Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Our ePortfolio Discussion

This morning I tweeted out that we were looking for ways to create electronic portfolios on the iPad. I got some great feedback from Colleen Greene, Marcello Mongardi, Jason Schmidt, and Jeremy McDonald, along with a couple of requests for our thoughts. One other thing that we looked at during this time was how students would save and share documents. You'll see more of that discussion below. While we haven't made a definite conclusion, I did want to jot down some of our discussion notes for those of you who asked and, selfishly, to try get a summary of a three hour discussion.


Our District has 13 academy programs that run through both high schools. Some academies are in the high schools, while two are located offsite (Zoo and Health Systems). We would like students to have an electronic portfolio to document their learning and to take with them after they finish high school. We started last year with the Zoo and Health Systems Academies by using Wikispaces. So far, that seems to be working well. Next fall we will start a Leadership Academy which will have sections at both high schools. Wikispaces isn't as attractive of an option because all of the students in the Leadership Academy will have an iPad. So began our discussion...

Ideal Parameters:

  • Works well on an iPad, either via the web or an app
  • We would like to have some control over the content that is added.
  • The less passwords the better.
  • Options for creativity by the students.
Picture credit nickrate
Portfolio options:
  • Wordpress
    • Pros - customizable features, iOS app already made
    • Cons - how do students upload Word/PDF files from their iPad? Separate accounts for each student or lots of blogs under one teacher account and giving students the ability to contribute?
  • Posterous
    • Pros - easy to use 
    • Cons - currently no iPad specific app
  • Google Sites
    • Pros - may be able to set up an Active Directory link to automatically update accounts
    • Cons - currently lack of editing on iPad
  • Wikispaces 
    • Pros - student accounts, easy to use
    • Cons - no formatted editing on the iPad, time to create accounts & separate sites
  • Evernote 
    • Pros - ease of use from a variety of devices into one spot
    • Cons - limited design functionality
  • Mac Server
    • Pros - easy to use content, hosted in house
    • Cons - no plan for 3 years out
  • Voicethread
    • Pros - great possibilities for feedback from others
    • Cons - app isn't out yet, so it's hard to plan for it
Sharing Documents:
  • WebDAV
    • Pros - free, already a built-in piece of the iPad
    • Cons - open access for all students to all folders, but no access to WebDAV at home
  • Dropbox 
    • Pros - many plugins available to upload content to a blog/website
    • Cons - Each student would need their own account, no free way to save from Pages (would need $5 DropDAV account)
  • Save to iTunes 
    • Pros - free
    • Cons - required wired connection to a computer
  • Email
    • Pros - free with our Exchange server
    • Cons - not ideal for continued editing
Where we are at today:

I think right now, at 12:11 pm CST on Wednesday, June 1st, we are leaning towards Wordpress and WebDAV. I will stress it's not a final decision, but if we had to decide today, it's what I would recommend for our situation. We posed the question about how to upload files from the iPad to Wordpress...right now we are thinking that students will have to save to the WebDAV and upload on a computer. It was also suggested to the instructors to look at assignments to see which could be done as a blog post vs. a Pages document. 
Dropbox is nice, and was the original plan, until DropDAV started charging money. The Google route would be nice, especially if the Active Directory sync works, but it's just not very smooth from a user point right now, especially with the lack of Google Site editing capabilities. Yes, students could do their portfolio on a computer, but they have an iPad - lets give them the opportunity to use it as much as possible. Evernote is a great idea, but if this is going to be something they use for colleges and employers, we want to give them some opportunities to make an appealing site. We'd really like to use the Mac Servers we have, but there isn't currently a plan in place as those get phased out and we don't want to have to switch later if possible. 
Having said all of that, everything could change as Apple releases Lion and iOS 5. We know this, which is why we are stepping back for a week or two to see what comes up and rehash some of our thinking from today. There will be a point where we'll have to make a decision and jump in ready to go, but that's still a couple months away. A lot happens in tech world in a couple months.

I'd love any comments, critiques, or experiences that anyone has to share. This is definitely new to us. We realize we can't solve every problem today, but we'd like to be prepared.


J Allen said...

Dean Mantz also suggested Live Binders for the eportfolio. It's definitely one we'll consider.

Toby Fischer said...

Do you use Moodle? We are going to try out Mahara next year. It integrates with Moodle 2.0 very nicely.

J Allen said...

We are using Moodle for at least one of their classes. I'll definitely check out Mahara. Thanks!