Moving from digital portfolios to a domain of one’s own

Moving from digital portfolios to a domain of one’s own

Digital portfolios are personalized, active, and multimodal. These can take the form of a personalized, web-based collection of work and reflections used to demonstrate key skills and accomplishments for a variety of contexts and time periods.

In an earlier post, I detailed the elements of a digital portfolio, and described the benefits for students and educators. This post will dig a bit deeper into the research and theory to identify possibilities for identity development and supporting literacy practices in the construction of digital portfolios. Specifically, we’ll look at student agency, developing identity, and moving to a domain of one’s own.

Documenting student agency

The idea of having students showcase their learning is not new. For decades, portfolios have been a staple of teachers’ writing instruction. In 1986, composition scholars, Elbow and Belanoff, detailed how they implemented writing portfolios in their college writing program. While they intended for portfolios to provide an authentic assessment of students’ learning, they also found that a portfolio system had many benefits. These included having teachers act as collaborative colleagues, rather than isolated dispensers of student grades. Furthermore, the collaboration occurring between teachers and students allowed students to take more ownership of their writing and develop a sense of agency about their writing.

Educators began to see portfolios as an opportunity for students to identify and map out the processes involved in cognition, in order to build up their self-regulated learning. The ultimate goal being for students to have control of their own learning, and improve learning through enhanced metacognition. This led to an interest in the intersections of authentic assessments, identity, and motivation. In the earlier citation, Clark et al., (2001) argued that portfolios are “sites of learning” in that students are engaged in the acts of “constructing, negotiating, compiling, documenting, sharing, revising, reflecting on, and assessing one’s own work in a portfolio” (p. 212). Students participate in the construction of knowledge and are active participants in the assessment of their learning. This provides opportunities for students to engage in activities in school that will help shape and determine their constructed identities.

Developing student identity using digital tools

For some theorists, learning itself is seen as the construction of identities as individuals take up and take on different social practices in different contexts with different social communities at different times. This means that to engage in learning is to engage in the project of constructing and reconstructing identity. Arguably the work of compiling a portfolio yields the possibility for students to begin constructing a sense of their identity.

With the advent of new technologies in classrooms, many teachers use digital tools to expand the use and functionality of portfolios in the literacy classroom. Apps, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Evernote, provide ease in allowing students to store, collect and access their writing. Increasingly, the term digital portfolio or e-portfolio is also used when these materials are used for a collection of electronic evidence maintained by the learner. While digital tools may have provided a solution for storing and accessing students’ portfolios, in today’s classroom digital tools don’t serve as merely a platform to host students’ portfolios.

The use of technology and digital media in the writing classroom are changing current views of writing and what it means to be literate in the 21st century. Image, sound, video are now included to create compositions that are multimodal, interactive, and nonlinear. In English language arts classrooms, students are not only writing the traditional literary analysis, but also blogs, infographics, and public service announcements. In addition, students are engaged in media production, constructing websites and showcasing digital evidence of their learning. Curating and showcasing students’ digital literacy artifacts is not solely a collection of their knowledge and abilities to produce using 21st century skills, they are an amalgamation of students’ digital identities as learners.

Developing a domain of one’s own

In the development of digital portfolios, I see opportunities for students to engage with digital tools in online spaces across their academic careers. I believe there is a need for students to develop and maintain a domain of one’s own, one canonical address online that students build up from Pre-K through higher ed that archives and documents learning over time. This space can be used to read, write, and participate, as learners build, edit, revise, and iterate as if it were a digital portfolio. As we move from digital portfolios to providing students with a domain of their own we help them connect their literacy practices with the identity development skills they’ll need now and in the future.

The Domain of One’s Own (DoOO) initiative was first imagined at a hackathon at the MIT Media Lab that considered the possibilities of educating individuals about their data and digital identities. The thinking was considered as a contemporary version of Virginia Woolf’s 1929 essay titled A Room of One’s Own in which she demanded a personal place to write. This early work became a pilot program that started at the University of Mary Washington and then has traveled across numerous other institutions of higher education and beyond. For more information on “a domain of one’s own” please visit this post from Lee Skallerup Bessette shares a collection of resources and articles on DoOO as well as a list of schools currently experimenting with DoOO. This research informed their earlier post on a brief history of DoOO and an infographic.

We live in a connected world where anyone with access to the Internet is exposed to unprecedented learning opportunities. Information is plentiful, and experts are, literally, at our fingertips. Research over the last two decades has shown that reading and writing in digital spaces may require a more complex application of literacy skills than print-based reading and writing. Yet most formal institutions of education still cling to traditional definitions of literacy and pedagogical approaches, focusing on print-based literacy and teacher-centered pedagogy. In these institutions, children are often not empowered to learn, nor are they connected to the world outside their classroom walls. I believe this direction is necessary as it builds aspects of ownership, agency, and empowerment of learners in online and hybrid spaces. If we truly want students to be digitally literate, they need to have a personalized learning space online that provides more than just a snapshot of their participation in one class or one school year.


