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Without tagging this is your blog

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. The contents of your learning journal, or e-portfolio or blog could look like this

As I’m prompted to do so, or is this just a MAC thing? I now tag documents downloaded to my desktop. They can be found wherever I or the operating system has buried them.

I tag religiously here (except, since a month ago, when writing from my iPad as it crashes the page and the iPad ?!).

I tag for a number of reasons:

I jot down ideas and thoughts, facts, even grab, cut and paste stuff that may be of use later so tag it so that I can tickle it out later as the mood or need fancies.

By tagging by module, and by activity you can then regularly go back and add a further tag as you plan a TMA (tutor marked assignment) or EMA (end of module assignment). For example, L120 is my current module. I will (or should) add L120A1 perhaps or L120S1 to identify an activity or session (NOT necessarily shared at all if I am giving away answers potentially or breaching copyright too blatantly by privately ‘curating’ content). Potentially L120TMA1 obviously helps me pull out content pertinent to this. That’s the idea anyhow. The OU used to have an e-portfolio called MyStuff, a bit clunky, but it did this and then allowed you to re-shuffled the deck as it were, to give order to the things you picked. In theory you then have a running order for an assignment.

Tag clouds, number of tags or simply the weight and size of the font, indicates the strength and frequency of certain themes and ideas. When playing with the idea of an ‘A-to-Z of e-learning’ it was easier for me to see, under each letter, what I ought to select … and then immediately have a load of examples, some academic, some anecdotal, all personal to me, at hand.

I come here to find things I’ve lost! Amongst 20,000 saved images I know I have a set from early training as a Games Volunteer for the London Olympics. I searched here, clicked on the image and thus found the album in Picasa Web (now Google Pics). Why can’t I do that in my picture/photo pages? Because I never tagged the stuff. There is no reliable search based on a visual – yet.

No one can or should do this for you.

My blog and e-portfolio is fundamentally and absolutely of greatest value to me alone. So why allow or encourage others to rummage in the cupboards of my brain? Because it tickles and stimulates me to share views, find common or opposing views and to believe that others are getting something from it.

email is dead, long live Web 2.0

You wouldn’t necessarily know it was a wiki either, rather it is a shared document held online with secure access by a group of people collaborating on a complex project.

The roles are well-defined, as clear as those on a film production team (with similar titles):

  • Senior Production Manager
  • Production Manger
  • Learning Design
  • Designer
  • Developer

and so on

New to an e-learning office I find I am permanently online adding to a massive, collaborative wiki which is the e-learning course with its plethora of inputs.

Email rarely comes into it, why should it?

Wikis are lean production, they operate ‘just in time’ with each cell responsible for picking up their task as it best suits them.

The Open University provide an OU Student Blog platform, which you are required to use for some modules to build up reflective practice, they also provide a portfolio called MyStuff in which to dump stuff.

As portfolios either system can be used to aggregate content that can be shared, offered with restricted access or kept private.

I have been on the Masters in Open & Distance Education (MAODE) for two years, we have to give blogs, portfolios, wikis and other tools a go.

The interesting thing is to see how it plays out in practice during these MAODE modules.

I can cite failures as well as extraordinary successes.

Like learning to do anything new people/teams need to accept that at first they are getting into the sandpit to play.

Letting go of inhibition is tricky, academics in particular find it very hard to touch the words of another person.

The trick, I find, is to think of myself as a writing team, that the words that appear as text might just as well be a conversation around a meeting room table. Over time the ‘script’ will be bounced around.

Some tricks:

  • A wiki needs to be ‘populated’ with some text, ‘seeded’ by someone just so that there are some ingredients to get started on.
  • Don’t fuss about spelling, grammar or even the accuracy of ideas that you present. Indeed, the rougher the initial input, even the presence of easy to fix mistakes, the more likely someone will dip their toe in the water and fix the obvious. The polished whole should be the product of the group enterprise.
  • The magic isn’t the finished result, but the ability with current tools to trace back and forth through the ‘narrative’ of changes. In Google Docs you can contribute using different colour text which makes this ‘animation’ all the more easy to read. I found I got a fantastic sense of the thinking process, the logical changes, the ebb and flow, the occasional false trail corrected.

Have a go in Wikipedia

I was surprised how easily I signed in as an editor, found I subject I knew something about and jumped in with text and images. This felt like the first time I swam in a 50m pool.

