Monthly Archives: March 2013

Reflection: Designing This E-Portfolio

My E-Portfolio Theme

WordPress Coraline Theme
My E-Portfolio Theme

Main Task

The most time-consuming aspect of putting together this e-portfolio was definitely writing the materials and I in fact had to leave my opinion piece as the last piece to work on.  I needed the time to do some thinking. Indeed, writing and developing the e-portfolio content required a lot of thought.  Going over the guidelines of the assignment and also the rubrics really helped me keep working at it.  It helped me to make sure that each contribution in the e-portfolio is well connected to the theme.  I also realized at some point that I didn’t specify who would be the audience of my e-portfolio.  This was a very important piece.  Without a clear audience in mind, everything becomes blurry, out of focus.  In the end, I had to articulate my audience to be any teaching faculty, librarians, learning specialists, instructional designers, or technologists who can contribute to and can make important impacts on student learning in higher education.

How to disseminate my e-portfolio was one of the last things I worked on.  It would be very convenient to attach my e-portfolio url, say on my business card, or my signature line for e-mail messages.  I also chose to use my Mendeley profile.  Initially, the obvious field assigned by Mendeley for my e-portfolio entry to be included is Bio section.  Unfortunately, it is a text box and I could not make any hyperlink to the e-portfolio site.  I decided to include my e-portfolio under Publications so that any visitors can click it to the site.  In addition to Mendeley, I also looked into ResearchGate.  Unfortunately, there was no easy way to include the hyperlink for my e-portfolio in the profile database at this network site for academic researchers.


WorldPress Twenty Ten Theme

WordPress Twenty Ten Theme

Design Framework

I first looked into a couple of WorldPress themes with “clean design” for my e-portfolio, such as Twenty Ten, Twenty Eleven, and Twenty Twelve. A clean and simple design works best for an e-portfolio.  I selected the Coraline Theme.  I initially made it into one column format, but it accentuated my texts too much.   In the end, I put back the sidebar on the right and eliminated some widgets such as a widget for comments or metadata, to make the blog design into a stand-alone e-portfolio.


WordPress Twenty Eleven Theme

WordPress Twenty Eleven Theme


We need to have interesting images in any web pages.  Locating usable images that were not copyrighted or in public domain proved to be a time-consuming process. I could easily search Google Images with keywords and could retrieve many images, but many of them were either copyrighted or the copyright status not certain.  I eventually relied mainly on the Creative Commons Images Search (you can search 13 different resources covering images, music, and media), Open Clip Art Library, and Public Domain Clip Art to locate potential images for this project.   I initially went through the frustration of dealing with the fee-based image library sites that market their sites emphasizing on the availability of free, public domain images.  They in fact let you search free images only for the first couple of times.  But when you are convinced that this site is helpful, they start mainly pushing fee-based images.  Very tricky.


WordPress Twenty Twelve Theme

WordPress Twenty Twelve Theme


Looking back when I started this e-portfolio project, I had a vague idea of what it entails.  Establishing a blog site and establishing the main menu helped me get started with the project.   It would be accurate to say that the objective of my portfolio probably became more realistic when I focused on the audience.  Even after the identification of the audience, I still had to write each section by trial and error, drafting and editing, and finally putting all together ensuring that each contributes as a part of the e-portfolio.

My topic, how higher education is adapting to the new learning opportunities presented by the emerging technologies and accompanying social changes, by its nature has a moving target.  My webinar theme was authentic learning in higher education.  I struggle for a while to identify clearly what my opinion piece would be for the e-portfolio.  I brainstormed similar concepts to authentic learning.  There are, “student-centered learning” and “self-directed learning.”  The overlapping characteristics of these similar concepts lead to the concept of “life-long learning” or “learning-to-learn skills.”  I understood all these different concepts  to be the new labels or keywords helping us identify the new ways to organize learning environments.  I eventually chose to write about the ideal type for the 21st century learning environments and learners as my opinion piece.  This helps us visualize how learning takes place in the new learning environments that sharply contrast what we have become accustomed to in higher education.  The ideal type presented by Barr and Taggs, and John Seely Brown help us set in the new direction.  In the end, my opinion piece helped to tie various pieces I prepared for the e-portfolio.