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37 Comments Moving from digital portfolios to a domain of one’s own

  1. RoadLoversInternational

    This is valuable. I am a high school teacher and I’m asking my students to look at digital portfolios of students in High Tech High. But my focus on “learning from High Tech High” has overshadowed the first question: “What do you want to put out there?” Creating a domain of one’s one DOOO is the next step. Someday that student will have his or her own domain name. That’s beyond the Linked In account and the websites. The student will have a blog perhaps, too.

    Bravo for your point. DOMAIN OF ONE’S OWN is a wonderful acronym. For anyone who wants to get students started on their own portfolio, the Free Website Project is a way of introducing the idea of a digital portfolio. The concept rests on Google Sites.

    1. wiobyrne

      Hi, and thanks again for the support. I agree with having students look online for “exemplars” of what they would like to post online, and what identity they would like to construct. But, as you suggest, I think this also requires a great deal of conversation with the students…and providing them with the freedom/latitude to decide what identity they choose to create online.

      Thanks again. 🙂

        1. wiobyrne

          Hi Steve…most definitely. I’ve been following High Tech High for some time.

          I think (in all of this) conversation is key. I’d like to see if we can get some of that jumpstarted soon.

          Thanks again.

  2. Jim Groom (@jimgroom)

    This is great stuff, and I am a big fan of this vision 🙂 In fact I am currently at a portfolio conference that is moving deep into badges and the Blockchain, and while I find some of that compelling, I think a simple domain and hosting environment goes a long way towards immediate, practical progress that has the web as it’s scalable infrastructure.

    One point of clarification, the vision of Domain of One’s Own pre-exists the MIT hackathon by as many as 5 or 6 years. And the pilot was up and running at UMW by 2012. What happened in 2013 was that the broader vision of Reclaim Your Domain (and subsequently Reclaim Hosting) was born. I think Kin and Audrey helped make this vision broader and a helped fine tune our ethos and focus at UMW, their work has been integral to this becoming something much greater!

    1. wiobyrne

      Hey Jim!!!

      Thanks for the feedback, and the clarification. We’ve got a piece coming out in JAAL soon, and we’ll have a couple of posts and podcast interviews to help continue the conversation.

      Which conference are you currently attending? I’m a member of BadgeChain and we’re all in on edu, badges, and distributed technologies. Some members of our team have been at a couple of presentations lately about these spaces that are terribly exciting.

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  6. Aaron Davis

    Just sort of do it flickr photo by mrkrndvs shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license
    This year I tried something different. In addition to my usual practice of blogging, I decided to curate a monthly newsletter. In part, this stemmed from a review that I wrote at the end of last year, collecting together all the posts that I had read that stood out to me in 2015. Going back through a year’s worth of posts collected in Diigo was an arduous task. It occurred to me that this might be more manageable if it were more regular. Although many others maintain weekly instalments, I decided that would be too regular. Instead I chose a monthly reflection. For me, this provides a little bit more flexibility.
    To organise my thinking, I separated the curated posts into three categories: teaching resources, educational technology and reflections. In addition to this, I included a monthly focus either in response to a topical matter or derived from my own work.   Topics have included: mindsets, measuring the success of technology, GIFs, SAMR, getting connected, designing a technology rich environment, Seymour Papert, Nathan Jones, Creative Commons, responses to the US election and PISA.
    So here then are some of the thoughts that have left me thinking this year …
    Learning and Teaching
    The Three Stages of Documentation Of/For/As Learning – Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano regularly explores the different stages of documentation. She splits it up into before where teachers decide focus, during where the work is documented and after where you act on the work captured. More recently, she has turned her attention to the connections between different literacies and documentation.

    My work is concentrating on making pedagogical documentation visible and shareable to amplify teaching and learning. I believe that using technology, as a tool, to be able to share best practices, to make thinking and learning visible to ourselves and others, is the key to transform teaching and learning!

    Ways to Use Lego in the Classroom – Mark Warner provides a range of examples about how to use Lego in the classroom. In some ways it reminds me of Lee Hewes’ post exploring the potential of Minecraft, its strength is its breadth of ideas.

    When I’m not busy working on our teaching websites, I can usually be found playing Lego with our children! It’s an incredibly creative toy, but it can also be used to support work in a number of different curriculum areas. Here is our HUGE list of ways to use Lego in the classroom

    Learner Agency – More than just a buzzword – Claire Amos lists 10 ways you might provide Learner Agency in your classroom or school.