My conclusion, shared amongst fellow students, is that the ‘modern’ blog platform, such as WordPress offers all of this, as in a wonderfully simple, bulletin board kind of way the OU’s own blog offering.

Six categories of eportfolio:

1) Assessment – used to demonstrate achievement against some criteria.

2) Presentation – used to evidence learning in a persuasive way, often relate to professional qualifications

3) Learning – used to document, guide and advance learning over time

4) Personal development – related to professional development and employment

5) Multiple owner– allow more than one person to participate in development of content

6) Working – combine previous types, with one or more eportfolios and also a wider archive.

Three kinds of e-portfolio (Matt Villano):

  • Developmental
  • Reflective
  • Representational

(A note on blogging. Spurred to say something about wikis based on my current experience in an international e-learning business with 70+ offices around the world I refer to the OU Student Blog I have kept since February 2010. Amongst its 1000+ pages there are 23 tags to wiki, or I can search ‘wiki’ in the blog. This reaches out to any notes I have taken during the FOUR modules I have thus far completed, where wikis, amongst many Web 2.0 tools are carefully introduced and discussed at length drawing on academic papers, the course content, input from out tutor, my student group and from the student cohort on this module who contribute to the vibrant asynchronous conversations in the various social learning environments offered).

An embedded e-portfolio

A decade ago creating a commercial website generally required you to buy in the services of a specialist agency; this was certainly the case 15 years ago. Gradually however businesses found they could do it themselves, indeed the development of internal and external communications was so integral to a company’s activities that it had to be in some cases. An internationally successful TV production company used outside suppliers initially to build its website. However, as the creative drive for this site needed to be part of the business and as the site become a TV channel of sorts, it was necessary to bring control in-house.

1999-2002 was an interesting period as some organisations let their IT department go, not considering it one of their ‘core activities,’ while others brought the process in-house, sometimes buying up their web-agency for the purpose.

Creating a website, developing software, communications and business function merged. Specialist functions developed internally may have found a market elsewhere and products could be bought in ‘off the shelf.’

If the functionality of the software and web-pages are integral to an institution’s competitiveness and development it is understandable if some things they develop in-house, while others they buy in.

ITC is highly fluid, progressive, aggressive and organic. You want control of the beast. Do you have the personnel and department as part of your institution, or do you hire in the specialists? Or do you split your loyalties and commitments across several suppliers, buying products off the shelf? How do you achieve your goals? How do you control costs? How do you differentiate yourself from others if you’re all shopping from the same place? And in education, where there is a political, ethical and moral inclination to want to do it all for free – how is it paid for?

In relation to recommending an e-portfolio set-up or package or system to an institution there are a myriad of deciding factors which could result in the valid choice being any one of:

  • develop our own using our thinking and skills
  • buy in the services of an agency to create a platform for us
  • purchase a ready-made product off the shelf
  • use Open Source and tailor it to our purposes
  • none of these – students, staff and any other potential e-portoflios bring their own, on their laptops or in their own space in the ‘cloud.’

The latter happens whatever you provide.

As a result of using the OU’s MyStuff and trying PebblePad, as well as reviewing the reviews of several other packages, whilst it is possible to recommend what a particular client’s e-portfolio should be able to do – it is less easy without understanding the institution’s financial position, commercial requirements, staff and student development, professional and academic needs and ambitions.

To what degree are people storing and collating material in a loose collection of files and platforms, some online, some off, some linked in to several folios, each with a different outlook.

Once we lived in a more linear world and we would logically take in then draw from the academic institutions where we studied and the places where we worked. To a significant degree, even if we possessed portfolios as physical entities containing art work or assignments, our achievements and potential were locked in our being … our experiences, accreditations, behaviours and potential were entirely contained in our heads and enabled by our bodies. Increasingly it is the case that the sum total of our achievements, our record, our actions, can be collated, shared and given an existence beyond us. If we think of the ultimate eportfolio as ‘the contents of our brains’ in a cloud, like a geostationary satellite, forever ‘out there’ do we not begin to mutate and duplicate, especially if some, or many parts or all of this is shared?

Will we not, in a cyber-world of hundreds of millions, not only find like minds, but aggregate to think alike in some instances? Where then is the copyright and plagiarism? And here’s a dilemma for the inventive or creative mind. Do you pool you thinking for others to exploit, share the process by which you draw your conclusions which may fast track another to a similar, different or better result?

