“The Future of ePortfolio” Roundtable

by Bret Eynon, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY


Dr. Helen Barrett, Center for Advanced Technology in Education, University of Oregon
Dr. Trent Batson, Communications Architect, Educational Innovation and Technology, MIT
Dr. Darren Cambridge, Internet Studies, George Mason University
Dr. J. Elizabeth Clark, English, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY
Dr. Melissa Peet, Generative Knowledge and ePortfolio Program, University of Michigan
Mr. James Richardson, New Media Technology, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY

Moderator:  Dr. Bret Eynon, Center for Teaching & Learning, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY

On April 10-12, 2008, LaGuardia Community College held an international conference entitled,“Making Connections: ePortfolios, Integrative Learning and Assessment.” The conference was keynoted by Kathleen B. Yancey and offered fifty-five different sessions by faculty and students, half from LaGuardia and half from other institutions using ePortfolio. More than six hundred people attended, coming from seventy different colleges in thirty states and five different countries. This is the transcript of a well-attended roundtable session that joined LaGuardia faculty with internationally recognized ePortfolio leaders to discuss the issues facing the ePortfolio movement.

Setting An Agenda
Bret: I want to start out by asking, what are the key questions facing ePortfolio? What issues do you think we’re wrestling with?Trent: Well, I’m focusing on Web 2.0. Open source is a construct–unbundling the code from the services. That seems to be working. The code is free, and the services we pay for. Now I’m thinking, what if we apply that to ePortfolio learning or to learning in general? Unbundle the code and the services, the code in this case being the content. So that teachers no longer own the content–the content is open and free, and what we provide are the services around that content.  My question is: Can education itself open up? I’ve got an essay in a book coming out with MIT Press called Opening Up Education. How do we open up education in a way similar to the ways the open source movement opened up the creation of software?

Elizabeth: For me, one of the major challenges is what Trent and Darren mentioned earlier today: an intellectual/philosophical tension around how we open the door for creativity by students, and get students fully invested, but also answer to our institutions. How can we use ePortfolio for assessment without losing the flavor and the creativity that brought many of us into the movement?

Helen: That’s a major tension right now–between student-centered and institution-centered portfolios. Between what I would call the Assessment OF Learning on one hand, and on the other: assessment FOR learning, assessment AS learning. Those issues emerge because we’re in an age of accountability.

Darren: We need to reframe the role of portfolios in assessment as assessment FOR institutional learning. Currently, I don’t think accountability-oriented assessment actually does much good for institutions, because it’s not in service of organizational learning. Reframed, it might be. How do we build on our successes with portfolio authors? How do we cultivate new portfolio audiences, particularly institutional organizational audiences–audiences that really understand how to learn, as organizations, from these new, richer, student-created representations of learning?

James: I don’t see institutional assessment as separate from student self-assessment. This is something I’ve seen in my own courses. When students are able to self-assess, they see how they’ve grown over time. And that helps them to reflect and make better choices in terms of career, in terms of transfer schools. On an institutional side, it helps us look at how well we instruct the students. If a student’s portfolio hasn’t strengthened from the time they’ve entered to the time they’re ready to graduate, there’s a disconnect there. We can look at how well we’re doing, and then hopefully redirect our curriculum to address any gaps.

Darren: That’s exactly the right direction. LaGuardia is exceptional–nationally, perhaps internationally–in its commitment to link student self-assessment with institutional improvement, from senior leadership all the way down to grass-roots enthusiasm from students. There’s a lot we all can learn from what’s happening at LaGuardia, and what made that possible. But that’s very different from the situation at many other educational institutions.

Melissa: Here’s a questions that comes to me in conversations like this: ePortfolios to what end? For whom? For what purpose? I think that oftentimes so much meaning and possibility is compacted onto ePortfolios. And we need to unpack that.

What’s powerful about LaGuardia’s ePortfolio is that the fact that the ePortfolio is an outcome, generated by an institution-wide commitment to fostering students’ identities as learners and professionals, with a group of students who are often forgotten in higher education. And I want to know: how can ePortfolios enable a conversation about the purpose of higher education in the twenty-first century? It should enable but not compact that conversation. How do we become learning communities? I think that’s what LaGuardia is showing us. But I think that hasn’t even begun to be unpacked. I consider LaGuardia a leader, embodying a learning community–and a powerful part of that is ePortfolio and integrative pedagogy. So that helps to switch the conversation. People go around saying “ePortfolio, ePortfolio,” like it’s a magic wand thing, but it really is about organizational change.

Trent: I agree with you, Melissa. I was in a session where Julie Hughes from the University of Wolverhampton, in the UK, said something really interesting. She said they try not to start with student deficiencies but with student competencies. That’s a key ePortfolio idea. As educators, we’ve so often focused on deficiencies. But we can start with competencies: what students already know.

Building Sustained Institutional Commitment
Bret: Excellent. We’ve just identified an interesting and overlapping set of challenges about audience, creativity, assessment, institutional purpose, this whole question of Web 2.0 erupting underneath us. Now, I’m curious about what you’ve heard at the conference that could help us think about some of these challenges. Trent just surfaced something he heard from Wolverhampton. What have others seen or heard that can help us think about the challenges and the possible solutions?

Helen: I would say LaGuardia’s institutional commitment to ePortfolio, from the top down to the students. And the focus on learning and integrative learning, rather than on what I’d call bean counting. Too many ePortfolio implementations have been funded out of institutional accountability rather than out of the focus on student learning. I see both here, but I see more of an emphasis on learning. You know, “It’s the learning, stupid.” That’s the focus.

