in the process ot develop their identity. Instead of a constraint, they see the use of multi media as a medium for exploring, for bringing the activities to life. And as developers, instead of explaining what an application can do, we are using our expertise to try to implement their ideas.

I understand the concerns of e-Portfolio enthusiasts to ensure that young people have a personal electronic record of their achievement. But, with disk space so cheap, and with the increasing skill of young people in using computers, I do not think we need yet another institutionally approved container for that purpose. It is much the same argument as that over whether we need VLEs. Lets retain all that was good about the idea of e-portfolios but stop trying to manage and contain learning. Lets try to release the natural creativity – not just of learners but of teachers as well.

More from John Pallister on e-Portfolios

August 26th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Joehn Pallisetr is a UK based teacher who is enthusiastic about e-Portfolios. He blogs now on a group he has set up on Google. If you are interetsted in e-portfolios I recommend that you join.

Here is his latest post:

“Things still seem to be at the confusion stage it terms of what schools ‘must do’ and what learners ‘must have’. It would be a real shame if we were just to go for the minimum when we have the opportunity to harness the technology and media to provide our learner with something that can really help them. To simply provide them with some text based templates to fill-in, is unlikely to inspire them or
support their thinking, development and progression.

At this stage it might be worth sharing some of the experiences that led us to introduce ePortfolios. Ten years ago we were looking for some way for our Year 12 students to evidence the ‘deliver a short presentation’ requirement of the Level 3, Key Skills Communication Unit. We introduced a requirement for all Year 12 students to deliver a formal presentation, to an external panel, about their career plans.

This required them to research their options, discussing them with their Tutors, careers advisors and parents. We built on this over the years and five years ago introduced a 30 minute end of review
interview for all Year 12 students. This interview was originally introduced to provide opportunities for students to evidence Improving Own Learning and Performance, Level 2 Key Skills. We expected, in the
first 2 years, students to bring their Progress File into the interview. The interview was set up as a competency based interview [some questions etc given in].

We wanted to provide students with more appropriate ways to store andpresent evidence of their learning, achievements and planning; we developed and introduced ePortfolios.

We soon recognised that although the ePortfolio itself was really useful, it was the ePortfolio process that was even more valuable.

I came at things from a Personal Development Planning angle and this has influenced my thinking on ePortfolios.

So why have I rambled on?  Simply to encourage people to interpret the‘P’ in ILP, as ‘Process’. It then links in with Assessment For Learning; Development Planning; PLTs and of course, the ePortfolio Process. The ‘P’ as ‘Plan’ can be very easy to produce; very easy for the learner to ‘tick off’ as done; easy for schools to present to others to suggest that learners have done the job, but, the important bit, the process can be easily forgotten.”

Old man gets lost in another world

June 25th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

A brilliant guest post from my esteemed friend John Pallister.

“I dropped into a bar last night, well actually I listened in to some folks talking about where they were going to go and I decide to have a look there. I lurked around in a corner for a while, then sat down at the bar and watched. It was a bit strange, the bar did not have a barman, it looked to be a help-yourself establishment. People, who I have to admit did look a bit strange, were helping themselves to some strange things and seemed to enjoy jumping around a lot. They all appeared to know each other and were chatting about some music that was playing in the background. I attempted a bit of chit chat, although my natural reserved stopped me from dancing on the bar. As usual, I very quickly cleared the bar with everyone whizzing off with some feeble excuse about having to build a tower! I wandered a bit and got lost. I ended up in an adult area with a scantily clad Avatar jumping around in front of me and singing. Now that does not often happen to me often, was I dreaming? How could a grown man, who has a thousand and one real interests, find himself wandering around in a virtual world?

During the past two years I have been on quite a steep learning curve. The need, as a partner in the MOSEP project, to collaborate with colleagues from across Europe forced me to master Skype; Net-meeting; Eluminate Live; Media Wiki; blogging; social bookmarking and collaborative writing etc. I became engaged in a number of social networks and got into the habit of following people who had similar interests. I soon realised that it did not really matter if, having contributed something to a discussion, forum or a Blog, you did not receive a response. I realised that the vast majority of people were lurkers and that people were in fact reading what I was writing and occasionally, were using it to help them with their thinking. So there was a reason for me to participate and contribute. I also found that writing things down did in fact help to move my own thinking forward. I began to follow and contribute to communities, setting up a group and most recently experimenting with micro-blogging.

