Effective practice with e-portfolios. How can the UK experience inform practice?

Gordon Joyes School of Education, University of Nottingham, UK
Lisa Gray Joint Information Services Committee, UK
Elizabeth Hartnell-Young Victoria Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Australia


An e-portfolio is the product, created by the learner, a collection of digital artefacts articulating experiences, achievements and learning. Behind any product, or presentation, lie rich and complex processes of planning, synthesising, sharing, discussing, reflecting, giving, receiving and responding to feedback. These processes – referred to here as ‘eportfolio-based learning’ – are the focus of increasing attention, since the process of learning can be as important as the end product. (JISC, 2008b) … where items can be selectively shared with other parties such as peers, teachers, assessors or employers (Beetham,2005).


The threshold concepts approach recognises that developing understanding is a developmental journey, both intellectually and experientially, but that once the threshold is achieved the perspective of an area is changed forever. (2009:493)

There is evidence that e-portfolio implementation can be like a game of snakes and ladders where initial rapid progress can suffer major setbacks due to a poor understanding of the nature of e-portfolios, i.e., lack of understanding of the threshold concepts. (2009:493)

• To create a better learning environment for all learners (Part of the JISC mission)
• to support more learner-centred and personalised forms of learning
• expectation in H.E. for a Personal Developing Planning (PDP) policy to be in place by 2005/2006 (QAA, 2001)
• retaining students
• widening participation
• the increasing importance of reflective learning (particularly in professional disciplines such as medicine)
• A new qualification, the Diploma, with the development of personal, learning and thinking skills (PLTS) at its core. e-Portfolio technologies provide ways in which these skills can be evidenced.
• to support widening participation and progression.

• the implications of learner ownership of data for institutions (JISC 2009c).
• There is one definition of an e-portfolio. (there isn’t)
• One e-portfolio system works in all situations. (they don’t)
• After students are inducted to e-portfolio processes, for example those involved in PDP, they will apply this across their courses. (they don’t) (2009:491)
• Learning Design
• Support

This is associated with preconceptions that:

o Students are digital natives and so will easily adapt to using e-portfolios, for example using blogs for sharing reflections will be unproblematic;
o Users understand processes like feedback, reflective writing, selecting information, planning;
o Tutors/ mentors know how to support their students in using e-portfolios. (It is not only students who have difficulty with processes such as reflection, feedback and online collaboration.)
o The role of ownership.
o E-portfolios are disruptive from a pedagogic, technological and an institutional perspective

Conceptions and misconceptions that:

• An e-portfolio will save everyone time;
• An e-portfolio can simply replace a paper-based portfolio system;
• Human Resources departments/employers will value an e-portfolio in the application process;
• University admissions welcome e-portfolios;
• A successful project implementation will readily transfer to established practice cross an institution;
• The curriculum and pedagogic approaches remain unaffected by the introduction of e-portfolios;
• Information capture in the workplace is unproblematic. (There are sensitivities in some contexts such as classrooms and hospitals);
• Access by learners to e-portfolios is unproblematic. (This may not be the case in work based learning settings).

• From 2004, twenty-one two -year projects exploring the use of technology to support lifelong learning (JISC, 2009d).

But perhaps the most important reason for considering the potential of e-portfolios to support learning and teaching is the emerging evidence from practitioners and learners of the value of developing e-portfolios, not only to support more profound forms of learning, adding value to personalised and reflective models of learning, but also facilitating the transition between institutions and stages of education, supporting application to education and employment, staff appraisal and applications for professional accreditation, and supporting learners based in the workplace. (2009.487)

This program incorporates five main areas of activity:
1. e-assessment
2. e-portfolios
3. learning resources and learning activities
4. e-administration for learning and teaching
5. technology support learning environments.

The analysis of twenty one recently funded projects involving the use of e-portfolios in the UK is introduced.

The findings suggest that eportfolio implementation is particularly complex in part due to:

• the number of stakeholders involved,
• the contexts in which e-portfolios can be applied
• the number of purposes they can have.

This practice was taken forward in the funding in 2006-2009 of projects exploring:

1. The use of technology in the contexts of higher education level courses delivered in further education settings (JISC, 2009e),
2. lifelong learning (JISC, 2009f and g),
3. enhancing the administrative processes faced by teaching staff (JISC, 2009h),
4. admissions (JISC, 2009i)
5. ensuring interoperability between e-portfolio systems (JISC, 2009j).

