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Activity-reflection e-portfolios: An approach to the problem of effectively integrating ICTs in teaching and learning (and vice versa)

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E-learning platforms such as Web-CT and Blackboard are typically viewed in higher education contexts as a convenient, economical, and flexible way of integrating new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in teaching and learning. However they can also reinforce traditional transmission approaches to education as mere repositories for content and in terms of related ‘add-on’ uses of online interaction as a substitute and not just a supplement for face-to-face interaction. On closer inspection it is clear that relevant educational design principles are required to effectively integrate ICTs and, in particular, to harness their ‘new learning’ implications. This paper will focus on the model of ‘activity-reflection e-portfolios’ developed initially for a teacher education context and extended to include a range of templates applicable to every teaching and learning context. Such a model will thus serve as an example of: (a) an integrated approach to ICTs in teaching and learning which can be adapted to different purposes and various ICT programs as well as ‘new learning’ methodologies; and (b) a perspective useful in evaluating merely ‘add-on’ uses of ICTs in education. However, its primary interest and significance perhaps lies in its encouragement of the learning process as both a teaching and assessment strategy, and therefore its connection to various ‘new learning’ approaches such as problem-based learning, authentic assessment, and collaborative knowledge-building.
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Richards, C. (2005). Activity-reflection e-portfolios: An approach to the problem of effectively
integrating ICTs in teaching and learning. In The Reflective Practitioner. Proceedings of the 14th Annual
Teaching Learning Forum, 3-4 February 2005. Perth: Murdoch University.
http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2005/refereed/richards.html
Activity-reflection e-portfolios:
An approach to the problem of effectively integrating ICTs (especially
e-learning platforms) in teaching and learning
E-learning platforms such as Web-CT and Blackboard are typically viewed in higher education
contexts as a convenient, economical, and flexible way of integrating new Information and
Communication Technologies (ICTs) in teaching and learning. However they can also reinforce
traditional transmission approaches to education as mere repositories for content and in terms
of related ‘add-on’ uses of online interaction as a substitute and not just a supplement for face-
to-face interaction. On closer inspection it is clear that relevant educational design principles
are required to effectively integrate ICTs and, in particular, to harness their ‘new learning’
implications. This paper will focus on the model of ‘activity-reflection e-portfolios’ developed
initially for a teacher education context and extended to include a range of templates applicable
to every teaching and learning context. Such a model will thus serve as an example of: (a) an
integrated approach to ICTs in teaching and learning which can be adapted to different purposes
and various ICT programs as well as ‘new learning’ methodologies; and (b) a perspective useful
in evaluating merely ‘add-on’ uses of ICTs in education. However, its primary interest and
significance perhaps lies in its encouragement of the learning process as both a teaching and
assessment strategy, and therefore its connection to various ‘new learning’ approaches such as
problem-based learning, authentic assessment, and collaborative knowledge-building.
The problem of effectively integrating ICTs in teaching and learning
The challenge of ICT integration in teaching and learning has long been associated with
‘new’ models of learning which extend from student-centred theories and approaches (from
‘constructivism’ through to more specific notions such as problem-based learning, authentic
assessment, and collaborative knowledge-building) on one hand, through to related pushes
in higher education especially to embrace modes of distance education, flexible delivery and
open learning on the other hand. On the general assumption that ‘learning’ is ultimately
something which can be delivered, transferred or simply posted on an internet platform, the
concept of e-learning (and selectively related notions such as knowledge management,
instructional design and systems theory) has somewhat uncritically perhaps and even
counter-productively at times become the emblem of ‘new learning’ for many educators
especially educational managers. In other words, the new requirements and possibilities for
more effective learning which have gained impetus from new ICT tools and media have
tended so far to reinforce rather than overcome an opposition between theory, policy and
rhetoric on one hand, and actual practice on the other (e.g. Daniel 1996).
This paper outlines one model which attempts to outline in actual practice and not just as
theory or wishful thinking: (a) a productive convergence between educational designs which
effectively facilitate yet also serve to assess the formative process of learning itself; and (b)
the powerful pedagogical and learning implications as well as technological possibilities of
new Information and Communication Technology tools and media. The ‘activity-reflection
e-portfolio’ model outlined in this paper represents an exemplary focus for discussing a
convergent ‘hub’ which connects, implements, and develops the various constructivist or
student-centred implications of new learning technologies (Jonassen et al, 1999). Such a
model thus exemplifies a strategy for teaching and learning which is consistent with
Laurillard’s dialogical framework for the use of educational technology in university
teaching, Schon’s (1987) model of reflective practice in educational design, and Light &
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Cox’s (2001) conception of the reflective professional in higher education. In place of
traditional dichotomies of theory and practice, and also typical delineations of either skill or
information acquisition in relation to applied knowledge, it advocates a view of applied
knowledge grounded in both initial familiarization or practice and also critical reflection.