In the process of following the Jisc Emerge community I ended up in Second Life last night. I teleported to a Bar on the Emerge Island. I had to apply all of my Functional ICT skills to master the Second Life interface, I did not really practice my Functional English skills but I did listen to others demonstrating their skills, with one person showing that she recognised her responsibility to move a discussion forward, attempting to engage me in the discussion by employing a range of techniques. The exploding Harveywallbanger was a new one to me! I listened to people agreeing how they would work as a team; reflecting on their own strengths; developing a shared understanding of what it was that they were going to work together to achieve; reflecting on their personal strengths and weaknesses and how they might contribute to the work of the team; etc. I was watching people, in a virtual world practising and developing their Functional and Personal Learning and Thinking skills. Had I managed to keep up with them, I am sure that I would have witnessed more as they built the Tower, although I suspect that they went on to a disco – ‘magic dance ball’?

I am beginning to see more and more potential in these environments for learning – but a bit like Twitter I am overcapacity!

A quick question from a reader

June 11th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Tania writes to ask:

“1. Do you know of any interoperability standards for e-portfolios /personal learning environments- I have trawled Pontydysgu, IMS and JISC and EIfEL with no success.

2. in Europe, are there any successful multi country eportfolio projects in any discipline/area?”

There are standards including UK-LEAP. But are any of the standards really useful? Should we focus on interoperability and associated standards for exporting amd importing ePortfolio data, rather than the ‘big’ educational standards.

As for the second question – can anyone help?

More summer fun – twemes and Emerging Mondays

June 1st, 2008 by Graham Attwell

It is another week of hectic fun here at Pontydysgu Towers. Tomorrow morning (Monday) I am off at the crack of dawn to the EduMedia conference in Salzburg. I’m doing two presntations – one on the MOSEP e-Portfolio project and another on podacsting and blogging in self directed adult education. Best of all – lots of my favourite peopel are going and I’m looking forward to a pint or tow with you tomorrow evening.

I will post the presentations on SldeShare when I get five minutes. And I am messing with memes – or rather twemes. What are twemes? Twemes are a mash-up of twitterm delicious and flickr. You can see the edumedia tweme here. And if you are using any of these services to add things about the conference please tag them with #edumedia08.

Click advance notice. Sounds of th Bazaar LIVE is launching a new monthly series sponsored by the JISC Emerge programme. And each of the monthly broadcasts will be followed by a social event in Second Life. Cool or what? The first of the series of Emerging Mondays takes place on Monday June 9 at 1900 UK summer time, 2000 Central European Summer Time. I will post the url for the programme laler this week – together with our guest list. But put it in your diary now – don’t forget – Emerging Monday’s Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE Monday 9 June.

What is the difference between an e-Portfolio and a Personal Learning Environment?

April 13th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

This is a question which has bothered me for some time as I am involved in developmental projects for both e-Portfolios and Personal Learning Environments. And it could well be that there is little difference, depending on how both applications (or better put, learnng processes) are defined. Of course, if e-Portfolios are seen primarily as a vehicle for assessment then the differences are clear. Simililarly if the e-Portfolio is owned by an institution or course. But if the e-Portfolio is seen as being owned by the learner, is intended to record all learning and is seen as a tool for formative self evaluation and for reflection then the differnces become more fuzzy.

I have had a number of interesting discussions about this issue recently – with Jenny Hughes, Cristina Costa and Mark van Harmelen. Jenny (who loves working with words) talked about the difference between presenting knowledge and representing knowledge. I think this is a valuable distinction. An e-Portfolo is a` place for reflection, for  recognising learning and presneting that learning. A PLE may be seen as a tool (or set of tools) for not only presenting learning  but for also (individually or collectively) developing a representation of wider knowledge sets (ontologies?).

Of course it could be possible to develop a tool set which supports both tasks. But there are different sets of tools involved in those different prcesses and in the interests of si8mplicity and usability it may be better to develop environments which allow flexible access to such different tools or tool sets for different purposes.

Why am i wrestling with such obscure ideas? Pontydysgu is a partner in the EU funded Mature project. Part of our tasks is to research the ‘state of the art’ on these issues and to develop and test PLEs as a process for developing and sharing knowledge. Its going to be interesting.

Question and answer

March 10th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

A short question from John Pallister on the ePortfolios and PLTs list server.

