Blogs as Portfolio
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The focus of this project is to explore the PSU blogging platform as a vehicle for student e-portfolios. In particular, we are considering the ways in which we might take full advantage of some of the fundamental aspects of blogging and the richness of the blogging culture to engage Penn State students in professional discourse communities around frameworks and problems of practice associated with their chosen professions. From the perspective of blogs as portfolio, students participation with blogging can both inform their development and provide a means of monitoring their own development along program learning outcomes and personal goals over time.
In cases where this information might be used by programs for accreditation, reporting, and/or self-assessment purposes, we will need to create a mechanism for "capturing" evidence from students' professional learning blogs at specified points in time across their programs. Think of these as "snapshots" of development. The larger umbrella under which this work falls is that of using digital media to serve as evidence of learning.
This project will build on existing research and practice on e-portfolios as a platform for supporting student learning and development.
Background & Context
In the College of Education's Elementary & Kindergarten Education (EKED) Program, we have been using paper portfolios as a vehicle for students to demonstrate their developing understandings, abilities and dispositions associated with becoming a professional educator for many years. When I joined the faculty in 1997, I had already spent some time exploring electronic portfolios with teacher education students at The University of Michigan (Wisnudel-Spitulnik, Zembal-Saul, & Krajcik, 1998), and was interested in continuing the work here. My first attempt was in Spring 1998 using HyperStudio with SCIED 458 students. I developed a template and they selected artifacts from the course to demonstrated their learning (e.g., lesson plans, video of teaching, written reflections on teaching, etc.). These were burned to CD and given to students at the end of the semester to take with them.
With the help of Leigh Ann Haefner (now a professor at PSU Altoona), we attempted our first web-based portfolios in Summer 1998 with a small group of SCIED 458 students. This time, we gave students broad guidelines about the kinds of things they needed to demonstrate through their portfolios, and let them design and make decisions about the layout and organization. We used Claris HomePage and students published to their Penn State personal space. We integrated web=based teaching portfolios into all sections of SCIED 458 in the 1998-99 academic year. In this way, we were able to reach all 300+ EKED majors prior to their student teaching experience. During the early years of the project, we learned that we could trace the development of student learning using the e-portfolios, and that it was possible to differentiate among students on the basis of evidence provided in the portfolio (Avraamidou & Zembal-Saul, 2006, 2003, 2002, 2001; Zembal-Saul, Haefner, Avraamidou, Severs & Dana, 2002).
While working in the Elementary Professional Development School (PDS) Partnership  I was able to collaborate with a team of teacher educators, and we refined portfolio tasks to capture key aspects of learning and development. The portfolio tasks that we currently use make full use of what we have learned over our years of work together. These are the basic components of our e-portfolios as they exist today:
- Collection of Evidence - In this section of the portfolio, students collect and organize their electronic artifacts, which includes course assignments, field observations, lesson plans, multimedia resources, and video of teaching.
- Performance Framework - The performance framework is based on the conceptual framework for the teacher education programs at Penn State. The framework is organized around 4 main domains -- A. Planning and Preparing for Student Learning; B. Teaching; C. Analyzing Student Learning and Inquiring into Teaching; D. Fulfilling Professional Responsibilities -- with indicators in each domain articulating desired learning outcomes. Students revisit the framework several times throughout their program and use artifacts from their evidence collection to demonstrate learning. Justification for their selection is part of the task and engages students in reasoning about the alignment of evidence with particular indicators. This is coupled with a reflective writing task that asks students to discuss their growth in each of the domains (and over time). This is the central task of many teacher education programs that require e-portfolios.
- Teaching Platform - Evidence-based Argument about Learning and Teaching - This is perhaps the most powerful of the portfolio tasks that we have developed. Students are asked to construct an evidence-based argument about teaching and learning. They generate a series of claims about supporting meaningful student learning, link and justify supporting evidence, and revisit and revise their arguments over time. As with the framework task, students are asked to reflect on prior iterations of their arguments and comment on their growth and development over time.
When Claris HomePage became a dead product around 1999, we migrated to Dreamweaver and quickly felt the consequences. For our students, the emphasis shifted from portfolio substance to the technology and making it work. We provided frequent and intensive support sessions where we focused on solving technical issues versus engaging in portfolio conversations about the quality of artifacts and the strengths of teaching and learning arguments. After 3 years with DW, it was time for a change.
