What are important characteristics of a good education app? Okay, free is good. I will give you that one. What else? For me, I love ubiquitous apps, or in other words, programs that work on all my devices, including my phone, my iPad, and my computer. I also prefer apps that allow me to access my data almost anywhere I go. For the purposes of this article, the data needs to have a meaningful educational purpose. Students should see their smart phones as more than just media consumption devices. The apps need to be easy to use and reliable on a variety of platforms. Three apps immediately come to mind that fit this description: Evernote, Dropbox, and Readability. Let’s look at descriptions, suggested uses, possible issues, and alternatives for each of these apps.
My first recommendation is Evernote, which is a cloud-based note taking tool that enables your notes to be synchronized between devices and shared with other users. In addition to conventional note taking, Evernote can import pictures of notes from a whiteboard using a phone or laptop camera. Evernote uses OCR technology to import images, making any text on the images searchable and easy to find at a later date. Notebooks (groups of notes) can be shared with students or colleagues by sending them the notebook’s URL. The address for a notebook could be posted once in Blackboard at the beginning of a class and students could see new notes as they are added throughout the term. One possible issue is formatting problems that occur when copying and pasting text from another source, such as a Word document. This can be avoided by converting the document to plain text before copying. A possible alternative to Evernote is Microsoft’s OneNote. Currently OneNote is a better program if you only plan to take notes on a PC. However, Evernote provides a consistent experience across PCs, Macs, and mobile devices which makes it more useful for those of us who want to be productive note takers regardless of the technology we are currently using.
The second ubiquitous app I recommend is Dropbox, which is an online file storage tool that can be used to share and back up your documents. A professor might use Dropbox instead of email to share a folder where students submit projects with large file sizes, such as PowerPoint presentations, videos, or images. Students would copy completed projects to the folder and then let the instructor know so the project could be graded. Dropbox syncs all of the files to a folder on your computer so you do not have to manually download each document. Another possible use would be to create a folder that contains files that you frequently share with your class. This folder can be made available to students on an as needed basis or can be made public so students can help themselves. It would be nice if Dropbox provided a service where students could email your Dropbox with an assignment. There is a third party tool that can help you accomplish this (http://ifttt.com/dropbox), but by using it, you give the vendor access to your Dropbox content, probably okay but not preferred. If your primary use for Dropbox is to back up institutional data, the university’s synching system should be used instead. There are other file sharing/backup applications, such as SugarSync (https://www.sugarsync.com/), which provide more sophisticated syncing and sharing options. However, Dropbox’s simplicity and tight integration with your computer’s file management makes it a popular choice and one I recommend.
My final suggestion, Readability, allows users to customize online articles they are reading, making these articles ad-free with options to change the font, character size, and background. Readability can also be used to save and organize articles for reading later. You might want to use Readability to modify educational blogs and web articles so they are easier to read when shown on a data projector in class. You can also use Readability to save web articles that you can read at your convenience on a mobile device, web browser, or even your Kindle. One possible issue you may run into is that not all web pages allow Readability to do its magic. You can tell if this is the case when the Readability page is blank or fails to load. Alternatives such as ReadItLater and Instapaper can be used to save web pages for later viewing; however, neither has the elegant formatting features of Readability.
Evernote, Dropbox, and Readability are all popular in the educational community because they provide much needed solutions for teaching and learning, and they work on almost any device. Educators want cloud-based apps that work across platforms and can be used by educators and students as productivity tools, which helps us all to become better 21st Century learners.
This is a simple example of a digital citizenship poster that my students create to demonstrate competency on ISTE NETS for Teachers Standard 4. Students work through a short WebQuest where they review digital citizenship elements and then create a Glogster poster that they can share with students or parents. Glogster has a feature to share the poster directly with WordPress which is great because all of my students have WordPress bPortfolios. However, my blog posts are also syndicated to http://www.nwacco.org/ and it turns out that Glogster does not allow “hotlinking.” The simple poster I created can be found at http://dwicksspu.edu.glogster.com/digital-citizenship/ if it does not appear below. Also, Glogster uses Flash technology so I created a PDF version of the poster for those viewing this on an iPhone or iPad.
Each school year predictably begins with Seattle Pacific University professors asking me one of two questions:
- What new technologies are you examining? Or,
- How do you keep up with all the changes?
Professors who ask the first question usually follow up with a statement about how fun my job must be to be able to spend all day “playing” with technology. Professors who ask the second question usually follow up with a statement about how they were just getting use to the last round of changes and they have no idea how I can keep track of all the updates. I enjoy the challenge of helping both groups as they seek be successful in their use of instructional technology.
