Digital scholarship and ePortfolios

Current online information environments and the associated social and pedagogical transactions within them create an important information ecosystem that can and should influence and shape the professional engagement and digital scholarship within our learning communities in the higher education sector.  Thanks to advances in technology, the powerful tools at our disposal to help students understand and learn in unique ways are enabling new ways of producing, searching and sharing information and knowledge. By leveraging technology, we have the opportunity to open new doors to scholarly inquiry for ourselves and our students. While practical recommendations for a wide variety of ways of working with current online technologies are easily marketed and readily adopted, there is insufficient connection to digital scholarship practices in the creation of meaning and knowledge through more traditional approaches to the ‘portfolio’.

Reflection on practice

A key area in the development of the professional practitioner is the ability to reflect on practice as the basis for learning, with the effectiveness of this practice having been confirmed through research to be linked to inquiry, reflection and continuous professional growth (Killeavy & Moloney, 2010). Reflection can be understood as a process of internal dialogue facilitated by thinking or writing and through an external dialogue and reflection together with others (Clarke, 2003). Reflective practice writing is creative, a way of gaining access to each practi­tioner’s deep well of experience not always accessible to everyday channels and is a valuable mode of expressing, sharing, assessing and developing professional experience (Bolton, 2005). By recognising and taking responsibility for personal and professional identity, values, action and feelings the student undertaking reflection within the constructs of subject and program requirements is demonstrating a willingness to stay with uncertainty, doubt and questioning in order to engage in spirited enquiry leading to constructive developmental change and personal and professional integrity based on deep understandings (Bolton, 2010, p. 7). Knowing what to reflect upon is as critical a part of the educative process as the reflection action itself, perhaps explaining why reflective practice has become a standard in initial and continuing professional education and development. This is a pedagogical approach that draws together reflective practice and reflexivity (finding strategies to question our own attitudes, values and limits of our knowledge –  Bolton, 2010) as a state of mind to empower the process of learning.

In professional programmes in particular, it is useful if students keep a reflective journal, in which they record any incidents or thoughts that help them reflect on the content of the course or programme. Such reflection is basic to proper professional functioning. The reflective journal is especially useful for assessing ILOs (intended learning outcomes)  relating to the application of content knowledge, professional judgment and reflection on past decisions and problem solving with a view to improving them.” (Biggs & Tang, 2011, p.261).

It is perhaps simplistic to migrate a pre-digital taxonomy to a digital environment and to ignore the function of and relationship to digital scholarship for the educator or higher education academic. When it comes to online learning, it is understood that interaction with others (peers and instructors) is a highly important variable in successful learning experiences within the online learning environment, particularly when coupled with the need for students to achieve self-regulation between their own knowledge/experiences and the content of a subject (Cho & Kim, 2013).  This reflective practice, which assists in assembling knowledge and experience in meaningful ways, can be facilitated by the use of an ePortfolio, and may facilitate independent learning, development of identity, a sense of empowerment, greater awareness of self, and promote active engagement in future oriented professional practice (Rowley & Munday, 2014).

The digital information environment in which an ePortfolio is situated is one that demands a new knowledge flow between content and digital connections. While academics may consider themselves to be pedagogically driven in their learning and teaching, the availability of technologies to support different models of learning strongly influences what kinds of pedagogies will now emerge in terms of course content, subject dialogue and conversation.  As McLuhan (1964) first argued, technologies also influence and define the usage, in this case the pedagogy instantiated in the learning and instructional designs (Anderson & Dron, 2010). Academics (as teachers) need to support and nurture learners to learn within connected and collaborative learning environments, to lead purposeful and corrective discourse in relation to multiple information environments as part of the construction of meaning and understanding (Garrison, 2015).

References

Anderson, T., & Dron, J. (2010). Three generations of distance education pedagogy. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 12(3), 80–97.
Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university. Open university press.
Bolton, G.(2005). How to begin writing. In Reflective practice: writing and professional development (2nd ed.)(pp. 141-162). London, UK.:Sage.
Bolton, G. (2010). Reflective practice: Writing and professional development. Sage publications.
Cho, M. H., & Kim, B. J. (2013). Students’ self-regulation for interaction with others in online learning environments. The Internet and Higher Education, 17, 69-75.
Clarke, M. (2003). Reflections: Journals and reflective questions a strategy for professional learning, NZARE/AARE Conference. New Zealand.
Garrison, D.R. (2015). Thinking collaboratively: Learning in a community of enquiry. London: Taylor & Francis.
Killeavy, M., & Moloney, A. (2010). Reflection in a social space: Can blogging support reflective practice for beginning teachers?. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26(4), 1070-1076.
McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man. New York: McGraw Hill.
Rowley, J., and Munday, J. (2014). A ‘Sense of self’ through reflective thinking in ePortfolios, International Journal of Humanities Social Sciences and Education, 1(7), 78-85.

