9 April 2013

Next steps?

Professionally and personally, I have benefited hugely from teaching and learning with MyPortfolio. I have developed new skills, discovered a newly found self motivation through working with hundreds of teachers and kept in contact with quite a few, received hundreds of messages indicating interest, necessity, questions arising, support needed, often carrying a heartfelt message of thanks, engaged in conversation in my replies. The teachers I met briefly at Taster sessions like the ones I met at workshops just saw something that talked to them, that made visible much of what they had been trying to do, that gave the NZC a form to visualise.

What I don't know is: has what all these teachers I have met learnt that day made a difference to them and above all to their students?
I know the punctual workshop model is NOT the model that makes any difference. But that is what was made available and it served a purpose: to gain awareness of MyPortfolio existence, to start a conversation about eportfolio, to plant a seed. Relying on the growth of the community of users to support one another from within for the long term was a good idea but like any good idea it would need stronger scaffolding to eventuate fully, as MyPortfolio is not learning to use a tool, it is enabling learning to learn with a focus on the future.

MoE laments that while there is plenty of users and groups there is not a lot of activity.  All change especially of this scale takes time, and a lot of time. Using MyPortfolio is not using a tool: it is using a suite of functions which complement each other and replicate a learning environment. A learning environment as complexities, intricacies born from the relationships within, must be flexible, inviting and expandable, needs to welcome the learner so that s/he wants to be in there, in a safe, supportive space where s/he can be on his own when wanted or within a community. MyPortfolio allows for that.
Regular log in in MyPortfolio to look at  the latest (public or shared) pages show students and teachers alike in a range of schools using it: sometimes it's entry level, sometime it's more advanced stuff, sometimes it is the same users, sometime it is new ones. Big users report the transformative changes MyPortfolio has brought about in their practice. Big users also report that short of MyPortfolio being championed by at least one user and this(these) champion(s) being supported by a leader and a clear strategy there is little change at institution level. Hence little activity.

With thousands of schools and accounts registered on MyPortfolio, ongoing interest in getting started, in implementing, with no more taster sessions and with community support limited to developments, with the MoE committted to maintain MyPortfolio till December 2013, what to do?


- I am isolated: with no institutional identity, no team or colleague in the same boat to build on what has been acquired together, no visibility passed Dec 2013, it is all the harder to make a sustainable plan.
- My name is linked to MyPortfolio and people stop there: the "tool". As in "Pascale knows how to use the tool".  Pascale knows why to use the tool is the reality.
- I am now able to articulate the Why? of eportfolio and the How? MyPortfolio is one way to achieve this.
- I see the ePortfolio approach gaining traction worldwide, as showing mastery of skills (e.g. critical thinking and communication) and understanding, as evaluating achievement through evidence of improvement are replacing the content knowledge and summative tests once relied on to assess one's abilities.
- I have become aware that to inform and support individual teachers is not going to bring change about, unless they themselves are true change agents within their institutions (and in which case they don't need me!). Principals need to be on board, own it and lead the change.
- I also know that to support any great change involving technology a commitment needs to be made to Professional Learning, and that there is a huge cost to ongoing Professional Learning. And that if you buy Professional Learning you need to have assurances that it is going to bring in results. That is if schools can "buy" it... (Accessing PD for schools in NZ is not a matter of saying "We need"...)

My Options:
- Strategise a plan in knowledge of what I know and who I know to offer ePortfolio support  as a consultant?
    > Need colleague(s)-business plan-investment - business mind- inquiry- well defined/tested product and tool - is there a need for ePortfolio understanding in NZ schools or is it my perception?
- Hang in there to see what becomes of MyPortfolio , if N4L picks it up, and what professional learning will be associated (if any) with their products.  And if any, is that a chance for a trainer to offer a course?
     > More unknown - waiting game-  would positions if any be advertised? - another case of "who I know"? - would be less inclined to go with the flow due to what I now know - join an existing team?
- Further my qualifications formally? Do a series of Uni papers related to the area of interest? a MOOC?
  > better credentials, other opportunities? to find something that is not research based is tough as I dont have an institution to research from.
- Continue voluntary involvement in the MyPortfolio community, the eportfolio community at large and associated communities through forums etc
    > adding to my kete, networking opportunities enhanced, but not active at the chalk face, theoretical knowledge increased not working knowledge, few face to face real contact with a specific goal, no monetary recognition of involvement
- Give up and volunteer to walk the SPCA doggies.
    > instant gratification, feel good factor, no fear to do it wrong, no intellectual demand just fluff!

Now what? I may be sometime trying to answer that...


  1. I can see you are at a cross-roads. If there are other schools out there like ours where the students all have laptops, I can see it being a logical step to move to e-portfolios. I think that's the intention at Columba. It's a question of how much demand there is out there? I like the idea of networking with other schools using MyPortfolio and encouraging the students to share too. I think Lesley Taylor at John McGlashan is using it so I need to talk to her and see if we can create some groups where we could communicate and share. Perhaps. All in good time.

    1. There is demand which I believe will increase as more schools have BYOD and good infrastructure. It would be good to know if insufficient access has been a factor that has had many shelf the idea... lack of financial support also means lack of indepth inquiry in looking at the picture that has been painted so far.
      Your comment sums the situation well about collaboration: yes a nice to have if time allows. What is collaboration was indeed creating more time? Every time I run workshops in individual schools and ask what they want to know I get the same questions and themes! Now that tells me something about how to use time money and resources. What is a better model of sharing knowledge? Ideas abound.

  2. One of the consequences of being back in the maelstrom of school life is that the time for reflection becomes limited and one can see one's creativity becoming atrophied by mundane, routine stuff such as chasing students up for forms they were supposed to fill in etc. Mind-numbing stuff but part of the terrain. I write down good ideas to develop then shelve them because something more immediate although less essential gets in the way. It all indicates to me how anachronistic the traditional school model is, although it serves an important social function. I would love to have been able to work in a different sort of structure for part of my teaching career but I can't really see that happening, short of setting up an alternative school. Blue sky territory.

    1. This is why I value immensely the time you take to write about your "going back to school"! It is most interesting that you too are witnessing what other colleagues have reported when trying to use myportfolio with Seniors: they are the handbrakes! I did not want to believe it actually... But it is systematic and seniors who have been in a system for all these formative years just want it to give them what they put in: a bunch of credits and qualifications. The change required is deep wide and complex, hence the need more than ever to work with communities parents and knowing our students. The one recurring handbrake is time: how to slow things down for them to become meaningful? Reorganising the day, the week the year is not enough it is reorganising how it is used. You have heaps of convictions and experience on how it can be used better, but it is impossible for you to slow things down because the system does not let you. There are alternative started (or about to start) in NZ, it is fascinating to watch if they care to share. Go over to "teaching and elearning" blog that I have added to the blogroll when you can to see what I mean.


Let's go Back to the Drawing Board!