Eportfolio Progress

Filed under: — Joe @ 5:06 pm

Well, maybe not real progress, but it feels to me like I’m reaching a definite conclusion. After lots of looking around, flirting with open source (Sakai/OSPI), discussing and checking recommendations from all over, including the good folks at TappedIn, and the solutions in use by colleagues at other CUNY schools, I came to a list of criteria/needs for any eportfolio solution we could use.

Let me lay it out–

We’re going to be starting in fall 2006 with a group of students (200-250) starting the Teacher Education program. Eventually we’re going to extend the program to other departments, and other student groups, but we won’t find a 100% one-size-fits-all solution, especially not one that can work well for more technically advanced programs like Multimedia Programming or Video Arts and Technologies.

So with an eye toward the TED students to begin, and enough flexibility to expand later, these are the criteria.

  • Ease of use–the system has to be clear and simple enough for technologically unsophisticated students (and faculty) to learn with a minimum of training and support.
  • Reflection-centered–the system has to include not just opportunities, but demands, for self-reflection and comments from others. A plain collection of documents won’t be sufficient–the system needs to build reflection into design and implementation from the start.
  • Transportable–the material in the eportfolio needs to be easily assembled into a presentation that can be available on the web, or burned to CD, or moved to another eportfolio system, when the student graduates or transfers.
  • Brandable–we need to be able to create separate templates, with logos and distinctive setups, that will identify the portfolios with our institution and with specific departments/programs within our institution.
  • Institutionally-funded–we need a solution which is supported and financed by the college–not by students. This rules out many of the commercial publisher’s products. We may explore other options for continued access after graduation, but for enrolled students, and for a period of time (how long?) after enrollment, the college should pay the costs.
  • Robust–we need a system built on reliable back-end programming, scalable for large numbers of students in the future, and relatively crash-free and minimally bandwidth intensive.
  • Versatile–we need to be able to use many different file types (including various multimedia formats), and have choices (at least within reasonable limits) about graphic interface and design templates (“skins”).

And there’s probably more I’m not thinking of right now. But that’s the major list, in no particular order.

The one system which seems to come closest to meeting all those criteria is Johns Hopkins’ EP. It’s a bit on the expensive side, but the license is perpetual, for any number of virtual installations or users. So it’s a fixed one-time expenditure for the license, and ongoing costs are limited to hardware upgrades and ongoing training. That’s a big plus, because once the system is in place, I can use the budget line where it’s going to be most needed, for training faculty and supporting students and faculty. That can get expensive as the project grows, and I don’t want to have to keep throwing money at licensing.

I’m about 90% convinced at this point that this is the best solution for us. I still need to get the buy-in, of course, from my IT folks, faculty, and higher administration. But there’s an open window here, and I’m hoping that in the next week or two I can pull something through that window.

If we’re really going to be up and rolling in fall 2006 (as I want to be), it’s time to get the pieces in place.


Sad Anniversary

Filed under: — Joe @ 7:33 am

RIPA sad anniversary today.

R.I.P. Scott Daniel Ugoretz.

February 24, 1964-October 28, 1988.

I know that others are remembering the day, too, and I discovered yesterday that there are some other memorials on the web, from an old friend and his college fraternity.


Despicable Hypocrisy and Dishonesty

Filed under: — Joe @ 3:31 pm

I know that hypocrisy is epidemic in politics…and I know that the Republicans throughout this administration have held firmly to the belief that only Democrats, ever, can be guilty of anything. Republicans, they think, should get a free pass.

But on yesterday’s Meet the Press, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas, surprise!) took even my breath away with her blatant, bald-faced, hypocritical lying.

SEN. HUTCHISON: I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn’t indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. So they go to something that trips someone up because they said something in the first grand jury and then maybe they found new information or they forgot something and they tried to correct that in a second grand jury.

I think we should be very careful here, especially as we are dealing with something very public and people’s lives in the public arena. I do not think we should prejudge. I think it is unfair to drag people through the newspapers week after week after week, and let’s just see what the charges are. Let’s tone down the rhetoric and let’s make sure that if there are indictments that we don’t prejudge.

