Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Week III: Binge & Purge

Immersion is fine, but the tricky part is determining what to keep and what to disregard. Focus...that's the trick. The model I developed still seems valid - dividing the body of eportfolio literature into "e" (educational technology) and "portfolio" (the pedagogy and methodology), and to divide the consultative aspect into alignment (institutional culture, vision and values) and implementation (technical and logistical impact). But in a 4-month research project, the literature review will only scan the field for future researchers. This week's work has been about paring down to essential and relevant material. But what stays, and what goes?

The focus must be on developing a set of recommendations for implementation of ePortfolio at NSCC. The literature review must support those decisions, but therein lies the rub. A scan that does not dive deeply enough to uncover critical influence may result in a compromised result. I am always conscious of the potential for what Bruce Tawse (NSCC Dean, School of Applied Arts & New Media) calls "decision-based evidence-making". My experience in following ePortfolio for the past 6+ years has led me to believe that it is a tremendously beneficial educational technology. But I need to be sure that in my haste I do not bring forward recommendations that are based on my bias for technology and ePortfolio, and rather are about the alignment of this technology with the values, priorities, and culture at NSCC.

Whistle Stops: Good news - the website is launched, currently only as an IP address ( since I have not decided whether to maintain this as a public resource or to pull it into the Institutional Intranet at NSCC. The content is still sparse, but the site is there and every day I load more documents, discussions, references and lists to the site - so this is an exciting bit of progress.

I spoke with Darren Cambridge this week after an Elluminate presentation he did on ePortfolio, Integrative Learning for the Network Self and the Symphonic Self. The work presents a duality of purpose and presence that is noted in the process of ePortfolio development, one outward facing based on the learners intentional making of connections, and one inward facing based on bringing those things into a cohesive concept of self. There is some very good work being done on integrative learning (over time, across courses, and between academic, personal, and community life) in various places and one that stands out is the Carnegie Foundation's Integrative Learning Project. It seems that many, like Darren, believe that eP can be a substantial tool for integrative learning and so this will certainly be an area of focus for me as I begin to present recommendations. Darren has consented to an interview during the LeGuardia ePortfolio conference in April. It will be good to see him again and catch up on his work with The Inter/National Coaliton for Electronic Portfolio Research (I/NCEPR).

I have identified three of the four institutions that I will visit - that present opportunities to see good eP implementations in progress: LeGuardia College in New York City is being cited for some very good innovation and implementation of eP. They will be hosting a major national conference - Making Connections:ePortfolios, Integrative Learning & Assessment - in April and I will be there to look at what they have achieved and to meet with some key players in the American eP moevement.

Virginia Tech caught my eye some time ago when I noted they were recruiting for several ePortfolio-based positions at the college. Clearly, they have seen the value in investing in the technology and the pedagogy and I'd like to hear from them how those decisions were made and how the Open Source Portfolio is working out there. I don't have a contact yet, but have a colleague in D.C. with connections to VT who I'll ask for an introduction.

Tracy Penny-Light at U. Waterloo is someone who came to my attention a couple of times - in part because of her activities with I/NCEPR and also from presentations she made at LIfIA conferences in Vancouver and Montreal. I understand they have had some great success at UW and I have sent a note to ask her if she'd be willing to discuss this and demonstrate the impact at her institution.

I am still thinking about one more site visit - I am inclined to consider Simon Fraser or UBC on the West Coast, but also considering a discussion with Renate Krakauer at Michener Institute to see if they have anything to report.

I've also set up a few internal meetings and will post up some video as they are captured. I hope I won't have to purge my own site before I get finished taking stock!

Reflection: Quite a week of deep focus this week and I do realize I tend to take on big projects with insane timelines. I actually sense that when pressed for time I make some of my best work happen. Reflection is something I do after the fact, though and I know that I will make mistakes if I don't take time to plan. Learning does mean that you have to take time to reflect, but it also needs room and the courage to make mistakes. If are not willing to make them, there will be little opportunity to learn.

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