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Wk 1-Synthesizing our discussions

One of the challenges of working in a collaborative context such as P2PU is finding ways to synthesis our contributions. By drawing together differing perspectives, experiences and ideas, we can refine our thinking and gain new insights into the role that eportfolios can play in professional development.

In creating this course, the organizers have used Google docs for brainstorming ideas, sharing comments, constructing activities and tasks and negotiating a shared understanding of the course purpose and structure. Google docs is a good tool for building collaborative engagement and facilitating synthesis. Other useful tools are:

1. Mindmapping tools eg Mindomo, Bubblus

2. Wikispaces

3. Online noticeboards eg Wallwisher

4. MS Word - you can use the ready made symbols and shapes

Option 1: What other tools have you used to synthesis information and ideas? How effective were they? 

Some great suggestions for group/individual synthesis  - please add others too.

  • Popplet and mindmeister for Mindmapping
  • Lino, stixy, wallwisher for Noticeboards
  • Prezi
  • Trello and Asana
  • Google docs

Option 2: Select a new tool and experiment with synthesising this weeks discussions. Share your synthesis with the group and tell us anything you have learnt in doing this activity.

Option 3: Using an online tool, create a collaborative experience in which some participants could jointly construct a shared synthesis. Use our P2PU group to experiment with your idea.

Task Discussion

  • Beca   July 21, 2012, 2:13 p.m.

    I like the use of the Wallwisher as a synthesizing tool.  I think it works well with students; I set one up last week as a summarizing activity for students after we discuss scientific literacy and what they think 21st century learning should look like in a chemistry class.  It gives everyone a chance to put their ideas out there.  

  • Liz Renshaw   July 22, 2012, 3:28 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Beca   July 21, 2012, 2:13 p.m.

    Interested to hear you have set up a wallwisher for your students? Would love to see some responses to your question out of personal interest.

    I used it will my students . They loved the 'small space' for writing - not to overwhelming and just the fun element of this tool.

  • Liz Renshaw   July 14, 2012, 12:03 a.m.

    I've just visited our Wallwisher and added a few comments at the end of our first busy and productive week. I'd really love to hear (see) from everyone. You can just pop to the WALL wisher.

    I'd used this tool in teaching in my adult literacy classes for reticient writers to generate ideas. Most enjoyable..




  • karen   July 13, 2012, 8:37 p.m.

    Wow - I can't believe we are approaching the end of our first week together here.

    I really, really like Google Docs for group collaboration and synthesis, but have also been having fun playing with Wallwisher.

    Here is a synthesis board for week 1 that we can all add to.

    (That was an experiement with using a screen shot with a link when embedding isn't supported or available.)

  • Sue K   July 13, 2012, 9:36 a.m.

    I am a bit behind on the tasks (still workig on the mapping; not a strength of mine and dabbling with different tools!). 

    I have used Google Docs and Google site both as collaborative tools and for collecting/storing/revising. For example, at my previous school we began work on designing common units of study for grade level subject areas (our Professional Learning Community work). We created a Google site to store all the unit maps and people were encouraged to provide feedback to one another on the content of the maps and the assessments. That was done in addition to the f2f meetings we had in which different PLC groups share their units or assessments with one another and receive feedback on them. Using Google docs, various people were able to ask questions as the work was being done. Using the Google site was a bit of a challenge for people (formatting the maps - especially those done in Word and loading the maps pushed some staff out of their comfort zones). 

    I am still struggling, though, with finding an effective way to use various tools in concert. For example, I have an Evernote notebook, a delicious accout and a di.igo account, have dabbled with Prezi - but pulling things altogether in a cohesive fashion has been a huge challenge. In part, that is because I tend to 'dabble' and not commit to learn something well. Many of the teachers with whom I have worked seem to struggle with the same thing. I am wondering how we guide people to learn a "process" for doing this type of work (including students), well at the same time allow them to develop a proficiency with the tools. I know I have read numerous times about not emphasizing the "tools,' but I think there needs to be attention to both. 

