ePortfolios in Your Classroom: Results & Analysis

Results & Analysis of the ePortfolio experience of Educators around the world. The ePortfolios in Your Classroom survey contains current information about the actual application and integration of ePortfolios in our Schools.

Thank you all for your time and contributions. Your feedback is greatly appreciated. I hope that this data may help you understand the journey that your fellow practitioners are joining us on. We are all moving in different stages of development and have different circumstances; but I feel strongly that  we are better when we learn together.

You can find the presentation below at DODH ePortfolio Survey Results

Resurfacing after a Dive in the Deep

sun dive I

Resurfacing. End of school, start of school with a glorious summer bridging the gap. Time off to think a little more holistically. A bird’s eye view. Oh thank goodness. Just like so many projects that I start, even with the best of intentions and the best laid plans; this blog has grown a little out of control. Digging Out of a Digital Hole needs a revamp, a rethink and some serious redesign. Much like the tomato plants on my balcony, or my garden in general; this has organically grown into a minor (digital) jungle. Time to break out the machete and bring order to the chaos.

Luckily, a new school year and the first assignment of CoETaIL Course 3 allows me to step back and take a long hard look at my blog and measure its effectiveness. So far I would say it is “a good first effort” but not “amazing”. When I began this course last year, I had never blogged before. I was quite adept at creating and maintaining websites as I had used both the Moodle and Google Sites platforms to create close to 40 different pages; supporting the learning of close to 400 students. However, I found that Edublogs, although the same in many ways are not quite as intuitive with their editing structure. I found the learning curve to be quite steep and making progress has been difficult. I believe I am starting to get the hang of it now; but it always seems to be the little tricks of the trade which still elude me. I think in part, it was my desire to stick to one theme and try to build within as opposed to jumping formats. As I was not an expert in using this platform, I spent a lot of time researching and searching out best practice examples to mimic and learn from. In 1824, Charles Caleb Colton wrote “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and I intend to incorporate examples of visual literacy within my own blog.

First off, I will give a quick overview of what my blog looked like at the end of Course 2. I quite liked my header image, although I was disappointed because it is actually an animated gif. The gif showed you traveling through a worm(digital)hole and I thought it would be quite cool to have a moving image in the header. It did not stay animated. Above the title, all of my categories were listed; which is clearly not the place for them and they will be one of the first elements to change in the remodel. Below my header were links to pages on my blog which as empty, have proven to be not as relevant as I had hoped. In order to initially populate my blog, I added messages which said that they are under construction and have now been removed. The widgets on right side of the page proved to be a mechanism for the blog with which I struggled in the creative process. Never having had experience with this before it took quite a lot of trial and error to develop the space. New vocabulary. Concepts and design principles make the process a slow undertaking as I view this as my professional face. At the moment, the content I want my visitors to be able to see is too far down the page and essentially unavailable. I quite like the tags and the structure of my widget sidebar, although I dislike greatly the font and the red color. Unfortunately these are not editable in this theme. At the bottom of a page shows the post that I have previously made, although I have not figured out how to show 5 different posts as opposed to five of the identical link. On posts, the theme seemed to make it difficult to cycle through. When you click on a post the widget sidebar disappears and you were left with merely the post content not additional links. Although a less cluttered page is ideal for readers but obviously makes it more difficult to engage with your content as it does not then lead them deeper into the digital hole. In pure readership terms, you want to attract avid readers or subscribers and keep them by offering interesting and varied content in multiple media platforms. Basics.

To achieve that I will be implementing many visual literacy strategies to help improve my blog. This may not be so easy, but will prove to be very exciting. In addition to course readings, I have been studying the design principles applied to web sites such as the excellent Beyond Digital, Principal of Change, edublogs by Ewan McIntosh and Backward by Design. What I have learned from these websites end designers is this:

Speak clearly. Speak interestingly. Speak your mind.

What I have learned from the readings? Stop waffling on. Be shorter and catch that moment. A fundamental change in style is also in order to develop as a writer. That will be exciting. It is not just all technological gimmicks that I am interested in. I have enjoyed the writing process more that I thought I would. Aside from time it actually is quite nice to compose your thoughts and develop ideas on paper. Being creative is always good for the soul.dodh-headerCheck out a guided tour of the changes to DODH

At last! Now that I have completed the revamp of my blog I am pleased to highlight the following improvements. I have removed two unused pages and changed the style of the menu bar at the top of the page. A newer, cleaner look was achieved by removing the categories from the header which is less cluttered and more straightforward. I chose a new  theme which allows me to add my tagline and better lays out previous blog posts. It also highlights the individual images which I so carefully chose in the first place. A small annoyance that I have not yet found the answer to is the fact that the categories cover the thumbnail Image of the posts below. This obviously lessens the impact of the visual, clouding the clarity of my intended message. With a new theme, I had to re-add elements in the widgets such as my Twitter profile forcing me to reevaluate the content that was displayed there. I removed links to other blogs and re-positioned the information to highlight my own content and creativity. I also added the widgets to the sidebar of all the pages on my blog and highlighted my  recent presentations at the Google European Summit.

