Reflective bPortfolios

Vaughn, A., Lumpe, A.T., & Eigenbrood, R. Reflective Blog Portfolios (bPortfolios) as Evidence of Teacher Competencies and Positive Impact. A paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Independent Liberal Arts Colleges for Teacher Education, Chicago, Illinois, February 18, 2012.

bPortfolios: Blogging for Reflective Practice

2011 Sloan-C Effective Practice Award Winner! 


Web 2.0 technology, such as blogging, allows for locally developed, cost effective, and holistic alternative portfolio assessment systems. By enhancing critical reflection and fostering social interaction, blogging portfolios are seen as an integral learning tool for all students enrolled in a university program.

bPortfolio Sloan-C Effective Practices

Beliefs about Teaching Science

The article reports on a large scale research study funded by the National Science Foundation in which elementary teachers’ motivational beliefs about teaching science were found to be related to their level of engagement in an extensive professional development program. In addition, teachers with more confidence about teaching science tended to have students with higher science test scores.

Lumpe, A. T., Czerniak, C. M., Haney, J. J., & Beltyukova, S. (accepted for publication). Beliefs about Teaching Science: The Relationship between Elementary Teachers’ Professional Development and Student Achievement. International Journal of Science Education.

PDF copy of article Beliefs about Teaching Science IJSE

Use of Synchronous Collaborative Wikis in an Online Learning Environment

A Paper Presented at the 16th Annual Sloan Consortium Conference on Online Learning, Nov 5, 2010, Orlando, FL

Sloan C Presentation


The overall goal of education is to develop expertise (Bransford et al, 1999). Experts have more access to content, and easily retrieve content, can adapt and change, and recognize when to apply knowledge. Collaborative learning environments are designed to develop expertise by helping users discern patterns and create meaning in non-static, collaborative settings. Within such environments, deep factual knowledge bases can be developed, knowledge easily retrieved and shared, and conceptual frameworks built. Koschmann (2002, p. 18) provides a definition of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning that emphasizes the importance of collaborative knowledge construction: “ a field of study centrally concerned with meaning and practices of meaning-making in the context of joint activity, and the ways in which these practices are mediated through designed artifacts.” For successful collaborative learning to occur, group members must communicate in a way where the team can discern agreements from disagreements, conflicts from misunderstandings, and insights from confusion (Stahl, 2002, p. 177). The emphasis needs to be on collaborative rather than individual knowledge construction, which may be challenging when students are primarily working for individual course grades. This collaboration is also known as intersubjective learning (Suthers, 2005), group cognition (Stahl, 2006), and mutually shared cognition (Van den Bossche, 2006). Synchronous learning environments, where students have opportunities to collaborate in real time, may provide more opportunities for communication, conflict resolution, and joint concept development than asynchronous environments which are commonly used in learner management systems. The primary hypothesis for this study was that online graduate students who use synchronous collaborative wikis will perceive a higher level of mutually shared cognition (Van den Bossche et al., 2006) and higher levels of expertise than students in a comparison group who did not collaborate synchronously. The research goals included the following: 1. Describe the application of synchronous wikis in a collaborative learning environment. 2. Report the results on student perceptions of mutual shared cognition and the development of content expertise. 3. Provide recommendations for future research and applications of synchronous collaborative wikis in online environments. In this study, synchronous collaborative wikis were used in a graduate level course for K-12 educators. Students in two randomly assigned sections of a graduate, online course were randomly assigned to teams of three or four students. Teams in both sections utilized a private (team members and instructor only) preformatted wiki in the Assignment area of the Blackboard 9.0 learner management system that contained links for each phase of the project, as well as links for team members to share individual comments. Students also used a collaborative script and a screencast presentation explaining how to use the wiki to collaborate on the assigned project. This scaffolding strategy, recommended by Larusson and Altermann (2009) helped students focus on the content of the project rather than the technology used for collaboration. Teams in the experimental section had five open resource EtherPads ( embedded in their wiki. These EtherPads were used by the students to collaborate on a team charter (Palloff & Pratt, 2007), three, 5-paragraph essays and a script for a final presentation. EtherPad can be described as a synchronous wiki word processor, where users are able to watch their colleagues type in real-time and can share comments about what is being written by typing in a chat window. Students in the experimental group were also asked to schedule five meeting times where they collaborated on their essays in real-time. Students in the comparison section collaborated on their essays asynchronously by entering text directly on to a wiki page in Blackboard during each phase. Comparison group team members made edits and comments during each phase but their team never met “together” synchronously in order to collaborate. Students in both experimental and comparison groups then completed a final presentation In order to assess students perceptions of mutual shared cognition, the Team Learning Beliefs & Behaviors Questionnaire (Van den Bossche, 2006) was administered to the participants after participating in the course activities. Expertise was assessed using a combination of quantitative and qualitative data sources including the number of wiki posts, time spent using the applications, number of relevant concepts/phrases cited and developed, and the final presentation evaluation. A variety of descriptive and inferential analysis techniques were applied to the data sources. It was found that teams using the synchronous collaborative wikis developed higher levels of expertise and perceptions of mutual shared cognition than did students who only worked asynchronously. Based on these findings, it is recommended that students in online learning environments be given structured opportunities to collaborate synchronously.