And from 2007 e-portfolio use to support:

Application: providing a selection of material for application for admission to study or job, appraisal, induction or assessment
Transition: through presenting a richer picture of learners achievements on application, and in better preparing for the transition to a new environment

Learning, teaching and assessment; supporting the assessment of learning, evidencing competencies or standards for summative assessment. Supporting assessment for learning, encouraging learners to present their experiences, achievements and reflections, share with peers, tutors and employers, and incorporate feedback into their learning
Personal development planning (PDP) and continuous professional development (CPD): supporting and evidencing the pursuit and achievement of personal or professional competences.

The matrix recognises that ‘e-portfolios are currently used for many purposes, including:

• formative and summative assessment,
• application for employment,
• professional accreditation,
• transition between institutions and/or employment,
• and for less high-stakes purposes such as purely recording personal growth and learning’
(Joyes & Hartnell-Young , 2008, p4).

Software Tools

E-portfolio software tools support a range of processes:

• information capture and retrieval,
• planning,
• reflection,
• feedback,
• collaboration
• and presentation.

The e-Portfolios infoKit (JISC infoNet, 2008) is an in-depth online resource which covers the main drivers, purposes, processes, perspectives and issues around e-portfolio use and gives a valuable synopsis of JISC-funded projects on e-portfolios.

Figure 1: The e-portfolio purpose-process matrix (Joyes & Hartnell-Young, 2009)

A key tool to map the e-portfolio purposes and processes with which users are engaged,

Interim and final reports for twenty one projects were analysed using the JISC determined categories of innovations in:

• process and practice,
• sustainable institutional change,
• tangible benefits,
• technical developments,
• lessons learned/increased knowledge,
• unanticipated outcomes
• relevance to/response from sector.

Analysis of the results revealed that there are tangible benefits associated with e-portfolio use. These may include:

• efficiency (such as time savings for students, academics, and administrators),
• enhancement (such as improving quality of evidence and feedback,
• skill development,
• satisfaction and increases in recruitment and retention)
• transformation (such as innovation and changes to institutional policy).


Is reflection a ‘threshold concept?’

Threshold concepts are often ‘troublesome’ to the learner, i.e., that they may seem alien, incoherent or counter-intuitive (Perkins, 2006).

Mastering e-portfolios

Understanding emerges from technological, pedagogical, institutional, life-long and life-wide learning perspectives. p492


• It is difficult to agree on a definition for an e-portfolio. For some it is a system, for others part of a learning process, for others a presentation, and for others an archive of assets. For some it might be all of these things;
• Many educators who are actually involved with e-portfolio processes tend not to use the term at all;
• Purposes seem almost endless and so choosing where in the learning process and when to implement them can seem confusing;
• Not all e-portfolio systems/tools seem to fit well to all purposes;
• Even with guidelines and case studies of exemplars those implementing e-portfolios seem often to reinvent the wheel, make really ‘obvious’ mistakes compared to those who have a deeper understanding of the area;
• Understanding of e-portfolios seems to develop with experience and over time suggesting that there are key issues to understand.

This relates to the fact that the threshold concepts approach:

• Reveals the complexity of the area rather than presenting more simplistic guidance;
• Recognises that for transformation in relation to practice to occur an institutional approach needs to be adopted that takes into account the needs of the ‘learners’ in a wide range of contexts. This approach has the potential to put off would be adopters. What may be needed is a form of maturity model for e-portfolio adoption.


Joyes, G., Gray, L. & Hartnell-Young, E. (2009). Effective practice with e-portfolios: How can the UK experience inform practice? In Same places, different spaces. Proceedings ascilite Auckland 2009. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland09/procs/joyes.pdf

E-portfolio uptake in Europe. Vuorikari (2006)

Finland, Norway, Italy & Catalonia

Policy driven  with the drive in Finland and Norway including the introducing of learning technologies such as LMS .

Developing new competencies and ways of working together

Integrate the use of portfolios in education at different levels.


To renew teaching methods

Evidence. Finnish Information Society Programme for Education, Training and Research 2004-2006. The Tie Vie project funded by the Ministry of Education.


Language Learning

Primary education

Two approaches, one driven by technology, the other by the concept of portfolios.

A proposal at the national level to create an electronic version of the European Language Portfolio.

Mediation of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEF). The concept of the European Language Portfolio (Catalonia).

National Policy Agenda … is it or isn’t it? (Finland, Norway, Italy, Catalonia)


Need for a common framework

A portfolio culture, with or with the ‘e-‘ .