The concept of an ‘activity-reflection e-portfolio might be approached as both a particular
educational tool and a general strategy. In contrast to the increasing and varied uses of
‘electronic portfolios’ in all levels of education for mainly repository or profiling purposes,
the particular model outlined here is somewhat unique because it is primarily conceived
here as an integrated approach to teaching, learning and assessment in a way which also
more effectively harnesses and integrates the educational possibilities of ICTs (e.g.
Cambridge, 2001). As a general strategy we thus define this model as: a learning and
assessment strategy which integrates the tools and processes of ICTs but also at the same
time encourages, reflects, and gauges students’ progressive learning, self-evaluation and
reflective practice.
ICTs and the most effective learning as an activity-reflection process
The concept of an activity-reflection e-portfolio was originally conceived in the specific
context of teacher education as a way of getting teachers to develop an across-the-
curriculum ICT competency or literacy and also to think about how to effectively integrate
this in actual teaching and learning practice (e.g. Richards, 2002). Out of its development
emerged distinct notions of how the most effective learning might be conceived as an
activity-reflection cycle or, alternatively, as educational design to link learner doing and
thinking. This notion resembles in several ways David Kolb’s influential model of the
learning process but is distinct insofar as it is inevitably grounded in contexts of application
and therefore organized in practice and not just in theory around the inherent
transformations which connect learner performance and knowledge. The discussion below
will therefore examine associated concepts of ‘learning activity’ and ‘focused reflections’
in terms of an overall dialogical (i.e. both discursive and transformational) approach to
educational design which lends itself to ICT integration but also represents an across-the-
curriculum alternative to traditionally linear and hierarchical notions of knowledge
construction and the learning process.
In contrast to a traditional linear conception of skill acquisition and a hierarchical one of
information acquisition, the e-portfolio promotes learning as an activity-reflection cycle
leading to more effective and applied connections between theory or procedures and
practice (and various other related top-down vs. bottom-up imperatives of education). By
focusing on the use of ICTs in education as a general literacy rather than as a discrete set of
skills or processes, the learning and assessment activities which make up the e-portfolio
function as a guided but open-ended ‘journey’ to engage and overcome the initial and
inherent ‘thresholds of temporary frustration’ which are inherent in the use of technological
tools as well as the very transformations which make up the learning process. In short, ICTs
extend oral and verbal literacies of human communication and information access in terms
of new digital media which lend themselves to a focus on both lower-order competencies
and higher-order generic skills such as problem-solving, collaboration, and transferable
applications.
The transformative stages of the activity-reflection cycle further imply a theory of activity-
based learning which lends itself to ICT integration as well as more effective learning links
between content and process, thinking and doing, and also formal education and social
context. Thus, as Figure 1 indicates, the e-portfolio frames learning in the context of a
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Social knowledge
three-fold process of initial familiarisation (naïve/activity phase), procedural or theoretical
explanation (critical/ reflective phase) and specific application (dialogical/transformative
phase). Thinking is grounded in doing, and content (i.e. information or skills) is likewise
linked to a primary emphasis on process. In this way a resulting orientation of ‘applied
knowledge’ and ‘reflective practice’ is just as relevant to critical or conceptual modes of
learning and theorizing as practical or technical types of learning. Such an understanding
represents a dialogue or interplay between individual performance and social knowledge.
Figure 1. ICT integration and learning as a threshold of transformation
doing (using)
process
thinking
content
1. Naive/activity phase
(initial familiarisation/
innovation)
2. Critical/reflection phase
(procedural/theoretical explanation
- discipline)
3. Dialogical/transformative
phase ( specific/innovative
application)
threshold of temporary
vs perpetual frustration
(especially where ICT
is concerned)
adapted from C.Richards (2004)
The key to effectively designing an e-portfolio as a convergent learning and assessment
strategy lies in encouraging effective student interaction with theory, procedures or content
in terms of linking this with either practical experience or transferable contexts of
application. Where ICT is concerned, instead of focusing on unique procedures or
specialized tools, the learning focus should be on transferable functions and generic
applications. Learning activities should be appropriately designed to introduce, integrate
and apply ICT skills and knowledge in relation to a curriculum or project purpose. It is also
important to design appropriate ‘focus questions’ for learner reflection which encourage
substantial engagement and thinking.
E-portfolios as a framework for learning activities and reflections
The focus of an activity is on some kind of doing or performance as a prelude to, in
conjunction with, or as a culmination of reflective thought. This is in the context that all
learning might be about enhancing reflective practice in some way. An activity may be a
self-contained task or an open-ended series of tasks, and it may also be either physical or
conceptual and symbolic in nature. It may also be an elaborately structured set of options or
procedures, or may simply be a mode of play or the response to a focus question. A
distinction might therefore be made introductory or initial familiarization activities,
organizing activities, culminating activities and also reflection activities. Such a typology
reflects the continuum as well as stages implicit in the activity-reflection cycle. It also
epitomizes how the key challenge of effective learning activity design is to link the indirect
interests, purposes and elements of practice with both an overall learning purpose or goal
and some combination of attitudinal skill, process or knowledge learning objectives
(Richards, in press). Such a model proposes an interactive connection between individual
interests and performance and social dialogue and knowledgeand the latter grounded in
relation to the former, rather than defined in opposition to it.
