I received the following question via email recently, and am posting it here along with my thoughts. I’ve been wanting to write and share about ePortfolios for several weeks, and this question has given me a good opportunity to do so. Please chime in with other suggestions and ideas!
I wonder if Moodle is a suitable platform for what I want to do?… I teach HS Physical Education and also head up the department. Here is what we want to do:
- for each of grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 will have an electronic portfolio into which students will enter goals, results, reflections etc
- the portfolio will be published by the department as a template which will be protected. There will be boxes, tables, etc where individual students can enter their own response
- the teacher will have access to the individual student portfolio so that they can monitor and comment using convenient links on the portfolio
- the portfolio will be stored on-line and will follow the student through all four years of high school
- the teacher will be able to see on one page links to all their students’ portfolios
- the teacher will also have a real-time notice board showing when students have last made submissions
Is this something that Moodle can do? Any suggestions off the top of your head?
Here’s my response:
Moodle is definitely a flexible platform, and it can be adapted for a myriad of uses as a content management system. Since you are specifically wanting to develop an online portfolio system, however, I’d recommend that you look into Mahara. Like Moodle, Mahara is open source, but it is specifically geared toward the development of electronic portfolios. Your IT department would need to install, configure and maintain your Mahara installation like they would with Moodle, or you’d need to do this with an ISP or web host. I know that Remote Learner is a company providing hosting and support for some of our Oklahoma schools using Moodle. (They are based in Virginia.) I don’t know of companies currently providing a similar service specifically for Mahara, but would guess there are some out there.
When I was in New Hampshire last month visiting Deerfield Community School, I learned a bit about the statewide pilot project their teachers are in through a grant and the State Department of Education’s Instructional Technology Division. They are using Sakai, which is billed as a more “enterprise-level” open source learning management system similar to Moodle, to develop teacher electronic portfolios as well as student portfolios specifically aligned to the ISTE National Educational Technology Standards. (NETS) These are some photos I snapped of the interactive white board during a demonstration of this Sakai-based eportfolio system shared by Deb Boisvert. Deb is the technology director / coordinator at Deerfield. Without a login guests are limited in what is visible. Their eportfolio site (linked from their school homepage) is sau53.sakaizone.org.
The portfolio options visible to a user depend on their assigned rights. Deerfield has organized student portfolios by graduation year.
This is a view of Deb’s professional portfolio interface. As you can see, various forms are required for different phases, and columns are provided for each year the portfolio is maintained.
As you can see from the publicly-accessible “features” page of the Deerfield online portfolio Sakai site, there are a LOT of available functions and features within Sakai. These are similar to Moodle, and other commercial learning management systems like BlackBoard/WebCT and Desire2Learn. A big issue, however, is if you have FUNDING, time, expertise, and support personnel to develop AND SUSTAIN your own ePortfolio system. Moodle is really configured for multi-week courses, although like Sakai it can be customized to fit other needs. Some schools (including yours, from what I learned in September during my visit) DO have IT staff members with the expertise and wherewithal to support customized, open source, server software installations. I’m thinking you all have a homegrown, custom-built content management system / learning management system. I don’t know all the politics (and those certainly come into play when teachers ask for a new CMS or new CMS functionality) but I’d really encourage you to look to Mahara first if you’re going to develop an ePortfolio system from scratch. It also may be possible for you to functionally define what you want the system to do, and have your IT department built it within your existing learning management system. That may be politically and technically the best path forward for you. I’m not sure.
One of the biggest concerns I have with developing student portfolios exclusively within a “walled garden” environment like Moodle or Sakai is that other people (without a login) often do NOT have access to the content published there. If students move to a different school, it makes sense that their online portfolio should follow them. From what I understand, ePortfolio guru Dr. Helen Barrett recommends the development of ePortfolios using Google Sites. (This is her sample professional portfolio created with Google Sites.) I recommend students as well as teachers use a variety of openly accessible wiki tools including Google Sites, WikiSpaces, PBWorks, WetPaint, Weebly, and other sites. Knowledge artifacts embedded, created, and linked from these sites can then be linked from whatever ePortfolio system the school uses.
A variety of commercial ePortfolio systems exist today, and I’ve been familiar with several of these through my work for and with different colleges of education over the years. At the University of Central Oklahoma’s College of Education, where I’m currently an instructor for the undergraduate “Technology 4 Teachers” course, they have just transitioned from “Chalk and Wire” to “PASS-PORT.” 99% of undergraduate education students at UCO do NOT continue to PAY for their professional portfolio after graduation, so these commercial services are essentially just beneficial to the institution for its accreditation requirements, NOT to students. At both the K-12 and university level, I think it’s important for institutions to embrace open source and free portfolio options which do NOT require students to individually pay or keep paying to maintain their portfolio.
A student’s ePortfolio should reflect and encompass their individual digital footprint. When an ePortfolio is built entirely in a walled-garden, password-protected environment, the opportunity to create and shape a digital portfolio on the open web is squandered. I recognize everything we create for school classes and on our own should not necessarily be published on the “global stage” (using Marco Torres‘ term) for the world to see. I am concerned, however, that in many schools we are NOT providing coaching and guidance to students about their digital footprint. Creating and maintaining ePortfolios for assessment purposes can provide that opportunity.
I’m very concerned that in many of our 1:1 schools in Oklahoma and elsewhere, school leaders are embracing Moodle and therefore essentially denying students as well as teachers access to the power and benefit of open web publishing. In so many educational contexts, our natural tendency is to “keep it secret.” We need to share our work and our ideas much more freely, and I see closed-system content management systems as oppositional to the goals of the open education movement. When it comes to assessment in schools, too often we insist that EVERYONE LOOK THE SAME. We don’t look the same, and we should stop trying to impose uniformity and standardization on everyone. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have standards and expectations– of course we should, but everyone’s ePortfolio shouldn’t be required to look the same. In that kind of a model, creativity can’t thrive, and creativity as well as sharing should be hallmarks of high quality educational assessment.
I share delicious bookmarks from time to time with the tag “eportfolio,” and you may find more resources / ideas there. (That list is also mirrored on Diigo.) I hope these thoughts are helpful. My last recommendation is that you check out the following three presentations from the 2009 K-12 Online Conference, which all address ePortfolio issues and solutions.
Moogpal in Action by Chris Fitzgerald Walsh
Googlios: A 21st – Century Approach to Teaching, Learning, & Assessment by G. Alex Ambrose
Whither ePortfolios by Drew Buddie
Please keep me posted on how your digital portfolio / ePortfolio work progresses, and let me know if I can be of further assistance.
FOR ANYONE: If you know of other ePortfolio resources and examples you’d recommend, please share them here. I’m convinced ALL our states and schools need to implement ePortfolio systems for student assessment, to include (among other standards) the ways students as well as teachers are meeting the ISTE NETs. Without creation, there is no creativity. The current tendency of many U.S. state departements of education as well as school districts to simply utilize multiple-choice assessments (even when they require some performance-based responses by students) to assess student mastery of ISTE NETS is MISDIRECTED. We don’t need to simply give kids technology vocabulary tests. We need to implement ePortfolio systems which require that learners CREATE digital content, and demonstrate their CREATIVE capacities using technology tools. We’d never ask a dancer or a musician to demonstrate their skills without PERFORMANCE and a portfolio. The same logic should applied to digital learners in the 21st century, using technology tools.
H/T to Sylvia Martinez, whose writing and advocacy continues to strongly influence my views on student ePortfolio issues and other topics related to engaged digital learning.
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