Evidence. An EUN Survey on Assessment schemes for Teachers’ ICT Competencies and the role portfolios have to play.


Portfolios in schools.  Evidence, ‘Competence portfolio.’  2002 Law Nr 59. Presidential Decree Nr. 275/99  (Italy) Portfolio to be updated and compiled by the student’s family and teacher.

Paper as well as digital, down to the school, not law.

A negative view of portfolios given the experience of the burdensome ‘pupil’s personal paper dossier.’

A negative view of portfolios as form-filling

Teacher Training

Educational Reform (Norway and Italy)

Portfolio initiatives large scale (Norway and Italy)


Portfolio assessment to be in use at all levels of the educational system by 2008

Portfolios in primary education as an overall assessment tool and for school-parent contacts. 2003.

For teacher education (2003)

Use of digital portfolios studied 2000-2003

Penetration of LMS very high

Orientated to assessment

Quality of education the driver for portfolios

Evidence. The Quality Committee. The PLUTO study of the Faculty of Education at Vestfold University College.

Evidence. As part of ‘Quality Reform.’

Evidence. The Norwegian Ministry’s Programme for Digital Competency 2004-2008

Educational Reform (Norway and Italy)

Portfolio initiatives large scale (Norway and Italy)


High profile use of portfolios for teacher training. (UK and Netherlands)

E-portfolios are referenced in mainstream national policy

A ‘glue’ between elements of the learning and assessment processes.

Evidence the e-Strategy (sic) ‘Harnessing Technology.’

Supporting the introduction of technology to support assessment.

Evidence: The 14-19 Education and Skills Policy White Paper (DfES 2005). The Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA).


Looking at portfolios in relation to C2i (France)


Online programmes of professional development using e-portfolios (Northern Ireland).


Portfolios integrated in the concept of the full day school (Germany)

Challenges for all

The transition from paper to digital portfolio.

Meaningful integration into the learning process and the workflow.

The use of portfolios to improve school-home links.

What kind of leader are you? Gaddafi or Gandhi?

How a ‘contagion of positive emotions’ from and of the right leader or teacher will greatly enhance the learning experience and project outcomes.

The problem is, you need to be there to get the vibe. I dare say parenting therefore has a huge impact on the developing child – nurtured or knackered?

But what does this say about the role of distance learning?

A bit, not a lot. Tutorials from time to time may pay dividends. We should stop being such e-learning purists and meet face to face when and where we can … at least online, if not in the flesh.

And before I go anywhere, thanks to someone for the link to this which I received in my daily maelstrom of Linked In forum threads, emails, comments and what not.

Advances in neuroscience may help us understand the internal mechanisms that enable some people to be effective leaders, and some not. Boyatzis (2011)

The leadership role is moving away from a “results-orientation” towards a relationship orientation. Boyatzis (2011)

People who feel inspired and supported give their best, are open to new ideas and have a more social orientation to others. Boyatzis (2011)

The difference between resonant and dissonance in relationships was tested, for example the difference between an inspired and engaging leader, compared to one who makes demands and sets goals.

While undergoing an MRI scan people were asked to recall specific experiences with resonant leaders and with dissonant leaders. When thinking about ‘resonant’ leaders there was significant activation of 14 regions of interest in the brain while with dissonant leaders there was significant activation of 6 and but deactivation in 11 regions. i.e. people are turned off by certain kinds of leadership. Boyatzis (2011)

The conclusion is that being concerned about one’s relationships may enable others to perform better and more innovatively– and lead to better results i.e. be an inspired, motivating leader, not a dictatorial or demanding one.

How therefore if running a course online does the course chair or a tutor engender these kind of feelings in their students?

The other lesson from this is to appreciate how quickly impressions of others get formed or the neural mechanisms involved.

First impressions count

They impact on how one person responds to another for some time to come. We are emotional beings, however much we’d like to control our behaviour.

The other idea is of ‘emotional contagion’ or ‘emotional arousal’ being picked up in the neural systems activate endocrine systems; that imitation and mimicry are important i.e. you cannot lead at arm’s-length – you have to be there, as must be your team, and by implication, where learning is involved, you students. Boyatzis (2011)

What you pick up in the presence of others is:

the context of an observed action or setting
the action
the intention of the other living being.
‘A sympathetic hemo-dynamic that creates the same ability for us to relate to another’s emotions and intention’ (Decety & Michalaks, 2010).