Personal Reflecton: Attending Blended Learning Task Force Focus Group Session

On March 27, 2013, I attended one of the faculty focus groups arranged by the Blended Learning Task Force of the University of Manitoba that was recently struck by the Vice Provost (Academics).  Eight other faculty members who attended the focus group beside myself were two instructional designers from Extended Education and the rest consists of one teaching faculty member from each of the Faculty of Education, Social Work, Nursing, the Business School, and the Department of Computer Science, and Geography.  All the participants were referred beforehand to the background report prepared by the Task Force, which consists of a long list of SWOT analysis of blended learning.  We were reminded by the Vice Provost at the beginning of the focus group that they are neither for or against blended learning.  So they want to gather different opinions and views about blended learning in order to come up with a university-wide plan or strategy.  I have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed in this armed-length approach to blended learning at the University.  But we need to begin somewhere.   I still could not help and wonder what if the Task Force was led by a passionate advocate for supporting learning with the use of new technologies.  It  clearly would have given us a different starting point for our discussion.

During the task force group gathering, as we became more familier with each other’s view and experience of blended learning, we began to share the same view:  The University needs its commitment and resources in technical, pedagogical, and research & development supports around blended learning.  As soon as we thought we warmed up, it soon came to the end of 90 minutes, the time allocated for the focus group.  I also agreed with one professor who expressed his view that the planning for blended learning should come from the bottom rather than the top.  All the experimentations and teaching and learning experiences are happening on the ground and adopting the bottom-up approach makes a lot of sense.  As the Faculty of Education professor pointed out just before he left, the group’s discussion inevitably ended up focusing mainly on “teaching” aspects of blended learning.   We were nowhere near “learning” effects or what students think of blended learning.  Let’s trust that the students who will be recruited in their focus group get their voices heard.

Cathy Davidson


Portrait Picture of Cathy Davidson

Cathy Davidson, portrait by Artie Dixon

“Technology is always about the human factors in addition to the affordances.”  Cathy Davidson, [comment to her own HASTAC blog Entry]

Cathy Davison* is Professor of English at Duke University and a co-founder of HASTAC among other things.  For me, she is the author of 36 Views of Mount Fuji where she colourfully depicted many  personal and interesting encounters she made in Japan while she taught English at an all-women university.  Her enthusiasm is very catching and I remember my English professor friend somehow pointed out to me that she might be too “Japanofile” for his taste.

Since her book on Japan in the 80’s, Cathy Davidson has become the strong voice and important player in the ongoing higher education reform movement.  She is a very interesting figure because she is successfully capitalizing on her leadership positions at the Duke and in her larger scholarly communities in bringing about noticeable impacts on the discourse of changing higher education.   Her ability to drive the changes by actively involving and engaging herself in the front line of educational experimentation and then, communicating about them in her blogs and her book, is definitely the key to her success.

She was one of the people who drafted a “Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in a Digital Age” to generate a further discussion.  My understanding of what motivated somebody like Cathy Davidson and other concerned educators and scholars to draft the Bill is that the sudden rise of privatized MOOCs**, especially Coursera during 2012.  Considering its sheer technological power to gather student information by so many numbers, it is not too difficult to imagine that the company wants to capitalize on it.  Cathy Davison is now going into the enemy’s ring and is proposing to teach a course, “The History and Future of Higher Education” on Coursera next spring.

She shares her thinking around how she is going about developing the Coursera course on her blog.  For example, she writes about how to organize peer reviews among students.  Whenever the discussion of peer reviews is being raised, there are inevitable concerns raised, and the typical one is plagiarism.  But I think that encouraging peer reviews among students would bring some reality into the closed “schooling” model we became so accustomed to.   Here  (same as the above hyperlink) in her blog, she is modelling how the instructor can go about organizing activities for students.  Here she writes about how to turn multiple choice testing into a learning tool for students.

