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Trent Batson says, "The Batson Blog provides occasional commentary on eportfolios, technology and learning. This blog is not an official AAEEBL announcement but instead includes perspectives and opinions that are my own and not necessarily those of the Association. I've been writing about technology and education since 1985, so I bring history to my commentary. All my writing arises from the rich conversations I have with you and your colleagues, in academia and in the industry." All registered AAEEBL Community Online (ACO) participants are invited to join in the conversation. If your institution is not already an Institutional Member of AAEEBL, you may register for free as an Individual Site Participant by going to the homepage: Click on "Register," and then log into the Community through your ACO Profile. Comments and questions are welcome, and Trent Batson will reply in the blog conversation.


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Digital Visual Asset Management -- Published in Campus Technology

Posted By Administrator, Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

November 9th, 2011

The following URL takes you to an article I wrote with Mary Grush about "Shared Shelf" from ArtStor, a DAM application for non-experts:

This is, I think, another asset valuable to the eportfolio community.
Best to all

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an eportfolio application is NOT a tool

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

November 9th, 2011

A "tool" to me is a hammer: something that lets you do one thing very well. A shovel is a tool. But, for example, would we call our car a "tool." That would seem absurd: "well, my car is just a tool after all." The word diminishes what a car means to people: auto-mobility, meaning physical and social mobility; it is a private space; it often is part of your identity. It's a prestige item. You can live in a car. We have built much of our country based on the abilities and limitations of cars.

Likewise with eportfolios: calling them a tool severely diminishes what they are. Using the word mis-leads those who know little about eportfolios into believing that it's all about the technology. Eportfolios, instead, could be perceived as the "car" of this century: similarly providing your mobility, your private space, a place to keep important items, a way to create your identity, to connect to society, to build a career.

When seen through the lens of its capabilities, as I just touched on, an eportfolio could never be thought of as a mere tool, a one-dimensional technology that has a single purpose. We do not help ourselves by so diminishing the importance of our work through using an unfortunate misnomer.

And that's all I have to say about that .... :-)


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"Technology Integration" is an Oxymoron

Posted By Administration, Sunday, October 30, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

October 30th, 2011

Since I started working seriously with educational technology 25 years ago, I have read and heard the word "integration." Usually, the phrase is "technology integration." We've heard and read that phrase so long, it's become a cornerstone about how we deal with technology in education. It's only when one stops to analyze the term that the absurdity of the phrase becomes apparent: to "integrate" something implies that whatever you're integrating into remains the same.

We are implying by the phrase "technology integration" that education will remain unchanged and that only technology will change -- it will be forced to adapt to the current educational system. This might be a comforting notion: nothing will really change because technology will just serve our current system. But this notion is delusional. If we are to use the word "integration" regarding technology and education, it makes far more sense to say "education integration" because it is education that is changing. Education is trying to integrate into the technology-enabled knowledge culture and knowledge economy. "Education integration" has hardly begun at most institutions of learning.

A simple analogy: automobiles became popular in the 1910s -- 1910 to 1920. But, for many enthusiasts who were among the first in their town to purchase an automobile, their enthusiasm waned quickly when they discovered their automobiles did not work very well on the dirt roads of the time. The brand new automobiles sat in garages or made short trips to the general store, consigned to the role of oddity instead of the "automobility" role they were supposed to fill.

A highway system had to be built along with establishing laws, enforcement, street lights, commonly recognized road signs and the entire infrastructure for cars that took us decades to build. The nation had to integrate itself to the needs of the car.

Just so, educators are beginning to realize that technology is perhaps the most transformative technology humans have ever created. Education's entire design, business model, and culture must evolve to integrate into the world as it is now. It is education that must integrate, not technology.

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"campus technology" --> "cultural technology"?

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

October 25th, 2011

The inevitable seems to be happening: college campuses seem to be moving "to the cloud" and to the Web 2.0 riches of the social Web. With the Pearson-Google announcement of a Web-based, free LMS -- OpenClass, we see more strong evidence that the line between cultural software and campus software is vanishing.

How many of us have wished that the technology we work with on campus had the magic of Facebook or YouTube or Twitter or LinkedIn?

