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Supporting the teacher education team to integrate e-portfolio strategies

Late last year the Teacher Education team decided, based on the experiences of 4 early adopters, to integrate portfolio practice across the course. Today I delivered a Mahara/Portfolio workshop to help bring the rest of the team up to speed. This is the first time since TLC began its e-portfolio implementation that I have run a workshop for an entire teaching team. In my experience so far e-portfolio use in any discipline has begun with one or two people and then grown, but the teacher education team is the first large team (13+ unit conveners) to take it course wide.

I had met most of the Teacher Education team (last year) at a time when there were 4 staff (up from 1 the year before) in the team using portfolios in their units. The 4 unit conveners were able to make explicit the benefits they had experienced from using e-portfolios across the 4 units and were able to advocate portfolio practice to the group. Much better coming from them than from me, and besides, being the practitioners at the coal face it turned out the benefits went far beyond the benefits I was aware of - for example benefits to themselves as teachers.

At today's workshop my strategy was to find out on-demand what the team was looking for, since I only had a couple of hints such as "how to use Mahara" and a 1.5 hour workshop to run. I decided that we should run the workshop as an interactive session, and not technology focused. Besides, the room they had booked only had one PC at the front for the "presenter", so it couldn't be a hands on lab session. In order to run my non-tech focused interactive workshop I arranged them room so that people could stand at the write-able wall surfaces, and wrote up three main headings - three themes that to my mind were essential to forming the foundation for this teams portfolio implementation (and it isn't the technology).

These themes were:
  • Purpose for embedding e-portfolio use in the curriculum (developing a shared understanding)
  • Ethical considerations (what are the risks, how to manage them)
  • Support strategies (how will we provide technical and portfolio support for hundreds of students, and our staff)
Actual Mahara usage was demoed throughout the session, but the session was mainly dominated by conversation around the three themes.

By the way, just to highlight the value of e-portfolios, I also love to show off Jamie Ranse' e-portfolio: It is an excellent example of an academic professional portfolio, and I particularly highlight the many thousands of hits per year - media interviews - research opportunities and consulting opportunities that Jamie attributes to it.

As a result of the session a to-do list was developed, with two key items being:
  • the formation of a small team of academic staff who were competent at using Mahara, and who could be the go-to people for those learning Mahara. In turn these group of Mahara mentors could turn to TLC for high level support, issue reporting, etc. This team would also support other strategies such as the creation and sharing of chunked - just in time screenscasts using Echo360 Personal Capture (UC purchased this system for lecture recordings and it comes with desktop recording software).
  • the formation of a team that will look at ethical considerations and guidelines development that students and staff can use. (A focus of my own research at the moment).
A lab based Mahara workshop is still likely to be required however it's important to lay the pedagogical and professional groundwork first.

Overall this workshop assisted the team in developing shared understanding about what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how they might go about achieving their e-portfolio goals.


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