Individual performance
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If integrated into an assessment scheme especially, learning activities may also encourage
much more effective participation in the learning process as well as provide a focus for
grounding reflection in practice. ICT-supported learning activities are ideal for producing
artifacts which can be linked to an e-portfolio to provide both discrete and overall practical
indicators of the learning process to complement, inform, and exemplify related critical
reflections. The e-portfolio allows flexibility for various permutations of the interplay
between formative and summative assessment as well as links between practical
performance and critical or applied knowledge construction. Such artifacts may be assessed
in terms of a pass-fail competency linked in turn to a graded reflection, or where
appropriate graded in terms of a relevant criteria or rubric. For instance, the evaluation of
webpage or multimedia projects may be intrinsically subjective in many respects yet
appropriately related to objective criteria in other respects. Also, just as it is not enough to
know the basic skills of using a search engine to embody an effective information literacy
knowledge, so too a bookmark file artifact of a search strategy provides a crucial
complement to any reflection about a general or specific information search strategy. More
content-focused learning activities might typically involve reflection activity artifacts.
There are many models of ICT learning activities at primary and secondary school level
which provide a useful indicator of a ‘generic structure’ (an anatomy of the related
learning, inquiry, and knowledge-building processes): (a) relevant and applicable also to
higher education contexts and (b) sufficiently simplified (e.g. as compared to the typical
use of problem-based learning examples, cases and scenarios in higher education).
One such example which exemplifies inquiry-based design is that of Webquests
(webquest.sdsu.edu/webquest.html). Contexts for searching out, evaluating and making use
of authentic information from the Internet may include either an actual real-life situation or
a hypothetical scenario, and might further involve role-playing, problem-solving and
collaborative team-work in the pursuit of some required outcome or performance such as a
report or presentation (see figure 2). Webquest tasks may involve an initial or on-going
task, and also may have a single lesson or longer-term project focus. In relation to some
particular context, Webquests might also revolve around the posting of one or more
reflection questions.
Figure 2: Design aide for developing an ICT-supported learning activity
1. AN AUTHENTIC OR IMAGINARY SITUATION/CONTEXT/PROBLEM
2. WHAT WILL LEARNERS NEED TO DO AS THE PURPOSE OF INITIAL
INTERACTION (solve a problem, address some issue or challenge, etc)?
3. HOW WILL THIS PROVIDE A PRETEXT FOR SPECIFIC LEARNING
OUTCOMES IN A CHOSEN SUBJECT AND RE: MAIN LEARNING
OBJECTIVE?
4. PROVIDE AN OVERVIEW OF KEY STAGES OR STEPS OF ACTIVITY
5. WHAT IS THE MAIN ICT-SUPPORTED LEARNING FOCUS AND WHAT
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES NEEDED FOR THIS ACTIVITY?
Adapted from C.Richards (2005)
Although such a structure has various applications for higher educational contexts, its main
relevance lies in promoting a dialogical framework where problem-based learning
‘contexts’ are also designed in terms of topics, questions and issues for critical reflection on
one hand, and exemplary ‘artifacts’ of learning, inquiry, and knowledge-building processes
on the other. As indicated above, disciplines and knowledge areas such as medicine,
science and law have productively embraced ‘problem-based learning’ models a
fundamental approach for connecting both interactive and inquiry-based learning design.
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More succinct, focused and applied ways of doing this would encourage innovative and
applied aspects of the learning process across all disciplinary areas (especially across the
divide between more process and content focused knowledge areas) with the added bonus
of an integrated approach to ICTs in teaching and learning. This is especially the case in
terms of the use of ‘reflective’ activities which are a central function and aspect of the
activity-reflection e-portfolio model. E-portfolio critical reflections may be either directly
or indirectly related to learning activitiesas well as constituting a kind of activity in itself.
Using e-portfolios to collect, synthesise and/or encourage online reflections
The increasingly ubiquitous use of e-learning platforms includes extensive use of online
webforums as an ostensible teaching and learning tool. However, typically not a great deal
of ‘designing’ for specific purposes and outcomes goes into educational use of online
forums and they tend to be an add-on in various ways to the notion that online delivery is
primarily a repository for content. The crucial importance of design should be apparent to
anyone who has grappled with how to encourage participation in online forums and engage
learners, whether to allow open-ended discussion around a vague topic or more focused and
structured reflection responses, and with related dilemmas of how or whether to include
any learner contributions in the assessment process. Additionally there are there are related
issues: whether to attempt synchronous exchanges (include video-conferencing)? What
kind of asynchronous mode is most appropriate or are they all exactly the same (email lists
vs webforum, and distinctions between various types of webforum)?; How to separate
individual from collective contributions (especially in terms of some of the collaborative
programs and funcations available; and might new reflective modes of online presentation
such as ‘blogging’ (Huffaker, 2004) be more relevantly harness for educational purposes?.