MR. RUSSERT: But the fact is perjury or obstruction of justice is a very serious crime and Republicans certainly thought so when charges were placed against Bill Clinton before the United States Senate. Senator Hutchison.

SEN. HUTCHISON: Well, there were charges against Bill Clinton besides perjury and obstruction of justice.

I’m not sure how she can look herself in the mirror–Bill Clinton was impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Only. Nothing else. He was charged with no other crime whatsoever. So when Bill Clinton does it, it’s a serious crime. When a Republican, any Republican, does the same thing, it’s just a technicality–some kind of fake, made-up prosecution. And she’s perfectly willing to make up some imaginary “other charges” to prove that a Democrat’s crime is serious, while a Republican’s is not.



The movie list

Filed under: — Joe @ 7:55 am

Aw, what the hell. Everyone else is trying it, and it is fun, so I’m going to give it a shot, too. John Scalzi’s Rough Guide to Sci Fi Movies includes these fifty, and folks are doing the “bold the ones you’ve seen” thing (it gets done with a lot of lists, and I usually avoid joining in). I felt left out! So I’m joining in, too.

Here we go….

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!

Back to the Future
Blade Runner
Bride of Frankenstein
Brother From Another Planet
A Clockwork Orange
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Damned
Destination Moon
The Day The Earth Stood Still

Escape From New York
ET: The Extraterrestrial

Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (serial)
The Fly (1985 version)
Forbidden Planet

Ghost in the Shell
The Incredibles
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 version)
Jurassic Park
Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior
The Matrix
On the Beach
Planet of the Apes (1968 version)

Solaris (1972 version)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Stepford Wives
Terminator 2: Judgement Day

The Thing From Another World
Things to Come
12 Monkeys

28 Days Later
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
2001: A Space Odyssey

La Voyage Dans la Lune
War of the Worlds (1953 version)

Seems like there aren’t many I’ve missed. Might be a good idea to have a movie festival some weekend soon! 🙂


Middle School Searching

Filed under: — Joe @ 7:15 am

It’s a very weird system in NYC for public middle schools, at least here in Region 8. When I grew up in San Diego, we went directly from elementary school to junior high school, automatically. If you were zoned for elementary school A1, you went to junior high A2 (and high school A3). It was just based on your neighborhood, unless you had some special reason to try to go to some special school. I knew that NYC had a different system for high schools, where students had to apply and be accepted to the specialized schools, but I didn’t know (until late last year) that there was similar system for middle schools.

As the father of a fifth grader, I’ve learned that when she goes to sixth grade next year, there is no guaranteed or automatic middle school for her. She has to apply, and be accepted, even at schools in our own neighborhood. And the middle school which is closest to our house, it turns out, is one that usually gets something like 4 or 5 kids applying for every one spot they have available. It’s our neighborhood school, but it’s absolutely not automatic that she’ll get to go there.

There are a few things, too, to add to this equation. Where we live in Brooklyn, the neighborhood is racially very diverse…but the schools are much less so. We saw this in the elementary school arena (where she does go to her automatic neighborhood school–but where most white parents reject that school). There are only a very few schools in the district which white parents see as “acceptable.” The kids from the “best” (whitest) elementary schools (not my daughter’s school) only consider these few schools. That’s why the school nearest to us (which is one of the “acceptable” ones) is so hard to get into.

But we learned something in my daughter’s elementary school experience. Her elementary school (which is completely unacceptable to most white parents, because the kids there are mostly not white), has been very good. Some problems, of course, and there was a change of principal after third grade, and that was not a change for the better, but overall we’re quite pleased.

So in a way the district rules about applying and being accepted have been a good thing. Here’s why. Because my daughter couldn’t be guaranteed that she could go to the school closest to us, we had to look around. And we took a tour yesterday morning of a truly excellent middle school, the Sunset Park Prep Academy, MS 821. Again, it’s a school that the white parents, even white parents who do accept my daughter’s elementary school, have never even heard of, and would never even consider.