We had evidence that our portfolio tasks were effective for supporting learning and set out to find a tool that would allow us to achieve our goals without the steep technology learning curve. We talked with out friends at Apple about what was on the horizon (this was prior to iWeb). You can imagine what that conversation sounded like. We explored the e-Portfolio tool in Angel and arranged demonstrations with LiveText and TaskStream. In the end, we settled on TaskSteam  for a variety of reasons. It's use has now spread from the PDS to the entire EKED program. In 2008-09, secondary education also will be experimenting with the tool.
In addition to a variety of powerful pedagogical tools for teachers (e.g., lesson and unit planning tools, standards tools, rubric wizard), TaskStream allows us to run reports on students performance for artifacts submitted and graded within the system. These reports are customizable and powerful in that you can dig down to the level of an individual students' work and associated evaluation. This type of data is useful in demonstrating program outcomes for accrediting agencies.
The first time I saw the Blogs and Penn State platform, I was intrigued by its potential to achieve many of the goals we have for e-Portfolio (and much more). In particular, I am drawn to the notion of having students participate in a professional discourse community that interacts around entries and artifacts, which both contributes to their thinking and learning about what it means to be a professional in their chosen field, as well as allows them to monitor their learning over time.
Amy's e-Portfolio (developed using Dreamweaver)
Brittany's Performance Framework (developed using TaskStream)
Morgan's Teaching Platform (developed using TaskStream)
Avraamidou, L. & Zembal-Saul, C. (2006). Exploring the influence of web-based portfolio development on learning to teach elementary science. AACE Journal, 14(2), 178-205.
Avraamidou, L. & Zembal-Saul, C. (2003). Exploring the influence of web-based portfolio development on learning to teach elementary science. Journal of Technology & Teacher Education, 11(3), 415-442.
Avraamidou, L. & Zembal-Saul, C. (2002). Making the case for the use of web-based portfolios in support of learning to teach. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 1(2).
Zembal-Saul, C., Haefner, L.A., Avraamidou, L., Severs, M. & Dana, T. (2002). Web-based portfolios: A vehicle for examining preservice elementary teachers’ developing understanding of teaching science. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 13(4), 283-302.
Avraamidou, L. & Zembal-Saul, C. (2001). Web-based philosophies: Making prospective teachers' personal theorizing visible. Science Education International, 12(4), 2-5.
Wisnudel-Spitulnik, M., Zembal-Saul, C., & Krajcik, J. S. (1998). Using hypermedia to represent emerging student understanding: Science learners and preservice teachers. In J. Mintzes, J. Wandersee, and J. Novak (Eds.) Teaching Science for Understanding. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
- Weekly meetings with FF and ETS (1 hour)
- 1 on 1 with FF and ETS Director (1 hour)
- ETS Programmer will be assigned
- Collaborative ID will be assigned
- Collaborative Developer will be assigned
- Assessment and Research
- Potential Faculty Pool - http://ets.tlt.psu.edu/wiki/PSU_Faculty_Portfolio_Working_Group
- Best practice for blogs as portfolio use
- Open tracking of progress
- Multiple samples of portfolios as blogs
- Demonstration of blogs being used for administrative/program assessment purposes
- 3 pilot projects set for Fall 2008, including the SHC
- Adoption of blogging platform as primary vehicle for e-portfolio at Penn State (starting with MT 4.2 professional website template)
- Tool development
- Program outcomes evidence aggregator
- Pack-it up tool (prototype anticipated October 2008)
- Community interaction monitor (modeled after a Tweet wheel; still being conceptualized)
- Collection of sample portfolio blogs, starting with a "mock-up" and building from Fall pilot projects
- Presentation to the "ID and beyond" community at Penn State - Learning Design Summer Camp
- Emerging research agenda around social aspects of blogs as portfolio
- Collection of blogs as portfolio literature
- Open documentation of progress via wiki
The goal of the Fellowship is to work within ETS for a dedicated amount of time to reach the stated goals in the Outcomes section. Additionaly, the Fellow will work with ETS in an ongoing fashion throughout the academic year to help lead and implement change. This involvement can come in several forms:
- Monthly meeting to share thoughts
- Presentation at the TLT Symposium
- Participation in selected portfolio related meetings
Participation throughout the year should not require more than two hours a month.
Carla will be in her office at ETS between 9 AM - 2 PM (give or take 30 minutes on either end) unless otherwise stated.
