SharePoint Diaries – Soliciting Feedback

A huge decision has been made to upgrade from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010. These SharePoint Diaries are meant to help me flesh out some ideas and to help others who may be going through (or about to go through) a similar transition.

Now that you know what we’re starting from, it’s time to start thinking about where we want to be.

To start, I asked the Middle School/High School teachers to fill out a shared Google Doc, answering the following three questions:

  1. What functions of the current portal do you use or ask/expect your students to use most often?
  2. Ideally, what would you like to be able to do with your students that cannot currently do easily? (I also asked them to keep in mind the work we did earlier on our Tech and Learning Plan to help guide them.)
  3. Any other comments?

The first question was to ensure that we don’t discard something that teachers find useful. With the second question, I purposefully avoided phrasing the question in terms of “What do you want SharePoint to do?” and instead wanted teachers to focus on the bigger picture ideas embodied in the NETS, such as collaborate, communicate, and create. The third question was included mostly to help keep the first two questions on track!

Once teachers had a chance to voice their thoughts, I asked for volunteers to come together face-to-face and discuss them in more detail, sort of like a focus group. In total, there were 5 teachers present and myself. I shared the objectives of the meeting that I had identified prior to the meeting:

Group Objectives

  1. To consolidate the general feelings of the MSHS staff with respect to their wishes for the new portal.
  2. To attempt to re-imagine what our school portal will/can be used for.
  3. To offer suggestions and concrete examples as to what the portal could/should/might look like on August 1, 2011.

To help us meet those objectives, I framed them in three questions which I will include, along with the collated notes, in their entirety below.

What I found, or rather what was reinforced, through this process were some major takeaways:

  • Our SharePoint implementation must be student-centered. As you can probably tell from my previous post, it currently is not. Students need spaces and permissions to create and collaborate. They need ownership and control and an audience.
  • Whether through SharePoint or some other means, we must address the issue of portfolios.
  • Teachers are concerned about the proprietary nature of SharePoint, both for themselves and for the students. Can the work that they put into SharePoint be exported? Can it then be imported into something else? Our community is highly transient and this is important. Portability is an issue.
  • In order to teach differently, we need the tools/access/flexibility to do so.

This, of course, is only the start. Now that we have an idea of what is needed/wanted, the question becomes: how can we meet these needs/wants? Environments matter. And currently, our virtual learning environment is, to some extent, shaping how we teach because of its limitations.

Later this week the Redesign Task Force will be meeting to discuss the feedback given by teachers across the school and to come up with some ideas of what that might look like. What can we do to create a learning environment that allows us to teach the way that we would like to teach? That allows us to fulfill our mission statement of encouraging “independent lifelong learners”?

I anticipate that this is also where we will begin discussing the different add-ons or modules that have been developed for SharePoint as well as think about how any changes in the structure will affect the migration of existing data. Exciting, isn’t it?

What do you think of our takeaways? What have you done to make your VLE student-centered? How does your VLE encourage innovative teaching and learning?


Below is a copy of the notes from our small ‘focus group’.


1. Looking over section one, what are the two most important features to be kept?

  • Wiki
  • Storage
  • Dropbox
  • Portfolio – bucket of work

2. Looking over section two, what are the three most recurring themes of the comments?

  • editable/collaborative spaces for students (wikis, blogs, whatnot)
    • student centered
  • Portfolios – defining what it means, how it is accessible, what goes in it
    • This goes beyond the current repository for all summative tasks.
  • Permissions
    • if you don’t allow common spaces, then more people will go off the reservation.
    • Allow for spontaneity.
    • “get out of the way”
  • There is a difference between a CMS and learning environment
  • Portability of work – 3.5 years average length of stay
    • For teachers
    • For students
  • Dynamic, embedded content
    • Locally hosted
    • internet access

3. How can we address one or two of those recurring themes?

  • Separate the tools: find the best tool to do the job well instead of relying on one tool to do things mediocre
    • Define acceptable external alternatives if SP cannot do what we want/need.
  • Class blog, discussion board, teacher controlled wiki, student based wiki – basic tools that need to be accessible (one example)
  • personalized dashboard
    • Can front page be different for different populations.
    • Create shortcuts w/in the portal
  • Sharing – local and global collaboration
    • Interactive learning spaces
    • External permissions
      • Scaffolded approach to open access
  • “We have to teach differently” – We need the tools/access/flexibility to teach differently
  • Class activities within Moodle
    • anybody create wikis
    • anybody create discussion boards
    • various activities
    • change the views; teachers can turn elements on and off

Two Days in Yokohama

I’m currently sitting in one of my old haunts – Starbucks in Kichijoji, one of the places where my now-wife and I use to hang out when we first met!

I’ve just spent the past two days at Yokohama International School working with and getting to know a good number of their teachers as they prepare for their Connected Learning Community this coming August.

We spent a lot of time discussing blogs, Google Apps, portfolios, assessment and good teaching practice. I even managed to get involved in a few MYP discussions!

I’ll have a lot more to say on the experience over the next week or so but my fingers are currently getting numb as I sit out on the patio enjoying the blue sky (and cold wind!). Thanks again to Kim Cofino for the chance to work and learn with a great bunch of teachers. And welcome to some new teachers in my PLN, including Brian Farrell, librarian; Adam Clark, counselor; Adam Seldis, Econ and Humanities teacher.

Portfolios in Action

I have decided to stop using the terms “Digital Portfolio” and “ePortfolio”. Whenever I refer to a portfolio now and in the future, it will overwhelmingly be of the so-called-digital kind anyway, so why put them in a separate category? These so-called-ePortfolios perform the same function (and more!) than so-called-traditional portfolios, so why single them out?

It doesn’t make them special to most; it makes them scary. It doesn’t make them exciting and innovative to teachers; it makes them something ‘other schools’ do. It doesn’t make them common practice; it makes them exceptional practice.

I wanted to share this photo that I took at ASB Unplugged in February.

DW was my Grade 3 tour guide through her digital portfolio. Google Sites are being piloted as eportfolios at ASB and the students seem to be in charge of everything, right down to scanning in their work. It was really cool to see these little people taking charge of their learning, taking pride in documenting it and even taking control of the technology. It makes me wonder why some people feel that middle and high school students would have a hard time with portfolios. Is it because of the students? Or the teachers/school?

Implementation of Electronic Portfolios – A Survey

At UNIS Hanoi we have recently formed a task force to look at the best options for implementing electronic portfolios across the school. We currently use portfolios in our PYP and MYP years. We are looking for solutions – both in terms of pedagogy and platform – that will help us implement electronic portfolios across the school (even in the Diploma Program, which currently does not keep portfolios). If your school is currently using electronic portfolios, I would love to have your input. I have put together a Google Form (link below) to help collect information about how schools are currently using electronic portfolios. All responses are public and can be found at the second link below. Thanks in advance for your help!

Survey – Implementation of Electronic Portfolios

Results – Spreadsheet

Image: Anoto Digital Pen by Anoto Group licensed under CC BY NC ND