05 December 2012


If you’ve been wondering what ePortfolios are all about and whether it’s the right time for you to start your own portfolio, then this blog post is for you.

Many of us still visualise portfolios as large folders that an artist carries their drawings in.

An ePortfolio is an electronic collection of evidence that showcase an individual’s skills, qualities, achievements and capabilities. The pieces of evidence are often referred to as “artefacts” and can include documents, audio and video files, as well as images. The evidence collected might include assessments, activities and achievements, plans and goals, feedback, and reflections. Dare I say it, an ePortfolio could be used as a repository.

Where ePortfolios come into their own, is when they are used as a working space, with snapshots that help the individual, mentors, and relevant contributors of feedback. Using ePortfolios is now considered a valid approach to providing structured support to teaching and learning.

There are various ePortfolio tools available, paid and free. There is a current fashion for encouraging the establishment of ePortfolios for students to evidence learning, and in some cases this has lead institutes to either provide a portfolio website to students or to make recommendations on external websites to use.

ePortfolios can be collaborative, rather than an individual’s artefacts. Many ePortfolio tools provide methods for interaction and communication between contributors or assessors.

Some ePortfolio tools provide the user with the ability to create “views” for different audiences, allowing the user to have a public view, a mentor view, an assessment view, a potential employer view, etc. This creates safe environments for the user to utilise their ePortfolio as a reflective honest learning space, whilst not compromising the use of their ePortfolio for demonstration of current competency.

Teachers’ professional ePortfolios

Teachers should be encouraged to have a professional ePortfolio as a development and reflection tool. It gives teachers a framework to model good practice to the students.

What happens in NZ?

The Ministry of Education in New Zealand is providing the MyPortfolio School website free to schools until at least 2013. Some tertiary institutes used the shared MyPortfolio Tertiary website for continuing student portfolios into higher education. Both of these websites use the open source Mahara portfolio software.

What tools?

Some of the tools being used for ePortfolios are:
If you have found this blog post sparking an interest in learning more about ePortfolios, you might want to read some of these articles and resources:

22 November 2012

Learning Analytics

Learning Analytics

Learning Analytics is a hot topic currently, so let's take a look at what all the fuss is about.  

According to Wikipedia:
Learning analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs. 
Link to source

Why am I looking at learning analytics?

If we start to investigate learning analytics in the context of Moodle use by students we can see some distinct benefits.
  • For students, learning analytics can add meaning, context and emotional connection through a personalized learning process.
  • For tutors, it can increase productivity, efficiency and evolve the teaching process into a mentoring relationship.
  • For administrators, greater understanding of how learners communicate, complete tasks and construct new knowledge, combined with blogs, and Twitter activity will inform the design and development of optimal learning experiences.
  • For institutions, all the consequences of learning analytics as documented above can provide a significant boost in quality to the services provided, to reputation and prestige.
Where to from here?

There are some Moodle plugins being developed currently that I am watching the progress of. Here are two examples recently discussed at the Moodle Research Conference:
  • MOC Log -Monitoring Online Courses with log data Visualisation of log data, anonymous for privacy and viewable by course and category for particular roles and groups.
  • MonSys – Monitoring System Gives teachers alerts for students who have not accessed their course for a set number of days.
  Where to find out more Moodle.org now have an Analytics and Reporting forum here.

08 November 2012

Moodle Research Conference

The first Moodle Research Conference was held in Crete in September 2012, organised by Moodle, CosyLlab and It Is Art Ltd. This is a fantastic addition to the Moodlemoots with the potential to lead to exciting new developments and sharing of lessons learned to improve practice. The conference proceedings are here - http://research.moodle.net/MoodleCon_Proceedings_program/index.htm - and there is a plan for videos of presentations to be put on the website.
I attended and presented a paper on "a community approach to staff development in eLearning" that I co-wrote with Nicoletta Rata-Skudder.