James: We did a lot of planning before we started talking about systems. So the systems supported the process, as opposed to buying a system and then tweaking the process to fit. And we were lucky. We had so much support from the administration. And faculty development was key. We got buy-in from all the stakeholders, from the administration to the faculty to the students. Each had its own level of challenge, of course. But without all of this falling into place, I don’t think it would have blossomed the way it has.

Trent: What’s so surprising about LaGuardia is the institutional commitment that wasn’t about accreditation. Or was it that, too?

Bret: We have to do assessment, too. That’s our challenge: how do we combine it? What we’ve done is start with an emphasis on ePortfolio for learning and transformation. And that makes it more likely that the assessment process stays focused on learning.

Melissa: I’d like to go back to what James just said about LaGuardia; it wasn’t like you had a master plan, but here you are. You said things that are very key. You said “technology,” you said “institutional commitment.”You said “a strategy, a plan.” You said “faculty development.” Implied is also “pedagogy” and “organizational learning” and “time” and “commitment” and “transformation.” Those are big.

My big moment of great inspiration was hearing about LaGuardia’s plan for a National Resource Center. Because, from what I heard, this is going to be about all the things that are essential for something like ePortfolios to succeed. Actually it’s not even about ePortfolios; it’s about your students becoming successful. That’s what I keyed in to.

ePortfolio Beyond Technology
Darren: I would even say that ePortfolio is not a technology. It is manifestly not a technology. There are a range of technologies that can support the key processes associated with ePortfolios, such as collecting evidence of learning, organizing it, reflecting on it, receiving feedback, and planning for future learning and personal development. The ePortfolio is one genre that fits well with those processes. As a genre, an ePortfolio is not just any reflection supported by technology or any digital evidence of learning, but reflection on evidence of learning that is also part of the portfolio. Making the link between reflection and evidence is what distinguishes an ePortfolio. There are a range of tools that can help with the processes of documentation, reflection, and planning, a range of tools that can create ePortfolios that link reflection and evidence in powerful ways–things called ePortfolio systems, general purpose Web design tools, and also the whole range of social software technologies that we’ve talked about at this conference.Elizabeth: I‘d actually take that one step further. I’d say that the key to ePortfolio is not technology at all. It goes back to what Trent said this morning. ePortfolio is all sorts of things coming together in this contemporary moment–it’s ephemeral, right? Trent talked this morning about the ephemeral moment, the ephemeral technology. Five years from now, if we are doing our jobs well, it’s not going to be ePortfolio, or it’s not going to be ePortfolio as we know it. It’s going to be something totally new.

To me, the key thing about this is the evolution of this educational technology with the students. At LaGuardia, our students created those gorgeous templates. We didn’t create them. The students created them. The students said, “This is how we think that we should organize our knowledge, and now we’re going to give this to other students.” The students say, “Dr. Clark, you’re not doing that right. That’s wrong.” Then they show us how to do it.  It’s about that co-learning moment.

That’s exactly what Kathleen Yancey said this morning, right? She had that amazing transformational moment when, as an educator, she realized she’s co-learning with her students. She’s taking notes with them, she’s typing them up, and that’s becoming the learning process. To me, that’s what ePortfolio is about: learning with and from our students.

James: It took me a while to get to that point because I was by nature a technologist. For me technology was key. So when I initially came on to the project, I’m thinking, Web pages. Why is everybody so excited about student Web pages? But as I started to look at it, I started to see that it’s not the Web pages, it’s the content. And really, it’s the way the content is developed. It’s what the students gather from content, what they learn about themselves, and how they use that information to make themselves better.

And then I also started to see, from the way that they were designing and developing the pieces, what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong as an instructor. In the long run, I think I’m a much better instructor now than I was when I first started. I know what works. I think I know how to approach it better. I think I know how to steer students towards moving toward self-discovery. But it took a while. Now, when people talk about how do we extend this to faculty, many of whom are tenured, it raises a question: how do we get them to buy into this and really have it be meaningful?

Elizabeth: This approach changes the educational paradigm. To be involved with students in this way means that you don’t get to pull out your lecture notes you’ve been teaching from for the last twenty-five years on the history of military strategy. Right? You don’t get to do that. You have to change what you’re doing. Every time you go to back to the classroom it’s new. It’s different. It’s evolving.

Trent: That’s a key issue, one of the biggest questions: Can we trust the students? Can we trust that they learn, if we’re not watching their every move? Or we’re not controlling the parameters? Trust.

Melissa: A related question: how can we become institutions that build students’ capacities as lifelong learners? How do we, as institutions, build collaborative and deep learning capacities in our faculty? So to me, asking questions about ePortfolios is synonymous with asking questions about the future of learning. And the future is here now.

Trent: There’s another side to the trust issue. It’s so easy to produce content, now. There are so many ways to do it. But what we know about this new age, what Kathleen Yancey was talking about, is that we don’t want to do prior censorship. That doesn’t fit. Prior censorship is when we say: this is the syllabus, these are the four walls, and you follow my path. No. We have to trust the students. We’re not really able to do prior censorship anymore. But we can do post-production editing with the students. That is Web 2.0. That’s our age.

Life-Long and LifeWide Learning
Helen: It’s very important, as we implement ePortfolios, that we look at this in the context of a lifelong process, a lifelong process of self-directed learning. That’s one of the challenges I would pose to all of you, as you start implementing ePortfolio: is this something students can continue after they graduate? Not only, what types of skills and competencies are they bringing in?  But also, how is this going to fit in the rest of their lives? I’m also anxious to see some more examples of the ways you’ve brought in the community and people’s backgrounds and their lives and their families. It’s so important to educate the whole person, not just someone who meets our graduation requirements.James: For us it was reflection. It took me awhile to get that point, too. It was like, “Reflection, what does that really mean? Thinking about myself?” It boils down to thinking about choices. What brought you to this point? And what choices can you make that will take you–hopefully–where you want to go? I don’t know about all of you, but the choices that got me here were pretty hit or miss. For students–particularly students at LaGuardia, many of whom are underprivileged, who have a lot of things stacked against them–it’s even more critical to think about the choices they make. Because they have less leeway for mistakes. So, reflection becomes an issue of thinking: what’s the right choice? If that’s one thing they can take away from ePortfolios, then I think it’s a miracle.

