Blended Learning : Learning Management Systems – 2 of 3

14 May

Blending EducationIn the previous post, I reflected on various attributes of blended learning. In this and the next post I will focus on tools that can help K-12 teachers organize their classroom content and implement a blended learning model.

About Learning Management Systems

There are many different names for the organizational systems that teachers can use to structure their course content: classroom management systems, learning management systems, and virtual learning environments. Each of these systems does basically the same thing: organize classroom content and learning through the use of online learning objects, discussion forums, and even interactive assessments.

Learning Management Systems, or LMSs, are essential tools for blended learning.

Some LMSs emphasize the organization of content, and others prioritize social networking functions, even going so far as to mimic the look and feel of Facebook. There are also sites that do one thing well, focusing on grading systems, or tracking progress and assessing students based on standards.

Implementation Models of LMS in K-12 Schools

There are several ways that teachers and schools can implement Learning Management systems. Some schools mandate which platform teachers must use to ensure consistency, while other schools give teachers freer reign. Here are some of the most common ways these systems are implemented:

  1. Teacher creates her own system for her class to address specific classroom needs
  2. Group of teachers create a shared system for their division or department
  3. School or district provides consolidated system for ease of use & consistency of student experience
  4. Teachers or administrators facilitate students’ independent progress on an online course taken for school credit.

Evaluation of Classroom and Learning Management Systems

In order to best evaluate learning management systems, I have developed a criteria based on the most common and expected functions of LMSes. I used the Joomla LMS Learning Management System Comparison as a basis for this evaluation. The evaluation includes a weighted column so that teachers can track important software functions. This evaluation is a work in progress, and I hope to revisit this document in future months.

Examples of LMS

Below are just a few of the Learning Management Systems currently available for K-12 schools. These systems range from all-in-one content management resources to systems specializing on a specific function.

District or All-School Managed Solutions

These LMSes require district, or school-wide adoption.

Blackboard This industry-standard company offers a variety of solutions for multiple educational markets. Ideal for district-based solutions, or schools willing to invest heavily in a learning management solution
Moodle This open-source learning platform is the major competitor to Blackboard. Ideal for district-based solutions, or schools looking to implement a consolidated system.
Canvas K-12 This LMS company offers a variety of services to a variety of markets, including K-12. “Canvas K-12 is a single, integrated system that bundles attendance, assessments, grading, state standards tracking, messaging, learning analytics, and more.”
Desire 2 Learn This LMS company offers a variety of services to a variety of markets, including K-12. Ideal for districts or schools looking for specific services.
Haiku LMS This LMS, specifically designed for K12 institutions is another competitor to Blackboard and Moodle.
Project Foundry This LMS is designed specifically to facilitate project-based learning, allowing teachers to monitor progress on student work. Ideal for schools or districts hoping to implement a consistent experience.
Sakai Sakai is a community based “Collaboration and Learning Environment” that provides a core set of functions. Additional modules, such as an eportfolio solution can be installed. The software can be accessed through a hosting services, or managed on in-house servers.

Systems with Varied-Management Options

These LMSes allow for different levels of implementations. Schools or districts may implement these tools to provide a standard system for all teachers and students. Teachers could also use these tools individually to create their own course management system, independent of their school.

Brain Honey This LMS allows teachers to create their own free course. The site offers paid solutions for “a variety of learning settings”.
Edmodo Edmodo is a social-based LMS, allowing for discussions, collaborations and online grading. While Edmodo is designed for teachers to create and manage their own courses, Edmodo can also be configured by districts and schools for central management.
Schoolology Schoolology is a social-based LMS with a variety of features. Teachers can create and manage their own courses with Schoolology, although schools and districts can also implement Schoolology to ensure a consistent experience.

Teacher-Managed Solutions

These LMSes allow teachers to create their own customized courses, independent of a district or school-based solution. Many of these systems are new to the market, or in beta form.