The highlights for me:
  • Found out that all Moodle HQ developers are completing the MCC certificate, and this means they are also interacting with teachers on the course
  • Babelium plugin - teacher adds a video, mutes out parts of the speaking, student records their voice where required - but can be used for storyboarding or question/answer as well as scripted conversations. Code available, definitely testing this.
  • CADMOS - digital lesson plan, simple graphical tool. It's a stand alone application that you install on Windows or Mac and you restore into Moodle course. Creates all your topics, resources (labels, pages etc) and activities. The pilot feedback was good.
  • GLUE and GLUE-PS. Integrates other web 2 tools into Moodle. e.g. Google docs, dabbleboard, doodle, mediawiki, ... you add activity GLUE GDocs, set groups access like separate groups and upload files - it makes the google doc available just to the right people! There were other features, like pedagogical pattern collector but I can't remember all the details now.
  • MOCLog - new visualisation for log data to show processes and outcomes of learning and teaching, gives anonymous data for privacy, you can view course and category analytics. Runs using CRON and is incremental. User chooses category and course(s), roles, report types, maps against an elearning model. You see activity types view/update/delete/upload/write. You can assign weightings and make your own maps. You can view in groups. There is a visual display with pie chart, graph. Moodle HQ asked how they can improve Moodle logging data to enable more tools like this. The code is available in sourceforge if we want to test this out. CAREFUL - powerful tool but lots of potential for misinterpretation of meaning of the data.
  • MonSys - creates tutor reports around participation in forums, sends alerts to tell if students not accessing over certain number of days, used for quick identification of access difficulties and helping those students. Tested on 600 students with 19 tutors in Brasil (I think). Looked interesting.
  • ELIS - might be useful as bridge between student management system and Moodle, but presentation time was not long enough for the presenter to show all his content so would have to look further to really understand how it would work. Has usersets, class instances, class enrolment data (completion, grades, credits, objectives), learning program, tracking, learning objectives (define goals and associate with activities). Feed information in ELIS and use for reporting, a Moodle 2 plugin. There is a dashboard in MyMoodle.
Other stuff presented at the conference
  • Tagging project at Uni Canterbury - teacher tags resources/activities and student can search by tags, very basic and would be more useful if students were tagging resources/activities.
  •  PBL tool developed to give students access to resources in international repositories in a pedagogically sound way, uses scales of confidence to search resources appropriate to learner, learner tags and feedback refines searches for future users - tool in its infancy but will be useful in time.
  • Case study in West Australia - University and Secondary schools, course IHSO8801 Integrated Human Studies (overview here http://learning.ewfi.org/moodle20/mod/page/view.php?id=2326 ) - they used Moodle, Skype to build relationships, had VC 2 hours per week w/ LMS facilitating in between, not clear what the outcomes were from his presentation.
  • Some volunteers somehow related to a Church in Greece developed online teacher training courses, subjects - web 2 tools, podcasting, blogs, innovative teaching. They use ADDIE model and talked about LT model (learning together), STAD (not defined in the presentation). There is a vision of a new school (not sure what that means) and new curricula. There is a Greek School Network which is a free service (Moodle 1.7 currently). These volunteers used Wiziq for synchronous video conferencing, and made SCORM packages with eXe and Articulate. They said they were online ALL THE TIME. There is apparently no teacher registration or certification in Greece.
  • Categorisation of learning design courses in virtual environments - looked for usage patterns and basically they found most use of Moodle was "repository".
  • Improving design of courses - graphical external tool, preconfigure courses for teachers, work in progress.
  • Israel Math / Science / Technology courses for school students, have an outdoor science garden (very cool), they asked children what they wanted, found all the kids had laptops, smartphones, tablets, TVs in their rooms, some schools 1 to 1 laptops, good school has 5 to 1 and bad school has 10 to 1, teachers not sure how to use technology so they help, lots of interactive stuff with kids talking to researchers and asking questions, using Moodle and Elluminate, treasure hunts and fun activities and competitions, reducing fear of maths. They building inquiry skills, exploration, argument skills. If we could teach Hebrew in NZ schools then this would be awesome.
  • Innovation in flexible and collaborative learning. The story of moving from 1.9 to 2 they increased emphasis on images, selected rotating theme images based on pedagogy (adults, different ethnicities, collaboration), new icons like coffee corner for forum, completion criteria made obvious, tech advice icon, more personalisation emphasised with my files area and my portfolio made prominent. They made programme themes of different colours. 5 lessons learned - planning, research, specs and testing, managing change, outcomes and evaluation.
  • Question - do Moodle analytics have a role in learning design, feedback and assessment? Discussed the London Pedagogy Planner project, use of tool not obvious by design, need to teach how to use tool properly, look at activity patterns, connectivity patterns, and learning design. The researchers were asking the audience for answers and ideas for their question.
  • Learning analytics with Excel Pivot tables - tool to analyse usage data of Moodle, anonymous intuitive GUI then 3 options into Excel - 1. quick overview with specific charts, 2. personalised overview with pivot tables, 3. for the hardcore data geeks. A Moodle block where you select course and analysis type, download. You get action, date, activity name and user id. Template provided to help with pivot table creation.
  • Moodbile - some sort of external API layer and connector layer that uses Moodle 2 web services architecture for Android, iOS and HTML5 clients.
  • Plugins for programming courses - overview. They mentioned MOSS plagiarism plugin.
  • Islamic environment - first experiment with GIRLS in the classroom. Boys on main floor and girls sit behind screen in balcony area. Some teachers allowed for verbal discussion between girls and boys in the classroom. NO online discussion was allowed between girls and boys in Moodle so a new system wide Moodle role was created for girls. The results strongly suggest girls should be there.
  • Moodle front end for Greek language learning - they had a problem with student engagement, they made teams (content, pedagogy, graphics, technology) who worked together on tasks (created notebook, glossary... other stuff), embedded questions and gave animated feedback for every event. They wanted enriched resources, drag and drop, lots of iframes and flash. Target was 5 year olds through to higher education.
  • Improving Math - problem was students decreasing math competence prior to starting study, objective to improve 3 months to 1 month before study started. Made plugins that showed personal feedback in graph, put thumbs up / down next to each topic (quite cute actually), used book module with formulas.
  • Alex talked about research. Recognition of commercial research bias, separated internal (solves a Moodle issue) and external (solves an education issue) research. Talked about dissemination - telling/showing others what you did, Journals and conferences, plugins developed. Exploitation - benefits from your research - finding a market for your product/output, IP, says CONTRIBUTE - share your code. Sounded like sales pitch; Alex suggested researchers go work for Moodle Partners to earn more than at University.
There are plans for research.moodle.net that I think we should keep an eye on too, and contribute to. The current thinking is that this becomes the hub for sharing research plans, progress and outcomes, and that these feed into the direction of Moodle core, the design of Modules and Plugins, and the conversations around the future.
Some interesting blog posts related to the Moodle Research Conference:

24 August 2012

Rocking the ePortfolio

The lovely catspyjamasnz, also known as Joyce Seitzinger and famous for the development of Moodle Tool Guide, has collated resources on this site which you might find useful. Specifically, I would like to draw your eye to this slideshare on the essential elements of digital literacies.

13 August 2012

Connected Educator Month

The New York Times has a Teaching and Learning Network blog and you might be interested in reading Tips from 33 educators we admire which is their first post for the Connected Educator Month being celebrated this August.
Teaching and Learning with the New York Times
The NY Times blog asked a number of educators two questions:
  1. What is one important thing you’ve learned from someone in your Personal Learning Network (P.L.N.), however you define that network?
  2. What one person, group or organization would you recommend every educator add to his or her P.L.N.?
Of the month, the Connected Educator website says:
Connected EducatorsOnline communities and learning networks are helping hundreds of thousands of educators learn, reducing isolation and providing “just in time” access to knowledge and opportunities for collaboration. However, many educators are not yet participating and others aren’t realizing the full benefits. In many cases, schools, districts, and states also are not recognizing and rewarding this essential professional learning.
For these reasons, the U.S. Department of Education’s Connected Educators initiative is launching Connected Educator Month in August 2012. Throughout August, there will be coordinated opportunities to participate in events and activities in dozens of online locations to develop skills and enhance one’s personal learning network.

CEM Starter Kit coverThere is even a Connected Educators Month Starter kit to help teachers get involved in the online community.
Written by The Connected Educator author Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Powerful Learning Practice in collaboration with the Connected Educators initiative, and loaded with helpful links and embedded videos, the kit takes a 31 days approach for this special month, giving you one simple way to get more connected every day.
There is an open invitation to pass the starter kit along to anyone who might benefit from being more connected.

Theories and methodologies

I thought I should share on my own blog my recent posts to our eteam work blog. This post was on Theories and Methodologies. 

This week in our office we have been discussing appreciative inquiry model and connectivism. We decided that we should share so others can also have conversations about learning theories.
Appreciative Inquiry
Appreciative inquiry is a deliberately positive model, rather than a negative or deficiency model. When we ask “what is wrong” we are assuming a deficiency, and this model takes an alternative approach by asking “what is working?”.
The following table and list has been sourced from Wikipedia:
Problem Solving Appreciative inquiry
Felt need, identification of problem(s) Appreciating, valuing the Best of What Is
Analysis of Causes Envisioning what might be
Analysis of possible solutions Engaging in dialogue about what should be
Action Planning (treatment) Innovating, what will be
  1. DISCOVER: The identification of organizational processes that work well.
  2. DREAM: The envisioning of processes that would work well in the future.
  3. DESIGN: Planning and prioritizing processes that would work well.
  4. DESTINY (or DELIVER): The implementation (execution) of the proposed design.

When talking about the learning theory “Connectivism” the first name to come to mind is George Siemens. In this theory knowledge exists within systems and is accessed by people through participation in activities. Siemens talks about Connectivism as a “learning theory for the digital age” as technology has impacted on how people communicate and learn together. The other area to read up on is Stephen Downes’ writing on networks and nodes.
Wikipedia has the following list of principles of connectivism:
  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

27 February 2012

Sending generic emails

I admit, I send generic emails to people when I feel the pressures of time, but I have to say that the email I received from the public library was a bit of a surprise...

We’ve noticed you haven’t used your library card for a while and wanted to remind you of some of the free services and materials we have:
  • Mills and Boon books – we have a lovely new collection of Mills and Boon romances at a branch near you wcl.govt.nz/millsandboon
Please visit our website (www.wcl.govt.nz) or drop in to any branch.
Questions or comments are welcome – let us know what you think about library services.
Please respond if you no longer wish to receive emails from us.

I couldn't help but reply and let them know that Mills and Boon is not appropriate for the younger visitors to the library. I know a number of children with both a library card and an email address likely in the library database that I wouldn't want to see turn up at the library asking for directions to the new Mills and Boon collection.