- Week of June 16 = M, T, W (10 AM - 12:30 PM), F (9 AM - 1 PM)
- June 16 - Initial meeting with Brad and Chris, 11 AM - Noon
- June 18 - TaskStream demo with Brad and Chris, 10:30 AM
- June 18 - ETS staff meeting, 11 AM
- June 20 - Meeting with Cole, 9 AM
- Week of June 23 = T (9 AM - 4 PM), W (9 AM - 12:30 PM), R (work from home office)
- June 23 - Digital Measures demo, 2 PM
- June 24 - Podcast with Jamie, 9:30 AM
- June 24 - Meeting with Vicki Williams, 12:30 PM
- June 25 - Counselor Education Assessment Project demo, 8:30 AM
- June 25 - Meeting with Cole, 11 AM
- Week of June 30 = Away
- Week of July 7 = M, T, W, F (work from 148 Chambers)
- July 7 - Meeting with Brad, 10 AM
- July 11 - Meeting with Phil Burlingame, 9 AM
- Week of July 14 = Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston
- Week of July 21 = M, T, W (1-5 PM), R
- July 21 - Meeting with Brad, 11:30 AM
- July 22 - Meeting with Chris Brady, Cole & Brad
- July 23 - Meeting with Erin, Brad & Chris
- July 24 - Symposium Planning, 9:30-11:30 AM
- Week of July 28 = T, W, R, F
- July 30 - Meeting with Glenn Johnson, 10 AM
- Week of August 4 = T, W (9 AM - 12:30 PM), F
- August 8 - Planning for LDSC with Chris, Brad and Cole
- August 12-13 = Learning Design Summer Camp
Items to Explore
- CoE Education Assessment Project built in WebLion
- Counselor Education department
- Assessment Management System
- Student ePortfolio example
- PSU Faculty Portfolio Working Group concept
Emerging Tool Development Requirements
Pack It Up
In meetings with Brad and Chris (6/16/08) it appears that the "pack it up" tool will be one of the easier ones to develop. This feature will allow students to designate entries and pages from their blog(s) from which to generate a static, stand-alone package that can be submitted to TaskStream, or another program assessment system, for evaluation. In this way, users can continue to publish to their blogs in an uninterrupted way AND programs can have access to an uncompromised artifact that demonstrates some aspect of students' knowledge, skills and dispositions. There will have to be a mechanism in place to allow other authenticated users to perform a like task. In some cases it will be an instructor or other administrator who will need to capture static versions of posts for inclusion in administrative assessment systems.
Proposal for how this tool will work (majorly revised based on discussion on 9/19/08 with Carla/TK/Brad):
- Templates will create portfolio
- just as contact, home, about pages are automatically generated and seeded with content, a metareflection page for each program outcome will be generated.
- templates will create a page for each program outcome, with the content from the corresponding metareflection page on top and the listing of entries that correspond to the program outcome on the bottom. The tags that correspond to the outcome and the tag portfolio both being on an entries signals that it is to be included.
- an archive template will create a special lightweight portfolio version of the content on these pages. Perhaps just embed the post bodies right on the portfolio page for the program outcome.
- a meta-meta-page that ties and links all these program outcomes pages together will also be generated.
- pack-it-up can grab each of these portfolio pages, and each page/file that is linked from here. Since these portfolio pages are made by our template, we can signal which pages are to be crawled and also avoid extraneous links on said pages.
Issues for discussion on 09/18/2008 meeting
Fundamental question: How to convert hyper-linked pages into a portable, presentable entity?
- Do we expect the reviewer of the portfolio to unpack the zip and open a browser to view it?
- a Demo CD with autoplay function?
- how about a single PDF file?
- different web pages are presented as different "sections" within the same pdf file; and inter-links just lead to different secitons within the same pdf file
What to include?
- personal.psu.edu? blogs? *.psu.edu? or the whole internet?
- e.g. do we want to include links to other student's blog?
- hard to determine whether to fetch the embedded/linked-to contents from the link; for example, if a link points to a huge file, shall we get it? What about Google Presentation?
