Tuesday, 21 December 2010

2010 End-of-Year Research Review

Inspired by Steve Vosloo's end-of-year review, here's what I have done (or catalyzed) whilst putting the "pro" into "professional student" during 2010!

E-portfolio research project's scope 
finalised
When Web2.0 portfolio sites, like Carbonmade, are adopted into curricula, they become electronic learning portfolios (e-portfolios). Although these are based on Web2.0 technology, they need not be social networks as users do not make their connections with other users explicit (for example, Carbonmade's users do not "friend" each other, unlike Facebook's).
With the support of the WCED's curricular specialists, Leon Buchner and John Cowan, e-portfolios have been adopted at 11 Secondary Schools. As the innovation proved easy to disseminate with DOE buy-in, the project's focus changed from examining the diffusion of the innovation to focusing on sustainability factors: in particular, students' use of software affordances in class, educators' satisfaction that use meets curricular goals, plus other in-school and out-of-class factors likely to prevent sustained adoption.

An appropriate methodology defined


Activity theory frameworks, including pedagogy, technology support and school management  will be used to understand the factors at school and out-of-class most likely to affect sustainability. To understand in-class use, frameworks for pre- and post e-portfolio adoption will be combined with a semiotic explanation of software affordances to best understand specific examples of e-portfolio's use and positive and negative outcomes.

"Create your E-portfolio"
 curriculum successfully launched
In my role as researcher, I provided sufficient support for the curricular adoption of e-portfolios to take place. This year a "Create your E-portfolio" curriculum was successfully trialled by a private school's educator; all grade 10 students had created e-portfolios by year-end and over 60% had uploaded most of their grade 10 artworks.

Initial short-term benefits of 
e-portfolio curricular adoption identified
Although literature suggests there are long-term benefits of e-portfolio adoption in a well-resourced, tertiary educational context, these may not translate in a different environment. Pilot research has shown benefits at a well-resourced, secondary school. These include: improved monitoring of year-end exhibition progress and better feedback to parents regarding marks they view as problematic. Preparing a full list of these benefits is likely to prove useful to those curricular advisers and decision makers wishing to promote the curricular adoption of e-portfolios to educators and school management.

E-portfolio adoption 
became a policy of the private school's Visual Arts Department
The benefits of e-portfolio adoption contributed to the Visual Art educator's decision as Head of Department to make e-portfolio use official policy for staff. E-portfolio curricula will be launched early in the year to emphasize the importance of e-portfolios in the Visual Arts syllabus. 

"Use Your Favourite Online Portfolio Service" curriculum developed

Next year the private school educator's launch of this curriculum to his grade 11 students will be researched. Students that have used Carbonmade to create a thorough e-portfolio of their 2010 artworks will be given the opportunity to select an online portfolio service that best suits their future creative interests (for example, students interested in photography might use Flickr or Picasa, while those interested in fine art could use a creative network for feedback such as Behance or Deviantart). In grade 12, students will use their favorite online portfolio to prepare for post-school opportunities (such as applying for access to tertiary education, securing freelance work or pursuing creative hobbies).

Approval obtained for e-portfolio 
curriculum launches and research at public school
The "Create your E-portfolio" curriculum will be launched by a public school Visual Arts educator to grade 10 students next year. If it proves successful, the "Use Your Favourite Online Portfolio Service" curriculum will be launched to grade 11s.

Promoted
 e-portfolios to educators
Presentations at Visual Arts educator workshops, CPUT's MA and PhD in Technology and Education lessons, UCT's "Multimodality" colloquium and "Technology in Education" mini-conference have helped raised awareness amongst local Visual Arts educators of Web2.0 portfolios. One result is Jolande De Villiers Morkel's successful adoption of a curriculum that introduces third year Department of Architectural Technology students on her "Principles of Architectural Technology" course to using a Facebook Group to collaborate and using Yola, Carbonmade or blog software to publish showcase portfolios. This has been a pedagogical success and may serve as an example for other tertiary educators to follow.

Asked to investigate e-portfolio curriculum design for
under-resourced settings
John Cowan believes that every Visual Arts learner should be encouraged to create an e-portfolio. However, there are no curricula that could support this in the majority of South Africa's secondary schools which are under-resourced. He has asked me to define a curriculum that would give students with access to Khanya labs and mobile phone cameras an opportunity to create e-portfolios. I am exploring funding opportunities to support this research at a local secondary school.

This progress would not have been possible without the assistance of the following people: 
thanks to Dr Marion WaltonProfessor Johannes Cronje and my research colleagues for helping me clarify my research questions and methodology. I also greatly appreciate the support of the private school educator and the WCED's John Cowan and Leon Buchner, who have made research in secondary schools possible. I'd also like to thank the National Research Foundation, whose funding supports this research project. It has resulted in a successful example of e-portfolio curricular adoption that other Visual Arts educators can learn from. Here's hoping that I can research another successful example next year!

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