According to Smaldino (p. 1-2), instructional technology is the “integration of teacher and student use and knowledge of tools and techniques to improve student learning.” This definition encourages me to develop better workshops and one-to-one trainings and to continually search for new tools and techniques that can enhance learning.
So, what new technologies are we looking at this fall? Here is a quick table:
|eBeam||Mobile interactive whiteboard tool that allows professors to take the “Smartboard” with them to class.|
|StagePresence||LectureCapture tool that increases social presence by capturing presenter as part of the presentation. Presenter uses gestures to control presentation.|
|Edmodo||Private Facebook-like social networking tool used primarily by K-12 schools to communicate with students and parents.|
|CourseSites.com||Free learning management system (LMS) from Blackboard that allows professors/teachers to have up to 5 free online courses using the latest version of Blackboard Learn.|
|Instructure||New LMS that integrates Web 2.0 tools such as Google Docs and Twitter.|
|NookStudy||Electronic Textbook Reader that works on Mac and PC. Limited integration with Blackboard.|
|iOS 5 and Various iPad Apps including: Fuse, ScreenChomp, VoiceThread||New iPhone, iPad operating system has great features that eliminate need for home button. Fuse is for capturing video, ScreenChomp is a whiteboarding tool and VoiceThread is a reflection/asynchronous discussion tool.|
How do I keep up with all the changes? First and most importantly, I have excellent colleagues in Instructional Technology Services (ITS) who are dedicated to providing great services for faculty. Janiess Sallee, Dominic Williamson, and David Rither do such great work managing their projects that I rarely have to deal with workflow issues that may consume other managers’ days. We also have a great student staff who willingly learn new technologies and are able to explain the costs and benefits to us from a learner’s perspective. Second, I have a great personal learning network (PLN) of colleagues around the world through my relationships with MacLearning.org, MERLOT, Sloan-C, NWACC, and educators I interact with on Twitter. Finally, I have been encouraged to teach courses in the School of Education, which allows me to see first hand what works for those on the bleeding edge as well as those who want to apply instructional technology in a more conventional manner.
I consider it a joy and a privilege to serve the faculty and students of Seattle Pacific University. My department wants to help professors be successful with instructional technology, regardless of their skill level. And yes, it is fun to get to “play” with technology all day.
Smaldino, S. E., Lowther, D. L., & Russell, J. D. (2011).Instructional technology and media for learning. Boston, Mass: Allyn & Bacon.
bPortfolios: Blogging for Reflective Practice
Seattle Pacific University
School of Education
David Wicks, Andrew Lumpe, Henry Algera, Kris Gritter, Helen Barrett, Janiess Sallee
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice
Web 2.0 technology, such as blogging, allows for locally developed, cost effective, and holistic alternative portfolio assessment systems. By enhancing critical reflection and fostering social interaction, blogging portfolios are seen as an integral learning tool for all students enrolled in a university program.
Description of the Effective Practice
As Ellis (2001) noted, metacognition is simply thinking about thinking. Metacognition in practice can serve as “the critical revisiting of the learning process” (Georghiades, 2004, p. 171). Critical reflection, as a form of metacognition, occurs when learners construct their own narratives based of learning experiences and professional practice. As applied to professional practices, approaches that support the examination of beliefs that emerge from these practices promote the development of more flexible and intentional approaches to effective teaching and learning (Sockman & Sharma, 2008).
Web 2.0 systems (O’Reilly, 2005), including blogs and social networks, are proposed as effective online vehicles for fostering critical reflection and feedback (Godwin-Jones, 2008). These systems can act as a form of an electronic portfolio (ePortfolio) which can serve the dual role of personal reflection and program evaluation (Barrett, 2009; Yang, 2009). Blog portfolios, or bPortfolios, are one form of electronic portfolios well suited for enhancing the professional learning of teachers (Lumpe, Wicks, & Williams 2011; Wicks, 2009; Tan, 2006). The following characteristics of bPortfolios enhance critical reflection:
- Social interaction – Students share their learning reflections in an open format.
- Developmental – The reverse chronological order of posts shows learning growth.
- Organization – Categories and tags allow students to classify their reflections.
- Autonomy – Students have ownership of their personal content management system.
- Reflective – Students consider which standards are being addressed and what key words best describe the post.
- Digital citizenship – Students practice using social media to enhance digital reputations (Chaplin, 2011).
Barrett (2009) described how electronic portfolios can capture both the process and product of learning over time. The portfolio can be used as a workspace to document ongoing learning (process) and as a final showcase of achievements during a program (product). She proposes using blogging tools for such portfolios.