Both synchronous and asynchronous modes of virtual mediation and interaction through
computer-mediated networks represent a kind of hybrid between informal conversation and
formal writing. In part because of this, unless there are effective designs which can harness
the power of online forums to encourage and promote reflection and collaboration,
responses may tend to be of the more superficial and opinionated kind. Like all use of ICTs
for learning, designs for educational forums represent virtual functions of teaching,
learning and knowledge interaction which can either be treated as an add-on substitute for
or a more integrated supplement for the learning process. And the fact that the learning and
assessment focus must shift from mere quantity (and reproduction) to quality (and active
construction of knowledge) is exemplified by how just as in conversation (and in Socratic
modes of teaching) - one succinct and strategic question or statement in an online
exchange can be more powerful than thousands of words.
Many of these dilemmas and issues can be productively transformed from problem into
opportunity with the kind of approach exemplified by the activity-reflection portfolio. This
approach encourages a more focused and structured use of various types of forums to
engage learners in reflective, collaborative and inquiry-based ways. Instead of having to
hunt out individual learner contributions in large forums (like needles in a haystack),
various contributions can be either collected or synthesized (even in cut and pasted
contexts of response to a specific thread). This would then also allow the kind of more
holistic approach to evaluation or even assessment which is really needed to both
encourage and fairly recognize the quality of responses. Used strategically, regular
responses can also be the basis for a synthesizing essay or assignment of some kind as well
as linked to the learning process of educational projects and problem-based learning
inquiries. In such ways the activity-reflection e-portfolio can usefully complement other
modes of leaning and assessment.
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The particular concept of ‘critical reflections’ used here as the most recommended mode of
using webforums for reflective responses is neither a mini-essay nor a short opinionated
discussion. It is a semi-formal written response (usually 350-500 words) to relevant focus
questions grounded in context and preferably linked to either concrete examples, typical
case studies, an actual process of learning or a specific academic reference. In this way
critical reflections should attempt to ground processes of knowledge inquiry (i.e.
conceptual probes), self-evaluation, and various kinds of critical analysis in reflective
practice and encourage responses which reflect higher-order learning and knowledge
construction and not superficial opinions or mere information transmission. In short, ideas
discussed should relate to practical experience and, where also appropriate, be supported by
appropriate references and well-informed arguments. In this way, critical reflections
represent an applied mode of thinking grounded in practical or ideational ‘doing’ which
goes beyond the learning of mere information or skills. As individual performance, critical
reflections may provide the basis for a social construction of knowledge in terms of
subsequent dialogue and discussion. Figure 3 outlines the generic modes of critical
reflectionthe key learning focus for reconciling formative and summative assessment in
the e-portfolio model.
Figure 3. ICT integration and generic modes of critical reflection
1. Critical reflection on a practical activity or about the use of a practical skill or concept
An example of a practical activity might be the use of an internet search engine to find relevant links
for a chosen and refined topic. Instead of merely re-describing the typical steps in this process, you
might relate a ‘reflection’ discussion about key stages of this process to your actual experience of
developing, applying and refining a search strategy with particular emphasis on how some of the
obstacles faced and overcome gave you new and practical insights about the process undertaken.
2. Critical reflection on a stage or process of learning development
An example of this kind of reflection might relate to either: (a) a developmental stage such as an initial
design concept map or a later flow-chart or storyboard; or (b) the collaborative exercise of developing
a web page or educational resource. If (a) then you might discuss the possibilities versus limitations of
the particular model developed perhaps with reference to either an initial idea or the projection of a
final product. If (b) then perhaps you might compare the advantages and disadvantages of collaborative
efforts in terms of actual experiences related to a particular stage or a general process.
3. Critical reflection about a topic, concept or issue
This kind of reflection may not require connection to first-hand practical experience but asks you to
demonstrate an effective effort to think about, to explore and to develop a particular topic, concept or
issue. It may be connected to a particular reading provided. If not, then you might yourself make some
relevant connection to a particular references or general debate. It may also be useful to refer to
relevant examples from common knowledge or someone else’s experience or research (as well as your
own).
Implied in the distinction between these three basic types of critical reflection is a notion
that some topics of learning and knowledge-building are grounded more in applied
‘contexts’ and ‘processes’ of generic transferability and others more in the similarly
transformative understanding or interpretation of ‘content’. Thus the typology above lends
its to distinct options which may more relevant in some areas of knowledge or for specific
learning purposes.