Once educational technology moves -- as it is doing -- to "the cloud" (i.e., served by a company, not your campus computing folks, and accessible through the Web), then the rules of the game have changed. What is used in the culture can also be used on campus. If software providers no longer need a separate group of developers for the education market because of the cloud, then all the blessings of Silicon Valley (and Kendall Square) creativity can be bestowed on educational institutions.

We have long lamented that students have access to better applications on their smart phones than is provided by the campus computing group. Faculty development staff face the task of helping faculty use applications that are harder to use than what they use at home. But, in fact, we don't need to live with this disconnect any longer.

A quote from Wired Campus:

"Anytime Pearson and Google are used in the same sentence, it’s going to get people’s attention,” says Don Smithmier, chief executive and founder of Sophia, another community-based learning system that is backed by Capella Education, the corporation behind the online educator Capella University. "I believe the world will be shifting away from a classic LMS approach defined by the institution. Openness and social education is a very powerful idea.” (Chronicle "Wired Campus"; Oct 25, 2011).

Interestingly, electronic portfolio providers have already moved to the cloud with only one or two exceptions. They are also starting to sell individual accounts. ePortfolios should be cultural software since they are best when they are literally owned by learners at all stages of a career. When will we see a similar announcement about a global software company offering free accounts? Oh, we already have seen that. That's already happening. And we already have eportfolio companies partnering with Google.

The Web 2.0 business model is based on advertising OR on premium services. Premium services means that the basic application is free and then if you want other capabilities, you add those for a monthly fee, automatically renewable.

But most eportfolio providers still combine personal eportfolios with an assessment management system. But, personal portfolios can and should go "cultural." Holding them back is the fact that assessment management systems are owned by the institution for its own reporting purposes and could not or should not "go cultural."

The two components should be unbundled so that each can follow its logical trajectory: assessment management systems integrated with rubrics and fine-grained outcomes to include all student learning in assessment, and personal portfolios becoming cultural tools with all the benefits of Web 2.0 inventiveness and ease of use.

Unbundling seems to me inevitable since assessment management systems and personal portfolios are so dissimilar in all ways. If personal portfolios do "go cultural," then our community is in for some interesting challenges.

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Misperception of Technology's Value for Learning

Posted By Administration, Sunday, October 9, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

October 9th, 2011

In the New York Times today, a front-page article repeated the same sensational story we've read about for decades: software can't replace the teacher! Gee, what a startling discovery. In the late 1980s, "intelligent tutors" failed to teach students to write. Why, 25 years later, is this "news" still misleading people into thinking that's what we educational technology people are trying to do?

Here's the article: It's about Carnegie Learning, just purchased by the University of Phoenix, a math tutoring program. Gee, the math tutoring program, on standardized tests, may not have made a difference. Ergo, technology is no better than books.

And a few days ago, David Brooks strayed into an article about innovation, lamenting that America is no longer innovating.

While conceding that some innovation is occurring with technology, he claimed that in general we have lost our innovative push.

Both of these articles leave me incredulous. With technology, scientific research has been fundamentally altered and discoveries are coming faster and faster; research into genetic indicators of disease potential in humans may lead to preventive measures we could not have dreamed of; micro-chips control most complex machinery in our society; they run our economy and our society. But these are all too sweeping and silent for Brooks to notice, it would seem. Our economy has been altered to favor different kinds of skills than even 10 years ago -- oh, but we are not innovating, of course.

What both articles miss is the millions of changes going on all at once that are both subtle and irreversible. The writers of both articles are looking for a moon shot or the first solo flight across the Atlantic: a singular spectacular event. What they are missing is the very ground they stand on shifting and their whole world re-orienting.

Technology cannot be the traditional teacher; this is a grand delusion. Technology, instead has changed the nature of knowledge, how people collaborate, communicate, represent knowledge and discover new knowledge. Learners can capture learning experiences with smart phones, upload that evidence to their eportfolios, and personalize their own learning.

What Brooks was blind to is the change that no one notices because it consists of millions of tiny changes constantly occurring. Maybe the most profound revolution is the one no one notices? Or takes for granted?

