Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Student Motivation and Blogging Portfolios

Via Will comes Crawford Killian's account of how unwilling most of his students are to blog. As Will says, "It's frustrating that they can't share in the rewards that I find from blogging." I don't think this is much different than online instructors having to basically force students to participate in online discussion boards by using participation marks or required numbers of posts. We know that students will learn more if they participate in a meaningful way, and hope that priming the pump with requirements will help....but most students are just jumping through hoops.

I've been doing some thinking about creating the ultimate planning portfolio for high school students. Most likely, students would have a few key components of their online portfolios assigned -- probably some self-assessment exercises, self-reported interests/values, some career exploration and building some post-secondary plans. Ideally, once those hoop-jumping activities had been completed, the student would have a fairly meaningful representation of their current identity (what they like, what's important, their personal network) and some future options that interest them more than others.

In the afternoon I dragged my laptop into the application-development office where the smart techies sit. I wanted their feedback on this model of portfolio, and specifically how feasible it was to connect a student's identity and plans to:
  • other people -- peers and mentors -- with similar interests, plans, and experiences (probably connecting to FOAF vocabulary)
  • related news and resources based on their interests and plans (perhaps with custom XML search feeds)
  • school information systems so they could connect plans to specific courses, marks and other metrics (using the SIF standard)
  • the functionality to reflect and comment on their planning process in blog-like form (maybe using a very simple LiveJournal-style model)
Although I was looking for technical feedback from these smart folks, and they confirmed that this was all feasible, they brought the discussion back to the core issue: are the students going to care enough about this stuff to go beyond what's assigned? Or would these further extensions be so compelling that they would be assigned? This model is based on the idea that students may come back regularly (at least occasionally) to make these powerful the designer-dream world, students would care enough to keep checking and reflecting after their instruction was finished. As we talked about it, we weren't so sure that many of them would bother, no matter how relevant the news is, how slick the blogging works, or how closely we could match them up to likeminded folks.

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