Hypermedia projects as an exemplary use of the e-portfolio model
The e-portfolio model outlined here further represents a particular convergence between
learning as an activity-reflection cycle and the literacy implications of the hypermedia
interface. The exemplary instance of a learning and assessment e-portfolio is a website of
hypertextual links (reflecting a required template) to activity artifacts and reflections related
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to the range of different types of learning outlined above. Alternatively, the e-portfolio
might be saved to disk (e.g. CD-ROM) and submitted this way. In any case, the process of
constructing an e-portfolio can and should be a simple one. An e-portfolio promotes two
key related effects. It represents a framework or context for organizing, reflecting and
generally enhancing or encouraging the process and outcomes of various modes and
elements of either concrete or abstract learning. As a culmination of the learning process,
the publication or presentation of learning outcomes or products on the Internet represents
an authentic mode of assessment which extends beyond immediate formal learning
purposes and the audience of the teacher-marker (e.g. it might remain a useful personal
resource or be shared with others). Indeed, the immediacy and potentially universal access
to web publications or presentations are significant and powerfully motivating elements of
ICTs as the basis for new literacies of interaction and knowledge.
Figure 4. E-portfolio template for a course lending itself to a project-based approach
Multimedia Project (40%)
1. Concept map
2. Flow chart
3. Storyboard
4. Project final product
Figure 4 outlines the example of an e-portfolio project-based learning template for
hyperlinks customized for an actual course focusing on multimedia development. The final
product provides the convergent focus for reflections about the various stages, elements,
and artifacts of the learning process about multimedia tools on one hand, and multimedia
design on the other. The organizing focus of (and the idea for) the project itself was
developed in the context of a series of process elementsconcept mapping, flow charting,
and storyboarding. Together these activity artifacts were just as important as the final
product for assessment purposes since they reflected the process of learning as well as
development. While the project and its planning elements were developed in pairs as a
collaboration, the reflections and seminar items constituted an ‘individual performance’
which complemented but could be distinguished from the collaborative element. Likewise,
the individual reflections were posted to online webforums as a basis for ongoing sharing
and discussion of ideas in the course. This is in contrast to how Web discussion forums
often promote vague and opinionated interactions around the online posting of mere
content.
Although beyond the scope of the present discussion, it is also perhaps useful to point out
that activity-reflection e-portfolios (potentially) involves an associated interface design
requirement to organize interaction beyond the function of a mere repository. This design
requirement exemplifies the function of narrative and metaphor for organizing knowledge
interaction in a way which contrasts with the traditional linear and hierarchical approaches
to the learning process and knowledge construction.
Applications to different modes and disciplines of learning
The activity-reflection portfolio can be structured and developed in terms of several
different types of templates which reflect a spectrum between focusing on the development
of ICT literacy as an end in itself (or the primary learning goal) on one hand, and as the
basis (i.e. ICT as a mode of literacy) for learning in any content or disciplinary area of
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knowledge on the other. This continuum is indicated in Figure 5 by the different contexts
and generic templates for using e-portfolios as a learning and assessment tool.
Figure 5. Different learning contexts for customizable e-portfolio templates
1. Introductory or advanced ICT skill and knowledge acquisition:
Activity focus is typically structured as a competency checklist of skills or knowledge
Reflection focus is on learning stages as a transformation proceeding from basic skill
acquisition and effective attitudinal orientation towards goals of confidence, innovation and
application.
Overall e-portfolio learning and assessment objectives goals relate to the general attainment
or development of ICT skills and knowledge as an applied ‘literacy’ and habitual practice
2. ICT in education subjects (e-learning; instructional design, educational technology subjects,
ICT foundation courses, etc):
Activity focus in this kinds of courses is more directly on the use of ICTs in terms of various
generic skills (problem-solving, collaborative learning, etc), as a ‘literacy-across-the-
curriculum’, and generally in relation to constructivist or student-centred notions of
educational design.
Similarly, the reflection focus here is on more applied contexts and practical issues of learning
with ICTs generally in short, may include a combination of content and process learning
topics and related objectives.
The e-portfolios for such courses are mostly concerned with the progression or transformation
from ‘old learning’ (teacher-centred) to ‘new learning’ (student-centred) in introductory or
foundational ways
3. Project-based or problem-based learning approaches:
A project or problem focus represents an ‘organising activity’ rationale here – a context for
developing different stages and elements of an overall learning process in terms of various
related learning activities using ICTs
The process of development is usually more important than the product (i.e. the direct
outcome is merely a focus for a convergence of indirectly related outcomes). Hence, the
reflection topics and questions here provide a formative and synthesizing focus for the
progressive attainment of an organizing learning purpose or goal.
Overall purposes may range from an applied problem-solving orientation to specific areas of
practical or conceptual knowledge on one hand, to the use of project-based learning as a
powerful motivational framework for a more general engagement with knowledge
especially in terms of an ICT ‘design’ focus.
4. Specific subjects or content
Learning activities here are typically ‘thematic’ in focus and provide an introductory
connection to a specific curricular or disciplinary content
Reflective practice here should be based on the kind of substantial and effective engagement
with topics of knowledge (also specific procedures or theories) which are encouraged by good
‘focus questions’ in terms of general issues, particular information, and perhaps also relevant
‘readings’ (i.e. resources or references).