We are used to great breakthroughs in physical mobility, or a magic preventive like antibiotics -- a singular breakthrough -- what people miss is the constant slow movement, the million-changes a second in our language, our consciousness, our social interaction, and in our learning patterns. At a time when humans are changing the most rapidly in all of human history, David Brooks thinks we are in a time of stagnation.

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The Innocent Lie: "They're Just Tools"

Posted By Walden Teagan, Friday, September 16, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

September 16th, 2011

Having advocated for technology use in higher education for 26 years, it was an unsettling realization:

Information technology is putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work.

Bank of America may be laying off 30,000 people because of their precarious financial situation but maybe the reason they can is because they can automate more processes that no longer need humans to manage them. The Postal Service, also, may be laying off 120,000 people because they are losing money, but the reason may also be that they can automate more jobs. Auto workers have been laid off in the tens of thousands because robots do much of the assembly line work. This pattern exists in industry after industry and in the service sector as well.

I parked in a parking garage in Cambridge, MA this week and, when trying to leave, found that my parking ticket would not work in the machine and that, also, there were no attendants in the garage. Attendants had been laid off because the machines could handle the exit payment processes. When a hidden attendant appeared after I hit the "call button," and forced the machine to accept my card, the machine let out persistent loud howls as if it was outraged I had created turbulence in its perfect world.

How many millions of the unemployed have been laid off because they were "redundant" since technology could now do their jobs? How much of this recession's distressing tenacity can be laid at the feet of information technology? And, at this point, who is serving whom? Is IT serving our humans ends? or are we serving the demands of information technology? How could we know? Who is in charge of what technology does?

And how do we technology "leaders" ameliorate the loss of jobs through our efforts in education? One suggestion: let's stop saying "they're just tools." That's disingenuous. We are well into deep transformation that is affecting everyone. Let's be honest about that, stop trying to trivialize the effects of technology and accept the deleterious as well as the extraordinary about IT, and instead focus on helping with the transformation.


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An Article Touting Eportfolios that Doesn't Mention Eportfolio

Posted By Administration, Friday, September 9, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

September 9th, 2011

This is from the Chronicle:

The writer makes a good case for young academics to create a Web site for themselves and occasionally refers to this Web site as a "portfolio" but seems to be unaware of electronic portfolio technology.

In my recent discussions with the major vendors of electronic portfolios, I have found that an emerging market for them is providing individual accounts. The eportfolio for a person unaffiliated with a university does not need institutional assessment management functionality but is instead a version of the product customized for individual use.

If you have not checked lately, you may find that the eportfolio vendor at your institution offers individual accounts unbundled from institutional links. Most eportfolio software is now Web-based anyway, so offering individual subscriptions is a natural next move -- and it solves the issue of what to do with your eportfolio after graduation.

I believe individual eportfolio accounts will eventually become as big a market as institutional accounts. People will pay for an annual subscription directly to the eportfolio provider.

As more and more individuals use eportfolios before, during, and after graduation and throughout life, individual eportfolios will be become more and more user-friendly. When I have tried to use eportfolio accounts for myself in the recent past, I have found them still assuming I'm part of an institution. Once the eportfolio offerings for unaffiliated individuals -- that is, for the general market -- become common, they will no longer have institutional legacy features and requirements but will instead be designed exclusively for individual use. They will then be viable alternatives as a way to create personal websites with eportfolio capabilities. Then, I can move from WordPress to a true eportfolio.

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NY times: technology and "stagnant test scores."

Posted By Administration, Monday, September 5, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

September 5th, 2011


Yesterday, the Times published a relatively long article, "Technology in Schools Faces Questions on Value." The URL is below:

For 26 years, working on various funded technology projects, as an academic computing director, and now as Executive Director of AAEEBL, I've read or heard the essence of this article over and over again. Somehow, they say in these articles, technology has not magically resulted in higher test scores.

I always wonder, as I have read variations on this article over the last few decades, what would people do if they could somehow prove that information technology, by itself, does not improve learning? Would they ban technology in classrooms?