Collaborize Classroom With Collaborize Classroom, teachers can create an online LMS with a strong mobile presence, emphasizing social networks.
Diipo Diipo is in beta, and allows teachers to create an LMS for their particular course, implementing an interface based on social networking sites.
Lore (Formerly Course Kit) While seeming to focus on the higher ed market, this startup allows teachers to create and manage their own courses.

Other Solutions

While the above listed LMS tools have a variety of options, the below systems incorporate some, but not all, functions of an LMS. Many of these systems would be best used in conjunction with another LMS.

School Loop Offering a variety of services, School Loop focuses on achievement management systems, to enhance student learning. They also provide a gradebook system.
Jupiter Grades This online grading system helps teachers keep track and share assessment information with students and families online.
Active Grade This standards-based grading system is designed to help teachers collect effective feedback and manage their classrooms.
Class Dojo This real-time behavior management system advertises a boost to classroom engagement.
Mastery Connect With this system “teachers can effectively assess core standards, monitor student performance, and report student mastery to parents and administrators.”

What’s Coming Next?

Learning Management Systems have been growing and changing since the advent and mass adoption of social networks. In the upcoming years, many educators expect that much will change in this industry. Many of the new LMS companies focus on higher education, with subsequent roll-outs for K-12 and other markets. With more and more competition from various publishers and start-ups, some of the K-12 web sites listed on this blog post may not be around for long.


Bates, Tony. “e-learning outlook for 2012: will it be a rough ride?”

Joomla LMS Learning Management System Comparison

Watters, Audrey. “Why Every Education Company Needs an API”

Blended Learning – Combining Online Technology with Classroom Instruction : 1 of 3

21 Mar

Blending EducationIn this series of posts I will focus on ways teachers can implement a blended learning model in their classroom. Each post will delve into related types of resources, with recommendations for implementation and samples of use.

What is Blended Learning?

Blended learning addresses the way most students learn now: through a combination of online tools and tried-and-tested in-class instruction. A blended educational model stands in contrast to models where learning is conducted solely online (through virtual schools and online courses), and models that  introduces no online component (and they do exist).

According to Tina Barseghian, writing for KQED Mind/Shift,

Simply stated, blended learning is combining computers with traditional teaching. Knowing that today’s learners are wired at all times, teachers are directing students’ natural online proclivity towards schoolwork. It’s referred to as different things — reverse teaching, flip teaching, backwards classroom, or reverse instruction. But it all means the same thing: students conduct research, watch videos, participate in collaborative online discussions, and so on at home and at school — both in K-12 schools and in colleges and universities.

Blended learning is a purposefully vague descriptor. Instead of indicating a specific ratio of online to in-person instruction, focusing on a “blend” emphasizes the sporadic nature of the model. It can look different from school to school.

'Why?' photo (c) 2012, Bart Everson - license:

Why Blend?

Even though most teachers already incorporate a blended model into their instruction (whether they know it or not), it is important to analyze how online resources and web apps are being used. Focusing on the reasons for teaching with a blended model may lead to greater success implementing these online tools.

We can’t afford not to

In many ways, the question teachers should ask is: “how can you not blend?” As Ken Key argues in his forward to 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn,

Twenty-first century skills are the ticket to moving up the economic ladder. Without 21st century skills, people are relegated to low-wage, low-skill jobs. Proficiency in 21st century skills is the new civil right for our times (xvii).

If we want our students to succeed, we need to prepare them for the needs of our digital marketplace. Our curricula must address key twenty-first century skills, including an enhanced focus on information, media and technology literacy. (For more details, visit the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.)

Our lives are already blended

'Texting' photo (c) 2009, Jeffrey Kontur - license:

Our students already live their lives in a combination of digital and real spaces. Mobile phones are getting so inexpensive and essential that the Pew Research Center estimates that as of 2010:

Some 75% of 12-17 year-olds now own cell phones.

Many parents and students have an expectation of constant contact through mobile devices, and this expectation may clash with school policies about phone use.

Online learning can be ideal for differentiation

More and more schools are looking to incorporate models that focus on student-driven learning. When engaging one-on-one with a virtual instructor, students dictate the pace of their instruction. Many teachers have been able to successfully incorporate online instructional tools such as the Khan Academy and Learnzillion to enhance remediation and basic skills.