While ICTs need not be used directly for promoting an activity-reflection cycle here, an e-
portfolio model nevertheless provides a learning and assessment context for both integrating
ICTs as a general literacy lending itself to constructivist or student-centred learning.
The activity-reflection e-portfolio might thus be applied to a range of different types of
learning. It represents an approach which encourages students to be more active,
reflective and innovative learners in potential or actual contexts of applicationin
contrast to learning as the mere acquisition of information or skills in isolation on one
hand, or as privileged abstraction and theorizing in a contextual vacuum on the other.
The e-portfolio has further been outlined above as a convergent hub also for a series of
related notions linked to a view of the constructivist or learner-centred implications of
ICT in education (project-based learning, authentic assessment, collaborative learning,
etc.). To the extent that it provides a design strategy for framing the learning process
and effectively integrating ICTs in education, it is a model which exemplifies the
implications, possibilities and requirements of ‘new learning’.
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Conclusion
E-learning platforms or programs are increasingly being used in higher education for
teaching and learning purposes. However, the typical use of such programs as repositories
for content in the manner of traditional transmission approaches to teaching and learning
reminds us that alternative approaches to educational design are needed to more effectively
harness (and ‘design’ for) the learner-centred implications of the various tools and media of
new learning technologies. The activity-reflection e-portfolio represents one effort at are
more integrated and effective approach to both educational design and ICT use for teaching
and learning purposes which lends itself to different disciplinary or knowledge areas (at
different levels) and different specific methods of learning and assessment.
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... These had a formative as well as summative purpose in allowing progressive feedback to students about their achievement of course outcomes. The concept of an activity-reflection e-portfolio (Richards, 2005(Richards, , 2013) builds on Kolb's notion that the most effective learning is that which constitutes an interplay of thinking and doing involving meaningful tasks to also harness the power of digital media to support such learning. As suggested earlier, the possibilities of achieving 'active learning' modes as an extended process across a particular syllabus or academic context are most fully realized in various kinds of project-based learning which involve the notion of a 'culminating task'. ...
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The challenge of better reconciling individual and collective aspects of innovative problem-solving can be productively addressed to enhance the role of PBL as a key focus of the creative process in future higher education. This should involve ‘active learning’ approaches supported by related processes of teaching, assessment and curriculum. As Biggs & Tan (2011) have suggested, an integrated or systemic approach is needed for the most effective practice of outcomes-based education also especially relevant for addressing relatively simple as well as more complex problems. Such a model will be discussed in relation to the practical example of a Masters subject conceived with interdisciplinary implications, applications, and transferability: ‘sustainable policy studies in science, technology and innovation’. Different modes of PBL might be encouraged in terms of the authentic kinds of ‘complex problem-solving’ issues and challenges which increasingly confront an interdependent and changing world. PBL can be further optimized when projects or cases also involve contexts and examples of research and inquiry. However, perhaps the most crucial pillar is a model of portfolio assessment for linking and encouraging as well as distinguishing individual contributions to collaborative projects and activities.
... As indicated, we have found that digital portfolios which profile the learner as well as organize and support their learning represent an ideal framework to encourage active and constructivist learning in various areas of knowledge across-the-curriculum (Richards, 2005a(Richards, , 2005b(Richards, , 2006 . Digital portfolios of various kinds (ranging from websites and disks through to Web 2.0 functions) are especially useful in promoting active learning models because of their facility for simultaneously encouraging reflective writings, collecting artifacts of the learning process, and linking the formative process to some summative or culminating item or outcome. ...
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Like many other countries Malaysia realizes that it will need to continue to improve, reform and innovate to remain competitive with higher education systems in other countries. There are several key factors which need to be integrated in particular. New information and communication technologies clearly are an important key to enhancing the new literacies of graduates in a wired networked world as well as competitive global economy with new and growing challenges. The active learning approaches needed to achieve desired skills of critical thinking, problem-solving and innovation also should be integrated into the education process. Whilst Malaysian universities in general have embraced the concept of outcomes-based criteria for teaching and learning, the promise of this approach has obviously not been sufficiently harnessed yet. This paper will discuss how the key to harnessing the possibilities of these three imperatives of future education both distinctly and also in a related way lie in the maxim that " assessment drives learning ". In other words, it will explore the proposal that unless linked to a notion of how " assessment for learning " needs to frame " assessment of learning " then all theoretical and policy as well as practical efforts at quality reforms in higher as well as school education are perhaps inevitably doomed to failure.
... We support the dictum of Barret (2007) and others that digital portfolios are exemplary tools for promoting 'assessment for learning' and not just 'assessment of learning'. On that basis we are planning to extend the project to not only include: (a) a fully integrated use within all the various research, teaching, learning and administration activities of a particular faculty, but also (b) the convergent possibilities of using such programs to house a learning-assessment e-portfolio which can either complement or be converted into a professional digital portfolio (Richards, 2005b(Richards, , 2010b. ...