What is the basic question they are asking? And what are their tacit assumptions? That humans would actually stop inventing new technologies if the technology did not live up to expectations? We have proven that automobiles kill people by the thousands, pollute the air, contribute to global climate change, disrupt cities, perhaps contribute to obesity, but I have not heard anyone suggesting we should stop investing in automobiles. For half a century, we have read and heard that TV is bad for children; has that stopped TV?

But, getting back to the educational perspective and information technology: we hear of studies that show that learners get "distracted" by computers. Do the researchers do a similar study of student "distraction" from lectures? Why not? There seems to be a common delusion that we can go back to an educational design that works better than designs inspired by and implemented with IT.

We are in the first decade of broadly implementing technology, usually rashly and without an understanding of our goals, throughout education. Information technology alters all interactions, all assumptions about knowledge, all social dimensions, and calls for new assessment of learning. Information technology has a subtle but ultimately cosmic affect on humans. It affects how we understand ourselves and how our cultures will evolve.

How could we now, so early in this century-long human transformation, be able to judge? We need assessment, not evaluation; we need exploration, not timidity.

One of the most destructive delusions is that test scores provide the ultimate criteria for judging technology-supported learning. Have test scores ever been valid for understanding or measuring holistic learner development? [Why eportfolios provide a better opportunity to judge achievement is the subject of a future blog]

Information technology offers an undiscovered country. Our visions of that country are mostly controlled, now, by pre-conceptions based on almost no experience. Most visitors to this new country arrive unprepared and unguided. It is not wise to just venture out with only pre-conceptions as a frame. If visitors do just venture out, we will be reading articles like this re-hash in the Times for the next 26 years.

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Recent Travels

Posted By Administrator, Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

August 30th, 2011

August 30, 2011 Wells Maine -- I am in the middle of an all-day faculty development day at York Country Community College. More than half of the faculty is here. We spent the morning in a mix of my talking and some group work. This afternoon, we are doing only group work. YCCC just acquired Digication.

On the 18th of August, 12 days ago, I was at North East State in Tennessee. There, a STEP program has been in place for years, aimed at incorporating more active learning designs. Almost no one at NE State had heard of eportfolios,but when I mentioned them in the middle of a long session about active learning, afterwards most of the questions were related to eportfolios. Then, in the afternoon session, that was all we talked about.

At both of these colleges, and in the work we are doing with the FIPSE project "Connect to Learning,” I am finding so much more openness about alternative, high-impact learning practice than even a few years ago that the conversation is now much easier. Practice may not have changed a whole lot at this point, but I have never before seen such receptivity to new models for learning. And I’ve been doing this for 25 years.

Since higher education in the U. S. is among the strongest and most vital institutions in our society, there is reason to hope for fundamental adaptation to the new facts of our lives today. There is hope that higher education can in fact re-vitalize our society.


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New Trend: teachers don't grade

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

August 9th, 2011

From the Chronicle today:

"The best way to eliminate grade inflation is to take professors out of the grading process: Replace them with professional evaluators who never meet the students, and who don't worry that students will punish harsh grades with poor reviews. That's the argument made by leaders of Western Governors University, which has hired 300 adjunct professors who do nothing but grade student work.

"They think like assessors, not professors," says Diane Johnson, who is in charge of the university's cadre of graders. "The evaluators have no contact with the students at all. They don't know them. They don't know what color they are, what they look like, or where they live. Because of that, there is no temptation to skew results in any way other than to judge the students' work."

I have recommended this myself in an article in The International Journal of ePortfolio, in the issue to be release on August 15, 2011 (next week) at Students developing evidence of their learning in eportfolios can can easily be evaluated by educators other than the teacher. The trend toward documentation of learning leads logically to the question, "why should teachers both teach and grade?"

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AAEEBL, ePortfolios and Transformation of the Educational Enterprise

Posted By Administration, Monday, August 8, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

August 8th, 2011

The transport of humans on rails began in the U. S. in 1834. The first railroad cars built in the U. S. were flatbed railroad cars with 3 wheel-less stage coaches mounted on the flatbed in a row.

Humans had never moved at speeds above 30 mph in all of human history before railroads. A man crossing the tracks at that time, who looked and saw a train coming, walked across the tracks anyway and was run over, he being incapable of compensating for something moving as fast as a train.