Melissa: Another way to think about reflection is that they’re learning to find a projected self. I can project myself into the future as–I saw an example earlier–a graphic designer, as an artist/dancer/writer, all in the same person. Developing a projective capacity is a part of empowerment, or agency.

Stories and Numbers: Dealing with Accountability
Darren: But again, it’s a wider version of projective capacity than a lot of other contexts invite. It’s not saying “Project yourself as a teacher by checking off standards 1 through 8.” It’s saying “Envision what it means to be a teacher and how it connects to being someone who grew up in Nepal and someone who lives now in Queens and someone who is a mother, and how do I connect those things into a version of myself that connects with that larger profession.”Trent: That’s in strong tension with what Helen brought up before, the whole accountability push.  This group seems to be positioned very much toward the end of spectrum of ePortfolio as story, ePortfolio as narrative, personal narrative. So then, the question becomes what metrics do you use from a story to quantify results, to meet the accountability requirements?

Helen: That’s the major dilemma right now. How do we take this very rich story and assign numbers to it?

Melissa: The way we address that dilemma at Michigan, in our ePortfolio integrative learning environment, is having students self-assess around those outcomes, both quantitatively and qualitatively, at the beginning. Then they create their knowledge artifacts, they create their philosophy. They create a narrative of coherence. And while they’re doing that they’re also mapping those knowledge artifacts to outcomes. At the end they also assess again. We can take that data to accreditors–that’s what we’re doing. So I don’t experience that level of disconnect.

Elizabeth: I think the story is the road map to what’s actually in the portfolio. It’s the narration of the journey that the student has taken and the way the student understands the pieces. If you need to pull out the pieces–the research paper, for example–to demonstrate that your students have intellectual literacy or technological literacy, that’s not a problem: here it is. But the meaning is in the story. The assessors don’t necessarily care about that, but the students care about that and we care about that.

Darren: But they should! They should care about that! And we’re not taking up the real challenge if we don’t try to transform what assessors want, if we just give them numbers that have no impact on actually improving the educational enterprise. That’s hard as hell. It really is. I don’t have the perfect solution–but I don’t think we can give up on that challenge. I think that accountability can be a really good thing. I think it is important. We have got to continue to do better, and we ought to do it in a systematic way. But we ought to do it in a way that takes advantage of the really rich representations of learning we can get through the processes, the genre, and the technology related to portfolios.

Bret: I’ve served on an awards committee for the national Council for Higher Education Accreditation, giving awards for innovations in assessment of student learning. I was on the committee with all these chancellors, presidents, and the heads of accreditation agencies. And our conversations are very interesting. These folks are very smart, and they’re open to possibilities. They’re not set in stone. They’re thinking hard about how to make things work.

You know, I’m a historian, and I believe in the contingent quality of history. The future of education is not set in advance. It’s evolving, it’s in flux, and we’re part of determining how it’s going to shake out. All of us, all around the room, all of our students. We have opportunities to get in there and wrestle with it and push it this way and push it that way. We don’t have total control, but we do have some weight. We do have potential to make an impact.

If we think that an integrative approach and the questions of story and the questions of deep learning need to be part of picture, then we have capacity to open a space for that. To help make it happen. What we choose to do matters.

Darren: And it’s not as if the ePortfolio community is the only group in higher ed taking this up. In fact one of the things that’s powerful about ePortfolio as an idea and as a community is that it stands at the intersection of a number of powerful initiatives trying to transform higher ed. The discourse around Integrative Learning, the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Assessment for Learning, Community Engagement, and so forth. One of the things that I like about portfolio as a concept is that it’s a place where all of these things can be connected up. It touches the concerns of all of those other communities. And we need all of those folks to make the kind of change we’re advocating.

The Faculty Role with ePortfolio
Question from audience: First of all, I sort of like the feeling in this room, like I’m in the French Resistance or something. It’s great. Also, I was interested in the comment in the keynote, about the potential demise of the professoriate in the twenty-first century. I’m wondering about your thoughts on the changing role of professors.
Trent: We’ve talked about the guide on the side for a long time, but we didn’t know what that really meant. But now we have concrete models. Companies ask the same thing about Open Source: “Are companies going to go away?” But of course, we need companies, because they provide services. IBM, ten to fifteen years ago, realized they were going to make more money from services than from selling big iron. That’s a model to think about: unbundling the parts.  Right now, the professor provides the services and controls the content. Maybe that’s changing. But that doesn’t mean that professors are going out of business. It means that they have to shift to support students doing the kinds of things LaGuardia students do, the kinds of things that Michigan students do. Discovering their stories. Provide support and guidance and then see what use we can make of it. It’s a service model. But it does depend on trust. And I don’t think most faculty, to be honest, trust their students.

Melissa: Our students get a lot of guidance and support. When they first come to class, they don’t know how to create knowledge artifacts. That’s a process and it’s really iterative. But once they have that scaffolding, they’ll have it for the rest of their lives. That will stick with them. As faculty, we are by no means obsolete. There is a great deal that we need to do. We just have to think about it in different ways.

Question from audience: There’s a parallel with online education and the open educational resources world. Some institutions, MIT included, have put all of their content online. So what would a student get from taking a course at those institutions? It’s the interaction. It’s the social construction of knowledge. That’s what you’re paying for.

