Monday, February 09, 2009

Towards reflective Twitterfolios (because ePortfolios suck and I don't want to be a prison guard)

Reflection I'm still trying to pick the bones out of the helpful comments on last week's post Who needs reflection?
There seemed to be three main threads, and I've highlighted a few somewhat representative quotes below:

Easegill commented:
Being 1st year students, I think that they might need stepping into the process a bit more. It's possible that they won't really understand what they are getting out of the process until next year - or even later.
Maybe we're on a hiding to nothing with first years? Specialism before generalism? Wait until when? Year 2? Year 3?

David Andrew commented:
...the physiology associated with reflection - in the bath, sitting on the bus, relaxing on a sofa etc. I recall nobody saying they did it sitting at a computer - I have a hunch that sitting at a computer is not conducive to reflection for most people.
A valid point, but since from an institutional point of view, we need a product to assess (we know that the majority of students will not participate if the activity is not assessed), this is problematic. But the comments below might point towards a better solution. Constructing a fancy-pants ePortfolio requires sitting in front of a computer. Other forms of communication don't (read on...)

Martin Weller commented:
I know, having tried to force-feed reflective practice, and having had it force-fed, that it doesn't really map onto conventional teaching very well 'Now reflect on your answer'. Students get fed up with this, and feel it is playing a game - they know if they say 'I think I could have done better at this', then they'll get marks. Whereas if you said 'I think I did everything right' you won't. It feels like a prisoner playing at contrition to get past the parole board...maybe just give students tools such as blogs, and get them to read people who are good, reflective bloggers, and they may pick it up in a more subtle form.
I've shied away from blogs and "learning logs" based on the negative reception they seem to generate, recorded in the work of GrĂ¡inne Conole and at the OU (don't use the "B-word": Exploring students’ understanding of how blogs & blogging can support distance learning in HE, ALT-C 2007, 169-178). Maybe I need to rethink this. Jim Groom supports the idea of the blogfolio (This ain’t yo mama’s e-portfolio part 1, part 2) and cites Barbara Ganley: "Twitter to connect, blog to reflect".

In response to Martin, I commented:
A subgroup of this cohort are active Twitterers, and their tweets capture precisely this "stream of consciousness style of reflection".
Hmm. Blogfolio? Maybe. Twitterfolio???

David Andrew commented:
I did find myself writing more reflective notes than I normally do - then I realised that they were in the form of the way I use Twitter - I think Twitter is maybe the best way of encouraging reflection.

While I was writing this on Saturday, the following conversation with some of the students on the module was taking place on Twitter (reproduced here with their permission):
DrCann: Hmm, Twitter more useful for reflection than an ePortfolio?
bb106: @DrCann Quite possibly, its easier to reflect in a less formal manner like this, I think that personal reflection could be much easier.
DrCann: @bb106 What about the people who don't "get" Twitter? Or by next year, will Twitter be so mainstream that isn't a problem?
bb106: @DrCann I think that a mixture between the two would be a more suitable approach. The idea of an ePortfolio is daunting but if it was less ... formal, and with a lower focus and mark percentage of the module, people would find it easier to do. If it was a chat type interface ... it would be easier to be honest than in such an official website dedicated to personal reflection. People don't like their faults.
pme4: @DrCann I would agree with @bb106 that the ePortfolio is too daunting at 50% of the module marks! Would be much easier over twitter.
pme4: @DrCann ePortfolios are a new concept for people whereas chat interfaces are more accepted! A website dedicated to my reflections is weird!
pme4: @DrCann Twitter is a simple interface once you have played around on it for a while, I am fairly sure it is easier to 'get' than ePortfolios.
pme4: @DrCann I do think that awarding marks for reflection is a step in the wrong direction, it means we are obliged to do it if we want to pass.
uolyd20: @DrCann I pretty much second what @bb106 and @pme4 said. Finding e-portfolio hard mainly just knowing how much/what to add, and by when... eg. how much to add now to get marks and make sure there is enough to add later when marked again. Plus reflection is hard :-s
DrCann: Only 6/200 students use Twitter. Is it fair to use it for assessment?
pme4 @DrCann more students would use twitter were it part of the assessment, just as more are preparing ePortfolios. Twitter is more user friendly.
bb106: @DrCann I didn't mean that twitter should be the method of reflection, I am suggesting a middle ground. Interpersonal conversations would be... much more productive, the general idea like an AA meeting etc. If this was achievable my an IM it would help with expression.
uolyd20: @DrCann No it wouldn't be fair, how would you assess it anyway?
DrCann: @bb106 Interested in this middle gound idea. I wait to hear more ;-)
bb106: @DrCann Twitter is a good medium to start with, but something based in blackboard with IM capability or merely a forum in which to discuss... but make it compulsory to post, but not to reflect, allowing some students to lead the way in starting the reflection, and others... would follow suit. *Wipes sweat away from brow* That was a long line of tweets.
DrCann: @pme4 I doubt the University would accept twitter use for PDP when most senior staff don't understand it :-(
pme4: @DrCann surely it is equally important that the students understand what they are using, which would favour twitter over doing ePortfolios.
DrCann: @pme4 But only 6/200 students use Twitter. Does that indicate understanding?
bb106: @Uolyd20 it shouldn't be assessed at all, it should be encouraged as it helped personal development and advancement.
bb106: Thinks he sounds like a personal motivator at the moment with all of this personal development and reflection talk.
DrCann: @bb106 You can use if you need more that 140 characters ;-)
pme4: @DrCann I had never heard of twitter before BS1010 but soon became accustomed to it due to its easy interface... The twitter interface is more similar to IM, which is well understood by students, so would be easier to adapt to that ePortfolios.
DrCann: @pme4 Sort of. Significant differences between Twitter and IM... Twitter more like blogging - "Microblogging".
pme4: @DrCann I agree that there are differences but twitter is a more familiar style than ePortfolios. I like the idea of microblogging though!
bb106: @DrCann People seem to think that twitter is a medium for geekdom rather than conversation, not seen as 'cool'. It is still relatively unknown.
bb106: @pme4 But reading the twitterstream of 200 people would give incredible headaches... I find it hard to keep up with only 8 people on mine!
bb106: @DrCann The idea of a blog could theoretically work, but as you can realize, there are many comparisons between that and the existing system proposed for an ePortfolio, I think that the blogging capabilities of twitter and the longer length of a blog post could work properly for a proper method of reflection. The idea of assessment is scaring many of my friends from actually contributing to this ePortfolio task.

So there we have it. Reflective Twitterfolio anyone? I think the above is ample evidence that Twitter can be used for reflection.

How the heck am I supposed to sell that one to The Man? :-)