Archive for the ‘ ePortfolio ’ Category

getting my socrates on

“Until you know what a thing is, you can’t answer any other questions about it.”


Do we need need to know what a thing is to understand it? Socrates thought so. I think so. However, I get the impression that many of colleagues in educational research & instructional design do not share this view. Note the comments in a recent piece in The Chronicle, “What’s in a Name? Researchers Struggle With Terms for New Learning Methods.” In the article, written by Ben Wieder, researchers at the University of Missouri at Columbia found no consensus among academics about the definitions of “e-learning,” “online learning,” and “distance learning.” The research team asserts, and I agree, that our inability to name a thing makes it difficulty to know what it is. As researchers this also makes it difficult to assess its potential strengths & weaknesses for teaching & learning.

It’s been my experience that this is not an isolated sentiment in our field. Whether we’re talking newer entries into the educational ecosystem such as cloud based applications, social applications, and devices that are portable as well as mobile or some long standing things such as learning management systems & electronic portfolios we can’t seem to agree on what a thing is. What I find disturbing is that we’re not having a healthy dialogue as to what a given thing is. It’s not about agreeing on a definition of a given term (ePortfolio, LMS, eLearning) but coming to an understand as to the things essence. What is the essence of an ePortfolio? What is the nature of an LMS? Social media? Digital scholarship? eLearning?

What troubles me is this. As educators aren’t these the very questions with which we should be concerning ourselves? If we do not understand the nature of a thing how can we then apply it to any given situation, such as a course? How do we know whether what we’re doing is good, bad, or indifferent in it’s impact?

I’m not arguing for an absolute understanding going in however, isn’t it incumbent upon us to to know something well enough to have a game plan going in? If not, how do we understand the outcomes & make sense of it all? Do we not have an obligation  How can we know if an ePortfolio is an effective teaching & learning tool if we can’t agree on what it is?

Maybe that’s why we so often get insignificant results. Perhaps that’s why we don’t know if we’re truly making a difference



edtech podcast #4: baby & the bath water

There is a current movement calling for the abolishment  of the learning management system. Sure there are limitations but are these reasons enough to get rid of the whole system? How much of the dissatisfaction is really due to teaching practice & not an inherent flaw in the LMS itself? Brian & I explore the nature of the LMS, how it’s used, and where we see its future. We also discuss two of the more provocative take-a ways from Clay Shirky’s keynote at the Symposium this past Saturday. As always, comments & feedback welcome.

Ed.Tech Podcast #4: The Baby & The Bath Water

about this space

My name is Jeff Swain. Currently, I am an Innovation Consultant and PhD student at Penn State University. In my work I focus on the exploration, diffusion, and adoption of educational technologies. My research focuses on the impact the social web has on our understanding of community and identity.

I took the title for this blog from a book by Zen teacher Shunru Suzuki in which he begins by saying “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” It reflects how I try to approach my vocation: with a mind that is open to all that is possible in us.