Thursday, July 27, 2006

B.C. Grad Portfolios Scrapped

This is pretty big news here in BC. One one hand, it's frustrating to think of all of the wasted time and money that went into this portfolio initiative, but on the other, it's a fascinating case study in the difficulty of implementing these programs on a large scale. It makes me wonder if this will be the first of many similar portfolio implementations that quietly go away now that the e-portfolio buzz has cooled. A quote:
"The program was designed to showcase students' efforts in arts, sports, employment skills and health — to help them get jobs and enter post-secondary education.

But Bond told CBC Radio that parents, teachers and students have been complaining about the time it takes to put the portfolio together."
Well...ummm...yeah, these things do take time to put together properly. Perhaps that's why they should have allocated some time and guidance through Grade 11 and 12 to help kids do them right. The writing was on the wall two years ago and in Helen Barrett's more recent take on the same issue.


Dandelife is a neat tool for creating personal histories, complete with a very nice timeline view and connections to other people's stories. It slurps in Flickr photos and you don't have to stretch it too far to picture it as an interesting e-portfolio representation. Check out a profile for a taste.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

High School Confidential

In High School Confidential, author Douglas Coupland reminisces about his experiences in high school while participating in an art project that involves demolishing parts of a decommissioned school:
"I say the smartest—well, basically smart, and yet not at all. High school wasn't hard. I don't think you have to be smart to get through high school. High school's a reasonably easy-to-decode game. Half the people in my class could have finished the academic requirements by grade nine. I read these gee-whiz articles about home-schooled kids who 'graduate' five years early and say to myself, 'Yeah, well, duh.' I think high school is mostly about crowd control and keeping young troublemakers off the streets."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Lit-Review Concept Map #2

For those following along at home, I've done an updated concept map of the literature I'm reviewing for my thesis. The primary difference is that I've combined social and self-directed learning into one big section, and added a third section for decision-making.

Finding anything related to decision-making in educational research is proving difficult, probably because the there are so few real decisions for most students. I'm interested in how people decide what to learn when they are intrinsically motivated. How do we decide which learning goals to pursue out of the infinite pool of potential knowledge and skills?

I also changed the title of the diagram to reflect the fact that it's not really my thesis yet -- it's just what I'm digging into for the framework.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Free Training (Buy Our Stuff)

Interesting use of online learning materials for marketing products by Nike Bauer. Their current hockey-themed ad campaign focuses on off-season training, and they've included short, high-quality instructional videos for at least 60 different excercises (click "Training" in the top toolbar, then "Exercises"). They can be downloaded as well. To get a full training program ("My Regimen"), you have to register, which I suppose signs you up for an advertising barrage.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Self-Directed Learning

A quick and useful Eric Digest on Self-Directed Learning. A taste:
"Learners exercise a great deal of independence in setting learning goals and deciding what is worthwhile learning as well as how to approach the learning task within a given framework."

Friday, July 14, 2006

Choices Planner Review

I keep forgetting to link to this review of Choices Planner from last year. A good chunk of my work life in the past two years has been devoted to the design, enhancement and maintenance of this particular career and education planning web app, so I was happy to see that it didn't get slagged -- a very friendly review overall.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Jere Brophy

I'm doing some research into motivation and learning right now. It's surprising how rare it is to see people openly acknowledge that most educational research on motivation implies coersion -- basically trying to answer the question: "how do we get people to do something they otherwise would not?". I'm not finding much research focusing on how people choose what they want to learn, a process which inherently reflects motivation (what do I want and why?).

In An Interview with Jere Brophy (pdf), this psychologist, researcher and educational leader outlines the paradox of motivation and education:
"What we know about optimal conditions for motivation is difficult to apply in classrooms, for several reasons. First, school attendance is compulsory, and curriculum content and learning activities are selected primarily on the basis of what society believes students need to learn, not on the basis of what students would choose to do if given the opportunity. Schools are established for the benefit of students, but from students’ point of view, time spent in the classroom is devoted to enforced attempts to meet externally imposed demands."
And another:
"I believe that the constraints under which most teachers work make it unrealistic to adopt intrinsic motivation as the model of student motivation that one seeks to maintain on an all-day, everyday basis. It is more realistic for teachers to seek to develop and sustain what I call motivation to learn, which I define as a student tendency to find academic activities meaningful and worthwhile and to seek to get the intended learning benefits from them, whether or not they find the content interesting or the processes enjoyable."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Thesis Concept Map

I've been struggling a bit with my literature review this week, mostly because I get overwhelmed by the possibilities when I start following rabbit trails. My challenge is to narrow the scope and not go so deep on every topic. To help me focus, I've done another concept map showing my main areas (goal-setting/motivation, social learning and self-directed learning), along with subtopics and influential authors for each.

A few people pointed to Gliffy a couple of weeks ago, and I remembered to try it when I needed to do this concept map this week. It makes it so easy to create diagams online -- you don't have to download any software, the interface is slick and intuitive, exporting and saving is easy, it's got a collaborative workspace...methinks this one is a winner. Makes you wonder if anyone will be purchasing basic software five years from now.