iPadogogy, Portfolios and iSense?

Slowly, sluggishly, another academic year draws towards its end. A year of bridges, a year of learning, a year of questioning. A year which leaves me with no e-portfolios to go through.

Some may find that a relief; personally, I find it a pity.

It is never too soon to have learners begin their e-portfolio, in particular when working within an iPadology framework. The question of e-portfolios has been widely accepted but where is the practice?

Let’s begin by considering an iPadology framework where students have a possible iBook and a selection of apps to work with. It is with the apps that students create their presentations, whether those be with Haiku, Keynote or digital stories with PuppetPal or any other app appropriate for story-telling. Students may present their work to the whole class or neatly submit it to the teacher through a LMS or cloud. Either way, this approach is parallel to when students wrote only for the teacher’s eyes – a practice I have always rejected. In an age where digital literacies are needed to be fostered and developed, producing only for the teacher’s eyes makes even less sense to me.

Which begs the question, if students are encouraged to use apps for creating stories, movies and other tasks, why must these creative productions be hidden in a cloud?

Let me take a step back for a moment – what are these digital literacies which are so bantered about? If literacy may be understood as  “a set of social and cultural practices that involve the interpretation, production and communication of shared meanings. Literacy implies the ability to make sense and to create meaning, as well as an understanding that doing so is a social practice that draws on an array of complex, interwoven social, cultural and historical contexts” (Payton & Hague 2010), then digital literacies are all of the above but with the addition of digital tools.

These digital tools help build new knowledges, changing how students learn and develop knowledge. Belshaw (2011) points out how there may not be a complete agreement among some regarding the precise definition digital literacies, yet highlights how there are 8 main elements to take into consideration:

If these literacies are to be included in a learner’s experience, if a learner is encouraged to bring his/her life experiences to their learning experiences, then their work needs to be visible.

This visibility serves different purposes as well. On the one hand, it is a show-case of the learner’s work and progress throughout an academic year or course. On the other hand, by being able to display, share, comment and improve, the individual learns.

It comes as no surprise that I believe blogs to be the best medium for a student’s portfolio. While there may be a whole industry willing to sell e-portfolios to educational institutions, again, these are far from my preferences. Why should a student leave their work locked up, far from the real world, in an institution’s system? Where is the purpose? (Where is the openness?) It is not only the need for one’s portfolio to be accessible anywhere, at anytime – it is a question of ownership. A learner’s portfolio belongs to him/her, reflecting their progress, learning and achievements.  Even if a system is mobile, the learner’s portfolio will still be tucked away, visible to teacher and possibly peers. Possibly.

More than tools developed for digital curation and storage, for example LiveBinders, blogs are easy to use, easy to share and students are left with a visible trace of their progress. As Downes  (2004) explains, “What makes blogs so attractive, in both the educational community and the Internet at large, is their ease of use. A blog owner can edit or update a new entry without worrying about page formats or HTML syntax. Sebastian Fiedler, a media pedagogy specialist at the University of Augsburg in Germany, has been monitoring the rise of blogs for a number of years. “Many lightweight, cost-efficient systems and tools have emerged in the personal Webpublishing realm,” he writes. “These tools offer a new and powerful toolkit for the support of collaborative and individual learning that adheres to the patterns of contemporary information-intensive work and learning outside of formal educational settings.”

Downes (2004) also discusses the value and pitfalls of blogging, adding that “Despite obvious appearances, blogging isn’t really about writing at all; that’s just the end point of the process, the outcome that occurs more or less naturally if everything else has been done right. Blogging is about, first, reading. But more important, it is about reading what is of interest to you: your culture, your community, your ideas. And it is about engaging with the content and with the authors of what you have read—reflecting, criticizing, questioning, reacting. If a student has nothing to blog about, it is not because he or she has nothing to write about or has a boring life. It is because the student has not yet stretched out to the larger world, has not yet learned to meaningfully engage in a community. For blogging in education to be a success, this first must be embraced and encouraged.”

Students are learning. It is through practice, by being given opportunities to create, develop and display their work that an iPadology (for instance) adds to what I would call “iSense“.  By keeping a portfolio, students are able to go back, reflect, while at the same, go forward with their learning while developing their digital literacies – literacies which for me,  also include other skills such as digital citizenship, being aware of one’s digital footprint and a degree of transparency in the learning process. Luca, (2011) who neatly points out 5 reasons supporting why students should blog, also stresses how students’ world view changes when blogging – a learning experience which one would hope exists in education.

I cannot perceive learning as an end, despite there being objectives for every course. Learning is a process, one that needs to be encouraged and supported. The focus on the learner, offering individualisation and catering to different learning needs and styles,  only makes sense when giving learners a chance to develop a project with tools which best meet the project and their learning styles.  To have students develop a blog as their portfolio, only enhances the “iSense” which is necessary in today’s environment of digital literacies.

Lastly, a word on change.

It has happened. It is happening. Change in our world, change in our daily learning and practices.

And no, it won’t be turning back so soon.

NOTE:

Please note that I have purposefully referred to E-Portfolios as portfolios. Just as E-learning is a part of learning, electronic portfolios may be considered part of portfolios, especially as the introduction and practice of digital education is increasingly a common feature in many parts of the world.

References

12 Important Trends in the EPortfolio Industry

Downes, S., 2004, Educational Blogging

Luca, J., 2011, 5 Reasons Why our Students are Writing Blogs and Creating ePorfolios

Payton, S. & C. Hague, 2010, Digital Literacy – Professional Development Resource

Further Reading

Couros, G., 2013, 5 Reasons Your Students Should Blog

Lampinen, M., 2013, Blogging in the 21st Century Classroom

Rosenthal,S., 2011, Learning abut Blogs for Your Students – Part II Writing

Waters, S., 2011, Getting More Out of Student Blogging

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