    If the world around us wasn’t changing so rapidly, we might have got away with sticking our heads in the sand and believing (like certain schools still do) that effective education means little, if any, learner agency and whole lot of control and teacher centred pedagogy.  Don’t get me wrong, there is still a place for direct instruction and even rote learning, but if you are limiting yourself to such practice, no matter how awesomely charismatic you might be, you are doing your students a massive disservice.

    Reading Conferences with Students – Pernille Ripp discusses the challenges of reading conferences within a limited amount of time and provides some thoughts and suggestions.

    While the 45 minutes of English class will never be ideal, it will never be enough, it will never feel like I can provide each child with the type of learning experience they deserve, it cannot hold us back.  It cannot hold me back.  And I cannot be the only one that is trying to do this.

    7 ways to assess without testing – In light of the frenzy of testing that is going on at the moment all around the world, Steve Wheeler provides some alternative forms of assessment that do not involve testing. Along with Rachel Wilson’s piece on alternatives to NAPLAN, both posts add to the counter-narrative to the culture of standardised testing.

    Children don’t learn any more or any better because of standardised testing, unless there is feedback on how they can improve. But SATs seem to be the weapon of choice for many governments across the globe. It seems that little else matters but the metrics by which our political masters judge our schools.

    Starting a Patch from Scratch – The team behind the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program reflect on a collection of stories associated with getting started in regards to creating your own garden. To support this process, they have provided a resource with a range of tips and tricks to getting going with kitchen gardening in and out of school. You can read my reflection on SAKG here.

    We’ve also put together some free gardening resources to help you start your own patch from scratch. The pack includes tips on how to plan your garden, making a no-dig garden bed, how to plant seeds and seedlings, mulching,  planting charts and recipes for homemade pasta, pesto and a Salad of the Imagination.

    ScratchMath – One of the challenges with any platform is finding the edge. Jeffrey Gordon provides a range of possibilities which help highlight what is possible.

    Teaching computer programming is not like teaching reading or math. Programmers rely on libraries of code they can’t understand, coworkers to write functions they don’t read, and finally a structure that doesn’t always require comprehending the whole, but rather understanding of a set of individual parts and their relationships.

    7 mental models you should know for smarter decision making – Sean Kim provides a series of mental models to help with the process of making important decisions.

    Whether it’s trying to figure out which job you should take, deciding to quit your job to start a business,move to a new city — these decisions are never easy. Yet there are people who we can learn from who make highly impactful decisions on a regular basis, and they’ve developed mental models to help them make smarter decisions.

    Four Fantastic Feedback Tools for Google Docs – Eric Curts outlines four different ways of giving feedback using Google Docs.

    Now with tools such as Google Docs and Classroom, it is easy for students to create and submit their work digitally. So how does a teacher leave feedback on an electronic document? As we move from paper and pencil to Docs and digital, we need options for providing feedback that is valuable to the student, but not cumbersome and unnatural for the teacher to create.

    Moving from digital portfolios to a domain of one’s own – Ian O’Byrne discusses the history associated with portfolios and outlines some benefits of students going a step further and having a domain of their own

    In the development of digital portfolios, I see opportunities for students to engage with digital tools in online spaces across their academic careers. I believe there is a need for students to develop and maintain a domain of one’s own, one canonical address online that students build up from Pre-K through higher ed that archives and documents learning over time. This space can be used to read, write, and participate, as learners build, edit, revise, and iterate as if it were a digital portfolio. As we move from digital portfolios to providing students with a domain of their own we help them connect their literacy practices with the identity development skills they’ll need now and in the future.

    Creating Virtual Reality Content in Minecraft with Year 4 – Lee Hewes shares some of his learning associated with a recent project involving the use of Minecraft to create 360 degree videos.

    My latest class project, which we have just finished and I am about to describe, is perhaps the project that has challenged me the most, both as a player of Minecraft, and from a classroom perspective. It was also, however, way cool! The project, which was guided by the driving question, “How can we use Minecraft to help endangered animals?” was focussed on having kids learn about human impact on the environment, sustainable living practices and animal conservation.

    The Power Of Spreadsheets – Chris Betcher shares an example of how he used Sheets to compare the offerings from various energy companies. This is a useful resource in regards to working with various formulas to compare and critique data.

    What if you gave your students the basic skills of calculating numbers with a spreadsheet, and then a bunch of different rates from different competing companies and simply asked “Who is offering the best deal?”  This process usually raises lots and lots of questions, and will certainly make them better consumers, better at understanding data, and better users of spreadsheets.

