SmartClassroom January 18 2006

Frank Tansey and Steve Acker, co-editors

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An Exercise in Absence . . . Notes on the Past and Future of Digital Portfolios and Student Learning

By Kathleen Yancey
Florida State University

During the academic year 2002-2003, as I attempted to keep track of developments in electronic portfolios, I wasn't quite frantic. Given the widespread distribution of portfolios-in classrooms,in academic programs, in extracurricular programs, for employment-this was no easy task, and at the year, I concluded that my search to keep up wasn't probably successful after all, unless of course we measure success by exhaustion. In terms of that metric, I did well indeed.

Upon reflection, much as a student in the midst of a term, I understood that caught up in the process of keeping up, I had some difficulty making sense of the object of my pursuit. On one hand, it seemed that ePortfolios were everywhere and on their way to becoming ubiquitous. Nearly all my colleagues across the country, and their colleagues too, were in medias res: considering using portfolios; planning the use of portfolios; or implementing some version of ePortfolios. On the other hand and at the risk of sounding heretical, all this busy-ness about and around ePortfolios sometimes seemed like sound and fury signifying . . . well, to continue my Shakespeare allusions, there's the rub. I wasn't certain at all what it was signifying.

Location isn't everything, but as Einstein pointed out, it frames what one sees. This term, I'm in the midst of making a transition to Florida State University, where I'm directing a graduate program in rhetoric and composition, which also means that for the first time in several years, I'm focusing on graduate education and not on general education. And for me right now relative to ePortfolios, there's a quiet: I'm not using them in a class; I'm not conducting a case study; I'm not working with in-service teachers who want to use them in their own teaching; I'm not advising another program on my own campus about how they might design and implement their own models.Inside that void, I have the opportunity to reflect on digital portfolios, on why I was attracted to them in the first place, and on what I'd like to do with them when I return to them, as I will in the spring semester.

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News & Product Updates

Podcasting I: Classes-to-Go Via Multimedia Podcasts

Blackboard is offering its enterprise education customers a third-party application that will enable them to capture, store, and index classroom lectures for later replay on hand-held MP3 devices.

The technology, from Tegrity, will be offered as a Blackboard Building Block that will enable schools to convert classroom discussions and lectures to a format that can be replayed by students. The on-demand content would be accessible through Blackboard on any computer or iPod. Each podcast can be automatically indexed and enhanced with instructor audio, slides and annotations from class.

El Centro College of the Dallas, Texas, County Community College District is the first Blackboard enterprise client to adopt Tegrity enhanced podcasting. Tuck Minnett, El Centro's Director of Distance Learning, said that "iPods are everywhere and their portability is becoming an inevitable part of education's future. Our students are now able to reinforce their learning while on the way to school, work, home or just juggling their busy schedules."

The technology is described and available for download at

Podcasting II: UCTV Offers Video Podcasts to Health Community

UCTV, a 24-hour satellite channel of programming at the University of California is offering healthcare professionals a series of educational video podcasts, dubbed "vodcasts," to help educate them on disaster preparedness. The six one-hour programs are sponsored by the California Preparedness Education Network (Cal-PEN) and U.C. Davis Office of Continuing Medical Education. The series includes vodcasts on disaster preparedness, as well as bioterror, chemical and radiation, and emerging epidemic threats.

UCTV said it picked the series as its first foray into the video podcasting medium because of its timeliness and the importance of having the content accessible to healthcare professionals at any time or place. It unveiled its vodcasting service at the American Public Health Association (APHA) conference in Philadelphia. "Technology is moving so quickly and constantly pushing us to apply it in innovative and ultimately useful ways," said UCTV's director Lynn Burnstan. "By providing this important series through mobile television, UCTV is meeting the ever increasing demand for public health information from reliable sources like the University of California."

For more information visit,

Michigan State U. Offers Students Free Multimedia Service

Michigan State University said it providing its students, faculty and staff a way to legally download digital songs, access movies and television shows, and share downloaded tracks. MSU is making available the Ruckus multimedia download service at no cost to any current MSU student accessing Ruckus on campus. Off-campus students, faculty and staff can access Ruckus for a price that involves a combination of monthly and per track fees.

David Gift, MSU vice provost for libraries, computing and technology, said Ruckus was picked for its ability to market directly with each student, minimizing MSU's investment of resources, and for meeting the technical and economic terms of the bid. "This arrangement with Ruckus is one of several things Michigan State University is doing to promote legitimate online trading in music and video files," he said. With the service students will be able to legally share music, movies and television shows; create playlists; send personal media recommendations to friends; and browse classmates' profiles and media libraries.

Case Study

ANGEL Learning: Enhancing Quality Instruction at The University of Kansas Medical Center

By Darrin Cheney
University of Kansas Medical Center

The University of Kansas Medical Center (UKMC) is an integral and unique component of the University of Kansas governed by the Kansas Board of Regents. Located in Kansas City, KUMC includes the School of Nursing, the School of Allied Health, and the School of Medicine. In addition, the School of Medicine operates a branch campus in Wichita.

KUMC currently uses Blackboard as its primary Learning Management System. In the Spring of 2005, an advisory committee was convened to identify additional learning management system capabilities needed to support current and forthcoming online learning initiatives. The School of Medicine requested a comprehensive online system to facilitate the redesign and delivery of an integrated basic science curriculum. The School of Nursing sought a system to support the design and delivery of a new online Doctorate of Nursing Program. All faculty required a simple, but comprehensive system through which to deliver their unique program offerings, and various existing undergraduate and graduate level online and on-ground courses.

The selection criteria identified were diverse. Faculty expected the new system to have the capability to create, store and search shared content in repositories or "content libraries,"and to link to this content from within course modules. Faculty also envisioned an ePortfoilio system that would encourage students to post artifacts based on learning objectives and reflect on their learning experiences. In addition, faculty asked for a shared white board where students could collaborate and create concept maps in both live lectures and in small group activities. Module and curriculum coordinators requested a collaborative community system to share information with an entire medical school class, thereby eliminating paper placed in student mailboxes. All three schools requested a secure, but simple tool to provide online testing. Finally, Teaching and Learning Technologies (TLT) required a system that could provide a simple but effective way to migrate existing Blackboard content to the new LMS.

Tech Notes

Web Directory of Continuing Higher Ed Programs Debuts

A national continuing education association and a listings firm launched an online directory of certificate and degree programs offered by regionally accredited colleges and universities. The directory was developed by the University Continuing Education Association (UCEA) and Educational Directories Unlimited, Inc. (EDU), which say 17 million U.S. adults are now pursuing higher education opportunities.

The directory will help prospective students search for programs via degree level, format, subject and, if applicable, zip code. The site will also offer advice for going back to school. UCEA President Roger Whitaker, who is also dean of the College of Professional Studies at George Washington University, said the directory would provide adults seeking to further their education a "trusted resource" to find "credible programs that meet their interests."

The directory is available at:

Reader Response

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