Creating a car with steel wheels to run on tracks was a transformation so enormous, humans had to evolve to understand and use powered vehicles moving that fast. Trains changed the form of human mobility. But placing stage coaches atop railroad cars was a failure of imagination.

Importing actual railway cars from England in those early years also failed because American rails ran over rougher ground than in England and English cars therefore tended to de-rail. The Troy Car Works in Troy, NY, came up with "trucks" on which the railroad car would ride. The loosely-attached trucks provided the flexibility appropriate for the American landscape and have been part of railroad car design ever since.

The trucks were an innovation to make a transformation work in our context.

Information technology presents us with the potential for the greatest transformation ever because it partners with the core of humanity, our brains and our minds. Web technology has already demonstrated its transformatonal power socially and management technology has already demonstrated how it can transform business and work.

But, so far, education has transformed around the edges only. Beliefs about teaching and learning are deeply entrenched throughout our culture and therefore highly resistant to change among parents, young learners, teachers, administrators, and the entire education establishment: great initiatives to improve education often amount to putting better stage coaches on railroad cars. The stage coaches, like traditional classroom concepts of teaching and learning, are segmented, ill-fitted for the new technology they ride upon, and demonstrate no understanding of the potential of the technology.

Electronic portfolios are like the trucks designed at the Troy Car Works: an innovation that enables the technology transformation to work. Eportfolios let us go full speed.

AAEEBL is dedicated to the electronic portfolio because we see that documented learning, or "evidence-based learning" as in our name, enables learners to also go at "full speed," to be active, to connect their learning experiences, and develop the habit and need to continue learning all through life.

Institutional transformation based on building evidence of learning in electronic portfolios is not only a viable way to guide institutional transformation, but is also a wise and "electrifying" way. This idea is gaining recognition and adherents.

The transformation going on in education worldwide affects all aspects of the educational enterprise, from the credit system, seat time, evaluation and assessment, and the role of faculty and students, to the alignment of academic structures with social and economic structures that have evolved so rapidly in just the past 10 years.

But, in the end, we value most highly how young learners learn and how they develop. Now matter the shape of the enterprise, learners remain at the center of our interests.

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Join me on the Boston Harbor in a couple of weeks

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

July 12th, 2011


AAEEBL has a cool venue right on the Boston Harbor, across from the Skyline. The Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center: a great place to spend 3 or 4 days.

I always enjoy meeting new friends, sometimes putting a face to a name that I've known for awhile, sometimes meeting people who are doing great work I didn't know about. I hope you'll be in Boston July 25-28 and that I'll get a chance to meet you.

Below is our latest up date on the conference.

-- trent

Hi Colleagues,

The AAEEBL2011 ePortfolio World Summit is only 2 weeks away. Now is the time to register while hotel rooms and seats for the Monday pre-conference workshops are still available. AAEEBL member discounts still apply as they will continue to right up to the conference: $200 USD for each of the first three registrants from a member institution.