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Online social networking and related Web 2.0 technologies have taken the world of internet users by storm in recent years. However beyond the use of blogs for reflective learning journals and University alumni pages on Facebook, there has generally been little integrated use of social networking tools in higher education. This paper will explore how a design research approach may assist in not only recognizing but also developing the knowledge-building implications of a convergence between such tools and technologies on one hand, and also on the other constructivist approaches to related domains of learning, research and professional reflective practice in academic communities and contexts. The process of designing and developing an applied research problem and related central question or inquiry focus is approached in terms of two ‘design research’ proposals. One, it considers the idea that if a critical mass of both basic skills and actual usage could only be achieved by teachers, administrators and researchers then social networking has the potential to significantly and productively transform higher education. Two, it considers the idea that the key to achieving such a ‘critical mass’ in education contexts perhaps lies in designing meaningful contexts or purposes of interaction – that is, in linking the function of social networking to an appropriate design paradigm for using associated Web 2.0 tools. In this way the paper will explore the requirements for a more effective harnessing of the exemplary possibilities of online social networking in higher education contexts
... We support the dictum of Barret (2007) and others that digital portfolios are exemplary tools for promoting 'assessment for learning' and not just 'assessment of learning'. On that basis we are planning to extend the project to not only include: (a) a fully integrated use within all the various research, teaching, learning and administration activities of a particular faculty, but also (b) the convergent possibilities of using such programs to house a learning-assessment e-portfolio which can either complement or be converted into a professional digital portfolio (Richards, 2005b(Richards, , 2010b. ...
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Full-text available
Online social networking and related Web 2.0 technologies have taken the world of Internet users by storm in recent years. However beyond the use of blogs for reflective learning journals and University alumni pages on Facebook, there has generally been little integrated use of social networking tools in higher education. This chapter will explore how a design research approach may assist in not only recognizing but also developing the knowledge-building implications of a convergence between such tools and technologies on one hand, and also on the other constructivist approaches to related domains of learning, research and professional reflective practice in academic communities and contexts. The process of designing and developing an applied research problem and related central question or inquiry focus is approached in terms of two 'design research' proposals. One, it considers the idea that if a critical mass of both basic skills and actual usage could only be achieved by teachers, administrators and researchers then social networking has the potential to significantly and productively transform higher education. Two, it considers the idea that the key to achieving such a 'critical mass' in education contexts perhaps lies in designing meaningful contexts or purposes of interaction - that is, in linking the function of social networking to an appropriate design paradigm for using associated Web 2.0 tools. In this way the chapter will explore the requirements for a more effective harnessing of the exemplary possibilities of online social networking in higher education contexts.
... Portfolios were a good tool for self-observation (Mansvelder-Longayroux et al., 2007). Reflection could observe students' own learning issues (Richards, 2005;Simpson & Courtney, 2007;Yen & Cheng, 2008), enhance memory of learning contents (Forneris & Peden-McAlpine, 2007), control learning progress (Yost, 2006), and even change learning behavior and improve learning performance (Chang & Tseng, 2011;Masui & Corte, 2005). Wade et al. (2008) further stated that reflection by portfolios could enhance self-observation and make it more convenient for students to observe peers' portfolios (Gama & Idan, 2007). ...
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The purpose of the present study was to design reflective writing mechanisms in a webbased portfolio assessment system and evaluate its effects on self-regulated learning. Participants were two classes of juniors majoring in data processing and taking a course called “Website design” at a vocational high school in Taiwan. One class was randomly selected and assigned as an experimental group (41 students) reflecting on learning processes through a web-based portfolio assessment system, whereas the other class was assigned as a control group (41 students) reflecting on learning processes through a paper-based portfolio. There were 82 students, with 37 males and 45 females. The result revealed that students who were highly satisfied with online reflective writing mechanisms significantly outperformed students who were less satisfied with online reflective writing mechanisms in self-regulated learning, meaning that a good online reflective mechanism could enhance self-regulated learning. The result also showed that students reflecting on learning processes through a web-based portfolio assessment system significantly outperformed students reflecting on learning processes through a paper-based portfolio in self-regulated learning. This indicated that the system had a significantly positive effect on students’ self-regulated learning.
... Our approach here reverses the suggestion made by Papert and Callavo (2002) that a 'village' model represents an afterthought or derivative of a 'city' model of global learning hubs or ICT community learning centres. Elsewhere we have argued (Richards, 2005) that different 'village' examples from the Asia Pacific region (from China, India, and many other countries in South-East Asia especially) exemplify a direct convergence between both physical and virtual centers. They converge both formal and informal functions of classrooms, community centers, and ICT-usage for personal or individual and social development. ...