Learning How to Assess Learning Portfolios

Presentation at the Sloan-C Emerging Technologies for Online Learning

Title: Learning How to Assess Learning Portfolios
Date: Thursday, July 22, 2010
Time: 3:40 PM PDT
Duration: 00:42:08

Emerging Technologies for Learning

Published in the spring 2010 issue of the journal Curriculum in Context.

The year was 1986 and a shiny new Apple IIc computer with a color monitor was delivered to the high school science classroom where I was teaching. The computer was placed on a rolling cart but it remained in the office/lab prep room outside of the classroom. It was used primarily for preparing documents and keeping track of students’ grades on a spreadsheet. It was never used for instructional purposes with students. The level of development, usability and lack of availability of technology in 1986 prevented it from serving as an important learning tool. Things have changed considerably since then primarily due to the advent of high speed processors, the internet, and linked documents via the World Wide Web. Emerging technologies now provides potential for enhancing learning that did not previously exist.

Before describing how emerging technologies may be used to enhance learning, a primer on the web is needed. The first iteration of the web, called Web 1.0, is a read only system. Via the web, vast amounts of information were made widely available to anyone with internet access. Some call it the “shopping cart” web as there was very little interaction. Searching for static information and shopping are the hallmarks of this level of technology. A newer version of the web called Web 2.0, also known as the read/write web, provides a system where users can read and contribute to the system (see this informative video). Examples include wikis where people contribute content, social networks like Facebook, multiple forms of audio and video including podcasts, and blogging. The next proposed iteration of the web, Web 3.0, involves semantic intelligent systems that helps users discern patterns and create meaning from posted information (see this video description). These types of intelligent systems where software can contextualize content for users are relatively new. All of the above web-based technologies, particularly web 2.0 and 3.0 systems, may be able to serve as a tool to assist learning.

Linking technologies to learning theory will help provide a framework for discussing its capabilities. Bransford, et. al, published an excellent and oft cited treatise called How People Learn. Citing years of research, Bransford’s group formulated key findings about what we currently know about how people learn. These principles are widely used in various educational settings to help structure the way learning experiences are designed and delivered. Key findings two and three from this work are easily applied to the use of emerging technologies.

How People Learn – Key Finding 2

To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must: (a) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge, (b) understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and (c) organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application. How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice, 1999, p. 10-13

In describing the research behind this key finding, Bransford and his colleagues focused on how knowledge is organized and used by experts and novices. Compared to novices, experts have more access to knowledge, know how to easily retrieve knowledge that is directly associated with their work, can adapt and change knowledge structures when needed, and recognize when to apply knowledge to specific contexts.

A general goal of education is develop expertise in learners. This is achieved through using a variety of proven instructional strategies (e.g., Marzano, 2001) and curriculum materials that are content laden. Most published curriculum materials are static in nature; they simply provide long lists of concepts and ideas. Yet traditional textbooks are outdated by the time they are printed. The web makes a wider variety of more up-to-date content available to learners via static information websites commonly accessed via search engines. But textbooks and static web sites, a form of Web 1.0, do not allow a free exchange of information, fail to contextualize content for learners, prevent easy retrieval of knowledge, and do not foster adaptations by learners. My hope is that this will eventually spell the end of traditional curriculum materials!

Web 2.0 technologies, or the Read/Write web, move beyond static display of content. Folksonomies (collaborative collections), tagging of content by category, social networks, blogging by a wide variety of writers, regular feeds of new information (RSS feeds), collaborative wikis, and podcasts represent widely available web 2.0 technologies. Freedman and D’Souza documented various educational applications of web 2.0 technologies. They provide dynamic sources of easy-to-retrieve contextualized content, foster interactivity, and help learners adapt. In effect, they help address Bransford’s Key Principle 2.

While innovative in their own right, these web 2.0 technologies don’t utilize one of the most promising developments, the semantic web, or web 3.0. In citing future educational applications of the semantic web, the 2008 Horizon Report (New Media Consortium/EDUCAUSE), indicated that collective intelligence systems are key emerging technologies poised to have an impact on teaching and learning in the next few years. Such systems create new ways for users to contribute to, examine, and organize information in a semantic fashion.

Two popular and easy to use semantic applications cited in the Horizon report include and is a site where learners can maintain sets of social bookmarks and associated tags. Here is a link to my set of bookmarks related to the topic of this article ( I can tag topics to each bookmark and see who else bookmarked and tagged each site. Such systems can help learners organize information and share ideas with others.

Flickr is the wildly popular photo sharing site maintained by Yahoo. It is claimed by Yahoo that over 4 billion photos reside on their servers. Static collections of photos aren’t what make this site semantic. Users can tag photos with descriptive words that others can use for searching. Geotagging – linking a photo to a specific site on a map – can be used to organize and find photos from anywhere in the world.

