5 April 2013

Which way back to the Drawing Board? - Part 1

Before I can move forward I need to take a good look where I have come from and establish where I am now. Yes that is about my journey with MyPortfolio so far. And it is about my lack of visibility into the future. Something tells me MyPortfolio is here to stay on the NZ Education landscape but as I write someone is still to decide for its funding post December 2013. I usually tend to take things one day at a time, as the journey I am about to retrace indicates. But with what I know now, it just doesn't cut it. I know I need to go back to the drawing board but don't quite know the way.

Where have I been?
- 2009 - New Languages NCEA Internal Standards, aligned to the NZC, require a "portfolio of evidence" "gathered over time" "selected through a student/teacher negocation process"
Immediate thought arising: how to manage this practically? (At this stage I am not thinking too much in terms of pedagogy and NZC!)
- Hear of Mahara an eportfolio software, developed from the needs of a consortium of NZ Universities to provide their students with an eportfolio space. Tiki tour at a local college that has an install. The word eportfolio enters my vocabulary. 
- Feb. 2010 - Attend Learning at School, discover amongst a plethora of tools that "support teaching and learning" (yep I do love the tools still) my first intros to  "Why"  using an eportfolio.
- Keep my ears to the ground in terms of ePortfolio with further investigations to deepen my understanding  The phrases learning journey and lifelong learning become familiar. It also becomes clearer to me that technology pointers are only going to help a little, that what we are looking at is to change the way we have been assessing and to give the students the responsibility to own his/her learning. Which prompts me to download again the NZC and to this time properly read it. Page 36 in particular retains my attention:

- I dwelve some more as I am now aware of MyPortfolio a hosted instance of Mahara made available to NZ schools, funded by the MoE.  It is not until Ulearn10 that I find out more information and meet users. The practical in me sees a solution for students and teachers for the internal assessments. I have not got enough hindsight at that stage to gage the transformative "power" of this technology on teaching and learning.
- Feb. 2011 - First real intro to MyPortfolio at Kristina's workshop. I am sold! I also meet Ronja a Language teacher who shares my enthusiasm. She does have classes and students to try it with! (I am no longer teaching). I make my first pages, to discover the functions. The Learning Languages Group is created, I join the MyPortfolio Discussions Group. I effectively take my first steps in the MyPortfolio community. Till then my immediate community has been the French teachers of NZ, being an NZAFT exec  which reinforced the bond created by redeveloping and maintaining french.ac.nz and managing its Listserve.
- Paul (then in MoE team that has started MyPortfolio) was keen to see the MyPortfolio word spread and potential users found.
Free 90min taster sessions were already made available on request to all primary and secondary schools in NZ. There were two trainers and the rapid growth of early enthusiasts contributed a contingent of local trainers. The idea is to grow interest and develop use from within the community of users. Thus a need for a critical mass of users for this to grow organically! 
- Paul asked me "how can I help you?"? 2011 was a NZALT Langsems year. Language teachers meet in the regions. I suggested I could hold MyPortfolio introductions and workshops at each of these Langsems, and that I could contact the then Regional Language Advisers and offer a day's training at Cluster levels. I surveyed Language teachers. I got on the road.  I kept my journal. I learned by doing.
- Jan. 2012 - There is still plenty of demands on the MyPortfolio taster session calendar, and with one trainer left I am offered the opportunity to take his place until the contract runs out end June 2012. 
- New format (90 min taster session is not a half day workshop that I have ran so far), new people (from 48 different schools many primary, a few big secondary, across Learning areas, people I don't know!), new surroundings (visiting schools not conference rooms!) new focus (in 90 min, the standard taster focus on the Reflection, whereas the focus had been on managing assessement and feedback with Language teachers), new geographical horizons (up and down the South Island, and some part of the lower North Island), new way of doing things (making contact at potential user's request, explaining who I was, reminding them of their interest,  connecting them regionally as a small group, facilitating the "finding time and place" that suits all! sending reminders, located the schools geographically, this is NZ after all!, writing invoices, keeping tab of expenses... ) new outlook on what the NZ education landscape looks like on the ground, across sectors, new awareness (no such thing as "one fits all model" rather "one fits one"), new reality (good infrastructure access innovation exist in pockets and are unevenly distributed). One very lasting picture is built from the numerous interactions: MyPortfolio is a shared online space which functionalities definitely "open up new and different ways of learning" (NZC p.36) and supports fully the Vision of the NZC for "young people who will be confident connected actively involved life long learners". These were a short . These six months went so fast.
- March 2012
- New opportunities arise. I am invited to work with GCSN schools as a consultant. That adds another layer to my understanding of the diversity and the complexity of the issues at play when introducing something new. More than ever it is the "Why" that must lead this. I see school grounds really affected by the earthquake  
, whole neighborhoods deserted with houses destroyed and boarding up and places and other schools and neighborhoods which appear to look as they ever looked. What I quickly gather though is that everyone, teacher and student, that I spend time with has been affected deeply by the catastrophe. What I am amazed with is the demand for something new, at the interest generated by eportfolio and myportfolio, at the warmth of the welcome, at the openness of mind. I end up going back to work in Christchurch GCSN schools in November 2012 and again in March 2013. 