    There are so very many "tools" and things out there! For those who are organizationally challenged (and I include myself in that group) there has to be some way to manage all this - or else the process gets abandoned. That is a concern I have for using ePortfolios as part of teacher growth and PD. I have seen other things become so much about the steps and the process and completing each component, that it becomes more of a 'show' than a truly useful exercise. 

  • karen   July 13, 2012, 8:08 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Sue K   July 13, 2012, 9:36 a.m.

    Good points, Sue. On the subject of finding a process for organization, I've seen some very compelling information on the importance creating and managing a workflow that works for you. One is by Jason Neiffer; slides here and some video. Embedded below.) I'm not sure that his approach is the "right" one for everyone, but I think it's important to find a workflow process that works for you, finetune it, and use it faithfully.

    A couple points that Jason makes that resonate with me are that you should find some (a few) tools that really work for you, get good at them, and use them a lot. You don't have to use every new tool that is available, and in fact, doing so can detract from an efficient workflow.

    Credit: Jason Neiffer

    As full disclosure, I am an organization freak, so stuff like this really appeals to me. But I'd also say that I have a workflow that works pretty well for me, and I can stay on top of a pretty good flow of information.

    A huge tool for me is Evernote. In fact, as it relates to my eportfolio, I'm think more and more about how Evernote might be a part of it. Still gnawing on that....

    Jason's slides:

    Jason's prsentation video:

    [embed:Invalid Url]

  • Liz Renshaw   July 14, 2012, 12:11 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Sue K   July 13, 2012, 9:36 a.m.

    Sue, you seem to work in a much more collaboratively spirited workplace than I do at the moment. It's really great how your work is pushing the boundaries.

    im rather a dabbler as well but made a conscious decision this P2pU to check out sites that participants were strongly recommending. Rather than exploring myself Ive decided to send the users some questions and then go further..... I just found myself playing in sites that served the same purpose but just used different colours!  So Im deliberately trying to PLAY With PURPOSE now.

    Next week we focus on tools being used for e portfolios, im really interested to see how others are integrating their artifacts in one 'spot' for e ports....



  • Liz Renshaw   July 14, 2012, 12:21 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   July 13, 2012, 8:08 p.m.

    Im with Jason... I just love some rules like this...  A couple of comments that have resonated with me recently are

    1. let go of the feeling that you might be missing something with not looking at all the tools. Do you really look at all the cereals in the supermarket each week or just walk on by?

    2.  dont forget about those useful skills of self discipline, commonsense and balance : forget about reinventing the wheel..... and ask others..


  • Joe Dillon   July 14, 2012, 8:32 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   July 13, 2012, 8:08 p.m.

    Hi Karen,


    I like these rules! The one I might question or think more in relation to portfolios is #2. I definitely believe in going through a critical process when adopting a new tool, but I also think that tool use blends in digital environments. Especially where portfolios are concerned, I consider the perspective of the producer (me) and the consumer. For example, if I had photos to include, I would try to use a tool that supported my audience in navigating, viewing and perhaps even annotating them. On the production end, I have to use a tool that allows me to filter, sort, and edit my photos. Those decisions would inform my tool choice and might mean that I employ more tools than necessary. 

  • Selim   July 12, 2012, 12:53 p.m.

    I'm not sure if this counts but I have been using Dropbox as a way to store all of my work, since i teach biology with two other teachers we share an account.  Our administrators also have access to the account so they are able to see how we are collaborating and how we are sharing resources with one another.  

    I also have been using Engrade and Facebook to maintain student work.  I found that with my students they would not remember to do homework if I handed them a piece of paper and required them to hand it in the next day; so I created "Mr. T's" facebook page, which all students were required to "friend" - I posted videos and powerpoints of all my lessons, so students never had a reason to say they couldn't get the work.  Since they are on facebook every day they could not realistically say they forgot they had homework.  the homework would be due that night via email  instead of the next day to minimize copying. This gave me the additional benefit of offering immediate feedback and having an electronic record of what students owed me - I found that some students were doing back homework because they could easily see what they owed me.