There are three implications of these observations Boyatzis (2011):

the speed of activation
the sequence of activation
the endocrine/neural system interactions.
Our emotions are determining cognitive interpretation more than previously admitted.

Our unconscious emotional states arouse emotions in those with whom we interact before we or they know it. And it spreads from these interactions to others.

Research has suggested that negative emotions are stronger than positive emotions which may serve evolutionary functions but, paradoxically, it may limit learning. Boyatzis (2011)

i.e. where the teacher shows leadership that engenders a positive response the learning experience is increased (think of the fictional character played by Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society, think of Randy Pausch the late Carnegie Mellon Professor of Virtual reality) … whereas negative emotions.

From a student’s point of view if you have a teacher you do NOT like (or no one likes) this will have overly significant NEGATIVE impact on your learning experience.

So it matters WHO and HOW you are taught, not simply an interest or passion for a subject.

‘A contagion of positive emotions seems to arouse the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which stimulates adult neurogenesis (i.e., growth of new neurons) (Erickson et. al., 1998), a sense of well being, better immune system functioning, and cognitive, emotional, and perceptual openness’ (McEwen, 1998; Janig and Habler, 1999; Boyatzis, Jack, Cesaro, Passarelli, & Khawaja, 2010).

The sustainability of leadership effectiveness is directly a function of a person’s ability to adapt and activate neural plasticity. Boyatzis (2011)

The SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System) and PNS (Parasympathetic Nervous System ) are both needed for human functioning.

They each have an impact on neural plasticity. Arousal affects the growth of the size and shape of our brain. Neurogenesis allows the human to build new neurons. The endocrines aroused in the PNS allow the immune system to function at its best to help preserve existing tissue (Dickerson and Kemeny, 2004).


Leaders bear the primary responsibility for knowing what they are feeling and therefore, managing the ‘contagion’ that they infect in others.

(Is a disease metaphor and its negative connotations the appropriate metaphor to use here?)

It requires a heightened emotional self-awareness.

This means having techniques to notice the feelings, label what they are and then signal yourself that you should do something to change your mood and state.

Merely saying to yourself that you will “put on a happy face” does not hide the fast and unconscious transmission of your real feelings to others around you.

Leaders should be coaches in helping to motivate and inspire those around them (Boyatzis, Smith & Blaize, 2006).

But not any old form of coaching will help.

Coaching others with compassion, that is, toward the Positive Emotional Attractor, appears to activate neural systems that help a person open themselves to new possibilities– to learn and adapt. Meanwhile, the more typical coaching of others to change in imposed ways (i.e., trying to get them to conform to the views of the boss) may create an arousal of the SNS and puts the person in a defensive posture. This moves a person toward the Negative Emotional Attractor and to being more closed to possibilities.


Boyatzis, R. (2011) Neuroscience and Leadership: The Promise of Insights Leadership | January / February 2011

Boyatzis, R.E., Smith, M. and Blaize, N. (2006) “Developing sustainable leaders through coaching and compassion, Academy of Management Journal on Learning and Education. 5(1): 8-24.

Boyatzis, R. E., Jack, A., Cesaro, R., Passarelli, A. & Khawaja, M. (2010). Coaching with Compassion: An fMRI Study of Coaching to the Positive or Negative Emotional Attractor. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Montreal.

Decety, J. & Michalska, K.J. (2010). Neurodevelopmental change in circuits underlying empathy and sympathy from childhood to adulthood. Developmental Science. 13: 6, 886-899.

Dickerson, S.S. & Kemeny, M.E. (2004). Acute stressors and cortisol responses: A theoretical integration and synthesis of laboratory research. Psychological Bulletin.130(3): 355-391.

Janig, W. & Habler, H-J. (1999). Organization of the autonomic nervous system: Structure and function. In O. Appendzeller (ed.). Handbook of Clinical Neurology: The Autonomic Nervous System: Part I: Normal Function, 74: 1-52.

McEwen, B. S. (1998). Protective and damaging effects of stress mediators. New England Journal of Medicine. 338: 171-179.

Learning, metaphors, symbols and modern ways from TV to computers

My first take on Saloman (1997) ‘Of mind and media’, ran to 3,800 words, my second take is still 2,800 … (See below, it’s my previous blog entry).

Now that I’ve devoured the text I’ll consider the questions.

Do you prefer certain forms of representation to a greater extent than others?

1. The only kind of learning that matters is learning that works. This will vary by context, content and desired outcomes. A piece of chalk on a blackboard is learning, as is Avatar. The first might cost $1, the latter $200m.