Darren: There’s some unlearning that has to happen for a lot of students to take advantage of open resources and social learning networks. A lot of my students want to be told what to do, step by step. They fight tooth and nail if I ask them to take responsibility for their own learning. If they’ve been successful in school, they’ve learned to follow the old rules. It’s a challenging process to help them realize that it doesn’t have to work that way. We’ve got to help with that unlearning process.

Question from Audience: I hear you about student resistance, but I’m imagining resistance among faculty. There’s so much status attached to the whole professorial career; to give up authority so that you don’t control the agenda, you don’t control the curriculum–I can see my faculty going out of their minds. So my question is: are there models where faculty have bought in and it’s not just people like ourselves?

Elizabeth: I’m faculty! There’s a lot of faculty in the room. That goes back to the question about the future of the professoriate. So, James is in CIS [Computer Information Systems] and I’m in English. If you told us in graduate school that I was going to spend a lot of time coding Web pages and that he was going to craft reflective writing assignments, we would’ve said you were crazy. But ePortfolio pushes you as a faculty member, pushes you to get outside of your silo.  I’m not in the creative writing/poetry silo anymore. I would argue, for the future of our profession, those silos can’t exist anymore. Maybe if you present that to faculty as a philosophical challenge, you can get more buy-in. You can’t walk in to faculty and say “Everything you are doing is wrong.” You have to explain why this is a wonderful educational movement they want to get on board with.

To do that, you’ve got to invite them into the room, and you’ve got to make it okay for them to fail. Because they are going to fail. We’ve all failed, at some time or another. James and I have both failed a lot in different things that we’ve tried. But our institution has given us permission to fail and to say “Great,” not “You screwed up,” but “That’s so awesome! We’re so happy you screwed up. What did you learn from it and what are you going to do differently?” I think that what causes the fear that you’re suggesting for a lot of faculty is the idea that there are going to be huge repercussions if you walk into your classroom to do ePortfolio and you screw up.

Darren: But we’re not going to get everybody, so you’ve got to plan the way you think about portfolios on the campus so that there’s space for some people who are not going to be on board. Certainly for the next couple decades that’s going to be the case, and maybe perpetually, and you probably don’t want to waste your energy!

Bret: There need to be opportunities for differential levels of engagement.

Melissa: Also we can portfolioize the curriculum. When you do that, there’s a little piece that Darren does, a little piece that Melissa does, a little piece that Helen does, and the student owns the coherent whole. Our mantra with faculty is “three critical degrees of difference”–that’s all we’re looking for. It’s really powerful when a student creates a knowledge artifact in a faculty member’s class that then becomes part of their coherent meta-narrative, and then you can get faculty pretty pumped up about that.

Stories That Matter
Liz: I’d like to think about whose stories get to matter in our culture. We’re in an election year: how do we get to know our politicians? They publish autobiographies. They tell us their stories. We’re supposed to be invested in John McCain because he has a story of his transformation in Vietnam. Yes, that is a powerful story. Why does that story get to be more powerful than the story of my student who crossed the border illegally into the United States? As a society, what do we value? And how do we, as an educational community. say, ‘Wonderful, you’ve set the bar, you’ve said stories matter, and you’ve shared your stories with us, and that’s great.’ And now, we as an educational community say ‘Yes, stories matter, so here they are, thousands and thousands and thousands of stories, every one is as important as John McCain’s.’James: I’ve also seen the stories in ePortfolios work almost as an electronic mentor. I had one student develop his portfolio and then get a job at a major interactive firm. A lot of my students who are now taking my introductory flash courses look at that and say “Jimmy did it. These are the steps Jimmy took; these are the courses Jimmy took. It can be done. I knew Jimmy.” It’s very powerful as a model, very influential.

Helen: This is why using the ePortfolio is a way of creating a map toward the future. Helping students realize “these are my strengths.” As we get down in the secondary schools I think that’s even more important: “These are my strengths, this is where I want to go in my life, this is how I’m going to get through high school, this is what I’m going to do after I graduate, this is how to get there.”

Melissa: That goes back to why it’s important that we’re at LaGuardia right now, where we see the construction of narratives of possibility for other people to follow. Someone said it today. We’re really talking about different forms of knowledge generation. When students learn to bring their identities and backgrounds and positionalities to the formal educational enterprise; and they mash them together and they create something new–not just like, “Here I am,” but “This is what I can do. This is what I can do now.” That’s new knowledge creation. That’s the kind of epistemological shift that we need.

The Difference that Inquiry Makes: A Collaborative Case Study on Technology and Learning, from the Visible Knowledge Project

This collection of essays from the Visible Knowledge Project is edited by Randy Bass and Bret Eynon, who served together as the Project’s Co-Directors and Principal Investigators. The Visible Knowledge Project was a collaborative scholarship of teaching and learning project exploring the impact of technology on learning, primarily in the humanities.  In all, about seventy faculty from twenty-two institutions participated in the Visible Knowledge Project over five years. Participating campuses included five research universities (Vanderbilt University, the University of Alabama, Georgetown University, the University of Southern California, Washington State University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), four comprehensive public universities (Pennsylvania’s Millersville University, California State University (CSU)–Monterey Bay, CSU Sacramento, Ohio’s Youngstown State University, and participants from several four-year colleges in the City University of New York system, including City College, Lehman, and Baruch), and three community colleges (two from CUNY–Borough of Manhattan Community College and LaGuardia Community College, and California’s Cerritos College). In addition to campus-based teams, a number of independent scholars participated from a half dozen other institutions, such as Arizona State and Lehigh University.