But we could tell immediately from the tour that this was a small school with young, energetic teachers, an experienced, caring and dedicated principal, and motivated, involved, active kids. There was in every classroom (and we at least poked our heads into all of them) that happy buzz of attentive learning that all good teachers want, and any experienced teacher can recognize immediately.

We saw group work that was truly collaborative and productive (in a math class, students were measuring each other’s height and “wingspan” to compare and graph and find the correlation), writing assignments that were stimulating and personal (an early-semester personal narrative, and a cluster diagram to identify “our stresses” for an essay on managing them), a focus on integrative learning (in a language arts class, students were evaluating assigned reading from social studies and science classes, to determine subjectivity and authors’ agendas), experiments with new and old technology (both an overhead projector directed high on the wall above the chalkboard, and a brand-new Smart Board which they were still trying to figure out how to use), and multiple methods of engaging students (a debate in a science class, and a Jeopardy-style game in a special ed class).

It’s not clear what school my daughter will finally wind up at…but it’s definitely clear that there are some great choices out there. Automatic acceptance, like automatic rejection, is not a good thing at all, even though they’re both a lot more convenient and simple.


Sloan Semester Update

Filed under: — Joe @ 5:12 pm

We’re over a week into the Sloan Semester at BMCC, and although enrollment wasn’t what I hoped for (we’re only running five of the ten courses we offered, and only have about 24 students, out of the 250 we had room for), I still think something very positive is happening for these students. The ones who are participating are getting the academic content of their courses, certainly, but more than that they’re getting the experience of studying at BMCC…without leaving wherever they are after dealing with the relocations of Katrina. Sort of a “virtual study abroad” experience. They’re getting to see the different world and culture of a large urban community college (or at least the slice of that culture which comes through the mediation of an online course–the online culture). For many of them, that’s entirely new.

Beyond that, for me at least, it’s a very rewarding experience to see a completely different type of student. It’s a “virtual teaching abroad” experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love our BMCC students–they have plenty of strengths of their own, not the least of which are enormous diversity, rich life experiences, and a level of motivation, interest, and desire to actively participate which no other students in no other institution can match (I would claim with some partisanship). But the students I’m seeing in my Sloan class have a level of preparation and academic experience that I don’t see very often at BMCC. I’ve never thought that I pitched my classes or my teaching to a low level…but I’m definitely seeing that pitching to a high level (in terms of vocabulary, experience with complicated ideas and reading, and writing skills) can have its own appeals.


Worlds Collide

Filed under: — Joe @ 6:40 pm

Amazing (but not really unexpected) news today…Blackboard and WebCT will be merging. There will be only one company, called “Blackboard.” Blackboard was already pretty much the de facto monopoly on proprietary CMS’s, but now, by absorbing their only realistic competitor (in terms of numbers), they’re really going to be the Microsoft of CMS.

Will any open source initiative (Sakai, Moodle, anybody?) have any chance at making a breakthrough? Or a breakin?

Here’s the official word, in bonafide, verbatim, corporatese:


We are writing you today to directly communicate some momentous news. Earlier today, WebCT and Blackboard signed a formal agreement expressing our intent to merge our companies.

This decision is one that has been made based on careful consideration by both entities. We believe that this union will have a positive impact on the global e-Learning community and on the individual clients of both companies. We want to communicate the rationale behind the merger and to provide some of the early details on what this news means for you.

By leveraging the best of Blackboard and WebCT, we believe we can improve the online learning experience for educators and students worldwide. As a single company, we will bring together some of the brightest, most experienced talent in the e-Learning industry, and we will be uniquely positioned to share and deliver proven best practices to the combined client base. Most importantly, the combined Blackboard and WebCT community of practice will represent the largest and most comprehensive network of e-Learning practitioners in the world. We will work diligently to bring this community together to broaden access to shared expertise, reusable technologies, faculty and developer networks, and to promote exemplary course programs.