  • · AAEEBL2011 is a gathering of most of the leading lights in the world of electronic portfolios in the U.S. and internationally. The venue is exceptional; the program is extensive and informative; the opportunities for hallway schmoozing more bountiful this year.
  • · Here are some names you may recognize: Helen Barrett, Darren Cambridge, Kathleen Blake Yancey, Melissa Peet, Bret Eynon, Helen Chen, Tracy Penny-Light, Evangeline Harris Stefanakis, Terrel Rhodes, Susan Kahn, C. Edward Watson, Marc Zaldivar, Gail Ring, Trent Batson, and Gary Brown.
  • · AAEEBL2011 offers a dazzling array of half-day and full-day workshops on Monday, July 25:
  • o MA1: Shane Sutherland, PebbleLearning – learn from the creator of PebblePad, one of the world’s most popular eportfolio platforms.
  • o MA2: Candyce Reynolds and Judith Patton, Portland State University, eportfolio veterans at a leading eportfolio university
  • o MA3: Linda Amerigo of Molloy College and Gigi Devanney of Chalk and Wire leading you through the development of an institutional assessment plan.
  • o MA4: Helen Barrett, best-known eportfolio advocate in the world and Eileen Brennan of Mercy College on Digital Stories and Deep Learning.
  • o MP1: Gina Rae Foster of Lehman College, how to lead a professional development workshop focused on eportfolios.
  • o MP2: Teggin Summers and Jennifer Sparrow on ExPo at Virginia Tech where eportfolios are reaching 100% usage among incoming students at this large university.
  • o MP3: Nancy Pawlyshyn and Dr. Braddlee of Mercy College, about moving strongly toward sustainability on the campus and a new focus on the integrative knowledge eportfolio approach developed by Melissa Peet.
  • o MP4: Helen Barret, in the afternoon workshop, working with a colleague form Puerto Rico, to help participants understand how to implement eportfolio with Web 2.0 and mobile tools.
  • o MF1: Jayme Jacobson and Jenine Cordon of the University of Idaho; Jenine "is a genius with Wordpress.” See a preview of their workshop. Cyri Jones of Capilano University in Canada will continue the focus on Wordpress in the afternoon part of this full-day celebration of the capabilities of Wordpress for eportfolios.
  • o MF2: Terrel Rhodes and Wende Garrison of AAC&U on the practical steps toward institutional assessment using eportfolios.
  • · If you have already registered for the conference, you can still add any of these workshops to your registration. We hope you will. This is an amazing set of workshops. If you are registering in the next few days, be sure to add one of these workshops to your registration.
  • · AAEEBL2011 is held right on the Boston Harbor, with a view of the Skyline (and the Boston Red Sox are at home at Fenway during the conference). If you were here last year, you remember how splendid a conference venue Seaport is; if you were not here, you are in for a treat.
  • · AAEEBL2011 is the only eportfolio conference in the world that meets jointly with a technology conference, offering attendees the choice between attending an eportfolio session or a campus technology session. You also have the choice, during exhibit hall hours, between touring the technology exhibit hall or attending a special session on an eportfolio horizon topic. The whole World Trade center is completely open to you: you can attend any of the sessions on two floors of the World Trade Center. We have complete reciprocity with Campus Technology this year.
  • · Many of the leading electronic portfolio vendors will have a booth that you can visit. Learn about new options, new platforms, new releases, market trends.
  • · Keynotes:
  • · Phil Long, one of the best known technology and education leaders in the world, a contributor to the Horizon Report, and the Director of the Centre for Educational Innovation and Technology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, will let us know what to watch for regarding technology innovation.
  • · Beverley Oliver, Professor and Director of Teaching and Learning at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, helps lead a major eportfolio program at Curtin, a major Australian University. She also has been instrumental in developing the annual ePortfolios Australia Conference. Beverley is one of the most entertaining speakers I’ve had the pleasure of listening to so we were very pleased when she agreed to speak at AAEEBL 2011.
  • · The International Panel of eportfolio Leaders will be fascinating as you learn about how eportfolios "live” and thrive in other countries. You may be surprised to learn how differently educators in other countries use eportfolios. Darren Cambridge, with his long history of international travel on behalf of eportfolio research, moderates the panel with representatives from Canada, the U.K., Germany and Australia.
  • · Pre-Launch announcements about contents of The International Journal of ePortfolio. The first issue of IJeP will be available on Monday, August 15. But the authors and titles in this first issue will be announced at AAEEBL2011 during the Tuesday opening session. The launch of IJeP coincides with AAEEBL’s new scholarly initiative.
  • · I will comment on the development of the eportfolio scholarly field and the new scholarly initiative within AAEEBL. I will also report on AAEEBL’s new non-profit status and the implications of that status as AAEEBL seeks grants and forms collaborative relationships with other non-profits.
  • · Helen Chen, Gary Brown, and Jayme Jacobson will present preliminary results of the annual AAEEBL Survey.
  • · The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has it own series of sessions that run for the three days of the conference.
  • · The two FIPSE projects, at LaGuardia Community College and the University of Michigan, will have their own sessions. Learn about these two projects 6 months after the two projects launched.
  • · The theme for next year’s conference will be announced and we believe you will want to submit your proposal for AAEEBL2012 right after you hear about this theme! You will also be introduced to the new AAEEBL Board of Directors and the new Chair.
  • · AAEEBL 2011 has an amazing 100 sessions on eportfolios. The conference will pop this year; I hope very much to see you in Boston.

