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Trent Batson Ph. D., AAEEBLTrent, AAEEBL Founder, has recently announced his retirement. Click on his name and wish him well!

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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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The Path and the Field: A Metaphor for An Education Renaissance

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

June 21st, 2011 

I remember very well as my university in 2003 and 2004 began to roll out an eportfolio system that was really a tracking system for re-accreditation. At the time, many people seemed to like the idea: it seemed so in keeping with how education is "done." The idea that we could re-think a number of courses with learning goals in mind, create rubrics, and therefore re-vitalize and re-organize the learning process was attractive to many people.

However, within a year, the leaders of this effort (I was among the leaders and thus complicit) realized that if faculty could better see the path toward the newly established learning goals, then students could, too. Therefore, the group began to work with the vendor to create an academic roadmap -- it would help the students plan their academic career, they said.

All of this work was described as "tracking student progress toward learning outcomes." Now, looking back, I see this effort in a different light. I see it mostly as amplifying the worst aspects of higher education, for obvious reasons: technology is being used to extend even further faculty control and initiative while students remain passive objects.

Underlying this effort is not only the behaviorist mindset higher education is still slave to, but a fundamental metaphor that influences all that we do: the path.

Higher education in almost all respects implicitly declares that the way toward knowledge and wisdom is pre-set. In a way, thinking this way 60 years ago had an element of truth since knowledge, compared to today, was stable. When knowledge is stable, it makes sense to emphasize teaching.

Today, knowledge is not stable. It is more fluid, dynamic, and foundationally disrupted than ever in recorded history. In a time of rapid change, emphasize learning. Or, in other words, get away from the metaphor of the path. The path leads to anachronistic conceptions. Or, there really IS no path any longer.

Good academic thinking should now start with the mental image, the metaphor, of a field. If you walk into a field and follow a path through the field, you see only what everyone else has seen. It will be new to you, and you will learn on that path what others have learned earlier. However, maybe the path now leads no where.

If you walk into a field and just explore and discover, going in all directions, you find new experiences. You will find multiple ways to move through the field. And, you will know the field as no else has known it before. If you are on your own unbroken path through the field, you must pay attention.

The path metaphor suggests the behaviorist model of education we have followed for a long time. The field metaphor suggests, instead, a learner-centered, experiential, situated and active model of learning.

A path and a field are simple metaphors to keep in mind but represent vast differences in how we view learning.

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High Stakes Testing is Counter Productive

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 16, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

June 16th, 2011

US education works within a learning theory, behaviorism.  Learners are thought, by this theory, to be all the same.  They are objects of a treatment -- that is lecture, teacher-led discussion, homework -- and then are all tested to make sure the treatment is working.  No research in decades has indicated this theory has anything to do with how humans actually learn, but behaviorism turned out to be an easy way to run institutions, so it has persisted.

Now, as we might expect, we are reading reports this week of a rebellion in K-12 school districts:  "[there is] a wave of districts across the nation trying to remake homework amid concerns that high-stakes testing and competition for college have fueled a nightly grind that is stressing out children and depriving them of play and rest, yet doing little to raise achievement, particularly in elementary grades."

Behaviorism has run its course.  We have better ways to design learning opportunities. 

--trent

[My opinions are my own:  they are not meant to represent an official AAEEBL position]

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The Excitement of Teachers Asking a Question They Don't Know the Answer to.

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

June 15th, 2011

Tom Friedman in the New York Times this morning reports on a Harvard political philosopher, Michael J. Sandel, who has become a rock-star speaker in southeast Asia. His "justice class" at Harvard is "legendary" according to Friedman. "What makes the class so compelling is the way Sandel uses real-life examples to illustrate the philosophies of the likes of Aristotle, Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill."

The article is at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/15/opinion/15friedman.html?hp

Examples of the kinds of questions he uses: "Is it fair that David Letterman makes 700 times more than a schoolteacher?” or "Are we morally responsible for righting the wrongs of our grandparents’ generation?”

These are not "teacher questions" when teachers ask questions they know the answer to, or questions that will reveal whether the student read the assignment or not, but instead are genuine questions we all wrestle with and to which there is no simple answer.

When students are presented with complex questions to which there is no simple answer, that is, authentic questions, good things happen. Such questions remove students from the "try to guess what's on my mind" kind of teacher question that is so common and take them instead in the direction of "let's both think about this issue and see what we come up with."