Many other teachers are incorporating a flipped classroom model to assign recorded lectures as homework, allowing students more classroom time to work on their skills with enhanced teacher supervision.

Blended learning can potentially save costs by providing unique solutions

Teachers may be able to save costs on materials by using open online resources and learning management systems to create alternatives to textbooks. More and more tools, such as the iBooks Author app, are making it easier for teachers and students to create their own textbook materials from scratch.

Online tools can enhance parent involvement and student buy-in

More and more parents are beginning to expect access to their students’ learning materials online. A consistent school-wide use of online tools such as learning management systems and portals could encourage parents to take a more active role in their students’ education.

These same tools may also motivate students to engage deeper with their learning. Tapping into our students’ love of technology may be an ideal way to enhance the learning process, and drive our students to greater success.

'Toolbox Lock' photo (c) 2010, Dottie Mae - license:

Types of Tools

In future posts I will cover various tools that could be useful to enhance a blended instructional model. These posts will cover:

1 – Tools for Classroom Management:

  • Classroom/learning management systems
  • Grading systems
  • Project management systems

2 – Tools for Research & Supplemental Education:

  • Study tools
  • Personal learning networks
  • Content curation sites
  • Digital Portfolios


Three Trends That Define the Future of Teaching and Learning
Barseghian, Tina.
KQED: Mind/Shift. February 5, 2011.

Teens, Cell Phones and Texting: Text Messaging Becomes Centerpiece Communication
Amanda Lenhart
Pew Research Center Publications: Pew Internet & American Life Project. April 20, 2010.

Blended Learning: Combining Face-to-Face and Online Education
Wolpert-Gawron, Heather.
Edutopia. April 28, 2011.

A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute
Richtel, Matt.
New York Times. October 22, 2011.

Blogging with Students for Reflection, Collaboration, and Literacy

8 Feb

Keep Calm Blog On

As schools look to integrate 21st century and technology skills into the curriculum, more and more teachers are requiring student blogs in their classrooms. Blogs can be an ideal platform to teach 21st century literacies and NETS skills, including creativity/innovation, communication/collaboration, and digital citizenship.

More than “technology integration” however, blogs can be ideal for enhancing student reflection (particularly as part of an e-portfolio), and enforcing basic reading writing skills not specific to the 21st century. (Tolisano, Learning About Blogs for your Students – Part 1 Reading.)

Reasons for Blogging

As Silvia Tolisano argues in her essential series on blogging with students: Stepping it Up – Learning About Blogs For your Students, student blogging needs to stem from more than just a focus on technology integration. In her words, “blogging is not about technology, but about literacies (old & new) and LEARNING.” (Tolisano, Learning About Blogs Part 6.) Any technology program needs to stem from the skills we want our students to learn. This means that teachers need to clarify how blogs can enhance learning and understanding in their school.

Blogs could be effectively introduced into the classroom to:

  • enhance reading & writing skills in an authentic, real-world context
  • provide opportunities for innovation and creativity in an online format
  • communicate and collaborate with other students, parents, and schools from all over the country or world
  • allow for ongoing reflection of the learning process

Blogs are ideal for ongoing reflection, which can deepen understanding, particularly as part of an e-portfolio. Dr. Helen Barrett explains reflection in an e-portfolio context in her article Balancing the Faces of E-Portfolios:

Reflection takes place at several points in time: when the piece of work (an artifact) is saved in the digital archive (a contemporaneous reflection while the work is fresh on our minds… or reflection in the present tense)… thus the role of a blogging tool; and when (and if) this piece is included in the more formal presentation/showcase or summative assessment portfolio.

By maintaining a blog throughout their time in a course, students can actively reflect on their work while it is fresh.

Another great effect of classroom blogging is the way it can actively bring parents, guardians and other relatives into the learning process. With a public blog, family members can keep up with a child’s learning, providing much greater “transparency” (Luca).