- Working with the Christchurch schools lead to work with schools from the Wellington Loop and with a cluster of teachers located in the Nelson region. I meet again teachers I have met before in other myportfolio workshops. Learning happens when it is revisited often, in different contexts, over a period of time.
- I enjoy contributing to the online MyPortfolio group forums where I can, I learn from the questions and I continue to develop my understanding of online communities and how they "work", how its contributors seem to move quite fast and focus on the future.
- I accompany the work of three language teachers in three different secondary schools and of  their students using myPortfolio remotely, we meet regularly online, take stock and map next steps.
- March 2013 - The MoE continues to support hosting and development of MyPortfolio till at least Dec 2013. Some schools continue to want to know more about MyPortfolio and get in direct contact with me. ePortfolio is now almost a household name now for many in New Zealand schools, it appears often in online conversations and generates conversations around the pedagogy which leads to its use, the reasons why, the type of tools to build one etc. It may have entered the vocabulary but not so widely the practice yet. All good things take time. Hence my multiple interrogations! (To be continued)


  1. Yay, some reflective pearls from up north!! A very interesting journey indeed. As you say, all good things take time and in my own case I've only just found myself in a context where I can see the immediate benefit of developing MyPortfolio expertise to facilitate my students' learning, managing and sharing of pages. We're very much looking forward to having you down to work with us after the hols. As we dabble in MyPortfolio and students develop their own expertise and teach each other I can see a very desirable thing happening. Not only are the most digitally native providing excellent support and tuition to their peers but I'm totally comfortable with the fact that there are lots of things that I don't yet know about the way it functions. We'll have plenty of questions for you. provided they haven't already been answered by some whizzy wee Year 9 who seems to know automatically what to do in cases where problems arise. I'm learning heaps and this is what I love about 20th century learning. In the flattened classroom I'm likely to learn just as much or more from my students as they are from me. Great post!!

  2. Um, I mean 21st Century learning of course!!! Old fossil that I am.

  3. Jumping on one particular aspect of your comment here Ruth, I quote " I've only just found myself in a context where..." that is exactly it, here is one aspect for me to consider indeed: this context is definitely not just you and your beliefs and pedagogy, or just your students who are responsive and curious, it is a sum of factors as well as that that make the planets align: infrastructure, byod, elearning awareness, need for general direction and leadership support at the institution level!
    That is indeed a huge part of the equation.
    While I would not want to denigrate the problem solving abilities of your students, I believe there will be some questions arising from your and their usage of myportfolio because you (all of you) will soon have worked your way round making a page (My ego would suffer otherwise should I be reduced to "a press this do that" trainer! ;-))
    I would be flattered to enter your flattened classromm and love to see some of your students show me round what they are doing. Maybe that could be engineered?


Let's go Back to the Drawing Board!