    Coalescent Spaces – A post from David White investigating presence in regards to physical and digital learning spaces.

    My response to this in teaching and learning terms is to design pedagogy which coalesces physical and digital spaces. Accept that students can, and will, be present in multiple spaces if they have a screen with them and find ways to create presence overlaps. This is different from simply attempting to manage their attention between room to screen

    President Obama Discovers Coding – Gary Stager pushes back on the latest hype around coding and technology, identifying some of the historical roadblocks as he sees it.

    Computer literacy must mean the ability to do something constructive with a computer, and not merely a gen eral awareness of acts one is told about computers. A computer literate person can read and write a computer program, can select and operate software written by others, and knows from personal experience the possibilities and limitations of the computer

    ‘I Love My Label’: Resisting the Pre-Packaged Sound in Ed-Tech – Continuing to unpack a more personal experience of edtech, Audrey Watters builds on the punk metaphor outlined by Jim Groom and Adam Croom to put forward a vision of the future less dictated by commercial algorithms and more curated by human communities. Jim Groom also provided a thorough summary of his experience at Indie Ed Tech Conference. This is fantastic post not only for Groom’s insights, but the breadth of links attached.

    Indie means we don’t need millions of dollars, but it does mean we need community. We need a space to be unpredictable, for knowledge to be emergent not algorithmically fed to us. We need intellectual curiosity and serendipity – we need it from scholars and from students.

    Beyond Coding – Going beyond coding and algorithms, Steve Collis discusses the future of neural networks and artificial intelligence. Along with Jason Tanz post on the end of code, these two pieces provide an interesting insight into where the future maybe headed.

    Insight into the power of repeated and branching algorithms doesn’t begin to prepare us for what is essentially distributed extended cognition. Incredibly sophisticated artificial intelligence, including neural network computing, is embedded in our lives and progressing in rapid cascades.

    I know how to program, but I don’t know what to program – Nano Dano critiques the common approach when addressing programming that we need to start from scratch, instead it is suggested that we start by tinkering with something that already exists. I think that this is the strength of sites such as Scratch and Github which allow you to easily fork ideas. Dave Winer talks about building on prior art.

    In the software community the general attitude is “don’t reinvent the wheel.” It’s almost frowned upon if you rewrite a library when a mature and stable option exists. While it is a good rule in general, novices should not be afraid to reinvent the wheel. When it is done for learning or practice, it’s totally OK to make a wheel! It is an important part of learning

    Be Careful What You Code For – danah boyd provides a different perspective on coding. Like Quinn Norton, she addresses the problem of poor code, suggesting that moving forward we need more checks and balances.

    Technology can be amazingly empowering. But only when it is implemented in a responsible manner. Code doesn’t create magic. Without the right checks and balances, it can easily be misused.

    What is an API? – Ben Werdmuller unpacks the world of APIs. He touches on their purpose and what they mean for the personal user. This conversation is continued in a post on Open Source.

    APIs present a pragmatic solution that allows us to build on other software while saving on short-term costs. They’re not a magic wand, but used wisely, they allow us to build entirely new products and services. And maybe — just maybe — they will allow us to take control of our digital lives and build a new kind of internet.

    A Domain of One’s Own in a Post-Ownership Society – Audrey Watters responds to Maha Bali’s wonderings about ownership in relationship to a Domain of One’s Own. Kate Bowles also wrote an interesting response too.

    To own is to possess. To own is to have authority and control. To own is to acknowledge. It implies a responsibility. Ownership is a legal designation; but it’s something more than that too. It’s something more and then, without legal protection, the word also means something less.

    Assembling ClassDojo: A sociotechnical survey of a public sphere platform – Ben Williamson provides a thorough introduction to ClassDojo. This is not necessarily a ‘HowTo’ guide, but rather what using ClassDojo actually means. From origins, to privacy, to investment, this is something of a working paper, which considers the assemblages which combine to make ClassDojo what it is. Along with Salvador Rodriguez’ post on Inc., they provide a glimpse of where the application is heading.

    ClassDojo is prototypical of how education is being reshaped in a ‘platform society.’ This sociotechnical survey of the ClassDojo assemblage provides some sense of its messy complexity as an emerging public sphere platform that has attained substantial success and popularity in education. Approached as a sociotechnical assemblage, ClassDojo is simultaneously a technical platform that serves a variety of practical, pedagogical and social functions; an organizational mosaic of engineers, marketers, product managers and other third party providers and partners; the subject of a wider regulatory environment and also a bit-part actor in new policy networks; the serious object for financial investment in the ed-tech marketplace; and a mediator of diverse expert psychological, neuroscientific and behavioural scientific knowledges and discourses pertaining to contemporary schooling and learning.