    After I finish this course I am going to learn how to make badges so that I can give students badges for demonstrating mastery of skills needed for the Biology Regents exam.  There are basically seven categories that students need to learn about in freshman bio; scientific method, genetics, cells, body systems, evolution, ecology, and human impact on the environment.  I would like to create badges to encourage students to make sure they master particular skills, this could help incentivize students who are not internally motivated and show how I differentiate instruction by creating different badge levels so that students can rise to different challenges.

    I think all of these put together could create a decent start of a portfolio that would show that I have been giving students increasingly challenging work and helping them prepare for their exams.  

  • Leah MacVie   July 12, 2012, 3:30 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Selim   July 12, 2012, 12:53 p.m.

    Selim, I think DropBox is a great place to store info and provide a holding place for your eportfolio contents. However, it doesn't allow you to add 'reflections' per each item. For this, you may want to create a 'pretty front'- even something at or Google sites w/ an easy link you can pass along.

    P.S. you may wish to check out Open Badges 101 (102, 103, 201 also in the works) if you are interested in badges.

  • evan williams   July 12, 2012, 9:33 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Selim   July 12, 2012, 12:53 p.m.

    That's cool that you actually use Facebook. People can be SO afraid of Facebook. It never occurred to me to use Facebook in such a way. You can even make groups to separate classes, etc. I teach middle school, so I probably wouldn't use it -- they're into social media strictly for the "fad" of it. I do, however, love your badge idea. That's so simple and so fun. I love to give my kids "Paper Plate Awards" for their success, but it gets pushed to the back because everything else adds up and I forget to do them.


  • evan williams   July 12, 2012, 11:29 a.m.

    I've used a site called Edmodo that has some potential for ePortfolio-ness. You have your own personal stream and you can make it "public" so when you post the link, people can click on that link and see all the different posts. 

    You can post video, .pdf's, pictures, audio, etc. I don't know if this is a good tool for an ePortfolio ONLY, but it's a nice tool to post documentation and examples of your teaching, tools and examples for anyone to see. Just add it to your email signature...

    It also looks similar to Facebook. 

    You can tag posts to organize your work. 

    You can upload files and keep them on your Edmodo account, so you can access them anywhere.

    You can also allow for commenting and conversation. 

    It's also set up to be similar to Blackboard, where students can find assignments, turn in assignments, take quizzes, check out a calendar, etc. But the tools I mentioned above would work as a place for your examples.

  • Sue K   July 13, 2012, 10:50 p.m.
    In Reply To:   evan williams   July 12, 2012, 11:29 a.m.


    Many of my teachers in my previous school used edmodo for their classes and felt it was very effective. We struggled as a district with having teachers use all different course management tools/platforms (the parents had a tough time when each teacher had a different system - something we have to think about in systems). Several teachers relied completely on Moodle sites; others only used their School Wires page; then others starting using edmodo. I think those that preferred edmodo found it to be more user friendly and  they saw the similarity to Facebook as a draw for students and parents - a format many were familiar with I imagine. Thanks for showing us how you used it! Are there concerns where you work for using one type of tool? 


  • karen   July 14, 2012, 3:23 p.m.
    In Reply To:   evan williams   July 12, 2012, 11:29 a.m.

    I was just talking with a group about the potential of using Edmodo (or something similar) for eportfolios. One of the advantages of this (like Google Docs) is that the student profiles carry forward, creating an archive of student work form year to year. This could be adapted into a portofolio by selecting and commenting on particular pieces of work.

    This brings up a concern I have with some district-administered collections of student work (such as network folder or anything that is stored on a district server). I find that districts often purge all work over the summer, which makes it difficult to use this in a portfolio context.

    I am a fan of students (and teachers) being able to keep control of their own work products in some way.

    Just some food for thought....Is anyone doing this with students?

  • karen   July 14, 2012, 3:31 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Sue K   July 13, 2012, 10:50 p.m.

    Sue, I'm hearing more and more enthusiasm for Edmodo, partly because of its usable interface and partly because teachers can control everything themselves without relying on district IT staff.