If so, why do you think that is the case?

2. We cannot always indulge our differences. I dare say the best education might be privileged and historically at home with a governess then a tutor. Personalisation by yourself, aided by parents/siblings peer pressure and your school/institution is what e-learning offers via social networking, forums, YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook, Wikipedia, Google and all the rest of them.

Does this preference apply to everything you attempt to learn?

3. If I am motivated to do so I will do more than watch the TV programme or catch the radio show … I will do more than buy the book (or books), I will do a course, join a group, get a qualification. It is progressive, exploratory and stepped; it ends in your head, and may begin on your own but is often best developed with others. Though ask a successful author how they developed their craft skills or how they now work and I doubt they say they do it as a group/collective in a writer’s group.

Or does it vary from one type of learning task to another?

4. Whilst certain approaches, if there is a choice, do lend themselves better to certain ways of doing it, any learning is defined by the candidate’s motivation to learn and what is available, let alone their individual circumstances. I do think that challenging someone to learn might deliver a better outcome than spoon-feeding or mollycoddling. I learnt to deliver a baby when I had to, I had about five minutes to read a very short chapter on ‘home delivery’. I learn to sail when it went wrong and we escaped drowning. I learnt to make training films by making mistakes (and putting them right). I once saw a production of Sleuth that was performed in front of the curtains with none of the pyrotechnics or gadgets … in this simple form it was more engaging. i.e. I am going back to the story told around a campfire, perhaps with a song. This is how to enjoy Beowulf rather than as a movie.

Does the article make you think differently about what you do?

5. The article irritated me. It is 4, 800 words long. The first half could be removed entirely. Editorially I would have put a line through the waffle and a red line over disagreements. I have a paragraph of what I’d fix that I’ll post in my blog. It should have been edited to improve what is poor writing. However, it is this disagreement and the ‘mistakes’ that have rattled me and so got my attention. How therefore to create a tussle with the text or concepts? They do it at Oxford, it’s called a debate.

To what extent do the technologies available limit the learning and teaching possibilities in terms of forms of representation?

6. The technologies are not the limiting factor, they are only possibilities. The limiting factor is the author of the learning – bells and whistles do not improve a lesson if the teacher hasn’t a) got an idea b) prepared a ‘script’ that has some chance of success.

Can you describe any specific examples of how different forms of representation are an important influence on teaching and learning situations with which you are familiar?

7. In H808 we did a group task that had to end with a presentation/representation of some kind. We had powerpoint presentations, and videos but to my surprise as I had doubted it would work one group did a poster that was rich, comprehensive, inventive, memorable and in one shot said it all – indeed with the flows and movement of information about the page I’d even described it as interactive. i.e. Keep It Simple, Student. I’ve been using a Kindle poolside to show swimmers pages from the ‘Swim Drill Book’. It has proved extraordinarily effective.

To what extent do assessment methods constrain or privilege certain forms of representation (for example, how much does a written examination reveal about a learner’s competence in communicating effectively in a second language?).

8. Testing is more vital for the learning process than as a test to achieve a grade, pass or mark. But of course assessment is crucial for the sake of credibility and to have something to open a door to work. A written test tests someone’s comprehension of the language and confidence/ability with this language first. Interesting for the last year I’ve been feeding my learning back to a national sports organisation. I have been fairly critical of a written test for sports coaches as it is at odds with the way they learn and what they do … it was dropped from the curriculum last week. I had read during H807 or H808 about how the thing to be taught, the approach to teaching it and the way it is assessed should all marry up. i.e. to teach someone to dive Kate are they ever going to have to go near or in water? Of course they are. At what point does their reading or writing skill hinder their ability to qualify? If you want to learn to sail someone had to give you the helm; my father would never do so! I went off and did a course without telling him so that should he fall over board I’d know how to get back to shore. The ultimate tests I have windsurfing and skiing have been where errors would be fatal … though I’m not suggesting a test should be a life or death matter, though it wouldn’t half concentrate your mind.

Finally, I spent this morning with a colleague/friend who did an e-learning diploma with Sussex University.

We shared favourite e-learning websites and the ones we hated the most. I came away rather depressed by the awfulness of many, their formulaic approach and dreadful written and spoken English – there is a lack of craft skills. I think these things have been designed and created with the context in which the learning will take place in mind or the multiple opportunities people can and will find to engage with a task or topic. Personally, I like to hear and see it from several sources, good and bad, then give it a go several times … and in time form an opinion having done what I’m doing here and did this morning over coffee – batting it about.

