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Testing eportfolios platforms

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The contest is between Pebblepad, Wordpress, Google Sites and Blurb.

Pebblepad is great for a national or regional institution creating a workbook-like course for swimming or nursing.

I just completed a Swim Coach Level II course through Swim England that used Pebblepad. It was a monster! Demanding, massive and took several months to pull together and upload the required materials.

Wordpress is a blog.

Some tutors at GB MET swear by it and many years of students in Prop Creation / Theatre Design have used Wordpress not just to blog, but as a way to submit work for grading and to develop clients or potential employers. Having been on Wordpress since 2007 you'd think I'd be convinced: I am not. Lately the platform has become overly slick and in the process tricksy. I feel like an artist on ice-skates; it works but I don't feel in control.

Google Sites is like a paired back version of Wordpress. 

For students it does the basics without too much fuss. I'm giving it a go and will report back more fully in due course.

Blurb is new.

For a tool aimed at creating eportfolio like collections of work it has the required focus and simplicity. I could see myself introducing this to students in construction and motor vehicle maintenance; it has that level of practicality about it. I wonder if students in the creative arts would want more scope to design the experience?

On the other hand, from an examiner and tutor's point of view keeping it simple might be he best answer - like putting work up on a studio wall, or in this case on an electronic scroll of paper. 

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London Aquatics Centre for three days

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Three days, with a 7.15 am poolside start each day with some 20+ swimmers from our club Mid-Sussex Marlins. 'Working' poolside rather than just visiting as a tourist or even a spectator meant I experienced something of the buzz around competitive swimming.

8 Sessions, 7 to 20 swimmers in each. Every stroke and every distance, from 1500m Freestyle to 50m sprints. Quite a tasks to coral the swimmers onto a patch of the poolside which all the London clubs mark out with beach chairs. I had just the one. It was easy to get squeezed.

The 2 hours between warm up and a swim had many swimmers setting off for trips around the Olympic Park with their parents and then doing a poolside warm up before their race - not ideal.

Work on their underwater phase is paying off, with great distances. Often they are the last to surface and do so ahead of the pack.

All of this tied in with an Institute of Swimming 'Certification' which I have been completing on the ePortfolio 'Pebblepad' that I was first introduced to here in 2010 as part of the MAODE - it has changed considerably. It is a sophisticated, detailed Workbook with multiple test sheets and 'evidence' to be submitted - often via the App 'Pebblepocket' so that a video or audio clip, or photos can be uploaded easily. The downside is the volume of material that is easily generated and the need for both a mentor/supervisor rather than simply an assessor looking over my work.

 

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eLearning in Practice

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it is one thing to have a go with PepplePad as an MA student 7 years ago, it is quite another to be using it in the Front Line, first as a student, and then as an educator.

Getting up to speed with something takes time, thought and practice. In this instance I am pulling together evidence of my knowledge of swimming and swim coaching. PebblePad is my ePortfolio, my noticeboard and interface with my supervisor and examiner. There are pitfalls, it is rarely seamless, it can be off putting to some. 

Having easy access to this via a phone looks like is should help. PepbblePocket is an App that lets me take a note, add an entry, or reflection, take photos, video or record a conversation and upload it. As ever, getting it to upload to the right place, in the right way can become an additional struggle, Once you have it all working and are confident with it I am sure I is great. And the time to get through this is the year before, certainly months before - You do not become a competent rally driver by getting into a rally car on first day of a series of race. First you learnt to drive, then you nudge up towards the requirements of driving at speed safely.

Nonetheless, I have uploaded some 21% of what is so far needed to pass by Level II Swim England Swim Certificate (something I ought to have completed in 2011). 

Where I see PebblePad and PebblePocket being used is with students on vocational courses such as carpentry, construction, publimg and electricals, perhaps catering and theatre where demonstration of multiple states learnt and put into practice is regularly required. I'd like to imagine students not only permitted to have their phones in the workshop, but be shown their use in a learning content to gather evidence and build knowledge. 