    I understand the concern about standardization, but I also see that when teachers are mandated to use a given platform, they often don't use it enthusiastically (or at all). I'm not sure where the happy medium is there.

  • Liz Renshaw   July 15, 2012, 2:58 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   July 14, 2012, 3:31 p.m.

    I'm really loving this conversation as in many current educational workplaces in Australia teachers have NO CHOICE as to which platforms they use officially. It is mandatory to use certain platforms inside the organisational walls. The process of standardisation is taken to the extreme for example Moodle is the must use VLE and the features and functions are very tightly controlled by a central administration. You are only permitted access to ONE template with company branding.

    As Karen comments when things are mandated teachers are not too enthusiastic also those that do adopt early get very very easily frustrated when they realise real lack of control they have..  If teachers want to get IT support they must use the mandated systems etc or else no support, no adminstrative rights/ lots of firewalls. So im really interested to hear about the US experience where teachers are able to make informed choices about which platforms they use.


  • fotologic   July 11, 2012, 4:01 p.m.

    We use a variety of collaboration tools in school to synthesise discussion, collaborate on planning and promote peer to peer learning. Chief amongst them is Googledocs. Students really enjoy sharing the editorial rights with other students and/or their teacher when it comes to drafting, re-drafting and commenting on assignments. It's also a great way to encourage teachers to contribute to a single document rather than emailing different versions of the document back and forth.

    Here are some other tools we have used:

    Popplet and Mindmeister - great mindmapping tools

    Wallwisher, Lino and Stixy - virtual noticeboards

    Here's an example of a collaborative Stixy that students made remotely for a staff presentation on learning in 2015.

    My synthesis of the discussions so far includes the following questions:

    • Are ePortfolios useful/essential for learning professionals (and their students) and, if so, how can they be used effectively?
    • Is a successful ePortfolio a single web resource or an interconnected network of web-based resources/evidence?
    • How can a range of web based tools be best utilised within the context of an ePortfolio to present professional learning standards?
    • How could a requirement to establish and maintain an ePortfolio help support the development of digital literacy amongst professional educators?
    • How do educators seek support and guidance in the construction and maintenance of an ePortfolio?
    • What should be included in an exemplar ePortfolio?
  • Liz Renshaw   July 12, 2012, 8:39 p.m.
    In Reply To:   fotologic   July 11, 2012, 4:01 p.m.

    I'm going to give Popplet ago as suggested by a couple of participants. I agree with your synthesis of emerging questions from our first week . The discussions have been very rich and thoughtful and I have certainly shifted my perspective and understanding of what constitutes an e portfolio so I really like your 2nd point..

  • Anonym   July 9, 2012, 3:49 p.m.

    In a school environment I have used (believe it or not) inspiration. I used it in lesson planning..mapping out a lesson instead of a written lesson plan. With good clip art and pictures one gets a good idea where you are going with the lesson..

    it saved me bundle of time since I need only write out ideas not whole sentences. The drawback, the administrator was not happy! 

    Idea maps that use words can be cumbersome, idea maps that use clip art, pictures, video clips

    can be meaningful!

  • Anonym   July 9, 2012, 3:52 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Anonym   July 9, 2012, 3:49 p.m.

    I meant to give kudos and praise to using Prezi ...

  • Liz Renshaw   July 10, 2012, 5:38 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Anonym   July 9, 2012, 3:52 p.m.

    I really agree with your idea about using lots of multimedia in any synthesis activity. Im a very new user to Prezi but like what I see.

    Did you do the synthesis with the students as a collaborate activity? I have found this effective if you take time to really model the activity and build the field of vocabulary and suggestions. I would with adults with limited literacy skills.

  • Anonym   July 10, 2012, 10:59 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   July 10, 2012, 5:38 a.m.

    I teach students to create graphic organizers and share thoughts of books read via inspiration. That gave me the idea of showing the students the  usefulness of inspiration as a media tool for adults. I created a lesson plan with it. I then showed to an administrator who's reaction was cute but don't use in real teaching. All teaching is teach to the test...real honest teaching using creativity and insight has fallen to the waste side.