    Hal, is in the House – John Mikton wonders what happens in a world where a kindergarteners answer to inquiry questions is to simply ask Siri. It also makes me wonder about the voice of students and what say they are able to have in this future. Greg Thompson also touched upon the place of digital education in his discussion of the various structural issues.

    Coming to terms with these exponential changes takes time to digest. As educators, we need to understand that engagement and critical thinking are vital components of education, especially as AI shifts the classroom narrative. The ethical issues which surround these exponential changes are here now. The complacency that schools engage with in the discourse of what it means to be in a world dominated by AI is a tension we cannot ignore.

    Sharing/Ownership ≠ Empowerment – It can be easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding connected learning, however as Maha Bali highlights, things are often far more complicated than we like to recognise. To ignore this often suppresses a whole community of voices. This reminds me of Chris Wejr’s post on sharing in online spaces.

    Our discourses often don’t reflect the complexity of this and we cheer and celebrate when we use terms like ownership, sharing, participation, agency. No. Adding one student to a committee with 5 faculty and 2 administrators isn’t empowering. Creating a committee of 6 students isn’t empowering. Emancipation is much harder work and it’s a long process that will always need to be reevaluated.

    Digital literacy can be an insurgency – Bryan Alexander discusses the active nature of digital literacies, highlighting the problems with the idea of digital citizenship. Alexander suggests that  digital often counters our usual notion of democracy and civility, instead providing the tools to speak out. It is this lack of control that often puts people off. Interestingly, this proactive citizen is at the heart of what Gert Biesta describes as the democratic citizen. It is also represented in the documentary on Aaron Swartz.

    This is one reason digital literacy has a hard time growing.  It represents the potential to empower students to challenge each other and instructors, as well as become insurgent outside of class, as with my student’s homoerotic paper.  Not all faculty find this a desirable or even tolerable thing.  How many teachers and professors spend time trying to maintain or expand their authority?  Conversely, how many were trained on how to teach an actually interactive class?  How many of are thrilled when students grow into their agency and act upon it?

    Storytelling and Reflection
    On Ideology – Greg Thompson explores the topic of ideology and explains how we are all ideological.

    As I read it, everything we believe is already ideological because we are necessarily social (for example, through language). Saying this, however, does not  imply that any position held is necessarily right or wrong, rather that within the ontological and epistemological assumptions of any belief system ideology invariable precedes consciousness. For this reason, I don’t mind being called ideological (of course I am) or suggesting that others are ideological (of course they are).

    A Minimum Viable Product Is Not a Product, It’s a Process – Yevgeniy (Jim) Brikman provides a different take on the usual perspective of the minimum viable product as being on a single trajectory. I elaborated on what the Lean Methodology might offer education here.

    This, in a nutshell, is the MVP process. Whether you’re developing a product design, marketing plan, or writing code, always ask: What is my riskiest assumption? What is the smallest experiment I can do to test this assumption.

    Trouble Brewing at Snake Mountain High – Jon Andrews provides a satire reflecting on the current state of education, with the battle between autonomy and edu-businesses. This was also the seed for a whole collection of posts, including The index-cardification of education, A pedagogy of Astro Boy: education and social justice, The Missing Superheroes and Skeletor Loves it When Planning Comes Together.

    I’m not paying you to think. I’m paying you to do. We don’t have time for all this PD guff, collaboration, staff voice and the like. Look, I’ve seen enough. You have your work cut out turning this place around. I want no excuses – from you or the students. I want a return on investment.

    Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems – George Monbiot gives an explanation to Donald Trump, the Panama Papers and the stock exchange. For a focus on neoliberalism and education, see David Price’s post on forced freedom. While Will Davies also provides a useful post exploring some of the complexities associated with neoliberalism.

    Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed. But the zombie doctrine staggers on, and one of the reasons is its anonymity. Or rather, a cluster of anonymities.

    50 Shades of Open – Jeffrey Pomerantz and Robin Peek investigate what exactly is meant by the notion of ‘open’. They unpack ideas around open source, open access, open society, open knowledge, open government and open washing. A journal entry published at First Monday, this is one of those pieces that you can come back again and again.

    This essay is probably only the opening gambit in attempts to disambiguate this term. We have merely opened the door on the many uses of the word ”open;“ as the use of the word grows, others must opine.

    The Revolution Won’t Necessarily Be Televised – Dan Haesler reviews ABC’s documentary Revolution School. Personally, I think that it may be better considered Renaissance School, a rebirthing of the past, rather than anything truly revolutionary.