Criticisms of Blogging with Students

Not all teachers are jumping onto the blog bandwagon, however. Some teachers have reservations about having students make their work accessible online.

Privacy & Safety

For many it is an issue of privacy and student safety. Many schools have strict Accessible Use Policies and media release policies that ensure that students names and faces will not be included on line. In order to securely use blogs, schools should alter existing policies, or create new ones specific to the use of blogs. (For more information on developing blogging policies and strategies, visit the Blogging in Schools Wiki developed by Pt. England School in New Zealand.) One solution to this concern about privacy is to make student blogs private, so that only community members can see them.

Sharing Non-Quality Work

For other teachers, making work online is more a concern due to the quality of work. Sharing rough works in progress may not be best for a school’s image. One way to work around this issue is to consciously address quality in blogs by setting expectations, and using rubrics and audits. Tolisano addresses the issue of quality in Part 7 of her Blogging series.


Teachers consistently struggle with finding time for any new initiative, and blogs are no different. It can be extremely time-consuming for students to continually create posts of quality, as well as comment on other student blogs.

'003/365 - I'm blogging this.' photo (c) 2007, Anna Hirsch - license:

Strategies for Implementing/Assessing/Teaching Blogs

There are many ways you can introduce your blogging into your curriculum. Whatever model you choose, realize that there will be a learning curve for both yourself, as well as your students. It’s helpful to have the endpoint in mind and develop a game plan to get you where you want to be.

Choose a Strategy

Here are only a few ways teachers have begun getting their students to blog:

  1. Teacher sets up and manages a classroom blog; students can log in to comment on teacher posts, and submit posts to the teacher. Only the teacher has the ability to upload to the blog
  2. One classroom blog is administered by a teacher. Students are given editing access from their own accounts.
  3. Teachers administer multiple student blogs. Students post to their own individual blog to maintain their personal learning reflections. Students are encouraged to comment on each others’ posts.

Choose a Blog Platform

Whether you are creating one class blog, or having students create multiple blogs, you should choose one consistent blogging platform. See which platform works best for your needs.

  • Blogger – Ideal for schools with Google Apps for Education; Blogger must be turned on in the administrator settings.
  • WordPress – An industry standard for a reason, WordPress blogs offer a variety of customizations.
  • Kidblogs – Built specifically for elementary and middle school teachers, Kidblogs allows for secure blogs.
  • Edublogs – Created for K-20, Edublogs lets you easily create & manage student & teacher blogs.
  • Posterous – This simple, easy-to-use platform allows you to easily create a blog.

Find Free Images

When introducing blogs, teachers should also stress the importance of finding meaningful images to enhance posts. Blogs could be a great way to also introduce how to cite sources and access creative commons images. (For a great video explaining Copyright and Creative commons, go to the Common Craft website.)

  • Flickr Creative Commons – Search all of Flickr for images marked Creative Commons.
  • Morgue File – Search this site for free high resolution digital stock photography and because of the Morgue File’s free license, you don’t have to attribute your sources.
  • Images – Microsoft’s online Clip art and stock photo library
  • Wylio – Made for bloggers, this site lets you search Creative-Commons images and then creates code for you to easily add these images to your blog with a proper citation.

Teach Commenting

One of the most interesting components of blogs are their social nature. Blogs are just one part of a larger conversation going on within the Internet. One way that you can keep the conversation going is to make sure students not only blog, but learn how to comment on other blogs.  

Assess with Rubrics & Audits

Make sure to hold your students accountable for their blogs. Consider making a standard rubric to assess student blog posts, and make sure to conduct blog audits to see how often students are posting.

Models for Student Blogs

Check out these sites for great examples of student blogs in action. Blogging has become an integral part of the curriculum at these schools:

These articles and blog posts contain links to exemplary student blogs:

'Blog Marketing Up Close Pen Graphic' photo (c) 2008, Maria Reyes-McDavis - license:

Related Trends:

Online Education, Digital Literacy/21st Century Learning

Recommended Articles

Resources for Implementation Strategies

Digital Portfolios – Course to Expand Learning

29 Jan

I am taking an online course led by Dr. Helen Barrett called Introduction to E-Portfolios in K-12 Schools. I will share many of my notes and reflections on my ePortfolio learning blog: Chip’s ePortfolio Learning.