Up until 2009, Seattle Pacific University was using a commercially available electronic portfolio system. In addition to being rather costly, this system did not enhance aspects of critical reflection (see Chaplin’s list above), was cumbersome, and was perceived by students and faculty as a hoop to jump through in order to graduate. A more holistic approach that fostered both the process and product side of electronic portfolios was sought. A switch to bPortfolios using the freely available WordPress blogging tool (www.wordpress.com) was implemented by SPU’s School of Education beginning in 2009.
Programs using bPortfolios include the following: undergraduate teacher education, Masters of Arts in Teaching, Masters of Teaching Mathematics and Science, and Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. Early during a degree or certification program, students sign up for a personal account on WordPress and set up a professional bPortfolio. The following screencasts are designed to help with bPortfolio setup: 4 Steps to Set up Your bPortfolio, 10 Questions about bPortfolios, and Assessing bPortfolios.
As students matriculate through a program (courses, internships, etc.), reflective posts documenting learning are made in the portfolio. Students add tags of keywords from the post in order to annotate content. Self-tagging is a form of personal reflection rather than social learning (Sun & Datta, 2009). Posts are linked to standards (program, state, or national) via categories. Associated artifacts including text files, graphics, videos, or links can be tied to posts to further enhance and document growth. Meta-reflections, serving as summative reflective posts, are written at the end of a course, internship experience, or other program activity. Peer and instructor feedback via the comments link on each blog post is used for formative assessment throughout a course. Summative (end of program) evaluation of the bPortfolio is conducted by faculty with a formal scoring system using rubrics. In one degree program, students self-assess their bPortfolios using rubrics tied to the program standards. When students graduate, the bPortfolio can continue to serve as a professional portfolio by the educator as they pursue jobs and higher level certifications (i.e., State and National Board Certification). Below are screenshots of several bPortfolios.
Evidence of Effectiveness
Since 2009, 113 bPortfolios were created by Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) Master’s degree students. These students are practicing K-12 teachers who already held teacher certification. On average, C&I students made 46 blog posts including formative course reflections and summative meta-reflections. For the students completing this program in 2011 (the first group required to maintain a bPortfolio), the bPortfolio passing rates ranged from 89 – 95% for each of the 12 program standards with the average overall passing rate being 93.1%.
Since 2009, there were 236 bPortfolios created by teacher certification students from both graduate and undergraduate programs. On average, certification students made 95 blog posts including formative course reflections and summative meta-reflections. The number of reflective posts by certification students is twice the amount made by non-certification students possibly due to the high stakes nature of state standards for certification. In end of program evaluations, one student describes how the bPortfolio served as a holistic tool for documenting her growth.
“I felt that there was little duplication (of performance assessment data) as the bPortfolio is so much more comprehensible. The performance assessment material served as evidence in some of the bPortfolio sections, but the bPortfolio paints a more complete picture of our skills and experience.”
A research study on student use of bPortfolios tags was recently conducted (Lumpe, Wicks, & Williams, 2011). The most used blogs tags were compiled and it was noted that they represented the key themes from the students’ degree programs. Due to the high stakes nature of state standards, certification students made almost twice as many more blog posts than students in non-certification programs. Students averaged about 3 tags per post and used about 40 unique tags. Students self-annotated reflective posts with a wide variety of tags. The tags co-occurred and clustered together to annotate similar blog content. Tag phrase use can significantly predict group membership (certification vs. non-certification).
How does this practice relate to pillars?
There is a strong interrelationship among the pillars of learning effectiveness (above), access, scale and student satisfaction.
Access. Since basic WordPress accounts are free of charge, all students are able to create and publish to their bPortfolio while enrolled in the School of Education. Students document their progress through a degree program by using their bPortfolio in numerous on-campus and online courses and/or during their field experiences. In this way, the bPortfolio is an integral learning tool for all students while enrolled. One particularly beneficial aspect is that students may then continue to maintain their site upon completion of the program, as their individual accounts are not registered on a university server. In an online course discussion, one student describes why he likes having his work stored in the cloud (WordPress.com).
“I am glad that my work is in a central location and that I can build on it. I think I have old papers from my undergrad work, but they are stored away. Now, if I need to reference materials I used in this course, I can go right to my bPortfolio.”
Scale. The university can focus its time and efforts on improving instruction and student support for the bPortfolio rather than allocate funds and personnel to web-hosting, software upgrades, and software support, etc. in the bPortfolio project. In this manner, the bPortfolio is a highly cost effective approach to supporting reflective practice.