The project began in June 2000 and concluded in October 2005. We engaged in several methods for online collaboration to supplement our annual institutes, including an adaptation of the digital poster-tool created by Knowledge Media Lab (Carnegie Foundation), asynchronous discussion, and web-conferencing. For more detailed information, see the VKP galleries and archives at http://crossroads.georgetown.edu/vkp/Note: You can find pdf files formatted for printing attached at the end of each article.

Capturing the Visible Evidence of Invisible Learning

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This is a portrait of the new shape of learning with digital media, drawn around three core concepts: adaptive expertise, embodied learning, and socially situated pedagogies. These findings emerge from the classroom case studies of the Visible Knowledge Project, a six-year project engaging almost 70 faculty from 21 different institutions across higher education. Examining the scholarly work of VKP faculty across practices and technologies, it highlights key conceptual findings and their implications for pedagogical design.  Where any single classroom case study yields a snapshot of practice and insight, collectively these studies present a framework that bridges from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 technologies, building on many dimensions of learning that have previously been undervalued if not invisible in higher education.

Reading the Reader

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Many teachers wonder what happens (or doesn’t happen) when students read text. What knowledge do students need, gain, or seek when reading? Through VKP’s early emphasis on technology experimentation, Sharona Levy adapted a proven reading method of annotation from paper to computer. Through using the comment feature in Word, students’ reading processes became more transparent, explicit, and traceable, allowing her to diagnose gaps in understanding and to encourage effective reading strategies.

Close Reading, Associative Thinking, and Zones of Proximal Development in Hypertext

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How can we teach students to slow down their reading process and move beyond surface-level comprehension? Patricia O’Connor’s Appalachian Literature students co-constructed hypertexts which capture the connections readers make among assigned texts, reference documents, and multimedia sources. These hypertexts became more than artifacts of student work; rather, they became collaborative, exploratory spaces where implicit literary associations become explicit.

Inquiry, Image, and Emotion in the History Classroom

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With increased online access to historical sources, will students “read history” differently among such artifacts as text, image, or video? Questioning his own assumptions of students’ abilities to analyze historical sources, Peter Felten conducted pedagogical investigations to understand student interpretation of a variety of sources. Designing the use of visual artifacts in the classroom helped students learn not only how to interrogate and interpret primary sources, but also how to construct original arguments about history. Students’ understanding of history deepened while they became emotionally engaged with the material.

From Looking to Seeing: Student Learning in the Visual Turn

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Rather than simply using primary source images as illustrations for his course on Power, Race, and Culture in the U.S. City, David Jaffee wanted to teach his students how to interpret visual texts as a historian would. By paying close attention to his students’ readings of images, Jaffee was able to develop ways to scaffold their analysis, teaching them how to move beyond “looking” at isolated images to “seeing” historical context, connection and complexity.

Engaging Students as Researchers through Internet Use

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Effective habits of research begin early and should be practiced often. Unearthing discoveries, making connections, and evaluating judiciously are research traits valued by Taimi Olsen in her first-year composition course. Not only should these research habits exist in the library, but Olsen advocates the application of these habits in online archives hones students’ abilities to become expert researchers.

Trace Evidence: How New Media Can Change What We Know About Student Learning

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Clicker technology, often used in large-enrollment science courses, works well when every question has a single right answer. Lynne Adrian wanted to find out whether clickers could be used in disciplines which raise more questions than answers, and how illuminating the gray areas between “right” and “wrong” could help her students think critically about American studies. She found that the technology allowed her to preserve traces of the otherwise ephemeral class discussions, enabling her to analyze the types of questions she was asking in class and to track their effects on students’ written work throughout the semester.

Shaping a Culture of Conversation: The Discussion Board and Beyond

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What happens when the discussion board goes from being just an assignment to a springboard for intellectual community? Foreseeing many benefits to cultivating discussion among his English students, Ed Gallagher worked to develop frameworks to articulate why discussion is not only central to the learning process in the classroom but also beyond its walls. A higher level of critical analysis, reflection, and a synthesis of multiple perspectives turned class discussions into artful conversations.

The Importance of Conversation in Learning and the Value of Web-based Discussion Tools

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In this essay Heidi Elemendorf and John Ottenhoff discuss the central role that intellectual communities should play in a liberal education and the value of conversation for our students, and we explore the ways in which web-based conversational forums can be best designed to fully support these ambitious learning goals. Coming from very different fields (Biology and English Literature) and in different course contexts (Microbiology course for non-majors and Shakespeare seminar), they nonetheless discover core values and design issues by looking closely at the discourse produced from online discussions. Centrally, they connect what they identify as expert-like behavior to the complexities of intellectual development in conversational contexts.

Why Sophie Dances: Electronic Discussions and Student Engagement with the Arts

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Paula Berggren struggled to engage her students in critical thinking about unfamiliar art forms, until she posed a simple question on the class’s online discussion board: “Why do people dance?” She found that the students’ responses, rather than being just less-polished versions of what they might write in formal essays, warranted close analysis in their own right. In subsequent teaching, Berggren continues to incorporate some version of a middle space for student work, which not only increases students’ engagement but also allows her to observe and document their thought processes.

Connecting the Dots: Learning, Media, Community

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Sometimes the research question you ask isn’t the one you end up answering. Elizabeth Stephen recounts how a debate about the use of films in a freshman seminar led to an experiment in forming a community of scholars which could be sustained over time and across distances. Creating online spaces for students in this group to share their reflections with one another strengthened the ties among them, while allowing Stephen to analyze the multiple elements, both academic and social, which made this a successful learning community.

Focusing on Process: Exploring Participatory Strategies to Enhance Student Learning

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Confronting the challenge of improving student writing in a large sociology class, Juan José Gutiérrez developed a software-based peer review process. He required students to evaluate one another’s papers based on specific criteria and to provide constructive feedback. He found that not only did this process help with the logistics of paper-grading, but it also allowed him to adapt his teaching to address specific concerns indicated by qualitative and quantitative analysis of the peer reviews.