    Synthesizing information for collaborative use is accomplished in my system thru google docs. Data is shared updated and rehashed to facilitate administrative oversight of teaching directions and results. It is away for "Big Brother" to see all, know all, and fire all. (1984)

    So, E-P is BB 1984 in whereas Gov. may have legal access to all that is online in iCloud, iGoogle, twitter etc....

    Thoughts about my concern?

  • Leah MacVie   July 6, 2012, 10:50 p.m.

    One thing that came to mind was collaborating on Twitter via a hashtag and then using a tool like Storify to culminate all the info. I've seen this done really successfully for conferences and thing the same concept can be used in education. 

  • karen   July 7, 2012, 1:20 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Leah MacVie   July 6, 2012, 10:50 p.m.

    Great idea! How about #eport12 for a tag? And Storify can be embedded here at P2PU as well.

    Tweet away everyone! (Also supported are Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Instragram, and Google if you use the tag. URLs can also be imported. I'm still playing this this so we'll learn about it together.)

    I'll put this as a group link under our tasks on the left as well.

  • evan williams   July 12, 2012, 11:14 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   July 7, 2012, 1:20 p.m.

    When I first read about Storify, I thought it was a site that would "replace" the reporter and create news stories using information out on the web. Now that I see it in action, it's not like that at all. It's really handy to compile information, especially specialized Tweets and such if you're at a conference, instead of just searching for it. 

    In a similar tool, if you wanted to locate information that you could use in your ePortfolio, Twitter/Social media apps that combine Facebook and Twitter into one visual layout is also helpful. I use Tweet Deck and can create columns for specific hashtags

    I should create one for #eport12. 

    I'm @mybucketofparts

  • This comment was deleted.
  • MissionV   June 18, 2012, 5:33 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   June 18, 2012, 2:05 a.m.

    Google Docs has been our number one collaboration tool for a long time now. We find the commenting / discussion feature a terrific way to asynchronously collaborate on documents.

    We find MindMeister very useful for mind-mapping but I know there are many others like it. 

    We've used Goshido as an internal project management tool but I've heard that Trello and Asana are similar (free) alternatives. Asana looks particularly good. NOTE: these are more like shared task lists than traditional project management applications (and all the better for it).

  • Liz Renshaw   July 10, 2012, 5:40 a.m.
    In Reply To:   MissionV   June 18, 2012, 5:33 a.m.

    I like Google docs too.. really is a time saving sharing way to go. I'll have to check out Asana/Trello dont know them at all.

    I'm using okmindmap at the moment which is very user friendly.   Thanks for your valuable input.

  • evan williams   July 12, 2012, 11:08 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   July 10, 2012, 5:40 a.m.

    I like Google Docs for the ability to work on the same document as well. This is also a great tool if your school as an account for students. We do. You can highlight, make notes, pose questions on their work and have them address it. The students tend to like the "real time" response they get from me while they write.

    This could be the same with a mentor.

    Sadly, I'm working on curriculum mapping with an individual that doesn't own a cell phone. He is so hesitant with technology. His way of sharing work is emailing a Word document back and forth. (Which actually used to be super amazing, back in the day :D)

  • Liz Renshaw   July 12, 2012, 8:36 p.m.
    In Reply To:   evan williams   July 12, 2012, 11:08 a.m.

    Had to have an extra coffee today, when I read your post about working with someone with no cell phone etc ....... good to share these frustrations...

    you're not alone here.... Ive worked with people who are still resisting email... as for uploading word docs ..... no way..

    hang in there and keep modelling good practice that works for you . I have found that the students have 'driven' some teachers to change with their requests to use different approaches.

    He is no doubt very fearful about the rate of change and his capacity to embrace technology.sad




  • karen   July 13, 2012, 8:22 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   July 12, 2012, 8:36 p.m.

    Ha! I live in a place so remote that we have no cell coverage for 50 not much point in having/using one or me! I am, however, very connected otherwise. :)