I appreciate that I am drifting into la-la-land and the realms of science-fiction, that I am feeling my way, that I am letting my own stream of consciousness take me wherever it will. If this finds resonance with others, if others comment and build on this … or reflect it, then it is as if those collection of neurones and synapses that are creating this are connecting beyond my being.

If there is commercial worth in ‘the contents of my brain,’ an e-portfolio that might contain everything I have ever done, who benefits if they use this to create something original?

In conclusion

1) The e-literate will already, whether they know it or not, have the makings of an eportfolio through content they have generated about themselves, their ambitions and friends, the work they would like to do and the work they have done. A link to discrete parts of this can quickly generate a number of e-portfolios, just as it could generate a number of bespoke CVs. The less e-literate by dint of their presence at the doors of an institution, enrolement or employment, or if freelance, their contract or engagement, will have wittingly shared components of a potential eportfolio it only paper through letters, CVs and evidence.

2) Institutions, academic or business, may offer portfolios that are wedded to that organisation’s culture. If designed, to look and function within this context it will be easier to compile, share, access and assess while there. No longer, if ever it were necessary, to print off, duplicate or photocopy reams of paper to have back-ups, let alone to apply simultaneously to more than one place. However, is not these ease of sharing problematic? Could not a multitude of people claim something to be their’s ? Or is that the point. We become a name on one of those credit lists that runs and runs after a CGI-rich film plays out.

3) There is no definitive answer, no panacea, when it comes to an eportfolio: create your own, buy off the shelf or let staff and students bring along what they have or don’t have. As a consultant e-professional (sounds far grander than it is), it is the requirements of the organisation you are working for that dictates the answer. Is the problem financial? Is it retention? Is it attracting students in the first place? Or holding on to staff? Is it assessement? Is it learning? Is it departmental? Is it a cohort or a group? Is is driven by your trustees? Government? Or a current fashion in pedagogy? Is it political? Does it put the student first, at the centre of things? If they have 20 years to pay off their student loan, do they carry the same e-portfolio with them for the duration, Sage accounting an add-on to whatever other functions their e-portfolio offers?

Do you want the way my mind works, or the conclusion? Is there one? If one thing defines e-technology it is that it is always in a state of flux, indeed like Macbeth clutching at that dagger before his eyes, you can never quite get your hands on it. An IT specialise shared her thinking with me in Linked In. A thought I have come across before. Whilst her role is to ‘speed things up’ for businesses, she can never say what it is that will speed up … or that what is achieved was predictable. The important thing is to move on, progress, don’t stagnate, don’t over think a thing … nor over-commit.

My recommendation to an institution questioning its use of eportfolios would be to be in all camps simultaneously, to have an inhouse eportfolio, to engage with external suppliers and permit individuals to have their own. What matters is the required functionality and outcomes. My recommendation to an individual is to have in their control anything they are placing elsewhere.

Is not the choice, when it comes down to it, one of selecting this handbag over that one? This satchel over that one? However it functions, whatever it looks like, only the contents matter. If you drop your one and only portfolio of photographs or drawings on the way to an interview, you can pick up the pieces and make do with cardboard and a roll of duct-tape. If your one and only eportfolio fails you lose the lot. Or do you? These assets, this ‘stuff’ what is it anyway? Text, images, programming (which is text) … If you are digitally-savvy and have an online presence how easy is it to reassemble such a portfolio? Very, I’d suggest.

So, yes, as I suggest, you have a version for work, a version where you are studying, a version embedded in your website or Facebook page, a version on the hard-drive or you computer, and one on a zip or flash driver.

Ho hum.

I shall go and sleep on it. Always the right approach after this middle-of-the-night brainstorm.

What kind of e-portfolio would you recommend to the following?

  • Use in a prison by inmates serving at least three years.
  • Use for advertising and marketing creatives at a ‘school of communication arts.’
  • Use by trainee gymnastics coach who is a volunteer with a local club working with young children.
  • Use by a trainee solicitor.
  • Use by an actor hoping to get into RADA
  • Use by someone returning to work after a six year career break.
  • Use by Leonardo da Vinci, Douglas Adams or Stephen Hawking
  • Use by a politician

Why not come up with your own. The trickier the better.