Flipping/Blending/Disrupting the Classroom with Online Video

23 Jan Blending Education

Blending Education

With advances in video-capture technology and the introduction of more affordable mobile devices, many teachers are changing the nature of their instruction using online videos.  Some are even “flipping” the classroom, assigning lectures for homework, and reserving in-class time for what were traditionally homework assignments.

What is Flipping?

Flipping the classroom is an “‘inverted’ teaching structure in which instructional content is delivered outside class, and engagement with the content … is done in class” (Ojalvo and Doyne).

Flipping instruction is part of a larger movement to blend or disrupt the classroom, using online technologies to take learning out of brick-and-mortar buildings and into students’ everyday lives.

Flipping your classroom is so much more than providing your students with access to online video tutorials.  The concept is much more embedded in providing students differentiated experiences, extending beyond the classrooms more effectively. It allows teachers to much more easily engage their students in small group and or one on one (Meech).

The Khan Academy Model

Khan Academy WebsiteWhile Salman Khan was not the first to consider flipping the classroom, he is the most famous due to his disruptive Khan Academy website, famously championed by Bill Gates, and featured in a TED talk.

On this website, Khan has created targeted instructional videos on a variety of instructional topics. In addition to providing videos, the site also includes practice and review questions.  Teachers can create accounts to keep track of student progress on the site.

However, even the Khan Academy realizes the importance of the brick-and-mortar school in their vision for the future.  As “blended learning” becomes “the latest buzzword — that is, a blend of offline and computer-mediated/online instruction — Khan Academy is now eyeing building its own school” (Watters, 2011).

Critiques of the Khan Academy and Flipping in General

However, even proponents of flipping argue that it’s not for everyone. Critics of online learning and the Khan Academy in particular argue that the one-size-fit-all model may be inappropriate for certain facets of instruction. By focusing primarily on technology, many proponents of online instruction de-emphasize the traditional role of the teacher:

However, “teachers don’t scale,” said Khan. You can’t simply replicate teachers the way you can print textbooks, so the trick, according to Khan is to make sure those “good ones” can have their instruction broadcast as widely as possible (Watters, 2010.)

Are screen-captured lectures guilty of enforcing old pedagogies?

Also, using video to teach reinforces an old pedagogy of education that many progressive teachers believe we should move away from (Noschese). Instead of focusing on the same old drill-and-kill form of education, these teachers argue that we should be incorporating more experiences for hands-on-learning. (It should be noted that proponents of true flipping the classroom argue that by making video lectures the homework for a class, it frees up in-class time for other models of learning. (Roshan).)

Teachers who choose to create their own videos quickly learn that filming, editing and publishing lectures can be quite complicated. In addition, after creating videos to be viewed as homework, teachers still have to prepare lessons to fill all the class time now available to them. In some ways, flipping the classroom could theoretically double the teacher’s work load, and some teachers may not have enough time at their disposal.

Another important factor to consider is the digital divide. Many teachers cannot assume that computer or Internet access are available from home. In order to truly flip your class, students should ideally have consistent Internet access from home. While mobile devices are becoming cheaper, not all students have the capability to stream video easily over these devices (Nielsen).

What Teachers can do in their classroom

  • Embed or link to videos on content management systems.
  • Create an account, and assign students videos and assessments using Khan Academy.
  • Consider creating your own learning objects by creating screencast videos easily.
  • Flip your own professional development (Truss).

Tools to easily create Screencasts

These are just a few of the tools that teachers can use to create flipped lectures. Instead of developing elaborate videos using external video cameras and tripods, consider using your computer’s built-in webcam, or a screen-capturing software.