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The Life of the Learning Technologist

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 23 Nov 2018, 05:28

 Roy Castle playing the trumpet

Some decades ago on Blue Peter the inveterate multi-talented Roy Castle set a Guinness Book of Records by playing the same tune on 43 different instruments in four minutes.

Sometimes I feel that being a Learning Technologist is like this. We an not IT support, nor are we Teachers or Tutors, but we can 'play' a multitude of platforms with aplomb - and fix an IT, psychological or learning problem to boot.

Introduced to a fledgling PebblePad while completing my MA ODE with the OU 2010-2013 I have now had it sprung on me, in all places, as a Swim England Swimming Coach. It is this e-portfolio, evidence gathering, assessment supporting platform that will be used to assess whether I merit certification as a coach.

Interestingly, it was mentioned to me the other day, that a tutor was using PebblePad at our college for a similar purpose: I shall have to investigate further. So far I have found it more common for tutors to use a blog, typically WordPress though some using Blogger.

My own ensemble of tools that I use, and some that I have mastered include:

Google Classroom

OpenAthens

Turnitin

Planet E-Stream

ThingLink

WordPress

I have also mastered the use of a 360 Ricoh Theta SC camera - at least for taking stills.

Adobe Lightroom

 

 

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An embedded e-portfolio

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 12:00

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.

 

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E-portfolios and the OU

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 4 Feb 2013, 13:07

Enjoyed an hour long Skype and Sync-in discussion with three other members of our H808 Tutor Group.

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?

 

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Taking steps to migrate MyStuff content to PebblePad

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 08:00

I'm reaching the stage where I feel I may have to type entries such as this in Word and then paste them in. Why? Too often it closes before I save or finish and everything is lost. My loss, not yours.

Just owning up to buying an annual subscription to PebblePad. All the pointers say it is the right step to take, I can see that it will absorb everything I've put into MyStuff these last seven months about (700 pages) and allow me to do much, much more with it.

The movies that run you through how things work are clear. The buttons and actions seem intuitive and desirable. For example, when it comes to reflect I can follow the prompts. Even I can do this. And in relation to building evidence, once again, I will follow this H.E. inspired creation to perform as a graduate should.

Otherwise I'm finding Filemaker Pro as easy as when it first came out in Clarisworks in the 1990s and the various versions I've used since. It's just a pain and a shame that I'll have to buy a new version once the 30 day trial is over and a greater pain that details of 800 swimmers and 44 teachers/coaches will have to be added manually. (I may be able to get around this only if I very carefully ensure that most of the many fields I use match. Though refreshing my memory with the swimmers and deleting out of date records might be worth the effort as poolside all this stuff has to be in your head).

Today I've had fun with Bubbl.us and have been introduced a a slide-sharing tool - both courtesy of fellow student Lesley Morrell. Always one to want first hand experience of a tool before I can recommend it, I plan to take the Bubble I created on Reflection (see below) and work it through with Compendium, seeking out and adding reports and references as I go along. Whether the end result can be written up as a 500 word report is quite another matter.

This and plans to have a professional crew video a number of swimmers above and below water to then put through a broadcast post-produciton house come to fruition. The plan is then to generate material for a substantial 'reusable learning object' or what Salmon (2002) wants us to call an 'e-tivity.'

So a busy day.

Risotto done, Mushroom soup to make.

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The skills I need as an e-learning practitioner

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 8 Jul 2012, 08:32
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 ferdw 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 ontrol 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.
Google Docs Zoho Mahara Wiki MyStuff DropBox PebblePad Reflect Google Wave Edublog Adobe Acrobat FilmMaker Pro WordPress Windows Live ThinkFree

Which will permit easy export from MyStuff?

Can anyone explain this to me?

Export your MyStuff in the LEAP2A atom feed format (which enables transfer of data to and from other ePortfolio systems). Please click refresh feed if you have made any changes recently.

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