Theorizing Through Digital Stories: The Art of “Writing Back” and “Writing For”

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Discovering how digital stories engage students in critical, theoretical frameworks lives at the center of Rina Benmayor’s work. Through her course, Latina Life Stories, Rina asked each student to tell his or her own life story digitally and then situate the story within a theoretical context. While this process engaged students to theorize creatively, it also allowed her to document methods to recognize the quality of student work resulting in a flexible and intuitive rubric to use beyond this experience.

Video Killed the Term Paper Star? Two Views

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Two instructors from separate disciplines discuss what happens when alternative multimedia assignments replace traditional papers. Peter Burkholder found the level of engagement to change dramatically in his history courses while Anne Cross experienced new avenues for talking about sensitive subjects in sociology. Together, both professors explore the advantages and opportunities for video assignments that challenge students to synthesize information in critical and innovative ways.

Producing Audiovisual Knowledge: Documentary Video Production and Student Learning in the American Studies Classroom

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Traditionally, academic institutions have segregated multimedia production from disciplinary study. Bernie Cook wondered what his American Studies students would learn from working collaboratively to produce documentary films based on primary sources, and what he in turn might find out about their learning in the process. Students created documentary films on local history, and wrote reflections on their creative and critical process. Not only did students report tremendous engagement with the topics and sources for their projects, they also indicated satisfaction at being able to screen their work for an audience. By allowing his students to become producers of content, Cook enables them to participate fully in the intellectual work of American Studies and Film Studies.

Multimedia as Composition: Research, Writing, and Creativity

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Viet Thanh Nguyen reflects on a three-year experiment in assigning multimedia projects in courses designed around the question “How do we tell stories about America?” Determined to integrate multimedia conceptually into his courses, rather than tacking it onto existing syllabi, Nguyen views multimedia as primarily a pedagogical strategy and secondarily a set of tools. Exploring challenges and opportunities for both students and teachers in using multimedia, he outlines principles for teaching with multimedia, and concludes that, while not for everyone, multimedia can potentially create a transformative learning experience.

Looking at Learning, Looking Together: Collaboration across Disciplines on a Digital Gallery

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What does it mean for two community college colleagues, teaching in very different disciplines, to work together on a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) project?  What happens when they join together to examine their students’ work, their individual teaching practice, and the possibilities for collaborative research?  And what do they learn when they undertake an electronic publication of that work in a digital gallery?

“It Helped Me See a New Me”: ePortfolio, Learning and Change at LaGuardia Community College

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What happens if we shift the focus of our teaching and learning innovations from a single classroom to an entire institution? What new kinds of questions and possibilities emerge? Can an entire college break boundaries, moving from a focus on “what teachers teach” to a focus on “what students learn?” Can we think differently about student learning if we create structures that enable thousands of students to use new media tools to examine their learning across courses, disciplines, and semesters? Bret Eynon explores these questions as he analyzes the college-wide ePortfolio initiative at LaGuardia Community College. Studying individual portfolios and focus group interviews, he also examines quantitative outcomes data on engagement and retention to better consider ePortfolio’s impact on student learning.

From Narrative to Database: Multimedia Inquiry in a Cross-Classroom Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Study

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Michael Coventry and Matthias Oppermann draw on their work with student-produced digital stories to explore how the protocols surrounding particular new media technologies shape the ways we think about, practice, and represent work in the scholarship of teaching and learning. The authors describe the Digital Storytelling Multimedia Archive, an innovative grid they designed to represent their findings, after considering how the technology of delivery could impact practice and interpretation. This project represents an intriguing synthesis of digital humanities and the scholarship of teaching and learning, raising important questions about the possibilities for analyzing and representing student learning in Web 2.0 environments.

Multimedia in the Classroom at USC: A Ten Year Perspective

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Does multimedia scholarship add academic value to a liberal arts education? How do we know? Looking back at the history of the Honors Program in Multimedia Scholarship at USC, Mark Kann draws on his own teaching experience, discussions with other faculty members, and the university’s curriculum review process to explore these questions. He describes the process of developing the program’s academic objectives and assessment criteria, and the challenges of gathering evidence for his intuitions about the effects of multimedia scholarship. Finally, Kann reports on the program’s first student cohort and looks ahead to the future of multimedia at USC.

Capturing the Visible Evidence of Invisible Learning

by Randy Bass and Bret Eynon

Note: This is a synthesis essay for the Visible Knowledge Project (VKP), a collaborative project engaging seventy faculty at twenty-one institutions in an investigation of the impact on technology on learning, primarily in the humanities. As a matter of formatting to the Academic Commons space, this essay is divided in three parts: Part I (Overview of project, areas of inquiry, introduction to findings); Part II (Discussion of findings with a focus on Adaptive Expertise and Embodied Learning); Part III (Discussion of findings continued with a focus on Socially Situated learning, Conclusion). A full-text version of this essay is available as a pdf document here.
Here, in this forum as part of Academic Commons, the essay complements eighteen case studieson teaching, learning, and new media technologies. Together the essay and studies constitute the digital volume “The Difference that Inquiry Makes: A Collaborative Case Study of Learning and Technology, from the Visible Knowledge Project.” For more information about VKP, see https://digitalcommons.georgetown.edu/blogs/vkp/.

Déjà 2.0
Facebook. Twitter. Social media. YouTube.Viral marketing. Mashups. Second Life. PBWikis. Digital Marketeers. FriendFeed. Flickr. Web 2.0. Approaching the second decade of the twenty-first century, we’re riding an unstoppable wave of digital innovation and excitement. New products and paradigms surface daily. New forms of language, communication, and style are shaping emerging generations. The effect on culture, politics, economics and education will be transformative. As educators, we have to scramble to get on board, before it’s too late.