“It’s good to see the ‘establishment’ using the Web 2 tools that many of us think that our learners should be using to support their learning. I am worried that people have stopped talking about ePortfolios. Are they going to be too expensive to implement? Will they take up too much teacher time as the learner looks for an audience to share their reflections with? Higher Education and employers are not giving out a clear message to schools about ePortfolios. What is in it for the learner? Why should they bother with ePortfolios?

In the absence of a clear steer, are the ePortfolio enthusiasts turning their attention to the ‘nice’ bits, exploring the potential of the Web 2 tools, fiddling with the technology etc. Is the ePortfolio process, the thing that I can see could transform learning, going to be neglected and ignored because it will be quite a challenge to implement on a large scale?

Will the ePortfolio Process ever realise its potential?”

And here is my answer (although in my heart I am not sure if I am as confident as I sound).

“Will e-portfolios happen? Well – yes and no I think. We are probably not going to see a massive take off in the immediate future. It is not cost but pedagogy and understandings that are the barriers. e-Portfolios require changes to the practice of teaching and learning – and such profound change is slow.

But in the longer term – almost certainly yes. Why? Because of the changing role technology plays in our society, because of the use of computers for informal learning, because digital identities are becoming ever more important – and so on. We may not call them e-Portfolios – but the idea that we will use computers to record and reflect on our learning is going to happen. And if schools try to ignore it then they will take another step towards irrelevance in young people’s lives.”

Anyone else any opinions on this?

e-Portfolios work – according to Becta

February 28th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

An email from popular Pontydysgu guest blogger, Martin Owen.

‘In relation to our discussion about what e-portfolios are, I came across this in a recently published report on how UK Further Education students use ICT.
“Even fewer were required to use e-portfolios (20%). However, those using them overwhelmingly found them helpful: 9 out of ten of users (89%) agreed it helped them see if they were meeting their course objectives and 86% agreed it helped improve the quality of their work.” (Executive Summary: Use of e-learning)

Data was collected for this survey during a 20 minute scripted conversation with 4000 students. The interviewers defined e-portfolios as: On some courses, learners are required to maintain a computer-based portfolio of evidence, showing how they’ve achieved their course objectives. These are known as “e-portfolios”. (Appendix B Section E)

The full report is online on the Becta web site

Thanks Martin for this. I haven’t had time to read the report myself but will look at it over the weekend and post something more on Monday.

Developing tools to support workplace competence development: e-Portfolios and apprenticeship

January 15th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

I have always liked the apprenticeship model. At its best it provides authentic practice based learning and at the sme time develops an occupational identity for the learner.

At the beginning of February I am attending a conference in Vienna organised by inAp – the International Network on Innovative Apprenticeship. One of the papers I am co-presenting at the conference is entitled ‘Developing tools to support workplace competence development: e-Portfolios and apprenticeship’. I have always been interested in the potential of e-Portfolios for vocational education and training and in particular for apprenticeship. I will post a download of the full paper later this week (when I have finished the referencing etc.). In the meantime here is the key excerpt explaining why I think apprenticeship needs modernisation and how e-Portfolios can contribute to this.

Why modernise apprenticeship?
Apprenticeship is perhaps the oldest organisational form of education and training and has proved surprisingly resilient despite radical societal form. So why should we modernise it now?

The first current challenge to apprenticeship lies in the present industrial revolution based on digital technologies which is having a profound effect not only on production systems but on many aspects of society. Within enterprises we are seeing a rapid period of innovation with a shortening life cycle of products, new forms of production and new forms of organisation of production and the development of new materials and products. All these are leading to rapidly changing occupational profiles and requirements for competences, although obviously the extent of these exchanges varies greatly between sectors.

A further challenge to apprenticeship is the expansion of higher education and a consequent tendency for the prestige of apprenticeship to decline.

More significant, in the long term, may be the changing ways we are learning and developing and exchanging knowledge. Although the term knowledge based society is somewhat rhetorical, it does reflect a growing emphasis being placed on knowledge for innovation and product and process development. A major impact is the growing recognition of the importance of work process knowledge – applied knowledge in the workplace. Linked to this is a move form classroom or school based vocational learning to work based learning with an increasing emphasis on informal learning. Jay Cross claims that perhaps 85% of our learning is informal yet the major emphasis in education and training has been on the 15% that comprises formal learning.