    I was left underwhelmed because there was very little in the show that could be seen as being revolutionary. Whilst it might have documented a wide-reaching change in conditions, attitudes or operations at Kambrya, the claim that Revolution School would “serve as a lesson for all schools in Australia,” might be seen as a tad patronising.

    #WalkOn – Along with The Beauty of Dreams, Steve Brophy’s provocation is a challenge for everyone to take up. This is linked with CoLearn MeetUp, an exploration of educational alternatives.

    ‘Walk on’ was the real message for delegates.  In education, we need more educators to ‘walk on’ and take on new challenges, to rethink pedagogy, reimagine school and to grow our collective voice.  We all battle our inner self when it comes to new opportunities.  Talk ourselves out of going for something, self defeat with our own negative self-talk but why?  Why do we do that to ourselves?  Your value is needed, your voice counts and we need all educators to #WalkOn.

    Dear Kathy … – Bec Spink finds cause for celebration in a educational dialogue that is often filled with cynicism and pessimism. This in part reminds me of the debate that brewed up around Will Richardson’s post about revolution verses reformation.

    There are schools and educators out there that are pushing the boundaries of the traditional system, that are asking questions, that are making change. Let’s share and celebrate those stories. The more we can do of that, the more others will notice, perceptions will change. If you disagree with the last sentence, then I am so happy you have chosen a different career pathway. The minute I become cynical or pessimistic about the work I do is the minute I will know it is time to move on. I hope it never happens.

    Leading for Inquiry Learning – Kath Murdoch collects together her thoughts on leading inquiry.

    They are in no particular order, but are an attempt to capture the essence of what this kind of leadership is all about….
    Relationships are at the heart of all we do.
    Questions are the inquiry leader’s most powerful tool.
    Inquiry leaders need to be inquirers- they need to be willing to learn, they are people with a growth mindset – they view learners ( children and adults) as potentially capable, curious and creative!
    Wonder, joy and passion are contagious.Passionate leaders inspire passionate staff.Pedagogy – not programs – help learners develop as inquirers. Programs can support the pedagogy but attention to pedagogy comes first.
    Nurturing all teachers as inquirers builds a strong, whole school inquiry culture.
    Cultivating curiosity in our teachers – about the world, about their kids, about themselves and about learning is critical to the success of an inquiry school.
    When we see teaching itself AS inquiry – we change the way we think about our work and the way we view ourselves in the classroom
    Collaborative planning is all about inquiring into the needs and interests of our learners  – and responding accordingly
    The principles that underpin inquiry in the classroom apply equally to teacher learning.
    When schools see themselves as ‘communities of inquiry’ everyone is a teacher, everyone is a learner.
    Nurturing the ‘whole teacher’  means we balance personal and professional care and build stronger, more trusting teams.
    True collaboration requires time.  When we consciously build our skill set for effective collaboration – our planning and teaching is strengthened.
    Effective planning for inquiry takes time – people need space and time for the kind of deeper conversations from which powerful teaching is born
    Standards/outcomes should inform our planning rather than drive it. Our students’ needs are the driver
    It is not the leader’s role to make the plans.  Plans are powerful when they are co-constructed rather than imposed.

    The ‘Non-Negotiables’ of Next Generation Learning – Greg Miller reflects on his recent visits to various schools and wonders when we will reach a time when students will be able to identify their development in regards collaboration and creativity. Along with Robert Schuetz wondering whether we should teach students email, Dan Haesler’s question as to whether schools kill learning, Dave Cormier’s challenge as to what sort of learning are we educating for and Corrie Barclay’s discussion of deep learning, they offer an interesting provocation about what matters in schools today and tomorrow.

    Don’t get me wrong, as I have already stated, I am impressed with how students articulate their learning. I am also encouraged by leaders in schools who ensure there are references to skills such as creativity, collaboration, communication and team work as a part of their formal assessment and reporting. However, it is not yet mainstream for schools to assess and report (I would rather the words “observe and feedback”) to parents about the ‘non-negotiables’.

    No Excuses and the Pinball Kids – Tom Sherrington adds his voice to the debate around ‘no excuses’ in regards to behaviour management. It is a useful post in that Sherrington touches on the nuances of something too often painted black and white.

    Within the 10% there is a small % – maybe up to 30 students out of 1000 – who simply hit the boundaries all week long.  They get knocked from sanction to sanction, from meeting to meeting, from intervention to intervention, without their behaviours changing. They’re trying, we’re all trying but there are only so many detentions you can sit. We’re way beyond excuses here…these are not bad people; they just find life difficult and need a lot of support to manage time, relationships, learning, concentration. The weekly Support Planning Meeting between our SEN team, Behaviour team and Heads of School is one part of a matrix of provision planning that looks to support these students. ‘No excuses’ is way off the map in terms of being relevant here. Nobody is making excuses; they’re too busy trying to find solutions.