Extract from

Digital scholarship powered by reflection and reflective practice through the use of an ePortfolio approach to course design in Higher Education. (Refereed publication)

Digital literacy across the curriculum

Digital Literacy across the Curriculum (pdf), from FutureLab, UK, is a 63-page handbook aimed at educational practitioners and school leaders in both primary and secondary schools who are interested in creative and critical uses of technology in the classroom. The handbook is supported by case studies (pdf) of digital literacy in practice and video case studies.

The handbook aims to introduce educational practitioners to the concepts and contexts of digital literacy and to support them in developing their own practice aimed at fostering the components of digital literacy in classroom subject teaching and in real school settings.

Developing digital literacy is important  because it supports young people to be confident and competent in their use of technology in a way that will enable them to develop their subject knowledge by encouraging their curiosity, supporting their creativity, giving them a critical framing for their emerging understandings and allowing them to make discerning use of the increasing number of digital resources available to them. p.10

Developing digital literacy in the classroom can allow students to apply their existing knowledge of creating with digital technology to learning in school and in the process be supported to think more critically and creatively about what it is they are doing. p.24

Fostering creativity in the classroom involves applying elements of creativity to subject knowledge. This can be done in all subjects across the school curriculum. p.25

This is an outstanding document that can be used as an information primer for helping schools develop a whole-school approach – particularly relevant in the current 1:1 laptop scenario in Australia.

E-teaching and motivation

Motivation is the theme of this video on learner-centered technology use. The American Psychological Association (1993) outlines four dimensions of learner-centeredness. Motivation is one of these four.This video, which is part of a larger project investigating learner-centered teaching with technology, highlights the need for motivation and engagement with technology. The use of the technology advertisements is designed to highlight the engagement produced by technology and media.Can education compete with that? If so how?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “E-teaching and motivation“, posted with vodpod

Good intentions win the (Second Life) day!

I love our online technology world!!  This morning I was up and online at 6 am for the ISTE Webinar From Good Intentions to Best Practice: Teaching with Second Life in Middle School.  I was ready to listen to Peggy Sheehy (Maggie Marat) from Ramapo Island talk about her Second Life work – Peggy inspired the Aussie crowd at NECC, so i knew I would be hanging on her every word . The presentation was all about kids researching, building, discussing, creating, exploring and more, with teachers who are taking excellent pedagogy from their classrooms into a virtual world – in which students can extend their understanding and learning in many different subject areas.

Peggy reminded us that teacher preparation is vital. We need to Get Informed: read second life press and forums; read SL education wikis; and belong to SLED – the educator’s email listserve. We need Experience: get a SL account; tour popular places; visit educators spaces for collaboration and join groups; and start to learn to build simple objects. We need to Develop: identify a learning objective; build curriculum with appropriate space!

She explained that we are not looking for extra time in curriculum, but looking for opportunities to move existing curriculum into a space that will engage students in a more powerful way. We still need structure, feedback and quality assessment.  Second Life is an equaliser – reticent students blossom and converse and contribute. It’s the teacher strategies that count!  The skills learned carry right back into the real world classroom, and both students and parents are reporting profound benefits from having a learning environment that incorporates Second Life.

There was a great deal of superb information in this ISTE Webinar. Follow Peggy’s work Ramapo – Suffern Middle School in Second Life

See and download the full gallery on posterous

The thing about books and maps

Spent some time working with a couple of Year 8 geography classes today. The work we did – or rather they did – stood in marked contrast to the ‘understanding’ of some teachers and the role of books in the learning of kids these days. They want books – old and new. But the students? what do they want?

Without going into details, the students were working on a research task, in pairs, on a country that they had chosen.

(Yes, I know, that is not a good research task, but stay with me here …)

What struck me were these key points:

Students did not want to or need to use a print atlas.

    Mostly the students jumped onto Google Earth, and found their country and captured that image! Mostly they zoomed in on their country and checked out the terrain, and the cities, and the size of things. Sometimes they checked out the beaches, or how many people they could find. This was not what the teacher had in mind when she said ‘include a map of your country in your presentation’🙂 But it was the natural way for the boys to go check out a country.

    Every boy automatically went to Google images for their pics – because they can, and no-one has ever told them otherwise.

    Every boy automatically went to Wikipedia for their information – because they have never had any need to do it differently!

    So you can see, its a bit of a challenge. This is about covering material, not teaching students to think. It’s also about being out of touch with the way students learn in their online world.

    School subjects, taught in isolation, represent the worse of 19th & 20th  century education models transposed into a 21st century environment. The mechanics of teaching information skills are easy when its about creating a learning experience that requires use of every bit of thinking skill a student can muster. But in the context of the lessons today it was a waste of time.

    We can’t blame our curriculum or our students – we have to blame ourselves if our students are unskilled in using a full range of thinking skills to tackle issues straight out of the complex work in which they live.

    Photo: Globe