Wait a minute. Haven’t we been here before? Less than a decade ago, we rode the first wave of the digital revolution–email, PowerPoint, course web pages, digital archives, listservs, discussion boards, etc. As teachers and scholars, we dove into what is now called Web 1.0, trying out all sorts of new systems and tools. Some things we tried were fabulous. Others, not so much. Can we learn anything from that experience? What insights might we garner that could help us navigate Web 2.0? How can we separate the meaningful from the trivial? How do we decide what’s worth exploring? What do we understand about the relationship of innovations in technology and pedagogy? What can we learn about effective ways to examine, experiment, evaluate, and integrate new technologies in ways that really do advance learning and teaching?
The teaching and research effort of the Visible Knowledge Project (VKP) could be a valuable resource as we consider these questions. Active from 2000 to 2005, VKP was an unusual collective effort to initiate and sustain a discipline-based examination of the impact of new digital media on education. A network of around seventy faculty from twenty U.S. colleges, primarily from American history and culture studies departments, gathered not only to experiment with new technologies in their teaching, but also to document and study the results of their inquiries, using the tools of the scholarship of teaching and learning. In this collaborative and synoptic case study, under the title The Difference that Inquiry Makes, we try to capture and make sense of the visible evidence of this relatively invisible learning as it emerged over five (and more) years of collaborative classroom inquiry. We share participants’ reports on key elements of the VKP inquiry, and integrate their reports into a framework that can help us learn from this experience as we navigate a fast-changing educational landscape.

Invisible Learning
What do we mean by “invisible learning?” We use this phrase to mean at least two things. First, it points us to what Sam Wineburg, in his book Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts, talked about as “intermediate processes,” the steps in the learning process that are often invisible but critical to development.1 All too often in education, we are focused only on final products: the final exam, the grade, the perfect research paper, mastery of a subject. But how do we get students from here to there? What are the intermediate stages that help students develop the skills and habits of master learners in our disciplines? What kinds of scaffolding enable students to move forward, step by step? How do we, as educators, recognize and support the slow process of progressively deepening students’ abilities to think like historians and scholars? In VKP, from the beginning, we tested our conviction that digital media could help us to shine new light on–to make visible–and to pay new attention to these crucial stages in student learning.

Second, by invisible learning we also mean the aspects of learning that go beyond the cognitive to include the affective, the personal, and issues of identity. Cognitive science has made great strides in recent years, scanning the brain and understanding everything from synapses and neurons to perception and memory. Educators are still struggling to grasp the implications of this research for teaching and learning. However, perhaps because it is less “scientific,” higher education has paid considerably less attention to (and is even less well prepared to deal with) the role of the affective in learning and its relationship to the cognitive. How does emotion shape engagement in the learning process? How do we understand risk-taking? Community? Creativity? The relationship between construction of knowledge and the reconstruction of identity? In VKP we explored the ways that digital tools and processes surfaced the interplay between the affective and the cognitive, the personal and the academic.

Visible Evidence
Education at all levels has largely taken on faith that if teachers teach, students will learn–what could be seen as a remarkable, real-life version of “If you build it, they will come.” In recent years, calls for greater accountability have produced a new emphasis on standardized testing as the only appropriate way to assess whether students are learning. Meanwhile, growing numbers of faculty in higher education have taken a different approach, engaging in the scholarship of teaching and learning–using the tools of scholarship to study their own classrooms–to deepen their understanding of the learning process and its relationship to teacher practice. Spurred by the ideas of Ernest Boyer and Lee Shulman of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, faculty from many disciplines have posed research questions about student learning, gathered evidence from their classrooms, and gone public with their findings in countless conference presentations, course portfolios, and scholarly journals. This movement, with its focus on classroom-based evidence, provided key tools and language for the Visible Knowledge Project. It allowed VKP faculty to study the impact of new technologies on learning and teaching, and it also helped us frame questions about problems and practice, inquiry and expertise that remain critical as we move into a new phase of technological innovation and change.2

The Visible Knowledge Project
The Visible Knowledge Project emerged in 2000 from the juxtaposition of these two powerful yet largely distinct trends in higher education–the scholarship of teaching and learning movement and the initial eruption of networked digital technologies into the higher education classroom. Responding to a dynamic combination of need and opportunity, faculty engaged in multi-year teaching and learning research projects, examining and documenting the ways the use of new media was reshaping their own teaching and patterns of student learning. Participating faculty came from a wide range of institutions, from community colleges and private liberal arts colleges to research universities; from Georgetown and USC to Youngstown State, the University of Alabama, and City University of New York (CUNY). Meeting on an annual basis, and interacting more frequently in virtual space, we formed our research questions representing a broad spectrum, shared ideas about research strategies, discussed emerging patterns of our evidence, and formulated our findings. The digital resources used ranged from Blackboard and PowerPoint to interactive online archives and Movie Maker Pro. The VKP galleries (https://digitalcommons.georgetown.edu/blogs/vkp/) provide a wealth of background information, including lists of participants, regular newsletters, and reports from more than thirty participants, as well as a number of related resources and meta-analyses.3

The VKP ethos was formed by a belief in the value of messiness, of unfolding complexity, of adventurous, participant-driven inquiry that would inform the nature of the collective conversation. A few scientists and social scientists entered the group and helped create exciting projects, but the vast majority of the participants were from the fields of history, literature, women’s studies and other humanist disciplines. While technology was key to our raison d’être, our inquiries often evolved to focus on issues of pedagogy that transcended individual technologies. We wanted to learn about teaching, to learn about learning. We wanted to go beyond “best practice” and “what worked” to get at the questions about why and how things worked–or didn’t work. In some cases, we went further, rethinking our understanding of what it meant for something to “work.” Our questions were evolving, shaped by the exigencies of time and funding as well as our on-going exchange and new technological developments. We struggled with ways to nuance and realize our inquiries, to come up with workable methods and evidence that matched our changing and, we hoped, increasingly sophisticated questions.