Bozeman Biology –

Screen-capture Software:

  • Screenflow $99 – This software, the favorite of many bloggers and podcasters, allows you to “record the contents of your entire monitor while also capturing your video camera, microphone and your computer audio.”
  • Jing free (limited)/$14.95 per year – TechSmith, the makers of Camtasia, created this lightweight, easy-to-use screen capture software with both free and paid accounts.
  • Screenr free (limited)/variety of paid options- This web-based video recording system allows you to make webcasts without downloading any software.
  • iShowU $29.95 – This Mac-only screen-casting allows you to easily record your screen, as well as your video camera and microphone.
  • Camtasia $99 – One of the first screen-capturing tools, TechSmith’s Camtasia offers versions for both Mac and PC and is ideally suited for your screen-capturing and editing needs.
  • ScreenChomp (for iPads) – This app by TechSmith allows you to turn your iPad into a screen-capturing tool.

Other Editing Software:

Many of the screen-capturing softwares listed above also include editing features. These resources allow you additional editing tools
  • Skitch – This Mac and Android app allows you to easily annotate images and other still-pictures for learning.
  • WeVideo – This cloud-based video editor allows you to collaboratively edit videos online.

Host your Resources Online:

Share your screencasts and other learning resources with your students using these tools

  • Present.Me free(limited) / various paid accounts (for PowerPoints and Video) – If you don’t want to deal with screen-capturing software, consider uploading a PowerPoint to Present.Me, and then film yourself going through the presentation. Present.Me displays your video next to your PowerPoint so students can follow along.
  • Slideshare (for PowerPoints) – Don’t have time for videos? Share your lessons as PowerPoints using this resource. Consider using Slideshare’s Zipcast feature to schedule an online meeting.
  • Vimeo (for Video) – Create a Vimeo account to house your screenshots. With Vimeo you can privatize videos so that they can only be accessed with a password.

Best Practices: Resources for Flipping the Classroom:

Related Trends:

Bring your Own Tech, Mobile Devices, 1-to-1

Sources Cited:

Other Articles For Further Research:

For more resources on Flipping the Classroom, check out my Diigo account:

Bring Your Own Technology – Learning With Personal Devices

14 Nov

Across the country, students are walking into classrooms with personal computers in their pockets.  These devices have more computing power than NASA when the first astronauts walked on the moon, but instead of allowing students reach for the stars, many school policies demand that the devices remain turned off, out of sight in backpacks or lockers.

A growing number of educational technology specialists are advocating that students should make use of these high tech machines. They argue that schools should implement “Bring Your Own Technology” or “Device” initiatives (referred to with the acronym BYOT, or BYOD.) A BYOT program encourages students to bring their own mobile devices, tablets, and laptops to use in the classroom.

About BYOT

Like most technology initiatives, there are many ways to design a BYOT program.  Some educators focus on “devices,” particularly mobile smartphones. Others focus on more robust “technology,” including tablets and laptops.  Both focuses emphasize slightly different skills, and may require an enhanced infrastructure.

Source for Tablet group photo: Flickenger, Brad. “Student iPad 014.” Flickr.


Many educators believe that student-owned mobile devices lead to better understanding of 21st Century learning skills.  They argue that personal ownership of technology devices will foster a greater engagement with learning (Roscoria). Others look to BYOT as an ideal budgetary solution. Instead of building the cost for a 1-to-1 program into the operating budget, the cost must be carried by students and their parents (O’Hagan).

Some wonder if BYOT is not a solution, bur rather  another piece to the edtech puzzle. In our information-saturated culture, forcing students to choose one device is limiting in its own way. In order to successfully manage information, students need to be familiar accessing information from multiple devices and contexts (Blake-Plock).

Why Not?

Even proponents of BYOT agree that there are strong arguments against the use of personal technology in schools.

Proper Use of Mobile Devices

There is a reason that mobile devices are banned in many schools; they have the potential to exacerbate behavioral issues. In order to effectively introduce mobiles into the classroom, teachers must design lessons to teach proper use. Students must learn to view cell phones as professional tools, and not just sources for social entertainment (Robinson, Keenan).