Digging Out of a Digital hole has evolved and changes are designed increase the visual impact and organization of my information. I am looking forward to continuing my educational technology journey with you. Swim? Let’s dive in.

Cus·tom·ize or ˈkəstəˌmīz/

Making your blog more personalized

Meditations, musings and methods of how to personalize your blog.

I think the title of this post just about sums up where the construction of my blog stands, as I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce the word on the right hand side but is apparently identical to the left. To someone becoming accustomed to new technology, phonetic transcription can make the settings panel of a blog feel a lot like learning a foreign language.  In reality, as understanding develops and I make connections between the settings and appearance of my blog; I feel I can differentiate between hieroglyphics and mother tongue. The challenge is to customize my blog to it to make more personalized. That’s an ambitious goal when the language I want to communicate in is no longer native.

The old adage of one step forward, two steps back, applies to this journey. My vision is clear in my head and examples of excellent practice are plentiful. I wanted to add a featured image to my latest post, but I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. Eventually I realized that you actually had to embed the image in the post in the first place then set it as the featured image. Of course, this allows for more than one image to be placed in the post with the chosen depiction appearing on the homepage and as the article header. I have chosen Monochrome as my theme for my blog because I consider the color schematic and layout to fit my style; however it often presents problems because the theme is not built so that it supports all of the features that I have tried to add. Frustration.

As I continue on my learning journey I find that I am not digging a deep hole but a wide hole. I am expanding my understanding of a number of different platforms, not just WordPress in order to create my blog. This past week, I wanted to create a picture to my post Exploring Fields of Knowledge which showed two contrasting types of farming practices, an analogy which supported my growing understanding of different concepts and learning connections.

There's always light at the end of the tunnel

The light at the end of the tunnel is not always a train

However, to combine the two desired images into one for the header for my blog post, I needed to use Instagram, a program I had an account for, but only basic knowledge of. Once I had found my two  copyright free images on WikiMedia Commons, I went Instagram to meld them together. One step forward, two steps back. In order to merge them, I needed to download the Layout extension. Once downloaded, it took me 20 minutes to learn how to edit my pictures and add the layers of coloring and style that brought my picture to life. This process is kind of like working on my blog; but not really, because I get dragged off task to do something more interesting or to acquire the knowledge in the first place. Now that I have the layout app and the knowledge, I have been able to drastically reduce the time to alter images to just 60 seconds. One step forwards….

Two steps back….Other style points that sidetracked me from writing was trying to add subscribe buttons & search bars to my theme. As I alluded to above, some of the elements that I was trying to include are not applicable for the theme that I had chosen on WordPress. The Monochrome theme simply does not have the same menus within it as other themes do; therefore I could not add the desired item where I wanted to. My RSS feed was an example, I know I have one established already, but can I not add my Digg Reader list of RSS’ to my site? Did I need to select my RSS sources twice, or was there something I was missing? Of course that issue seems straightforward, but it still takes you the time to figure out what the problem is. Troubleshooting is never easy when you’re not sure what the trouble is, where it’s located or how to fix it. Hindsight is always 20/20 once you know how to do it the first time.

One step forward…. an area that I feel like I’m getting a good handle on now, but one that came with its own set of struggles, was using the tags and categories. Tags and categories help to make blogs and websites more searchable, interesting and ultimately relevant to readers . my first mistake was watching the video but not realizing that hashtag # was not needed when creating tag words. I discovered this after my second blog post and needed to go back to eradicate the erroneous entries. Despite my efforts, I still have one hashtag up on the right hand side in that menu. However I am starting to build a database of my own tagged word dictionary.

Two steps back….perhaps the most frustrating of all, was my inability to link my Twitter account to my blog. I have been tweeting pretty steadily since November and prior to starting CoETaIL it had been the focus of my own digital learning, as I wanted to add the world of Twitter to my personal digital portfolio. Like many of the applications, widgets and technological tips above, there is a learning curve but I feel now that I have a good understanding of how to use Twitter in an educational setting. I even ramped up my Twitter use while taking CoETaIL, because I know it is an excellent way connect with my cohort. Nonetheless, I was extremely stumped when I will needed to get a confirmation key and consumer key which link the two. After spending close to an hour trying to figure it out myself, including searching Twitter and WordPress settings, I finally asked for help from our resident digital expert. I am now happy to say that it works….or is at least closer to working. Still tweeting, just not being picked up on my blog. Yet.

One step forward….help menus, video tutorials and online forums. I just can’t get enough. Still, if everyone else was able to do it I am sure I can. Persistence and perseverance will pay off. I just need to stop wanting my blog to look so professional so early. It took me around a year to get my Grade Five and Coaching Google Sites up to snuff. I guess I just need to stop obsessing. Yea right, this is too much fun.

One step forward….



Keller, Smith. customize+button+small. 2013. Customized Themes, Colours, And Fonts For Your Restaurant Website. Web. 3 Mar. 2016. <https://www.appetas.com/blog/2013/11/11/customized-themes-colors-and-fonts-for-your-restaurant-website>
Skitterphoto.com, . sky-ditch-eye-hole. 2014. Pexels. Web. 3 Mar. 2016. <https://www.pexels.com/photo/sky-ditch-eye-hole-3828/>.