We liked Spaced-ed and can see what they are doing with Qstream … though our own e-learning will naturally engage even more than these!

I came away with key ideas such as: metaphor, variety, mistakes, context, relevance and participation.


Salomon, G 1997, ‘Of mind and media’, Phi Delta Kappan, 78, 5, p. 375, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 March 2011.

Educational Psychology and the motivation to learn

Educational Psychology by Vygotsky (1926) is surely a must read.

I’ve reached the point where I wonder if highling passages and taking notes serves any purpose as so much of it seems highly relevant to e-learning – even more so as we tune into the individual and they have a way to respond.

Is there anyone who has studied Vygotsky formally who may step in here and offer guidance?

From Sports Psychology, motivating elite athletes to perform, I know that motivation is the key, this is what gets someone out of bed very early in the morning to row, swim, cycle, skate or anything else. And it is what enables them to smash through, climb over or step around these ‘brick walls’ self-imposed or put in your way by others. Fascinating.

Motivation got me to Oxford though my early exam results suggested I had little hopes with A, B and C grades.

A decade of e-learning with the Open University

Have we dumbed down in the last decade?

I was on H804 BR227 Block 2-A1 on the 19th March 2001. I was in Barbara’s Tutor Group.

The block reading was extensive; it had arrived in a large cardboard box, along with CD-roms. Books galore. I’ve numbered the 33 items from which I need to read x paper or chapters. Have we dumbed down in the last decade?

Is reading, if only on a Kindle, no so valid?

Has quantity of content provided been replaced by the quantity of content we generated between each other? If so, it makes contribution the peer group and module cohort all the more important.

We are meant to browse through these and select one. Skim reading as a ‘good study technique’ of the 1990s at the OU. Is this no longer so? I fancy an Amazon reviewing approach to all required reading. I’d then pick one five star, one three star and one that hadn’t received a rating. It’s about as good as my old technique – alphabetical order. Skim read 33 items then choose one? Never. Read all of them, then choose surely. In business if I had to review products, or interview new candidates would I do the job properly, or just give them a cursory glance? ‘If you find something on ODl course design in the set books, or in H80X Resources, which is not currently listed in the Reading guide, just email me with the details. Ill add it to the list. John (John Pettit).

Interestingly a article we then read from Cisco does something similar to the review suggestions above, not as basic as a start rating but ‘Sounding Off’ in which the first few words of comment and listed from sixteen or so commentators.

I then turn to printed off pages, marked up with a highlighter pen. (I can’t find myself stumbling across such paperwork with such Serendipity in ten years time should I care to reconsider the contents of MAODE 2010-2011. It will be buried in, by then, 10,000 assets in my e-portfolio. As I call it, like looking for a needle in a stack of needles. Something no string of tags can save you from … because every item has a similar set of tags. Where is ‘serendipity’ 2021? Years ago I put an ‘Enter@Random’ button in my blog., I’m yet to think of a more sophisticated way to tap into my mind).

In this article John Chambers CEO of CISCO says

‘The next big killer application for the Internet is going to be education.’

This is too often misquoted outside the realm of corporate training – what he has in mind here is how to keep 4,000 Cisco sales people up to speed and better able to sell, not how to educate classroom based school kids.

Is the next step the Open School?

To home educate? It would make better use of what the Internet offers. I do wonder how or why I’ve ended up nailed first to the locally primary school and then an affordable private school within walking distance. My wife and I are both freelance, who cares where we could be in the world as we do everything online.

Remind me to go to the estate agents. We’re selling up!

Meanwhile, I’m glad to see ‘e-learning’ used here; I was convinced it was a term coined recently. ‘Ultimately, Tom Kelly says, e-learning will be most effective when it no longer feels like learning – when it’s simply a natural part of how people work.’ If you do things in small chunks, she continues, they become just another part of your job. And what I like most of all, ‘E-learning will be successful when it doesn’t have its own name.’

My children wouldn’t call it e-learning

It’s just homework, whether in a text book or using a computer, which may or may not go online. Do we different where our TV feed comes from anymore? It’s just more TV. It is has taken me exactly one week, courtesy of a Kindle, to drop any idea of e-readers, e-books or e-reading … these are books, this is reading – the means of distribution is different, that’s all, it’s as if I have an electronic butler handing me one sheet of the book at a time. Bliss.