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The Problem of Pedagogy in a Web 2.0 Era

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

June 15th, 2011

Hi, all -- below is the URL for my latest (and last) article for the Campus Technology online newsletter called "Web 2.0." I will continue writing regularly here in this blog.

http://campustechnology.com/articles/2011/06/15/the-problem-of-pedagogy-in-a-web-2.0-era.aspx

cheers
Trent


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Evidence-Based Evaluation Better than Grading

Posted By Administration, Monday, June 13, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

June 13th, 2011 

Hi, all -- below is the URL for my most recent article in Campus Technology. It's about how much more portfolios tell about student's achievements than grades.

http://campustechnology.com/articles/2011/06/08/evidence-based-evaluation-with-eportfolios-is-better-than-grades.aspx

Preaching to the choir, I expect.
Best
Trent

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Education "Bubble."

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

June 8th, 2011 

Only when I started working with online group pre-writing, a dialogic process of writing development, could I fully see the problems with requiring students to write a solo essay to the teacher.

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Is "pedagogy" the right term for the eportfolio community?

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

May 24th, 2011

Though we as a community of practice would characterize our commitment to eportoflios, most likely, as also a commitment to a focus on student *learning* as opposed to the traditional focus on teaching. The word "pedagogy," however, mean studying how teachers teach. It is a study of teaching. The literal meaning is "to lead a child." In other words, pedagogy carries baggage we may not be aware of: it's common use comes from the culture of teaching -- and is evokes behaviorism in which students are objects to be acted on.

Instead of "pedagogy," we should be talking about our theory of learning. We should be talking about "designing for learning," or our "learning theory," and other ways to make it clear our work is distinct from the teaching-centered practices that are still common. Pedagogy envisions a passive student; eportfolios envision an active student. Our words have great power. We must attend to them.

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Once upon a time . . .

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

May 24th, 2011

Years ago, when I was teaching at Carnegie Mellon, I was working with my writing students to help them understand their writing process more fully (or at all). At first, they had no idea what I meant and were not aware that they HAD a writing process. As we worked over a week in discussion and then a paper about the issue, the students in my course almost universally decided that their writing process was to procrastinate until the last minute and then the fear of missing the deadline would drive them to write. At the time I found it mildly interesting but mostly discouraging.


Now that I look back on that experience, I now wonder if they had actually found their best antidote to the bleak work that writing to a teacher really is. The assignment of writing an essay to the teacher could not motivate them at all, but the adrenaline of nearly missing the deadline could. Their response, it could be argued, was a perfectly reasonable response to an unreasonable assignment.

Though we as a community of practice would characterize our commitment to eportoflios, most likely, as also a commitment to a focus on student *learning* as opposed to the traditional focus on teaching. The word "pedagogy," however, mean studying how teachers teach. It is a study of teaching. The literal meaning is "to lead a child." In other words, pedagogy carries baggage we may not be aware of: it's common use comes from the culture of teaching -- and is evokes behaviorism in which students are objects to be acted on.

Instead of "pedagogy," we should be talking about our theory of learning. We should be talking about "designing for learning," or our "learning theory," and other ways to make it clear our work is distinct from the teaching-centered practices that are still common. Pedagogy envisions a passive student; eportfolios envision an active student. Our words have great power. We must attend to them.

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AAEEBL Batson Blog

Posted By Administrator, Monday, May 23, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

May 23rd, 2011  

Background: I taught writing for 30 years, 15 years of traditional approaches and 15 years of using technology to teach writing. For the latter work, I had 7 grants over 13 years. What we learned: students write better and more authentically if the writing is dialogic. At that time, the individual essay still ruled supreme, so the dialogic writing was "pre-writing," a way to build ideas toward the individual essay.

In ePortfolio practices I am seeing in campuses across the country (the US), the individual essay -- which researchers showed long ago was an unfortunate choice for developing writing skills -- is now called a "reflection" but has changed rhetorically not a whit. What was bad before is still bad under its new term.

This re-labeling a bad practice to begin with would be bad enough if it were still appropriate to be focusing on the individual autonomous learner. But, it is not. Employers are begging, instead, for graduates who are comfortable working in teams.

