Archive for April, 2008

Performance-based portfolios have increasingly become popular in education. They offer numerous benefits: a) fostering self-assessment and reflection, b) providing personal satisfaction and renewal, c) providing tools for empowerment, d) promoting collaboration, and e) offering a holistic approach to assessment. Many educators believe that performance-based portfolios are essential part of teacher education programs. One commonly applied type of portfolios is the Web-based portfolio, which is specifically created for and placed on the Web. Web-based portfolios have some unique advantages, such as: providing a means of storing multiple iterations over time and a mechanism for ease of editing and revisions; allowing instant access from anywhere and at any time; and providing structured presentation that allows a viewer to choose contents from one section to another based on his or her need or preference. In spite of significant benefits, there are some drawbacks of existing web-based portfolios. Typical Web-based portfolios still require users to have the skills and knowledge of using Web authoring software and FTP clients, which can be daunting to many pre- and in-service teachers. Furthermore, traditional Web-based portfolios lack the capability of allowing viewers to leave their feedback and therefore are limited for easy and instant collaboration.

Despite the recent popularity of adopting electronic portfolios in teacher education programs, the question “Electronic Portfolios for Whom?” has been raised by Javier I. Ayala and many other researchers. Javier argued that “the knowledge promoted under the guise of electronic portfolios is hardly student-centered. Very little research exists integrating student voices into the dialogue of electronic portfolios. The voices that are integrated are primarily those of administrators and some faculty.” The literature suggests that reforming a new type of Web-based portfolio, which simplifies the technology part of publishing content and allows developers and peers to share resources and ideas for reflection and collaboration, is essential for teacher education.

With the recent advances of Web 2.0 and the use of blogs in teaching and learning, it is apparent that blogs can simplify the technology part of publishing content. Furthermore, blogs can allow users to reflect, post information and resources, and collaborate with others. Because of the easy of use and the interactive capability of blogs, it comes naturally that blogs can be used for developing and reforming web-based portfolios in education. The blogfolios (weblog-portfolios) will have a great potential in teacher education and support students’ self-reflection and self-evaluation of their learning.

Currently, Professor Harrison Yang at the State University of New York at Oswego and I are conducting a study to examine the effects of using blogfolios on students’ perceptions on interaction and learning. Our blogfolios study is currently in the final stage of data collection. It is anticipated that the study will provide useful information on students’ perceptions on interaction and learning by using blogfolios in their courses. The summary of the findings will be posted in this blog when it becomes available. So, stay tuned…

[Dr. Harrison Yang at the State University of New York at Oswego also contributes to this post.]

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Footnote.com is a unique place where original historical documents are combined with social networking to create an interesting experience involving the stories of the past. The Footnote.com collections feature documents relating to the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, WWII, U.S. Presidents, historical newspapers and naturalization documents.

Footnote.com is a great online repository for original documents by hosting millions of records and supports an online community of people that are passionate about a variety of topics relating to history. I think the service is particularly useful for teachers and students in social studies, history, U.S. government classes. Footnote allows students to access thousands of primary source documents and photos, and create online history reports. Students can post the URLs of their history reports online and allow others to leave comments on their reports. In addition, students can add annotations and comments to things they find on Footnote, create their own Story Pages and Spotlights, maintain a gallery of their favorite Footnote images, upload their own images to their gallery, as well as annotate and print any Free Titles or documents.


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For those of you who are teachers and students and have limited disk space to keep all of your files (music, video, photos, documents, and other files) on your computer or server, ADrive could me your best solution.  You can access to your stored files from anywhere you have Internet access, at any time. The basic plan of ADrive gives you up to 50GB of free online storage, with the largest individual file size of 2 GB.  This is quite adequate for most teachers and students.

ADrive is very easy to use.  You do not need to install software on your computer and is a 100% web based service.  All you have to do is sign up for a new account and then login and begin uploading your files.  To upload a file, click the “Upload File” button from your “My Files” tab and launch the Java-powered file uploader.  If you do not see an upload tool, please make sure your Web browser has Java turned on.  You can upload from a single file to several directories.  Also, you can drag and drop files onto the applet to add them to the upload list or you can use the add button to browse your files.  Once the upload is complete, you can download the file or share it with other.  Sharing your file on the ADrive is a great feature.  It will move the file to your “My Shared Files” tab and a unique Web link will be generated that you can share with anyone on the internet. You simply email your students, friends, family, and colleagues the link to your ADrive shared file. All they have to do is open the link to download your shared file.

I think ADrive is an outstanding tool for teachers and students.  It is a quick and easy solution to backup your files online.  With ADrive in the classrooms, teachers and students don’t have to worry about running out of storage space on their local hard drive or go through hassle of using external storage devices.