I’m still some way off why I’m reading this and writing about, just picking up echoes from the past as I go through it. Kelly had some insights on e-learning (which he defines as Web-based education):

  • Small is beautiful
  • Blends are powerful
  • Measure what matters
  • New technologies require new leaders

Was I listening back then?

I think we were too busy trying to reinvent the world.

These four points are understood today as:

Chunking Participation across platforms The business of measuring outcomes. Simply put ‘If technology adoption occurs faster because the sales force is better-trained, we have real business impact that’s measurable.’

And then the punch line

“One real; problem with e-learning is that traditional training people are in charge of it. No wonder it doesn’t work! Can you imagine if the post office was in charge of email?”

Does this apply to libraries?

Think of a book as a parcel, a report as a letter. Do we want it delivered by the Post … or by email? Are librarians best equipped to migrate digitised content to the e-brain?

There is then a paper, I guess the equivalent of a lecture, a piece of content purpose-written for the course. It is good to see Vygotsky, Piaget and Papert in here .. but what of Prensky from ‘The Power of Digital Game based Learning’ and this suggestion by Prensky via research done by cognitive psychologists ‘such as Bruer and Tapscott in the late nineties who speculated that the young people’s minds have been literally ‘altered by the effect of a key set of digital formative experiences‘. Prensky then, no better than a salesman links a truism with an unproven (and unfounded) suggestion. ‘Tapscott’s research indicated that young people are living, playing, communicating, working in and creating communities very differently than their parents (truism) and that the ‘hard wiring’ of young people’s brains has been effectively altered by digitally based learning experiences in the last decade.’ (unfounded, ‘effectively altered’ is what alerts me).

Let me see what I can find, where all just a click away from Google

So I buy this to feast on:

I’m going to have to go through these notes.

Courtesy of Kindle I can highlight and take notes.

I find myself rattled by everything Prensky says and how it is presented, from the glowing recommendations, to his extensive biography, to the unqualified, uncited, unresearched ‘hear say’ that considers itself to be serious study. He mentions the ‘popular writer Malcolm Bradbury’ but falls into the same trap of conjuring up presumptions that have no foundation in fact. This is less than journalism. It is invention. It may be what he thinks, but no one gets a word in edge ways to say whether he is right or wrong.

As I read I felt as if I was at best listening to an after dinner speech, at worst a stand-up comic

Prensky preaches to the converted, a certain group of secondary and primary school teachers who I can see nodding along to every platitude that Prensky offers.

That’s my summary; the report will follow

Book by book, blow by blow.

Seeing Prensky so often quoted in the OU files, in 2001 and still, surprises me.

I feel like the little boy in the crowd pointing out that the King is wearing no clothes.

I may eat my words, I often do

But for now, this is my stance, which I prefer to sitting on the fence.


Cisco’s Quick Study by Ann Muoio. From FC issue 39, page 286. http://www.fastcompany.com/online/39/quickstudy.html

Prensky M (2001) Digital Game based learning, McGraw Hill.

Vygotsky to Ken Dodd, via Kindle and a tickling stick. The mind boggles, mind did.

Unable to sleep I do this.

A mini-reflection on building a profile in Linked In.

Then get on with reflecting on my notes on Vygotsky.

The more I read, the great my fascination. Vygotsky (translated) I find like H.G.Wells, also of the era, extraordinarily readable and current. A considerable amount of ‘Educational psychology’ rings true.

Then at the confluence of a thought regarding this when I just uploaded this image; I am only saved from tears by what I was reading in Vygotsky – understanding does this to you.

I am reminded of my late father who would have be 80 last week.

It was an innocent way to start a thought, how in less than a week a Kindle has taken over my book reading. Somewhere I have a Bird Book, signed by my late father, given to me on a whim on the ONLY visit he ever managed to our former home in Little Compton in the Cotswolds. For my father, everything was out of his way, but somehow the old A34 rather than the M40 into London brought him to our doorstep.

Of course, such as bird book is still required. The Kindle doesn’t do colour – yet.

The thought produced a physical response.

(James, 1929)

Have we all had an encounter with a thief? If the image of the birds has me thinking about my father (conservationist, ornothologist, rubbish dad … ) then the mention of the word ‘thief’ has me visualising a large screw-diver, the weapon of choice I picked up in the garage as someone tried to break in.

(By now we’re living in a studio flat on Hamilton Terrace, though chronologically we’ve slid back a few years).

The text from Vygotsky has a resonance, and as I keep reading, a convincing argument in relation to education.