    Hypothetical learning styles (modalities) – There has been a lot written about the problems associated with learning styles lately. See for example Mark Johnson’s satirical post or Stephen Dinham’s critique. This post from Charlotte Pezaro reframes the discussion around learning opportunities and asks us to instead consider the possibilities.

    My argument against learning styles is an argument against limiting the learning experiences of our students. It does not mean that I expect that all students learn the same information in the same way all the time, and I definitely do not see this as a reason to move toward didactic pedagogies in which we expect that learners can just be told what they need to learn. I very much believe that no teaching or learning strategy has a guaranteed outcome in all cases all of the time (or even most cases, most of the time). Teachers must be experts in pedagogy, and know, understand, and be practised at a wide range of strategies and approaches to teaching and learning. A teacher is in the best position to decide, in negotiation with students and their families where appropriate and possible, what approaches and strategies will be best for any given learning objective.

    FOCUS ON … Reading
    As a final focus for the year, here is summary of the books that I have read this year:
    The Thinking Teacher by Oliver Quinlan – A book of questions and beginnings, it touches on a range of educational topics, such as the lenses we apply, the purpose to learning, planning for learning and what might constitute success.
    Counting What Counts – This collection of essays offers many different means of measuring attributes, such as diversity, personality traits, motivation, creativity, entrepreneurship, global competences and social networks, with each critiqued in regards to their strengths and weaknesses as to what they offer.
    Now You See It by Cathy Davidson – Going against the grain that technology is somehow hampering culture and society, Davidson asserts that the brain is constantly evolving and always has. The challenge is recognising the brain’s patterns and breaking with those that are no longer of use.
    Learning with e’s by Steve Wheeler – A book about learning, told through the lens of technology and transformation.
    The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller – Focusing on independence, this book provides an outline for how to empower students to lead their own reading.
    Flourish by Martin Seligman – Breaking the myth that positive psychology is simply about happiness, this book unpacks the five key elements associated with well-being – positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement.
    Mindstorms by Seymour Papert – More than a book about coding, this book challenges you to completely reimagine the how we learn and why we do it.
    The Changing Face of Modern Leadership by David Culberhouse – With no promises of off-the-shelf answers or solutions, this book is a guide into the unknown world of change and transformation, crammed full of questions to consider when taking that next step.
    Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn – Going beyond carrots and punishment, this book argues that our focus should be about setting up the conditions for learning, which needs to address three questions – content, collaboration and choice.
    The Lean Startup by Eric Ries – A guide for going lean and thinking like an entrepreneur, it provides a number of processes to support the change process and scale innovation.
    Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement by Robert Marzano – Going beyond the ideal of providing regular field trips and mentors within the community, this book outlines two indirect approaches for supporting student learning: virtual experiences and direct instruction.
    Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free by Cory Doctorow – Focusing on the choices that are so often dictated onto society by governments and large corporations, this book captures a dystopian side of technology too often overlooked in the mainstream media.
    #SchoolOfThought by Dan Haesler – Touching on topics ranging from mindsets, youth suicide, educational technology, digital footprints, future employment, engagement and positive psychology, this book captures well-being in and out of the school.
    Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus by Douglas Rushkoff – This book provides a vision for a future built around the exchange of value, rather than the extraction of capital.
    Program or be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff – More than the engineering that goes into our day to day existence, this book is about the operating system of the world we live in and the inherent biases that are built into the platforms and devices we use each and every day.
    Claim Your Domain by Audrey Watters – More than the mechanics of a domain of one’s own, the focus of this book is on what it actually means to exist in a digital world and why we need to take more control of our presence.
    Anywhere Anytime Learning by Bruce Dixon and Susan Einhorn – Split into three sections – planning, implementation and resources – this book is a compilation of material designed to support schools with the integration of technology to aid learning.
    Participatory Culture in a Networked Era by Henry Jenkins, Mimi Ito and danah boyd – A unique book in that it was compiled from a series of conversations, this book is best considered as a collection of thoughts that you could easily pick up in pieces or come back to again and again.
    The Lights in the Tunnel by Martin Ford – Using the metaphor of lights in a tunnel to represent economic interrelations, this book draws a picture of an automated future where demand for good is considerably curtailed.
    The Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford – Detailing the rise of automation over time, this book outlines a number of possible futures and the choices that we have.
    The Connected Educator by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall – Through a mixture of anecdotes, elaborations and questions, this book provides a thorough introduction to becoming more connected.
    The Differentiated Classroom by Carol Ann Tomlinson – Going beyond the usual what, how and why, this book explores the culture, environment and curriculum required to truly differentiate in the classroom.
    Renegade Leadership by Brad Gustafson – More than just a guide to innovative edtech leadership, this book is first and foremostly about values and the importance of starting with why.
    Teaching Crowds by Jon Dron and Terry Anderson – Focusing on three key modes of learning – sets, nets and groups – this book unpacks some of the different ways that people gather within online spaces.
    A Learner’s Paradise: A Learner’s Paradise: How New Zealand Is Reimagining Education by Richard Wells – A celebration of New Zealand education system, this book recounts the trust invested in teachers, the power of connections, the celebration of culture and the level of support provided via various government and nonprofit agencies.
    Makers by Cory Doctorow – Mashing together 3D printing and startup culture, this novel never stays the same for very long as it captures many of the absurdities of today’s society.
    Good Education in an Age of Measurement by Gert Biesta – Moving beyond the individualistic process of learning, this book is about the three contrasting purposes of education – qualification, socialisation and subjectification.
    The End of Average by Todd Rose – Describing the invention and progressive adoption of the average over time, this book makes the case Individuality by focusing on three elements: jaggedness, context and pathways.
    So what about you? What have you read this year? Are there any posts that you would add to the list? Or maybe there is a book that really changed your thinking? As always, comments welcome.