Student Satisfaction. Faculty have been able to use student survey feedback to improve the bPortfolio experience for their students. As a result, student satisfaction in using bPortfolio continues to improve. Students in one graduate teacher certification program were asked to rate their overall satisfaction in using the bPortfolio on a scale of 1 (very dissatisfied) to 7 (very satisfied) upon completion of their one-year program.
Results indicate increased student satisfaction between the initial year of implementation (2009-2010; N=43) and the second year (2010-2011; N=40) on the following five aspects:
|The usefulness of the bPortfolio site as a resource for feedback and professional growth.||
|The ease of maintaining a bPortfolio site on a regular basis.||
|The educational value of a regular blogging requirement in the certification program.||
|Using the bPortfolio as a communication tool with instructors, coordinators and fellow students.||
|The overall bPortfolio preparation and assessment process (e.g. drafting a meta-reflection, gathering evidence, receiving scores and feedback, etc.)||
In an online course discussion, two students share their satisfaction with creating a bPortfolio. They also share how it helps them assess their learning and produce higher quality of work.
“I have really enjoyed posting each week on our bPortfolios. I have to say I thought I would hate it because this is my first ever experience in blogging of any kind. Having this bPortfolio has been a great way to share what I am learning and help me assess my own learning. Writing the blog each week has helped me get excited about what I am learning and is a great way to practice my summarizing skills. I hope to expand my use of the bPortfolio throughout these next two years at SPU. I vote yes for e-portfolios and classroom blogs to make learning more holistic and collaborative.”
“We kept seeing over and over in our materials through out the course that students create better work when they know the public can see it. I agree that the use of bPortfolios, blogs, and other public tools motivate students to produce a more polished product. I also love that so many tools reference students assisting one another and contributing ideas. Education shouldn’t be just a one directional practice with the teacher educating the students. Our educational institutions should allow learning from all direction.”
Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice
Students only need access to a web browser and a freely available WordPress.com account. Faculty only need a browser to access student bPortfolios.
Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice
Since WordPress accounts are free of charge, there are few costs involved. Students are charged a onetime $60 institutional fee to help cover the costs of ongoing training, support and portfolio assessment.
The following screencasts were developed and recorded by the university’s Instructional Technology Services department as training tools for students and faculty:
Faculty in the teacher certification programs developed their own blog to serve as a template for student organization of their own bPortfolios – http://spurescert.wordpress.com (2009-2011) and http://sputeacher.wordpress.com (2011-2012).
Faculty in the Curriculum and Instruction program developed a sample blog as a training tool for students as they set up their bPortfolios – http://spubportfolio.wordpress.com.
A brief executive summary of the bPortfolio process was developed by faculty and is used as a training document for both faculty and students – http://www.spu.edu/depts/soe/documents/bPortfolio-Executive-Summary.pdf.
A description, a scoring rubric used by faculty for evaluation, and a timeline of implementation of bPortfolios in teacher certification can be found on pages 79-83 of the Residency Teacher Certification Handbook – http://www.spu.edu/depts/soe/documents/2011-12ResCertHandbook.pdf.
Examples of Student bPortfolios
- http://hamiltonlauren.wordpress.com/ (Masters of Arts in Teaching student)
- http://susancarlsonsbportfolio.wordpress.com/ (Curriculum and Instruction Master’s student)
- http://rollis1.wordpress.com (undergraduate teacher education student)
Barrett, H. (2009, August 23). Balancing the Two Faces of E-Portfolios. Retrieved from
Chaplin, H. (2011, November 23). The future of reading and writing is collaborative. Retrieved from http://spotlight.macfound.org/featured-stories/entry/the-future-of-reading-and-writing-is-collaborative/
Ellis, A. K. (2001). Teaching, Learning, and Assessment Together: The Reflective Classroom. Poughkeepsie, NY: Eye on Education.
Georghiades, P. (2004). From the general to the situated: Three decades of metacognition. International Journal of Science Education, 26(3), 365-383.
Godwin-Jones, R. (2003). Blogs and wikis: Environments for on-line collaboration. Language Learning & Technology, 7(2), 12-16.
Lumpe, A.T., Wicks, D., & Williams, T. (July, 2011). bPortfolios: Blog Portfolios and Self-Tagging as Reflective Practice for Teachers. A paper presented at the Sloan-C International Symposium on Emerging Technology Applications for Online Learning, San Jose, California.
O’Reilly, T. (2005, September 9). What is web 2.0 – Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. O’Reilly Media, Retrieved from http://oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html
Sockman, B. R., & Sharma, P. (2008). Struggling toward a transformative model of instruction: It’s not so easy! Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(4), 1070-1082.
Sun, A., & Datta, A. (2009). On Stability, Clarity, and Co-occurrence of Self-Tagging. A paper presented at the 2nd ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining, Barcelona, Spain.