Security & Infrastructure Concerns

If the BYOT vision includes allowing students to access the school’s wireless network, that network must be prepared to handle the additional cell phones or laptops. If the school’s network is unprepared to handle these devices, it may cause access problems for the rest of the school. The cost of upgrading a wireless infrastructure may negate the cost-saving benefits of having a BYOT program (Roscoria).

Also, the security issues of managing personal devices are an issue.  How can schools meet CIPA requirements when students are accessing the Internet through personal mobile devices, bypassing the school’s security controls? (Gardener, Stites).

Equity Concerns

Some argue that BYOT initiatives will reinforce inequity between the haves and have-nots. Students from wealthier families may be able to easily afford high-tech solutions, while poorer students may be left with cheaper, less functional equipment (Stager).

Final Thoughts

In order to effectively implement a BYOT program, many issues must be considered:

  • What is the instructional purpose of the program? – The goals for a BYOT initiative needs to be written into the larger technology vision.
  • Have the administration and faculty bought into the program? – Professional development must be available for teachers to figure out how to best teach with these devices (Roscoria).
  • Will existing policies regarding cell phone use need to be rewritten? – These concerns may need to be addressed at an administrative level.
  • Is the infrastructure able to handle additional devices? – More importantly, what will enhancements to the infrastructure cost, and are these enhancements financially feasible?
  • How can the school address issues of equity? – Consider soliciting local businesses for discarded equipment and plan fundraisers for the purchase of devices (Nielsen).


  • “Bring Your Own Technology Empowers Educators to Facilitate Learning.”
    Roscoria, Tanya.
    Converge. Aug 30, 2011.
    The Forsyth County Schools district in Georgia has implemented a vast BYOT program that focuses on both infrastructure and instruction. As part of the program, teachers are changing their roles to “facilitators of learning.”
  • “BYOD – Worst Idea of the 21st Century?”
    Stager, Gary.
    Stager-To-Go. October, 2011.
    In this blog post, Gary Stager, a proponent of 1-to-1 programs, outlines a variety of reasons why Bring Your Own Technology initiatives are a bad idea. The author argues that these initiatives foster inequality, decrease funding for 1-to-1, and force students to use limited technologies.
  • “BYOC: Bring Your Own Context”
    Blake-Plock, Shelly.
    Teach Paperless. October 26, 2011.
    In this blog post, Blake-Plock suggests that BYOT initiatives present some ideal solutions, but in the end, they don’t solve the entire puzzle. Instead, students should be learning on a variety of devices: laptops, smartphones, laptops and desktops alike.
  • “Ideas for Bringing Your Own Device (BYOD) Even If You Are Poor”
    Nielsen, Lisa.
    The Innovative Educator.. October 28, 2011.
    Nielsen outlines a variety of ways that educators might fund a BYOT program at their schools or districts.


Mobile Devices

Using Digital Portfolios to Enhance Learning

18 Apr

Many educators require student portfolios because they are an ideal way to get students to reflect upon their learning.  To create portfolios, however, students must spend a lot of time managing their projects and assessments.

But when portfolios go digital, particularly online, the process can be streamlined and made more meaningful to students.  By literally clearing away the clutter associated with paper-based portfolios, the initial collecting of files can be more easily accomplished.

Even more, using digital portfolios could also be a way to integrate bleeding edge technologies into the classroom.  The growing number of online content creation resources can make the organization, reflection, and presentation of student learning easier than ever.

About portfolios

There are many reasons why educators use portfolios in education, but the biggest reason is “to support reflection that can help students understand their own learning and to provide a richer picture of student work that documents growth over time.” (Helen Barrett 2003.)

By having students collect their work and actively reflect on the process of their learning, students can understand their education in a greater context.

Process vs. Product

Speaking Silhouettephoto © 2008 George Laoutaris | more info (via: Wylio)Dr. Helen Barrett, an expert on the subject, argues that there are 2 distinct faces to portfolios: the workspace – which focuses on the process of learning, and the showcase – which focuses on the end product that can be assessed.