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Two weeks ago, the Office of Communications in the U.K. published an 80-page report, Social Networking: A quantitative and qualitative research report into attitudes, behaviours and use. The report draws on numerous qualitative and quantitative research studies conducted in UK in 2007. Here are some interesting findings from the report:

  • Social networking sites are most popular with teenagers and young adults.
  • Despite the fact that the minimum age for most major social networking sites is usually 13 (14 on MySpace), 27% of 8-11 year olds who are aware of social networking sites say that they have a profile on a site.
  • The average adult social networker has profiles on 1.6 sites, and most users check their profile at least every other day.
  • 25% of registered social networking users had posted sensitive personal data about themselves on their profiles (phone numbers, home addresses, etc.).
  • The majority of adults who had used a social networking site had a profile on Facebook (62%) and this was the most mentioned main social networking site (49%). Nearly half of all respondents reported having a profile on MySpace and one-third had one on Bebo.
  • Two-thirds of parents claim to set rules about their child’s use of social networking sites, although only 53% of children said that their parents set such rules.
  • Social networkers fall into five distinct groups based on their behaviors and attitudes: 1) Alpha Socialisers, 2) Attention Seekers, 3) Followers, 4) Faithfuls, and 5) Functionals.
  • Non-users of social networking sites fall into three distinct groups: 1) Concerned about safety, 2) Technically inexperienced, and 3) Intellectual rejecters.
  • Social network users create well-developed profiles as the basis of their online presence. They share personal information with a wide range of “friends.”
  • Only a few users highlighted negative aspects of social networking.
  • Concerns about privacy and safety are not “top of mind” for most users.
  • 41% of children aged 8-17 and 44% of adults leave their privacy settings as default ‘open’ which means that their profiles are visible to anyone.
  • 34% of 16-24 year olds are willing to give out sensitive personal information such as their phone number or email address.
  • 17% of adults used their profile to communicate with people they do not know. This increases among younger adults. 35% of adults spoke to people who were ‘friends of friends’.
  • Facebook is the most popular site with adults followed by MySpace and then Bebo. For children aged between 8 and 17, Bebo was the most used social networking site.
  • A minority of younger women reported creating fake profiles for fun.
  • Some teenagers and adults in their early twenties reported feeling ‘addicted’ to social networking sites and were aware that their use was squeezing their study time.
  • A minority of people reported being aware of bullying through social networking sites and some younger users admitted using social networking sites to ‘get back’ at people they had fallen out with.

Robin Blake introduces Ofcom’s research on Social Networking

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Yudu Freedom is a new on-demand publishing service that lets you turn a PDF file into a live, Flash-based Web page within minutes. Like Scribd, Yudu Freedom allows you to publish documents in an interactive, page-turning digital format and host them online at no cost. It is fast and simple to use Yudu Freedom. You first upload your document in PDF format. After uploading your file, you will be sent an email with the link to your publication, along with a jpeg of the front cover and HTML code which will allow you to embed the publication on your Blog or website. Basically, Yudu Freedom service converts your PDF file into a Flash publication which is simple to upload to a website or blog, distribute via email or save to a digital storage device.


You can use Yudu Freedom to create digital publications with up to 16 pages each at no cost. The files can be viewed a little faster than with Adobe’s Acrobat reader, and it runs entirely in Flash with neat page turning effect. The digital publications you create can contain images, audio, video and links back to your Web site. I think the service is great for teachers and students who want to create brochures, newsletter, instructional and learning guides, how-tos, ebooks, reports, manuals, photo books, CVs, portfolios and more. If you need to produce materials that go over the 16-page limit, you can step up to Yudu’s fee-based services, Yudu Pro and Yudu Express.

Like Scribd, Yudu Freedom has also a built in search tool, zoom tool, and a thumbnail viewer. The best part of the Yudu Freedom is that you don’t need to sign up to use the service. You can simply upload the files and leave your e-mail address and it will send you a link when it’s done processing. However, Yudu is lacking the support for other document formats and the capability to embed PDFs on third party sites. In comparison, Scribd supports many document formats (PDF, Postscript, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OpenOffice, Rich text, plain text, and other OpenDocument formats) and allow you to share it anywhere with its iPaper service.

On the Yudu Freedom Website, it states “We want your readers all over the world to enjoy this interactive, online reading experience. We’ll let you publish for free, forever, providing that you follow our 3 simple rules: 1) No adult content, 2) offensive material, and 3) No copyright abuse. We let you and fellow Freedom readers report abuse on each and every publication if they aren’t Freedom-friendly. If we agree, YUDU will take publications down without notice.” I think this is a great policy and it makes Yudu a better place for online document publishing for teachers and students.

With Yudu Freedom and Scribd, anyone can now make professional digital publications. Yudu Freedom’s document viewer is simple and fast. You can view my first test on Yudu Freedom in action simply click on the image below.

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Tooble is a useful application that lets you browse, search and download any video from YouTube and put it on your video iPod, iTouch, iPhone or Apple TV. You can also save these videos to watch on your computer. The best of Tooble is that it automatically converts YouTube videos to MP4 format and then sends them straight to iTunes so that the next time you plug in your iPod or iPhone they’ll be there for you to watch.

I have tried out Tooble for the past few days. I think Tooble is a great utility that allows teachers and students to download educational videos from YouTube to their iPods. Tooble has a terrific interface and is very simple to use. Tooble can be a stand alone YouTube browser that lets you search and select video from YouTube. You can navigate using the lists of featured videos, enter a search in the search bar, or enter a direct URL you already know. Once you have found the video you like, simply check it and hit the download button. Tooble will take care of the rest. It will download the video, converts it, and imports it into iTunes to be played or synced to your iPod. Currently, Tooble is only available for Macintosh, but a Windows version is in beta testing and is coming soon.

Tooble Browser

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