Over at Edutools, where I spend at least half my life, we have been quietly trying out a new model for researching ed tech software and helping people get up to speed on different technology issues. Last year we ran the model for the first time while looking at various Learning Object Repository technologies. We’ve just run the same project a second time, the results of which will be released publicly later this year at the WCET Conference in New Orleans.
In essense, the new model we are trying out is to create a small group of similar type partners (so far we have dealt mostly with state-wide systems and some larger institutions) to jointly investigate a particular type of educational technology using the Edutools comparative analysis model. The challenge is obviously coming up with a common set of systems to look at, as well as a common framework for comparing them given differences amongst the partners. Luckily, each time we’ve run it there has been more accord than discord, and in fact the partners truly seem to appreciate each other’s interests in packages they had not previously considered and on features they hadn’t seen as key.
The other part of the project is to bring the partners together to share their current experiences trying to implement these systems; typically they are all at an early stage (hence the value in participating in the project) but have all done some planning work, and find it valuable to learn how others are tackling the issues. This year we also brought in people from the previous year’s project to speak on what they had achieved in the past year, a hugely valueable set of lessons. Finally we bring in a number of guest experts to speak on topics of the groups choosing – this year it was Ed Walker bringing us up to speed on standards adoption and plans for the future, and Clifford Lynch on whether multiple repository needs could be met through a single system. The irony for me is that while the comparative ‘reviews’ are ostensibly the raison d’etre for the project, the partners are finding as much, if not more, value in the interaction amongst themselves, and with the guest experts. It’s become as much a process of getting more familiar with the domain and its issues as it is about chosing software.
Which brings us to the above item – this fall we (WCET and Edutools) are partnering with the Electronic
Portfolio Action Committee to run this type of engagement, but this time looking at ePortfolio systems and issues. It is great to be doing this in partnership with EPAC as they bring consderable expertise and experience to the issue of ePortfolios. If this sounds of interest, please contact Russ Poulin at WCET at the numbers provided for more information. – SWL