iPhone for ePortfolios

It’s been a quiet around here lately. For me, a new job, moving house, adopting dogs, and getting engaged (most importantly) have taken priority :-)Alas, quite a few Mac related things have been ticking over in my mind. Or is this an open letter to Jonathan Ive? I’ve fantasised about iPhones place in education before; I’ve also publicly fantasised about ePortfolios before - please indulge me again.Recently I attended a seminar by Professor Richard Kimbell from, Director of Technology Education Research Unit, Goldsmiths’ College, University of London. This seminar provided an opportunity for educators in W.A. to learn about the use of PDAs and other digital technologies to support assessment. The event was summarised thus:

Classroom TERUEmbedding ICT across the curriculum (i.e. getting it out of ICT suites) has been a notoriously difficult and frequently unsuccessful enterprise. Embedding ICT into assessment practice might therefore be thought to be even more tricky. The use of mobile / hand-held digital technologies transforms the debate and makes possible a complete re-visioning of the teaching/learning/assessing relationship. The e-scape pilot (just completed in 15 schools) provides glimpses into the possible futures for e-assessment.  

I am very interested in where we can go with ePortfolios and attending this seminar left me wondering about where PDAs will fit into the wider learning experiences possible within outcomes-based education. The research that has gone into making these design and technology activities engaging and relevant to students is commendable. I was particularly impressed with the modelling of a student’s design process via PDA in the form of traditional design sketches. Then the PDA recording of voices as assessed markers of the significant points in the action / reflection learning journey students were on. Communicating student work wirelessly and directly from the PDA into html to a teachers notebook or server is a remarkable leap in ePortfolio thinking. Then there was ability to have a secure web-based assessment by geographically disparate examiners that is proven to result in incredibly accurate holistic judgements made via a kind of web-based glanceware.This e-portfolio system for the e-scape project was made in partnership with companies TAG Learning and Handheld Learning. Project member Tony Wheeler does a great job of summarising Phase 2 of the e-scape project here:

Phase 1 of the project had shown that PDAs would be good tools to focus on, principally because of their multi-functionality – for capturing drawings, photographs, writing and speech. For the phase 2 prototype we … would allow the handheld technology to ‘speak’ directly to the website [on the teachers notebook], enabling us to track – in real time – the evolution of learners’ portfolios in design workshops in schools.  

What struck me as being the most relevant to teachers was the way that these handheld devices could be used not only for assessment but also in regular day-to-day learning. With a sufficiently robust server backbone and 802.11n wireless network. Outcomes based open-ended learning tasks are ideally suited to this combination of ICTs. And so is the iPhone!Also worth checking out is this page where you can see the e-scape portfolio system learning journey in progress . This shows how the e-scape system linked PDAs dynamically to a web portfolio. This video shows how all the PDA input by a student (sketches, photos, text and audio) looks if it were to be edited together. A podcast with Professor Richard Kimbell and Tony Wheeler is available here. A podcast and pdf of the slideshow from the Perth seminar are available here. Thanks to Dr. Paul Newhouse for organising this public seminar through the ECU Centre for Schooling and Learning Technologies (CSaLT), and also to the Educational Computing Association of WA (ECAWA).Now following Steve Job’s mantra of “Stay hungry, stay foolish” I write this open letter:

Dear Jonathan Ive,iPhoneYou are a London lad with an appreciation of the rigour and sound process that needs to go into design. The work these future of these London designers here is surely something you’d like to support. I am sure Professor Kimbell and yourself would have a lot in common. With some consideration for web2.0 ePortfolio software the iPhone together with OSX server and Airport Extreme would slot straight into this educational setting the team at the TERU have exposed as being highly engaging and effective for student and teacher use.Would Apple like to forge some new ground and come to the party early on this one? You already have all the technology - they just need to be merged slightly for education ends. iLife suite + Airport + OSX server + QuicKTime +WebKit (+blog +touch screen +iLife +iSight +sound +video etc) recording).  

Warm regards,Paul

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