To effectively develop the use of portfolios, these two aspects must be kept clearly in mind, and in Barrett’s words: “balanced.” (Helen Barrett, 2010.)  Understanding the school’s essential learning objectives will help educators as they introduce portfolios into the classroom.

The Key Levels of Portfolios

According to Dr. Barrett, there are three key phases to the portfolio process:

  1. Collection – Student gathers all educational artifacts in one location
  2. Reflection/Feedback – Student creates a journal that focuses on the process of learning, and shares it with teachers or other students to gather feedback.
  3. Selection/Presentation/Evaluation – Student selects prime examples of learning, and creates a presentation to show how this sample highlights the process of learning from their reflections. Teachers evaluate this process.

Why go digital?

Girl at Computerphoto © 2004 San Jose Library | more info (via: Wylio)It will make everything easier!

One of the most cumbersome aspects of maintaining a portfolio is the organization of physical copies of your work, particularly if your portfolio is meant to culminate through multiple years.  By using digital artifacts online, it can be easier to collect and access your material from any computer with an Internet collection.

Even more than this, by using blogs, wikis, or social networks, the process of actively reflecting and gathering feedback becomes an essential part of the learning experience throughout the process.  This can help ease the selection phase, when materials are chosen to be included in the showcase portfolio towards the end of the year.

One of the great things about the social web is that its easier than ever to reorganize content. Although a digital portfolio requires a collection of resources, these digital assets could be managed on a different website and simply embedded in the digital portfolio page.  For example, students can store video presentations on Youtube and simply embed these videos on their portfolio site.

For a great example as to how the digital portfolio process can work, take a look at the image below, and make sure to read Dr. Barrett’s article: “Balancing the Two Faces of e-portfolios.”

Balancing the Two Faces of Digital Portfolios

Balancing the Two Faces of Digital Portfolios - Dr. Helen Barrett

Potential Problems with Implementation

To effectively create and prepare digital portfolios, students must begin to work in a digital space.  This will be a great shift for many teachers, particularly when introducing elements of the social web into the process. However, if every hand-made student project needs to be scanned and uploaded to a server, the process of collecting artifacts won’t be easier, but much more cumbersome!

Teachers and students must begin working in a digital environment in order to make the digital portfolio process effective.

Examples of Digital Portfolios

Digital portfolios don’t need to be bundled into one specific software, although there are many softwares available (such as the open-source Mahara).  Instead, many schools are using free web resources to have students easily create digital portfolios. Google-Sites, Blogger, WordPress, Wikispaces or even Google Docs are some examples.

Various Templates for ePortfolios:



  • “The Research on Portfolios in Education.” Barrett, Helen C., 2003.
    This article provides an excellent overview of why to use portfolios in the classroom.
  • “Balancing the Two Faces of e-portfolios.” Barrett, Helen C.
    Educação, Formação & Tecnologias, 2010.
    This article “focuses on the two major purposes for developing ePortfolios, and how to balance both approaches to enhance learner engagement with the ePortfolio process.”
  • “Wrapping My Mind around Digital Portfolios.” Tolisano, Silvia.
    Langwitches Blog, Aug 4, 2010.
    This blog post provides an essential overview and synthesis of research on various aspects of digital portfolios. A perfect introductory post on the topic.
  • “Process Vs. Product.” Sprankle, Bob.
    November Learning, Mar 5, 2011.
    This blog post doesn’t deal with portfolios explicitly, but makes an interesting argument regarding the importance of the learning process is education, not just the final product of a perfect presentation.
  • “Digital Portfolios: Documenting Student Growth.” Cramer, Matthew.
    Coalition of Essential Schools, 2009.
    An article by the Coalition of Essential Schools about the use of digital portfolios at the Camino Nuevo High School in Los Angeles.
  • “Authentic Assessment Toolbox: Portfolios.” Mueller, John.
    North Central College, Naperville, IL., 2011.
    A great, practical article for teachers on how to begin thinking about, and then practically implement portfolios in the classroom .
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