Tan, Ashley (2006). Does Scaffolded Blogging Promote Preservice Teacher Reflection? Examining the Relationships Between Learning Tool and Scaffolding in a Blended Learning Environment (unpublished doctoral dissertation). Indiana University, Bloomington , IN.
Wicks, D. (2009, April 17). Coining a new term – bPortfolios. David Wicks: Educational Technology. Retrieved 28 September, 2011 from https://dwicksspu.wordpress.com/2009/04/17/coining-a-new-term-bportfolios/
Yang, S.-H. (2009). Using Blogs to Enhance Critical Reflection and Community of Practice. Educational Technology & Society, 12 (2), 11–21.
In a recent post I wrote about eBooks being one of six emerging educational technologies to keep an eye on in the near future. Continuing with that theme, I would like to share about the current status of mobile learning or m-learning in higher education and at Seattle Pacific University. The 2011 Horizon Report predicted that mobile learning will move towards mainstream adoption during the 2011-12 academic year.
In this post, I will:
- Define mobile learning.
- Describe how it can be used in higher education learning.
- Share examples of how Seattle Pacific University professors are using m-learning with their students.
- Share an upcoming opportunity for SPU faculty to discover more about how mobile learning can be used with their students.
What is mobile learning?
Mobile Learning or m-learning definitions fall into one of two camps, tech-centric or learner-centric. Traxler (2005, p. 262) defined m-learning as “any educational provision where the sole or dominant technologies are handheld or palmtop devices.” This definition clearly focuses on the technology being used rather than the learning that takes place. Learner-centric definitions emphasize the location of the learner –anywhere, and the timing of the learning activity –anytime (O’Malley et al., 2003). I choose the second definition to stay centered on learning and keep “the tail from wagging the dog.”
How is mobile learning being used in higher education?
Quinn (2011) shares Four C’s of Mobile that can help educators stay focused on appropriate uses of this educational technology. First, mobile devices can be a great way to access learning Content. Students can watch videos, listen to lectures, and even read articles or books on their mobile devices. SPU’s iTunes U site was recently optimized for iPhone and iPad use. Second, mobile devices are great tools for Capturing content. Students can use their phones to take pictures, as well as record audio and video, all which can be used to document evidence of their knowledge and skills in a course. Third, students can use mobile devices to Calculate. Instead of purchasing and lugging around a separate calculator, students can buy a scientific calculator app for less than a dollar that is available wherever they carry their smart phone. Great computational apps like Wolfram Alpha can be useful for finding and sharing statistical data during classroom discussions. Fourth, mobile devices can be used to Communicate with others. Students can send emails, texts, and use voice and video technologies to interact with their peers and professors. The Four C’s promote anywhere, anytime learning, allowing students to engage in learning activities in places where they might not be carrying their textbook or have access to a computer.
How is m-learning being used at SPU?
Seattle Pacific University professors are experimenting with mobile technologies in both face-to-face and virtual settings. One example is from Assistant Professor of Economics, Geri Mason, who has students answer a higher-level question at the beginning of a class using cell phones as a personal response devices or clickers. She uses PollEverywhere to survey students, having them text answers to an online database where they display on the projector screen as they are submitted. Once all students have participated, she has them break into small groups and discuss their answers. When finished, she calls on students to defend a position from one of the responses. Professor Mason also uses this technology for short quizzes, taking attendance, and gathering feedback on data collection assignments. She has harnessed what many would consider to be a disruptive technology and uses it for active learning.
Education Professor Andrew Lumpe has recently experimented with Blackboard Mobile Learn on his iPad. Blackboard Mobile Learn is a native mobile app version of Blackboard available on Apple mobile devices, as well as Android, Blackberrry, and WebOS (formerly Palm) smart phones. He has used it to participate in discussions with students in an online graduate course. Professor Lumpe gives the app mixed reviews for now. He likes how easy it is to navigate around the course on the iPad. He also likes how discussion forums are graphically represented. However, he does not like that the Control Panel is unavailable to make changes to the course and wishes there was a feature to receive notifications when new discussion posts are made. For now professors and students may prefer to use the browser version of Blackboard on their mobile devices.
Are you interested in learning more about m-learning?
Instructional Technology Services will be hosting a workshop on mobile learning on June 15, 2011 at 2 PM in the Library Instructional Lab. Professor Mason will share about her experiences with PollEverywhere and I will share highlights from an invited presentation I recently gave in Syracuse, New York at the SUNY Online Learning Summit.
Photo Credit: Dominic Williamson, Senior Graphic Artist, Instructional Technology Services