- this means tags, searches, etc. are hard to get (as of MT 4.21)
- wget doesn't translate style sheet URL so they can't be local at this point
Embed and others
Cole demonstrated the "embed" feature that Brad has been working on (6/20/08). This is the first step toward the "meta" blog entries I've been envisioning for self-analysis of professional growth. The idea would be for students to consider their development associated with particular professional learning outcomes by searching all entries tagged in relation to those outcomes, identifying the most salient in terms of influencing their thinking and development, and writing a synthesis aimed at justifying the ways in which particular learning experiences (as portrayed in the entries) have transformed them. The key is to have a vehicle for grabbing those entries easily and using them as evidence within the new meta-post. Does this make any sense? In my mind it is related closely to the idea of constructing an evidence-based argument about professional growth. Now layer that with the possibility of using entries from your peers (and giving them credit). I'll take this approach up in the pedagogy section in the near future.
Cole also gave me a preview of what is to come with MT in terms of templates (6/20/08). We brainstormed the idea of having a College of Ed: Teacher Education template. As students post entries with tags that relate to the template, the entries are cross-referenced on a performance framework page. Like using the tag cloud, this feature would allow students to easily locate and re-examine posts related to particular learning outcomes. This idea may need a visual at some point to make more sense. At any rate, the idea of program-specific templates based on learning outcomes (or professional standards) is easily transfered to other colleges and disciplines. Interesting.
Tag clouds represented in various formats will be critical. The idea is that tags can be embedded in a matrix that represents program goals. Carla has an example to share .
We want to be able to investigate a given user's social contributions related to tags/posts/comments (6/25/08). First step to investigate OpenID as a solution to tracking all contributions. Questions:
- Can MT function like an OpenID provider given it uses PSU user ID as the login?
- Does it track all comments made by a user across the system?
- If yes, then how would track contributions outside the PSU environment?
- Would we want?
How can we integrate on of the vox.com set of features that allow for options on a per post basis:
- Add Tags
- Make private/public
Great meeting with Brad this morning (7/7/08)! Spent some time talking about the alternative view of the tag cloud (performance matrix), self-ratings for entries, the embed feature, public v. private, and pack-it-up tool. Lot's of discussion time was spent considering the balance (tension?) between programming/code and pedagogical tasks. Here's what we will be going after first...
- Add the embed feature to my blog. Do we want to activate this for everyone? What are the implications in terms of copyright? The default for the feature will probably need to be inactive.
- Build the first iteration of the matrix (performance framework template ).
- Build the first iteration of the pack-it-up tool.
- is it possible that a portfolio blog could be pre-populated with necessary tags? (After selected template set for portfolio)
- add disclosure triangle for each domain/sub domain on performance framework page - show hide certain info to make large page more manageable
- add meta-reflection to each domain. Meta-reflection would be in the form of a blog post. Student would post drafts to blog for feedback. When final version is posted, it will be embedded on performance framework page. Show first few lines with read more link that will display the rest of the content. Use dynamic show/hide, don't load new page.
- When displaying posts on performance framework page, add a include/exclude from portfolio link next to each entry. Add this link to each entry archive page as well. Link will only appear if blog author is logged in, no one else sees this link. Clicking on this link will add tag to make entry appear in final portfolio.
- visual representation of the community. Think of tweetwheel, but combing blogs@psu for relations with comments and tags. [LOVE this! Thanks for not calling me crazy. 7/21]
Pilot Projects 2008-09
Schreyer Honors College
Last week, Dean Chris Brady announced an exciting new collaboration with ETS. His interest is in having students use blogs to cultivate their identities as “public intellectuals.” Additionally, Dean Brady hopes to use students’ blogs as a vehicle to enhance academic advising.
Incoming SHC students are being recruited to use blogs as personal content management systems to support their professional development. Their use will not be prescriptive, and they will be provided with opportunities to share their input with SHC faculty and ETS. Student advisors will be brought into the process later in the Fall semester.
Read Dean Brady’s call to students on the SHC site.
Teaching with Technology Student Leaders
In the College of Education, more than 20 education majors have received Teaching with Technology Leadership Awards (TTLA’s) as they embark on the first year implementation of EDUCATE at Penn State (notebook computer requirement for EKED and SECED ENGL majors). TTLA recipients will participate in a leadership seminar in Fall 2008 in which they will explore relevant issues associated with teaching and learning with technology as it relates to K-12 education. They will use blogs to reflect on their professional development in relation to the newly revised National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers, which were released at NECC in June 2008. 