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In the larger context of an emerging global knowledge society and economy, education policies around the world have stressed the increasing importance of both information and communication technology (ICT) and 'active' models of lifelong learning. Similarly, new 'knowledge management approaches involving such concepts as 'community of practice' and 'individual tacit knowledge' are related aspirations for capacity-building on both sides of the so-called digital divide between rural or developing areas and modern progressive cities and countries. Common to both informal and formal learning models on one hand, and community and enterprise development is an alternately theoretical and informal assumption of "knowledge-building" which is often contradicted or frustrated in practice because of the difficulty in effectively reconciling or connecting top-down imperatives and bottom-up aspects of the local context. In other words, there are some common aspects of (and lessons in) the struggle by educators to effectively integrate ICTs to enhance education on one hand, with achieving sustainable capacity-building in ICT-related community development projects and enterprise development initiatives on the other. This paper outlines a framework for better recognizing and engaging with similar and convergent "missing links" in the areas of education and development that have to do with the learning process, cultural change, and new conceptions of both individual and community knowledge. With particular reference to an Asia-Pacific context, it argues for a kind of 'dialogical' approach that is needed in the 21st Century or digital age to better organize, manage, and apply the alternately tacit or informal and explicit connections between human knowledge as both ideas and practice.
Chapter
Online social networking and related Web 2.0 technologies have taken the world of Internet users by storm in recent years. However beyond the use of blogs for reflective learning journals and University alumni pages on Facebook, there has generally been little integrated use of social networking tools in higher education. This chapter will explore how a design research approach may assist in not only recognizing but also developing the knowledge-building implications of a convergence between such tools and technologies on one hand, and also on the other constructivist approaches to related domains of learning, research and professional reflective practice in academic communities and contexts. The process of designing and developing an applied research problem and related central question or inquiry focus is approached in terms of two ‘design research’ proposals. One, it considers the idea that if a critical mass of both basic skills and actual usage could only be achieved by teachers, administrators and researchers then social networking has the potential to significantly and productively transform higher education. Two, it considers the idea that the key to achieving such a ‘critical mass’ in education contexts perhaps lies in designing meaningful contexts or purposes of interaction – that is, in linking the function of social networking to an appropriate design paradigm for using associated Web 2.0 tools. In this way the chapter will explore the requirements for a more effective harnessing of the exemplary possibilities of online social networking in higher education contexts.
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As epitomized by such influential concepts as 'flexible learning,' the use of web-based resources and Internet communications for online teaching and learning is seen by many to provide a convergent focus for extending on-campus learning in terms of distance education methods (Bates, 1995; Daniel, 1996; Moran & Myringer, 1999). The connection between a 'fourth-generation' development of online distance education and the supplementary use of web-based learning in, say, on-campus contexts have been referred to as an imperative of 'blended' learning (Horton, 2001; Rosenberg, 2001). This article argues that the concept of e-learning convergence needs to be understood and explained in terms of a distinction between mere 'add-on' and more integrated models of learning with and through new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). In contrast to traditional 'transmission' models of teaching, learning technologies have typically been characterized as student-centered or constructivist in educational implication (Duffy & Cunningham, 1996). Yet, the notion of e-learning as mere online educational 'delivery' perhaps represents a traditional 'transmission' view of learning. A distinction between mere 'add-on' and more integrated approaches to e-learning will be discussed here in relation to an Australian educational context which has a strong tradition of both distance education and progressive models of student-centered learning. The two case studies will provide a focus for discussing the challenges and possibilities involved when attempting to develop both distance education and on-campus 'online courses' in a more integrated way.
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Information and communication technologies (ICTs) represent a crucial force for cultural change in both education and society and possible transitions between old and new learning as well as social values. This is especially so in East Asia, where the young have informally embraced ICTs but learn in formal contexts often still dominated by traditional transmission models of learning rather than the new learner‐centred theories which inform policy imperatives for innovation and reform. Educational contexts like Singapore and Hong Kong are particularly exemplary because they have been so progressive in policy initiatives for ICT integration and reform in formal education, imperatives which conflict in practice with still dominant traditional learning expectations, teaching practices and models of assessment. As typified by such contexts, this paper investigates how the pedagogical dilemmas of a tension between old and new models of learning need to be understood and approached in terms of related and overlapping institutional and social dilemmas of change.
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This article explores the role of weblogs in promoting literacy in classroom settings. Literacy remains paramount in learning, not only for language development, but also as the foundation of all academic disciplines including science and mathematics. Storytelling ignites literacy and remains an important part of life from childhood through adulthood. Weblogs resemble personal journals or diaries and provide an online venue where self-expression and creativity is encouraged and online communities are built. Therefore weblogs provide an excellent tool where storytelling and literacy advance for both individual expressions and collaborative learning. Furthermore, weblogs can be used across academic disciplines, making it a viable tool for educational technologists.
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Building on the concepts of professional competence that he introduced in his classic The Reflective Practitioner, Schon offers an approach for educating professional in all areas that will prepare them to handle the complex and unpredictable problems of actual practice with confidence, skill, and care.
The design of activities, projects, and contexts for effective learning with ICT'. Special "Learners and Technology" edition of Language Learning and Technology
  • C Richards
Richards, C. (2005), 'The design of activities, projects, and contexts for effective learning with ICT'. Special "Learners and Technology" edition of Language Learning and Technology, January 2005 issue.