Trent Batson, AAEEBL executive director

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The Problem of “Pedagogy” in a Web 2.0 Era

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 7, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

[Published in Campus Technology; one of the most popular articles of the eighty I published in CT -- tb]


Trent Batson

In a time of knowledge stability, teach; in a time of rapid change in knowledge, learn. Clearly, we have left the time of knowledge stability and entered a time of incredibly rapid change. Web 2.0, a term coined in 2004, is a description of the new Web architecture, but is also a historical marker between the era of comfortable stability and the era of unsettling change. Many in higher education say we have accordingly turned to learning and away from teaching, but in fact we haven’t. Most educators I talk with are unaware of the degree of change necessary today or of the degree to which deep change will continue over the coming decades. And so, the dominant emphasis on teaching remains.

There is no requirement that faculty in higher education understand learning theory. Even saying that, and knowing it is true, seems astonishing. How is it possible to make the turn from teaching to learning without knowing what that means? This is the 800 pound gorilla in the middle of the room. Faculty members in higher education are researchers. The focus of their research has traditionally been on disciplinary knowledge and not on how humans learn. To make the turn from teaching to learning become a reality and not just a phrase, the first step should be toward a faculty development effort across the board to dramatically increase awareness of the basic research in learning theory of the past 30 years. Those who have been teaching for years without this awareness may find astonishing discoveries: "oh, that’s why that innovation worked that I tried three years ago,” or "ok, now I see why problem-based learning can work so well if designed correctly.”

Such discoveries can be epiphanies. Having a theoretical construct within which to work and grow is so much easier than reactivity or conformity without knowing why.

When we in higher education do talk about learning, we use the word "pedagogy.”

Pedagogy, the word itself, refers to studying teaching. It is about teaching, about being, well, "ped-antic.” At its root, the word pedagogy also refers to "leading children,” which is, again, mis-leading in a time when undergraduate students, on the one hand, must get ready for an adult world that is less forgiving than ever, and on the other they often have children of their own, as the average age of undergraduates continues to climb. We need to understand how adults learn and design the undergraduate experience accordingly.

Faculty in higher education have been nibbling around the edges of learning research for decades, and have dealt daily with the issues of learning. They may find it actually refreshing to become more firmly grounded in learning theory. One research thread that seemed to lead to a rich lode of ideas about learning started with a Google search of the term "situated cognition” ( Situated cognition, and related research threads, seems to me a useful concept for beginning to understand the tendencies of information technology for teaching and learning.

Reading the body of research about learning is important right now. Most of us are still at the point of not knowing even the basic theoretical terminology to use so we can better understand the changes underfoot now and make informed decisions about changes. And this is after decades of the movement called "The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning” (see -- the next ISSOTL Conference is in Milwaukee October 20-22, 2011). The Association of American Colleges and Universities ( as well offers sessions and conversations related to the turn to learning – the next AAC&U Conference is in Washington, DC, January 25-28, 2012.

The Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence-Based Learning, also addresses new ways to think about the teaching-learning relationship and the changing roles of both teachers and students ( The next AAEEBL ("able”) conference is in Boston, July 25-28.

There is movement underfoot. This is not about technology, despite the crucial need to deploy and use technology in the best ways, but about how humans use our new technology.

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Who Says Learning is not Social?

Posted By Administration, Monday, July 4, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

 June 4th, 2011


Homework help at Piazza from Stanford:

Institutions don't need to change; the students are changing on their own.

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Cooperation Determined Human Domination; why not Use Cooperation in Learning?

Posted By Administration, Monday, July 4, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

July 4th, 2011

In the article cited below, a survey of research into evolutionary human cooperation and "fairness," we can see that cooperation allowed human to out-compete and become dominant. Such a basic amygdala-based instinct doesn't seem to be well leveraged in the way teaching and learning are structured at the moment.

How can we do a better job?

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