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    Read Write Review – Voices from the Village (2016) by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  7. Aaron Davis

    “Templated Self” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SAThe #edublogsclub prompt this week is to reflect on a challenge in education.

    In a recent post on personal identity, George Couros made the following comment:

    We can no longer say we are preparing students for “the real world”, when what mean is ”the real world” that we grew up in, not recognizing current needs of today.

    For Couros students should leave high school with:

    A PLN
    A digital portfolio
    An page

    This left me thinking about the challenge of digital identify in school. For many this debate quickly deteriorates into a battle between supposed traditional literacy and the more modern digital literacies. In this context, students having a blog and a member of a Facebook group is seen as a win. This problem is not discussed enough, especially what we mean by ‘real world’ and what we even mean by digital literacies? This includes where students set up their presence and the templated identities that are permitted in such spaces as Twitter and Facebook. Here then is my thinking on Couros’ leaving list.

    I wonder what it means to leave school with a PLN? Is it being in a Facebook group with hundreds of other people? Is it being on Twitter? Or is a PLN an attitude? A way of being? A verb? Surely, there is no point having a network if you do not maintain it. Maybe schools should provide a safe space in which students can develop these skills? Personally, I was lucky enough to be invited into a private forum by my friends when I was younger and was able to learn so much in this environment. Although I have read a lot about the potential Mastadon, I am unsure about the reality of managing such a space in school. Maybe the answer is developing a school school wide hashtag. My solution is to use a social media styled theme within WordPress. This then provides the possibility for students to have a level of ownership, control and support.
    Is it enough to leave school with a portfolio that has very little portability? A portfolio dependent on someone else’s space and upkeep? Although applications like Google Sites, Adobe Spark Page, Wix, Kidsblogs etc make it easy to create a site, this does not always mean that they are the best option. Students are often committed to platforms with limited means of moving. Audrey Watters talks about having a domain of one’s own, a space which you have some sort of control and influence. While Ian O’Byrne wonders about the prospect of this in schools. Whatever the specifics, we need to look past just giving students a space and think more ethically about the consequences of that space. It is for this reason that I think Edublogs is a positive platform in that it provides the balance between control and portability. Although something less complex like Jekyl maybe the ideal as the content can be easily adapted for any platform, WordPress is at least a start.
    I find it interesting when people list a product over the process. Join Twitter vs. becoming a connected educator. Create an About.Me page vs have a splash page, that space that links to all your other presences on the web. I created an page years ago, feeling that was what I needed, but I have come to feel that I would prefer people start at my blog and go from there. I particularly like the way that Robert Schuetz maps out his identity on his blog. This then leaves me wondering why students cannot have aE page attached to their portfolio that acts as a ‘’ page? If not, create a space somewhere else, just do it somewhere that you have control over. If students have their own domains, maybe they could create an ‘about’ sub-domain and install a one-page HTML site there?

    So those are my thoughts and I haven’t even touched on the IndieWeb or the potential of Tom Woodward’s API driven portfolio or the possibility that not everyone can share themselves online. I think that students should  leave school with a sense of ownership over their (online) learning, the skills needed to connect and engage within networks, as well as an appreciation of the way the web works. What about you? What should students leave with? What real world are you creating? As always, comments welcome.

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    Supporting Digital Identities in School
    by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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