Wednesday 4th June 2008 University of Bradford
The event was organised by the Centre for Recording Achievement.
There were four sessions in the day, two of which covered practical examples of personal learning environments including e-portfolios for use with Personal Development Planning, PDP.
I have summarised these two sessions adding my thoughts in blue text.
The first of these two sessions was a hands on workshop run by the learning technologists at the University of Leicester.
The proposal was to use free online tools to create an e-portfolioLeicester have looked closely at applications to use as a personal learning environment including an e-portfolio.
You can view their thoughts and opinions on each of these with the decision being to use WetPaint.
The team at Leicester considered other wikis along the way including Wikispaces and PBwiki, but preferred WetPaint.
They have prepared a document to explain how they proposed to construct the e-portfolio in WetPaint.
The strengths of WetPaint:
1. Easy to use.
2. Simple layout quickly constructed, well ordered.
3. Online storage of files and photos.
4. Public – ACCESS CONTROL? Access is controlled by invitations from the site owner.
5. Granularity is less than PebblePad – all or nothing(?) but with read only or read/write control.
6. RSS everywhere.
We were also (re)introduced to some other Web 2.0 tools that the team at Leicester proposed to be used in conjunction with WetPaint.
These included Delicious for social bookmarking, Twitter for micro blogging.
The team also considered various free ‘portals’ or ‘personal learning environments’ where their definition is as follows:
‘For the purposes of this guide a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) will be defined as an area in which learners can organise their education, and also can act as a portal to their web-content and accounts. There are a few environments that are suitable for this, iGoogle, PageFlakes and Netvibes. This guide will focus on Netvibes as a preferred option.’
It was a breath of fresh air to see that free on line web 2.0 tools are actively being used.
Taking a risk and creating a PLE and e-portfolio tool from what is currently available to anyone.
It solves the issue of being able to export an e-portfolio in a usable way…there is not need to!
I don’t think it is intended as an assessment tool as such, but more for PDP, although the listing of ‘RSS everywhere’ would imply that the creators have the tutor in mind.
Then there is the issue of what happens if/when the organisation offering the software wants to do/go somewhere else.
Control? All with the student. Isn’t that what lifelong learning is all about?
The second session was given by the Learning Technology Team at University Bradford.
The overview of the presentation talks about PDP at Bradford with examples, their choice of on line tools and a Digital Typology.
The PDP model at Bradford has a three stage structure; School, Department and Programme level, but is still in the process of bedding in.
The framework provided a ‘personal electronic space’ for students and after a pilot and evaluation they decided on a whole institution approach to PebblePAD for a period of 5 years from 2007-8.
Students can use it independently, staff are being encouraged to look at ways of embedding PP in the PDP experience of students.
I have picked out a couple of slides that I feel are important in the whole process of supporting students with their learning experience when using online tools:
“Increasingly students will arrive at University with experience of online tools and will have expectations about their use here”
“They will need our support to use them effectively for their learning”
This should be no surprise to us we should expect students to have experience of online tools; MSN, MySpace, Facebook Bebo YouTube etc.
‘Example of the tools used:
Members only social network for each cohort of students.
Facilities include: blogs, images, discussion forums, personal page, video, audio, ability to embed any type of web2.0 widget & RSS feedsWidgets used: Slideshare, Google Calendar, Box, Library Thing’
Bradford talked about how the students engaged fully with Ning and became quite addicted to it.
Needless to say the tutor activity is crucial in making it work
The Bradford Learning Technology team have set up a Ning Special Interest Group for those interested in investigations and evaluations of learners’ experiences of e-learning.
‘Key benefits we have observed with using social networking software:
• Builds more personal relations between students
• Better quality and quantity of group discussion.
• Learning processes are more explicit and obvious, so can pick up problems earlier.
nce of greater reflection through blogs.
• Greater ownership of online environment.
• More motivated to work and share online.
• Better assessment results??? (partly due to greater engagement with tutor)’
‘Developing a new typology of digital learners
• Descriptions of ‘new’ students often relies on established and sometimes unquestioned definitions of ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’
• Work at Bradford (ELP 1 & 2; HEA projects) suggests a more complex picture
• Levels of digital fluency in social contexts may not translate or generalise into educational contexts’
There can be a tendency to put people into ‘groups’ often to make it easier to understand and also often to talk about things that we think we are not…
The point about levels of digital fluency in social contexts is one that has been discussed at Swansea and is one of the reasons that a VLE and PLE might be best kept separate, but I am sure that is not the definitive answer to getting digital fluency into an educational context. (Digital Socialites see below)
– Institution needs to respond to expertise. Will it be fully supportive of their needs?
– How can the institution harness their skills. Is there appropriate software available to support needs?
– Mature students? Haven’t really been exposed to technology
– Not keen on using technology but know it is there and can use it
We did not have time to discuss the typology proposed by Bradford above, but it is something that I feel will need to be addressed.
I like the topology and the digital types are clearly recognisable to me.
How to cope with this? Blended learning? Interested to know others thoughts