  • Use by someone who is losing their eyesight
  • Use by someone who has terminal cancer
  • Use by a child at primary school
  • Use by someone in a retirement home
  • Use by someone with depression
  • Use by someone with ambitions to be a professional footballer, or designer for Apple, or … TV producer, or … happy.

Is an e-portfolio the next web page?

You’ve got to have one, even if you don’t know why? At least you don’t have to by a domain name.

And what brought this on?

Other than the requirements of H808 …

The launch of a platform for swimming teachers and coaches across competitive swimming, water polo, diving and synchro.

The new Institute of Swimming (www.theiosonline.com) website not only streamlines the course booking process and offers some courses online, but embedded in the new platform in a way that is even more integrated the the OU’s add-on MyStuff, is an eportfolio.

You complete your details and find in so doing that you have begun your profile in something called My IoS.

It will contain a CV, evidence of qualifications, assets that can specifically include video … and the word ‘e-portfolio’ is not mentioned anywhere. Yet this is what is. And as for interoperability and transfer … all of that is just a cut and paste, or link away is it not, as ever? And being a ‘portfolio worker’ in any case, the last thing I want to do is to merge one of my two (or is is three) other lives with this or any of the others.

It simply is.

‘Don’t give me a creative brief, give me your problems.’

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

 

Having raced back from watching my son playing rugby in Brighton I was minutes late, but had least gone through Weller again this morning and had his report and my notes on the desktop.

 

The material we discusses was valuable, but only one part to this valuable learning experience.

 

Working live, contributing to a live wiki and being able to both chat and send message in real time proved highly successful. The process expects some give and take, polite suggestions, some ‘taking it in turns’ and for me some brief interludes to introduce me to a set up that is largely new to me.

 

We came away with some fresh insights on Weller’s OU Report (2005) on the development of an e-portfolio system for the OU VLE.

 

While using his report as the basis for our discussion some broader insights were gained in relation to the potential of Open Source, the context, culture and validity of a system for the broadest range of users … or for a niche group. The OU’s remit to widen participation and to enroll and engage with students without necessarily the prior academic record for an undergraduate or graduate place. My thinking continues to develop along the lines of branding, I like Mark Collin’s point on the culture of an institution. I’m also coming back to the value of students running with whichever platform their institution provides, not just for e-portfolios, but as Lesley Morrell has pointed out elsewhere, all being in the same blogging environment helps – it is seamless. Even if a blog on a different site is only a click-away, it is only this close if someone has bookmarked it.

 

Much learnt, and verbalising ideas like this had me believing I could make a presentation on the subject of eportfolios too.

 

How many points am I going to make? Four key issues with an introduction and conclusion. 100 words be key point with an intro and conclusion of 50 words each?

 

‘Don’t give me a creative brief, give me your problems.’ Said Robin White on the Bottom Line the other evening. (See below)

 

Ad-talk, marketing speak, music to my ears of a lifetime ago.

 

But it works.

 

If your client has a communications problem that you can fix,m you have a client. If your client doesn’t have a problem, then they don’t need you. If interviewing a client I would ask ‘who are you?’ (To establish their culture and intentions … and funding?)

 

I would want to know ‘who are your students.’ I believe that medical students are different to economists, those in the creative arts different to historians and lawyers.

 

I wouldn’t be happy with some catch-all.

 

The OU (though this year’s intake we are being told is different with a 36% increase in undergraduates turning away from a ‘traditional university degree) is a broad church. Ravensbourne College, Falmer and Bournemouth and one of my recently revived alma maters ‘The School of Communication Arts who serve the creative industries would want something different, enabling innovation.

 

One final thought, which those talking this afternoon will have picked up on, is how attractive software can be when it is simple and easy to use. Sync.in and Skype are easy. Google is easy. MyStuff is remarkably straightforward. I could share some gems of my own, software I love.

 

Ideally I’d be perched in front of a bank of screens for this, like an investment banker … or an e-j. A screen for each, the sync.in and Skype, the Weller Report and my notes on it. Instead, and possibly better for it, I had to go with what I had in my head and what by careful listening-in was sparked off. A pencil and a pad of paper proved useful.

 

The kids and dog kindly kept out of my way, though a coffee would have been nice. Sunday Lunch was waiting and they were chilled enough to let us finish. Whether or not I can escape to another part of the house is another matter! I prefer the expanse of the uncluttered dining room table.