*The 2011 Inside Higher Education interview Cathy Davidson when she published a book, Now You See It.

**You can listen to CBC Spark for more detailed discussion on MOOCs as an emerging format for online higher education.  The Chronicle of Higher Education and the Inside Higher Education are the obvious sources for tracking the sudden rise of MOOC’s.


To Blog or Not To Blog

A lady sitting on a bench using computer

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon on Flickr CC

The theme that I selected for my webinar is creating more authentic learning dimension using social media in higher education.  I decide to select the blog as one social media platform as an example and its potentials to incorporate into the courses in higher education.

I was lucky to find Mark Sample’s blog entry, “A Better Blogging Assignment” in the regular ProfHacker column of the Chronicle of Higher Education.   He is a vocal advocate of the use of blog in university courses.  He uses the blog in every course he teaches.  Despite his strong commitment to using the blog and its pedagogical values, he confesses in this blog entry that he is tired of reading student blogs and evaluating blogs week after week .  He writes, “I do want to reignite my sense of discovery and excitement about student blogging.”  He thus asks for his readers to contribute different models of how the blog can be used in university courses.  In response, a long list of comments were generated, some offering their own example, others simply sharing the values of the blog, and also some warning the trap of using the blog as an assignment.  It gave me an amazing wealth of information to see how teaching faculty is using the blog in their courses and how they are experiencing it.  I also found through the conversation created around the Sample’s blog entry that other digital humanities scholars, as Sample is one, are actively integrating the use of the blog into their courses.  They are offering good examples to consider for the possibility of the blog use in other disciplines.


Sample, M. (2012, July 3). A better blogging assignment. ProfHacker. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved March 22, 2013 from

Sample, M. (2012) Toward a better blogging assignment.  2012 THATCamp, the Humanities & Technology Camp. Retrieved March 22, 2013 from  (The same material presented at the 2012 THATCamp venue and includes more comments.  I particularly likes the comment from a history professor briging recent graduates to give feedback on the blog.)

Sample, M. (2009). Pedagogy and the Class Blog.  Retrieved April 5, 2013 from (I found this link from one of the comments made to the above 2012 THATCamp blog.)

Selected Examples of the Blog Use in University Courses (From the comments in response to Sample’s article):

  • Miranda Nesler refers to  her summer course where she opens up her professional blog to her students to do weekly entries.
  • Daniel Greene uses the blog to curate weekly readings  with students taking their turn with this course.  “This means a long post of 500-750 words that integrates 5-6 other pieces of media and expands on some aspect of the week’s readings or activities–adding new stuff, giving us history, expanding it into a different community or political issue, whatever. “
  • anetv uses “blogs to augment papers, and to support writing in more casual, lower-stakes, exploratory ways.”  She curates her class blogs in her Teaching web page.

A Great Experimentation!

Photo Credit: culmsurf CC

Photo Credit: culmsurf CC

Two professors, Cathy Davidson and Dan Ariely are currently running an experimental undergraduate course, “Surprising Endings’ as a Winter 2013 course at Duke University.  It is quite an ambitious undertaking in which the students work in groups and each group is to come up with their segment of a MOOC for public consumption at the end of the course.  In this course, the students are the driver and select their own topics, readings and use two professors as their consultants.  The students meets face-to-face in the class while they are also busy writing public blog entries about what they are learning.  Duke Today published the article, “Teaching 2.0 Make a Class do Cartwheel” reporting about the course.  The video attached to the article gives us a glimpse of what might be going on in the course.  This course seems to be practicing all the principles that applied to student-centered, authentic, and self-directed learning: “Learning by Doing, Making, Teaching.  Very intriguing!  The course also provides one professional videographer and 5 TA’s to help students produce a professional grade video artifact.  Thirty-three (33) students and 5 TA’s?  Wow, this is definitely a resourceful university. YouTube video from the Surprising Endings course is here. Check it out!