There is also a growing recognition of the role of organisational learning and of the importance of building on the knowledge of employees. This of course, may include apprentices.
Finally – and perhaps most important – is the changing ways in which (not just) young people are using new technologies for learning and for developing and sharing knowledge. Of particular note in this respect are the use of social networks which transcend traditional work based networks and the impact of web 2.0 in facilitating the use of computers for creating as well as consuming information and knowledge.

In many ways these changes are good news for supporters of apprenticeship, particularly the increased emphasis on work based learning. Nevertheless, they present a challenge to traditional forms and organisation of training, signifying a move from knowledge and skills transmission models to more collaborative peer group forms of learning. We believe that the introduction of e-Portfolios can act as a transformative tool to build on the strengths of apprenticeship models of learning whilst at the same time modernising pedagogic processes.

What could e-Portfolios bring to apprenticeship

As we said in section 2 of this paper there are many different definitions of e-Portfolios. Our belief is that e-Portfolios represent primarily a transformative pedagogic approach. This section of the paper reflects that viewpoint.

1. Bringing together learning from different contexts

e-Portfolios have the potential to bring together learning from different contexts. This is particularly important for apprenticeships which in a dual system context have often suffered form a lack of co-ordination between school based provision and work based training. More important than administrative coordination is curriculum is curriculum and pedagogic coherence. E-Portfolios have the potential to link the content of learning from different contexts. This they can bring together practice (work based) learning and theoretical (school based) teaching. Furthermore e-Portfolios can provide for the recording of and reflection on informal learning – not just as a stand alone item – but in the context of other forms of learning.

2. Reflecting on learning

e-Portfolios can be a powerful tool for reflecting on learning. Jonassen, Peck and Wilson (1999) argue that ICT supported learning is only useful (effective and efficient) if learning is active, constructive, reflective, intentional, authentic (contextual and complex), conversational and interactive.

Active learning means that learners are actively manipulating their learning environment and observing the effects of what they have done. In this way, learners are responsible for the results of their learning.

Meaningful learning implies actions, but actions are not enough. Learners have to reflect on their actions and their observations. These reflections could or should lead to the integration of new experiences and ideas with existing knowledge or should at least leads to insight into what the learner has to learn (constructive learning). It is this combination of active and constructive learning which makes learning meaningful. Learning is not a result of just practice; learners also have to elaborate their knowledge and skills and create or construct new insights.

The authenticity of the learning environment not only leads to a better understanding of cases or principles, but also results in a better transformation of learning outcomes to other cases and contexts.

To make a learning environment authentic, it should include complex and open tasks, as well as simple ones. Like in the ‘real’ world or job-related practice, people work together and interact in order to learn, and solve problems. Cooperation between learners (both collaboration and conversation) is seen as important as a goal of learning as well as a mean of learning other content.

Within apprenticeship e-Portfolios provide a tool for reflection on authentic work based practices.

3. Recording and assessing learning

e-Portfolios can be designed to support a wide range of multi media applications. This is important for a number of reasons. Firstly many vocational learners are not confident in the use of text as a means of recording and reflecting on learning. And, in this context, it is interesting to see the rapid development of Web2.0 tools for exchanging a wide range of different digital artefacts including audio, video and photographs. Secondly for apprentices competence is often reflected in the ability to make and o things. Such competence can best be captured or recorded through digital artefacts rather than through textual explanation. Furthermore the ability to access an e-portfolio form a mobile device, PDA, telephone, digital camera, means learning can be recorded where it happens, in the workplace, rather than relying on subsequent recall.
This will in turn allow the development of authentic assessment practices, rather than relying on simple written tests which provide little indication of an apprentices competence. It could alo provide a basis for moving from assessment of learning to assessment for learning – to focusing on self and peer group assessment –and to formative assessment as part of the pedagogic process, rather than end testing as a summative procedure.

4. Lifelong Learning

There is a general understanding of the necessity of lifelong learning in order to deal with rapidly changing technologies and processes of production. E-Portfolios can provide the basis of a lifelong learning record. Furthermore data can be exported for use in different learning systems and learners can provide different views of their portfolio content for different purposes, including applications for jobs or for further education and training.

Once more, what is perhaps most significant is the process of learning, of on-going recording and reflection on activities and actions. This provides the basis for the much cited but rarely explicated lifelong learning competence.

5. Networking and communities of practice

E-portfolios allow learners to develop their own social networks and to share their work with peers. As such they can be utilised for group based and project based learning. At the same time the interconnectivity outside the classroom allows integration with wider dispersed communities of practice allowing apprentices to develop their identity as a skilled worker.

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