 

Had my 12 year old’s Xbox headset on.

 

Felt like a twenty something in a call centre. To deal with the time-lag and occasional delays should we be using Walkie-Talkie or CB talk? As ‘Out.’ To let others know you’ve said you piece?

 

 

 

The skills you need as an e-learning practitioner

The skills you need as an e-learning practitioner

Training as a TV producer I picked up some skills editing, writing and directing. A project was never too small that a person fulfilling each of these tasks wasn’t required. Indeed, the ‘one man band’ was frowned upon. Some TV crews were still unionised so you had a cameraman, assistant and sound engineer, minimum. Today in TV production a producer may not only direct and write, but operate the camera and edit the piece. To be a TV professional in 2010 you need this variety of skills. I do. I did the courses. Camera, editing … even six months as a sound engineer.

To be an e-learning professional it strikes me that as well as research, design and planning skills, with a healthy foundation from an appropriate course that takes in learning history, theory and practice, that you will also need more that just a modicum of IT skills. IT literacy is a given, but further familiarity, even a confident working knowledge of a variety of 21st century e-learning tools and platforms will be necessary, as well as that 20th century skilling of touch typing.
I have that.
With this in mind I am tackling some software that I have to date resisted. I managed without Outlook, now I’m using it through-out the day. I hadn’t moved away from my original blogging platform of 1999, so have in the last two months started three new blogs in three different places, as well as continuing with the OU blog. I wanted to feel confident I know what these are doing. I signed into Facebook a few years ago but have let it pass me by.
It may feel like the exclusive domain of my children, nephews and nieces, but I am now determined to master it, instead of it having control of me.
And finally, though I have grown familiar with MyStuff and have mine well stuffed … I must decide on a second e-portfolio system to embrace. I want to try one, two at most. I’d like to run with Filemaker Pro as I’m familiar with it, but there is a cost and it won’t be of any use to others who don’t have it installed.
Time to look at the Tutor Group Wiki.

 

H800: 22 Reflecting on H800

How goes it?

Like a roller-coaster, merrily going along, like the C4 ident:through the loops of a roller-coaster though the shapes I see are ‘H’ and ‘800’ and ‘807’ and ‘808’ as I pass by.

Then I switch track and venue and find myself on the Mouse-Trap. Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Here there is a rise and dip where you are convinced you will hit a girder. I just did, metaphorically speaking. (Diary entry, August 1980)

Ilness changes things

Nothing more than a rubbish cold made uncomfortable by asthma.

It is a set back of sorts. I can sleep and read. But the spark has gone (for now).

To use a different analogy, if I often think of my mind as a Catherine-wheel, this one has come off and landed in a muddy-puddle.

We’re in the week of metaphors for learning.

I can draw on any notes I’ve taken on this here and in my eportfolio. This is more than an aide-memoire, it favours the choices I made before at the expense of anything new. So I widen my search. The OU Library offers hundreds of thousands of references in relation to ‘Education’ and ‘Metaphor’ going back to 1643.

Gathering my thoughts will take time.

There are 26 pages (nearly 12,000 words) to read (course intro, resources). Far, far more if I even start to consider ANY of the additional references or reading.

Give me three months. We have, or I have left, three days.

My approach is simple. Tackle it on the surface, drill into an author or topic that is of interest and expect to pick up on and pick through this again later this module, later this year … or next existence. (I believe in multiple existences and flux. We are transitory and changing)

As well as tapping into the OU Blog and e-portfolio the blog I’ve kept since 1999 might have something to say on metaphor. If I care to I might even rummage through A’Level English Literature folders from the 1970s, just to trigger something. Engaged and enabled by Vygotsky and others in relation to memory and learning I value this ability to tap into past thoughts/studying with ease.

(Ought others to be sold the idea of a life-long blog?)

Otherwise I have gone from learn to swim in the training pool, to swimming lengths in the main pool … to observer/coach who will participate, but has a towel over his shoulders and is looking around.

The next pool? Where is that?

I’m not the same person who set out on this journey 12 months ago.

On the other hand, having a Kindle makes me feel more like a teenager swotting for an Oxbridge examination; I like having several books on the go. I’ll be through ‘Educational Psychology (Vygotsky) by the end of the day and am already picking through and adding to copious notes.

Piaget next?

Then a little kite-boarding as I head away from the swimming pool that has been an MA with the OU?!

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