The combined company will continue to develop, innovate, upgrade, improve and support both Blackboard’s and WebCT’s products, WebCT Vista and WebCT Campus Edition, and Blackboard Academic Suite and Blackboard Commerce Suite. Following the merger, the combined company will be actively engaged in industry standards efforts. We will develop common, standards-based APIs, based on Building Blocks and PowerLinks, that will allow the existing product lines to interoperate with one another as well as provide a means for clients of both Blackboard and WebCT to share their applications, innovations and experiences with the global client community. Over time, the combined company will incorporate the best features and usability characteristics from the two product lines into a new, standards-based product set.

While we are eager to realize the benefits of combining our clients’ collective expertise and designing future solutions, we remain overwhelmingly focused on your success today. We will continue to maintain the same level of commitment to support and service level agreements, and there will be no interruption in the service you receive today. As we build this new community, we will maintain and enhance each company’s current commitment to advisory boards as well as user groups and mailing lists.

We expect the merger of Blackboard and WebCT to be finalized later this year or early next year, subject to regulatory and other approvals. The combined company will be named Blackboard and will be led by Blackboard’s current President and CEO, Michael Chasen. We are pleased that several members of WebCT’s executive team will remain with the combined company and join Blackboard’s existing executive management team, including Chris Vento as Sr. VP of Technology and Product Development, Peter Segall as Sr. VP of Education Strategy, and Barbara Ross as Sr. VP of Integration Strategy. Karen Gage will be joining the Marketing group as a VP. Carol Vallone, WebCT’s CEO, will continue with the combined company as a consultant focused on client relations and strategy. Until the merger is complete, however, each company will continue to operate independently.

In closing, we would like to thank you for your institution’s business to date and request your input as we embark on this next phase of e-Learning. Please plan on joining us at EDUCAUSE 2005 in Orlando, Florida to learn more from our corporate presentations. The presentations will be held on Wednesday, October 19, 2005, 11:40 AM EST in Meeting Room W204A and on Thursday, October 20, 2005, 2:20 PM EST in Meeting Room W204A. Additional information will also be available at www.Blackboard.com/WebCT. In the mean time, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your current account manager.

We look forward to our continued partnership, hearing your thoughts and answering any questions you might have.

Carol Vallone
Chairman, President & CEO

Michael L. Chasen
President & CEO
Blackboard Inc.


Heinlein’s Female Troubles

Filed under: — Joe @ 7:53 am

M.G. Lord has a great piece in today’s NY Times on “Heinlein’s Female Troubles.” She really manages, as so few critics do, to hit the core elements of his complexity. Heinlein was in some ways, for his time, a terrifically progressive, even feminist, writer and thinker. But at the same time, his competent, intelligent, female characters (even the Empress of 20 Universes) enjoy being treated as naughty children by stronger, more competent, men.

Heinlein’s body of work as a whole, throughout his career and including the juveniles and the flimsy, solipsistic mishmash in which he so often indulged at the end, give some psychological insight into a complex man, a complex American, from a complex time in American culture and history. The celebration of competence and masculine and ability…the nostalgic longing for small-town life…the idealization of mothers, daughters, and sisters (to the point of complicated and literally or figuratively incestuous scenarios)…the firm libertarianism and the sexual libertinism…it all adds up to a complicated novelist–and thus a damn good one, even at his worst.

It’s rare (and valuable) to see such an intelligent and accurate analysis of Heinlein (or any SF author of his era) in the NY Times. Nice work, Ms. Lord!


Good Blog on the PA Intelligent Design Creationism Trial

Filed under: — Joe @ 8:24 pm

ACLU-haters need not read this post!

The ACLU of Pennsylvania is blogging the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial in Pennsylvania. Some very good coverage, complete with transcripts. More complete (and opinionated) than the unsatisfying summaries we’re seeing in the news.

Of course, there’s nothing really “final” about this trial, as it’s almost certainly going to the Supreme Court, eventually, no matter which side wins. But the Intelligent Design Creationists are getting a very sound trouncing, so far, and every time that happens it’s a victory for everyone who cares about education, science, reason, and religion. Which of course includes me!

100 queries. 0.478 seconds. Powered by WordPress version 4.9.1
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.