Public Scholarship Communities
In the Elementary Professional Development School partnership, Carla Zembal-Saul and co-teacher, Kimber Hershberger, will be working with a group of 30 elementary education majors to pilot blogs as a platform for (1) engaging students in “meta-blogging” about their development in relation to professional learning outcomes over time and (2) encouraging the development of professional learning communities based on publishing and reviewing scholarly evidence of intellectual and personal growth. They will be using and examining tools that were developed during Summer 2008 as part of the faculty fellowship program, such as the program framework/outcomes tag aggregator, pack-it-up feature, and community visualization monitor.
e-Portfolios at Penn State
This is not really a pilot project, but wasn't sure where else to place it...
Our meeting with Glenn Johnson on 7-30-08 yielded some exciting results. After seeing the new professional website template in MT 4.2, Glenn agreed that beginning in Fall 2008 Penn State students will be directed to activate their blogs and start their portfolios in this space. It’s not that resources for portfolio development using Dreamweaver and other solutions will not be presented as options; however, the ease of use and affordances of a personal publishing platform combined with the potential for community interaction make the blogging platform an excellent first stop for students new to portfolio development.
New deadlines for implementation have everyone working at breakneck speed. Brad’s goal is to have MT 4.2 running live by Learning Design Summer Camp next week, and Glenn is revising portfolio materials for students to reflect the new emphasis on blogs. Cole has dropped portfolio start-up text into the initial professional website template screens that students will access. I am creating a sample portfolio in this space by migrating content from a student’s Dreamweaver portfolio. I have every confidence that we will be ready to go by the beginning of the semester.
With all of the emphasis on blogs as portfolio for professional growth, we do not want to lose track of the fundamental features of blogs that can enhance learning -- the aspects that allow for engaging in a discourse community. My head is spinning with ideas about how to scaffold the learning opportunities in ways that help my students make the most of publishing in the open and learning from each other. Keep an eye on this section. I'll be updating soon with my initial thoughts about how to do this.
My meeting with Brad this morning (7/7/08) reminded me of the importance of two things. First, the centrality of blogging and other forms of online publishing and discourse to higher education (and beyond). When we talk about 21st century learning -- communication, collaboration, analytic reasoning, problem-solving across disciplines -- blogging is an excellent fit. Second, the power of interconnections in blogging environments should not be ignored. I've been focused primarily on comments and how to include them in what we consider as evidence. However, trackbacks are powerful and provide a vehicle for creating interconnections among entries and ideas. Helping students understand when to comment and when to trackback will need to be part of the conversation.
Brad also helped me think through an approach to keeping private the one type of artifact that teacher education students will have to protect -- classroom video with images of children. We have special permission from parents to use video from classrooms and provide assurances that we will use it only for professional development purposes and not share it publicly. Students will publish video artifacts to their protected web space [] and then link to it from their blog entries. Members of the learning community will have access.
While the specifics are still being formulated, a central focus of the research associated with this project will be to investigate the ways in which social elements of blogs as portfolio get taken up by students, as well as how participation in professional discourse around the blogs mediate development.
Professor Priya Sharma suggested the following references on blogging:
Efimova, L., & de Moor, A. (2005, January 3-6, 2005). Beyond personal Webpublishing: An exploratory study of conversational blogging practices. Paper presented at the 38th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Big Island, Hawaii.
Efimova, L., & Fiedler, S. (2004, 24-26 March 2004). Learning webs: Learning in Weblog networks. Paper presented at the IADIS International Conference on Web-based communities, Lisbon, Portugal.
Herring, S. C., Scheidt, L. A., Bonus, S., & Wright, E. (2004, January 5-8, 2004). Bridging the gap: A genre analysis of Weblogs. Paper presented at the 37th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Big Island, Hawaii.
Nardi, B. A., Schiano, D. J., & Gumbrecht, M. (2004). Blogging as social activity, or, would you let 900 million people read your diary? Paper presented at the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Chicago, IL.
See also Stephen Downes, Sebastian Pacquet, as well as authors of the papers in IKnow conferences.
Some of my (czem) reflections are posted here, while others are part of my blog. Search for relevant entries using the faculty fellow tag.
Identity crisis (7/27/08) Since we began working on the “blogs as portfolio” project, I think everyone on the team has been struggling with the baggage associated with the notion of portfolio, as well as with blogs. Perspectives on portfolios are often limited by their most common definition, “a collection of evidence.” Research and practice, however, suggest... [Read more]