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e-Portfolfio activity for Jan 2013

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Mahara and e-Portfolio activity for January.

Art and Design

This week I have regrouped with Cathy (course convener) and her team from Art and Design  for a unit called Intro to Communications. The first year students in this unit will begin their portfolio journey by first developing their reflective practice using the journal tool in Mahara. Later on in semester they will develop the skills to create pages and share their journal with their tutors. In subsequent years they will learn other portfolio skills using both Mahara and other cloud platforms, as well as a broader range of ICT skills in general. A portfolio approach is seen as a good way for students to keep a record of their work and also develop their communication skills.

Education (Early Childhood and Primary)

Ryan came over from Education for an intro to Mahara and e-Portfolios. He is new to the teaching team that last year took e-Portfolios from the unit level to the course level. This is very exciting and is one of the first course wide e-Portfolio integration initiatives on campus. The other one I know of is in the faculty of Health - for the Bachelor of Nursing (which is also just being implemented this year after planning sessions in 2012).

Food Science and Nutrition

Tanya is from Food Science and Nutrition, she was a student in the Assessment and Evaluation unit I co-taught with Dr Coralie McCormack last year in Semester 2. We had integrated e-Portfolio creation into that unit and Tanya developed a good understanding of Mahara and e-Portfolios through that process. This week we met, along with one of her teaching team, to discuss embedding e-Portfolios into the Bachelor of Human Nutrition. They will begin with using portfolios for reflective practice, and thankfully Stephen Isbel was on hand from Occupational Therapy to give his experience of using portfolios for reflective practice and his experience of Mahara.

Keeping It Short and Simple

In all of these integration cases the students will be first year students, so exposure to the Mahara platform and portfolio practice is being kept basic, involving only the journal tool with limited use of other features in Mahara. This is so that portfolio practices and technologies don't get in the way of the disciplinary skills and knowledge development. Exposure to Mahara and portfolio practice will be chunked and scaffolded, e.g. in week one students will be shown how to create a journal (with a screen cast available as well). Mid way through semester they will be shown how to create a portfolio page, add their journal, and share their page with their tutor. 

A couple of pointers I passed on were:

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Use alternatives to educational nomenclature such as "reflection" and "portfolio" as they often don't mean anything to students. During the ePortfolio Austtralia 2011 conference two teachers presented their approach to developing reflective skills in students, they did this by teaching students a reflective process without mentioning "reflective practice" until the end of the unit, by which time students had the experience and conceptual understanding to the hang the term on. Same goes for "portfolio" IMHO because it can mean so many things to everyone. Stephen Isbel from Occupational Therapy presents reflective practice (or clinical reasoning) to students as "What, So what, Now what?", and it works well.


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Beware the promise of a safe walled garden environment. Staff who have been using e-Portfolios for a while have highlighted that confidentiality and other ethical issues need to be taken into account even for new students and even in a "walled garden" environment. This is because one day they will take their work with them to potentially open environments, or re-use their work in other contexts that may be public or at least shared more widely than the unit convener. Therefore students need to develop ethical approaches to portfolio practices from day one. These have been especially important issue for the University of Canberra's Education and Health disciplines so far.

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