Monday, September 29, 2003

ePortfolios and Student Blogs

Weblogging at the Institut St-Joseph
In my e-portfolio post last week, I noted that the student portfolios I looked at would all benefit from being done in a blog or at least containing an online journal component. In response, Remolino sent the link to this excellent description of what they're doing with portfolios and student blogs at their school in Quebec.
"At the Institut St-Joseph, weblogs enable students to publish daily records on the Web of what they have learned, make it easier than ever before for teachers to guide students, foster the participation of resource persons in classroom activities and provide parents with access to continuous updates about their child's experience at school.

This digital portfolio initiative is particularly in line with the school reform process as it promotes authentic writing situations, reflective analysis, the development of learning communities, and a high level of independence among students in terms of new information and communication technology."
The program's press release also contains some great info for those of us who are trying to sell the idea of integrating student blogs into education process. It sounds like the Institue St-Joseph plan involves school-wide participation, including the nifty use of syndication for teachers tracking students' progress -- looks like they've really done their homework to come up with an elegant, inexpensive system that should work really well if everyone is committed to it.

In our applications, students will be exploring future options and creating potential plans -- high school courses, college programs, other training and career paths. This is traditional career planning stuff, but it could be extended into all areas of life and aspiration -- family, homes, transportation, relationships, parenting, travel, etc. Then it would get into the area of things kids might actually want to blog about, without just being forced to jump through school hoops. This ties into my excitement over the concept of possible selves from last week.

We've got a few obstacles in integrating blogging functionality into our applications -- mostly around privacy and censorship. First of all, the software is purchased by educational institutions, and they have very strict ideas about what's OK for students. So if we gave kids the ability to upload photos and files, inevitably someone will post nasty things that other kids will see, and they'll occasionally post mean or slanderous text, which forces us to be police. They'll probably post identifying information, share things their school wouldn't be comfortable with, and vent about their teachers. There's no way we could monitor a hundred thousand blogs for "inappropriate" behavior, but if we limit the flexibility to post only approved content, kids won't engage with the process and it would never achieve the critical mass required for real communities to form. More on this later...and thanks again to Remolino and Mario. Their blogs make me wish I wasn't so pathetically unilingual.

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