Semantic wikis are one method proposed to create interactive learning environments (Völkel, et. al, 2006). Regular wikis that involve collaborative editing, including Wikipedia, are excellent for static data display and ease of access. Semantic wikis move beyond the limitations of regular wikis and provide a means for users to utilize metadata (data about data) and relationships between data categories. In other words, the software is capable of identifying and organizing relationships between posted information. An example of an educational semantic wiki is JurisPedia where users from all over the world can share legal information. In such semantic environments, deep factual knowledge bases can be developed, knowledge can easily be retrieved and shared, and conceptual frameworks can be built, all leading to increased learner expertise. The potential for education is intriguing. But most semantic web development is focused on business and industry – researchers/developers follow the money! As Bradford (2008) points out, there has been scant application to the realm of K-12 and higher education where it could be of great benefit to learners. However, some recent semantic applications with potential uses in educational settings include the following:,, ,, and

Interactive, collaborative learning environments between learners/novices, teachers/experts, and existing web 2.0 technologies and emerging web 3.0 semantic technologies can be cultivated to enhance learning. Figure 1 depicts the interactive relationships.

How People Learn – Key Finding 3

A “metacognitive” approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress in achieving them. How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice, 1999, p. 10-13

Bransford calls metacognition having an “internal conversation”. Others, like Novak, call it learning how to learn. While this may sound like a form of mental illness, it’s actually a powerful learning tool – a form of self-regulation where the learner controls their own learning. Teachers foster metacognition by providing scaffolds and prompts for students. The scaffolds/prompts should be able to be eventually pulled away and the learner still practices metacognition on their own; the goal is independent learning.

Experts in a given area routinely monitor their learning by attempting to align new information with what they already know. They realize when additional information is needed. Seeking help at the right time enhances depth of knowledge. But novices struggle with monitoring their learning and the sifting through the barrage of information that bombards them. With the vast amounts of information available on the internet, learners need assistance aligning their ideas with content standards. Simply “googling” a topic may not help a novice and may actually overwhelm them. Online libraries (e.g., repositories of content (e.g., and educational wikis (e.g. can assist students focus their learning.

Verbalizing learning is one powerful metacognitive tool. Having learners explain thoughts about what they understand or don’t understand positively impacts their growth. One method for utilizing technology to foster metacognition is the use of blogging. Blogs create a log of learning, document development over time, and allows for feedback and connecting of ideas. Michigan State University maintains an informative site called Blogs for Learning that provides practical ideas and examples. Helen Barrett, an internationally recognized expert on blogging for learning, maintains an informative site on electronic portfolios and digital story telling that includes many resources and samples (

Not only can blogging be used in K-12 settings, it may serve as a powerful learning tool for the professional development of educators. At Seattle Pacific University, students in both undergraduate and graduate programs maintain professional blogs that document their learning aligned with program and/or state standards. Students use the free blog tool called Erin Acheson is a high school science teacher in Everett and is working on a master’s degree at SPU. She is also deeply involved in teacher leadership projects in her district. Her blog is viewable at She organizes her professional learning around topics, coursework and program standards. Tags and categories (on the right side of the blog) provide an organizational tool. Reflective blogs can serve formative personal assessment and summative program assessment purposes.

Mind maps, as a form of graphic organizer, can be used as a metacognitive tool where learners organize their learning and logically connect concepts. Many software programs are available for learners to create mind maps (also see MindMeister even acts as a wiki mind map tool allowing collaborative input. An example applicable to the topic of this article is Robin Good’s popular collaborative mind map showing the best online collaboration tools for learning.

Collaborative learning network technologies can help students monitor their learning by providing mechanisms for debate, feedback, and collaborative project development. There are many interactive, web-based systems available to schools including the commonly used learner management systems like and Such systems provide online discussion forums, chat rooms, wikis, and other tools for managing collaboration. But even freely available social networking tools like and provide collaborative contexts where ideas can be quickly shared and commented upon.

Applications to Educational Settings

Learning happens in interactive, collaborative environments. This may be in a traditional classroom setting. But emerging technologies including web 2.0 and 3.0 environments may well serve a future role in expanding our view of where learning occurs. In the business world and non-formal settings, the learning environment is rapidly shifting to become technology-based.

Educators are oftentimes slow to adapt and adopt technologies. But the world is rapidly moving into a digital age where a new set of 21st century skills will be required (not convinced? – watch this video). Students are digital natives; adults tend to be digital immigrants. Students already understand and use the power of these emerging technologies for everyday learning. School systems must respond, perhaps even lead the change. Granted, districts are mandated to provide safe learning environments and internet safety blockers are a must. In addition, many adults in school systems are resistant and fearful of the digital age. But these should not become excuses for avoiding the potential of emerging technologies.

I remain perplexed and frustrated that these powerful technologies, based on sound learning theory and possessing enormous enhance learning, are not being developed and applied to educational settings at a more rapid clip. But, I can think of no better way to transform learning and better prepare students for their futures.

Evaluation of the use of Semantic Web Technology in a Collaborative Learning Environment


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