Work with these kinds of responses of the individual = success

My concern in relation to e-learning is how easy it is to duplicate what is inappropriate for a class of 30, but the authors (and their sponsors) believe is appropriate for 10,000.

Which in turn brings me to the week 2 activity in H800 of the MAODE

Online through the participation and collaboration of others in your immediate circle, which includes your tutor group, module cohort, wide MAODE colleagues and like-minded OU friends identified here, can your learning experience be personalised.

Ergo, we have a duty to comment, and only through writing ourselves, might we enable (or expose) our selves to comment in turn.

It does strike me that there is a ‘layer’ to the OU blogs-cum-threads that is missing: the MAODE or ‘Education’ blog platform.

As I’ve commented some thousand entries back, writing here is perhaps like doodling on a scroll of toilet paper in a public convenience.

Not the image or sentiment I wanted to conjure up, but a scroll, with perforations top and bottom comes to mind. What you do with this script if you’ve even read it is for your mind to decide.


Williams, J (1929) Quoted in Educational Psychology, Vygotsky. Chapter 6.

Kindle doesn’t give you a page number, presumable all e-Reader follow a similar convention. To cite do I give Location 1874?

Without knowing what I am doing or what it will achieve I search ‘James’ in the Kindle PC version, am about to click when a drop down offers me not a reference at the back of the ‘book’ but a link to Google or Wikipedia. I click Wikipedia and seamlessly, find myself here.

(Wikipedia, accessed 17FEB2011)

And as we’re talking about physical responses to things then this brought a shiver down my spine and matching the clichéd ‘reflexive’ action my draw dropped.

I don’t know what planet I’m living on any more.

No wonder I can’t sleep, Kindle content isn’t a soporific book, rather it’s wired into your cerebellum where in an action not dissimilar to Ken Dodd’s tickling stick, your mind is suitably agitated.

Ken Dodd and his tickling stick 🙁

(I saw him live as a 10 year old, insanity. About as funny as my Granny sitting on a bowl of peaches).

P.S. Whether for personal, OU or the wider world, this demonstrates a value of blogging … just start to write and let your mind unravel. And if you’ll only get quiet for 90 minutes in the dead of night, that’s what you’ll have to do.

Keeping a journal – blogging and why we should all do it.

‘When people ask me how to keep a Diary, I refer them to Ira Progoff’s Intensive Journal [method]….One cannot help being amazed by what emerges from this skilled inner journey. All the elements we attribute to the poet, the artist, become available to everyone, to all levels of society.’

Anais Nin

How to start your diary

In ‘The New Diary’ Tristine recommends that you:

Begin with a self-portrait

Begin with a period

Begin with today

Each time I come back to this diary after an absence of weeks, months or years I approach it in one of these ways: I assess who I am, go over the previous period when I’ve been away from the diary, and count these musings as my first entry.

From Ira Progoff’s A Journal Workshop seven useful techniques for diary writing are offered:

1. List or Period Log

2. Portrait or Life History Log

3. Map of consciousness (Recapitulations and rememberings)

4. Stepping Stones/Scenes from our lives

5. Twilight Imagery Log

6. Altered point of view

7. Unsent letter

8. Dialogue Dimension

Amusingly, the author on From Ira Progoff’s this piece on Ira Progoff quotes a Diaryland diary. Not yours, not mine.

Some links to Ira Progoff


The Writer’s Store

Words, words, words. Though not necessarily in that order.

‘To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script.’ Said Alfred Hitchcock.

If I’ve written below about the demise of the written word, then I take it back.

OK, love letters have had their day. I don’t even suppose that boarding Prep School Boys are writing home religiously every Sunday either; though we did.

My mother’s collection of letters written by my brother and I from aqe eight years make quixotic reading.

Avatar started with a script.

The three CD edition is worth it for the documentary on the creation of the film. It started with an idea expressed as a ‘scriptment’ (sic) i.e. not even a script, but words on sheets of paper nonetheless.

A Learning Designer starts with a script, as does an Account Manager.

A client wants to see it in writing. You can edit words. You can share words. You can hold, copy and digest them in written form.

An idea (or problem), a brief, a synopsis and treatment … that leads to a script. And once this is nailed down the costly business of production begins. Why should e-learning be any different to the production of a mega million Hollywood movie, or the Christmas Pantomime in Ambridge Village Hall.

I get paid to write because I’m able to fill a blank space with bright ideas in a sequence that makes sense (linear) or does not (non-linear).

But ultimately says something.