To address both issues -- the writing of essays as an unproductive learning practice and, secondly, the need for students to be skilled as employers expect -- we should consider a better approach: dialogic reflection. Students writing to each other in response to a prompt avoids the traps of the individual essay: writing autonomously to the teacher, an inauthentic writing task, and the resultant writer-based writing: not communicating but performing for a grade.

Dialogic reflection can be done in chat, email, text, blog, wiki, or in the ePortfolio system itself -- whatever can be saved in an exportable file. Both students are responding to the prompt, but must come up with just one joint reflection. As part of the reflection, excerpts from the dialog can or perhaps should be included.

When students write to each other about a shared task, their writing has a real purpose and communication is necessary, so the students tend more toward reader-based writing, a more mature and life-long form of writing than the performance essays or reflections that are common now.

One important affordance of portfolio technology is the ability to support collaboration. AAEEBL is, in part, about authentic learning -- real life learning. Writing an essay to a teacher as a performance is not an authentic simulation of real-life writing situations. There is no reason to perpetuate this unfortunate practice in portfolio-land. It is better to consider dialogic reflection or some other configuration to move away from a rhetorical practice we know results in graduates who can't write.

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OER Glue -- a useful tool

Posted By Walden Teagan, Monday, May 16, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

May 16th, 2011 

When we talk about technology in the eportfolio community of practice, our reference is almost inevitably to single platforms or, in some cases, a platform with more than one module. In both cases, however, the architecture of concern is within the application.

However, another perspective on technology that is important to our community is that the Web itself is the architecture of concern. This is an important distinction for eportfolio advocates: the social Web mirrors in its physical structure the social structure of knowledge.

An example of OER Glue, which I just wrote about in my most recent Campus Technology article: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2011/05/04/oer-glue.aspx. OER Glue allows students to link to open educational resources on the Web and make that link "live." That is, the link will always be to the resource as it evolves, as people change it over time. It allows students to create a Web page with links to artifacts in the portfolio combined with (mashed or remixed) resources on the Web.

More than just a portfolio platform is necessary to portfolio practice: authoring tools, organizing tools, search, applications to manage "high-impact practices."

Helen Barrett has written and talked extensively about using Web 2.0 tools for portfolio practices. OER Glue is one more of those tools.

Trent, AAEEBL Executive Director

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OER Glue -- a useful tool

Posted By Administration, Monday, May 16, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

May 16th, 2011 

An example of OER Glue, which I just wrote about in my most recent Campus Technology article: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2011/05/04/oer-glue.aspx. OER Glue allows students to link to open educational resources on the Web and make that link "live." That is, the link will always be to the resource as it evolves, as people change it over time. It allows students to create a Web page with links to artifacts in the portfolio combined with (mashed or remixed) resources on the Web.


More than just a portfolio platform is necessary to portfolio practice: authoring tools, organizing tools, search, applications to manage "high-impact practices."

Helen Barrett has written and talked extensively about using Web 2.0 tools for portfolio practices. OER Glue is one more of those tools.

Trent, AAEEBL Executive Director

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Prezi as an Artifact-Organizing Tool

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

April 7th, 2011 

Prezi is a bit of a phenomenon as a presentation tool (http://prezi.com ), but for the portfolio community it offers something else: It’s a fabulous mind-mapping tool and therefore useful for students to organize portfolio artifacts.

Mind-mapping usually means you have to create something in the mind-mapping space from scratch, but Prezi is a Web-based tool that you connect to at Prezi.com and create your Prezi at that site, so it works fast. Students can upload files to Prezi and spread them out on the "canvas” that Prezi presents. Then, artifacts can seamlessly be moved about, re-ordered then moved "back” to see the larger picture. One can zoom back in and grab an artifact to put it somewhere else. (To see a good example of a Prezi presentation, go to http://www.aaeebl.org/western_resources and click on the link to "Evolution of Format….”)

Once a student has selected the artifacts to show (photos, text, video, etc), then she can create a map through the artifacts so the mind-map of artifacts becomes a guided tour, moving from one artifact to the next in the pre-sent order determined by the student.

I cannot imagine a better tool for organizing artifacts on a large canvas to see a big picture and then order them for a presentation. Prezi is free if you use it just on the Web and don’t exceed its general storage capacity. Consider it as an organizing and integrating tool for portfolio courses.

I recently wrote an article about Prezi:

http://campustechnology.com/articles/2011/03/16/prezi-offers-an-alternative-to-powerpoint.aspx

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