Helen Barrett has been busy trying out various Weblog platforms to see how they fare as online portfolios. Interesting to see the variations, but I think most of the differences are primarily cosmetic.
Tom doesn’t think that blogs are the right medium for this experiment anyway:
Let’s cut to the chase, you can’t really make an e-portfolio with weblog software, they’re just not built for it, and wikis will only be useful if you neuter them. What you need is an open source, enterprise-class content management system. The main things Helen can borrow from blogs is the idea that people shouldn’t be screwing around with DreamWeaver to create web pages any more and e-portfolios should be using RSS, RDF, XML and web standards.
But really, how many decades is it going to take before more technical acumen is necessary to become an authority in educational technology? The lack thereof is really tiresome, and it is much more of a problem today than it would have been eight or ten years ago, because so much power is at our disposal, if we only have the capacity to reach out and grasp it.
His last point makes me wonder if he thinks only programmers can be experts at ed tech. I know he sees the landscape through very different eyes than Helen and I do, and his vision is pretty amazing. But authorities at ed tech also need the acumen to deal with educators who have very little energy or interest in the toys, and I think what Helen is trying to do is take a first step for a lot of those folks who have no clue what open-source is even about.
I noted to my superintendent the other day that another good thing about Weblogs is that they open a door to technology use for the timid and uninitiated. It’s a pretty low bar to jump over, and if they can hurdle this one, who knows what might be next. I think Helen’s work is giving some people a reason to try to make the jump.
Helen Barrett says
Thanks for the mention. The differences are more than cosmetic. There are also process issues that I am investigating. How easy are artifacts uploaded? Can I maintain a list of my artifacts, not just my pages? Major differences exist between the different tools. I am moving on to some of the commercial tools and will try out the OSPI (Open Source Portfolio) soon.
Corrie Bergeron says
Hi, folks. Hat tip to Sheryl Hansen at OLN for pointing me here.
I’ve been reading blogs for about a year, and just started my own (though I’ve had a website for ten years). I’d been giving some thought to the idea of using blogs in an educational setting. It’s great that you’re already deep into the investigation. Recent events in the media will likely increase the general interest in blogging (see the next issue of Time, or powerlineblog.com), and your site will serve as a solid reference for interested teachers.
Re blogs as e-portfolios: A big need expressed by the folks investigating e-portfolios here at Lakeland Community College is for departmental review of / access to artifacts for accreditation and program certification. From the little I’ve seen, I’m not sure that that capability exists in blogware. There’s a tension between easy-to-use, feature-limited special purpose software (e.g., blogger.com) and hard-to-use, feature-rich, general-purpose software (e.g., Dreamweaver, or dare we say Apache, PHP, and Notepad?) Blogware tends towards the former, of course.
Re the need for ed tech experts to be technological whizzes, I’m drawn to historical parallels. When motorcars first came out, drivers needed to have a deep understanding of mechanics. The early autos were persnickety and needed a lot of maintenance. Today, you risk voiding the warranty if you open the hood.
LIkewise, if you were going to use an Apple II in the classroom, it was really helpful if not essential to know AppleDOS and AppleBASIC. In the 1980’s I taught preservice teachers how to write if-then branches and do-while loops in BASIC and LOGO under the guise of a course in “educational technology”.
I don’t expect more than 5% of them ever wrote another line of code, but I’d venture that 80% or better would up using a computer in the classroom at some point. The tools have gotten a *lot* easier to use, and teachers who want to use them can focus on the “instructional” part of “instructional technology”.
That said, there is certainly a benefit to having an accurate mental model of the system you’re relying on. I’d agree that if you expect to speak with “authority” on the subject of educational technology you should have street cred in education and in technology. But the expertise in technology need not be at the soldering-iron level. IMO the teacher who has built well-designed courseware using COTS development tools has as much credibility as the programmer who wrote a SCORM-compliant LMS from scratch.
Lakeland Community College
sddc.blogspot.com (personal blog)