Over the course of the Project, we found that participants’ teaching experiments started to group in three areas:

  1. Reading–Engaging ideas through sources/texts: As VKP took shape at the end of the twentieth century, the great museums, universities, and research libraries of this country were mounting their collections on the Web. Web sites such as the American Memory Collection of the Library of Congress vastly expanded the availability of archival source materials on the Web. It was a time, as Cathy Davidson put it recently, of digitally-driven “popular humanism.”4 Responding to this opportunity, VKP’s historians and culture studies faculty explored the effectiveness of active reading strategies using primary sources, both textual and visual, for building complex thinking. Introducing students to the process of inquiry, faculty tested combinations of pedagogy and technology designed to help students “slow down” their learning, interpret challenging texts and concepts, and engage in higher order disciplinary and interdisciplinary practices.For example, Susan Butler, teaching an introductory history survey at Cerritos College, had her students examine primary sources on different facets of the Trail of Tears, made available online by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, PBS, and the Cherokee Messenger; as students grappled with perspective and the evolving definition of democracy in America, Butler examined evidence of the ways that scaffolded learning modules that incorporated online primary sources could expand students’ capacity for critical analysis. Meanwhile, Sherry Linkon at Youngstown State used online archives to help students in her English course create research papers that contextualized early twentieth-century immigrant novels. And Peter Felten at Vanderbilt integrated online texts, photographs and videos into a history course on the 1960s, analyzing the ways students did–or didn’t–apply critical thinking skills to visual evidence.Across the board, the focus was less on “searching” and “finding” than on analyzing, understanding, and applying evidence to address authentic problems rooted in the discipline. Testing innovative strategies, faculty asked students to model the intellectual behaviors of disciplinary experts, focusing earlier and more effectively on the learning dimensions that characterize complex thinking. (For sample projects addressing these questions, see http://cndls.georgetown.edu/crossroads/vkp/themes/poster_showcase_reading.htm )
  2. Dialogue–Discussion and writing in social digital environments: As VKP faculty moved into the world of Blackboard and Web-CT, they explored ways that discussion and social writing in online environments can foster learning. Projects explored strategies for using online communication to make the intermediate processes of learning more visible and to provide opportunities for students to develop personal and academic voice. For example, Mills Kelly, teaching a Western Civilization survey at Virginia’s George Mason University, focused on the possibilities of using online tools, including the WebCT discussion board and a special GMU Web Scrapbook, as tools for enhancing collaborative learning. Meanwhile, Ed Gallagher at Lehigh University tested the impact of his detailed and creative guidelines for students in prompting more interactive and substantial discussion in an online context.In general, carefully structured online discussion environments provided students and faculty a context in which to think socially; they also allowed discussion participants to document, retrieve and reflect on earlier stages of the learning process. This ability to “go meta” offered a new way for students and faculty to engage more deeply with disciplinary content and method. Highlighting the scaffolding strategies that might maximize student learning, these projects gathered evidence of learning that reflected the social and affective dimensions of these digitally-based pedagogical practices. (For sample projects, see http://cndls.georgetown.edu/crossroads/vkp/themes/poster_showcase_discussion.htm)
  3. Authorship–Multimedia construction as experiential learning: As multimedia authoring became easier to master in these years, faculty became interested not only in creating multimedia presentations and Web sites; they also sought to develop ways to put these tools into the hands of students. Many VKP scholar-teachers were guided by the constructivist notion that learning deepens when students make knowledge visible through public products. In the projects clustered here, student authorship takes place in various multimedia genres of the early twenty-first century, including digital stories and digital histories, Web sites and PowerPoint essays, historically-oriented music videos, electronic portfolios and other historical and cultural narratives. The emergent pedagogies explored by these scholar-teachers involve multiple skills, points of view, and collaborative activities (including peer critique). For example, Patricia O’Connor had her Appalachian literature students at Georgetown University create Web pages about Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, annotating particular phrases and creating links to historical sources and images, while she investigated the ways that “associative thinking” shaped students’ ability to make nuanced speculations about literary texts.
    Meanwhile, Tracey Weis at Pennsylvania’s Millersville University and several faculty at California State University at Monterey Bay gathered evidence on the cognitive and emotional impact of student construction of short interpretative “films,” or what we came to call “digital stories.” Examining the qualities of student learning evidenced through such assignments, these projects spotlight issues of assessment and the need to move beyond the narrowly cognitive quiz and the critical research essay to find ways to value creativity, design, affect, and new modes of expressive complexity. (For sample projects, see http://cndls.georgetown.edu/crossroads/vkp/themes/poster_showcase_writing.htm )

Naturally, these three areas of classroom practice–critically engaging primary sources, social dialogue, and multimedia authorship–converged in all kinds of ways. Some of the richest and most intriguing projects engaged students in a scaffolded process of collaborative research and writing, laying the groundwork for multimedia-enhanced performances of their learning. Our fluid categories were defined and redefined by the creativity of our faculty as they experimented within them.

The key to faculty innovations in VKP was not merely trying new teaching strategies but looking closely at the artifacts of student work that emerged from them, not only in traditional summative products such as student writing, but in new kinds of artifacts that captured the intermediate and developmental moments along the way. What did these artifacts look like? They included video evidence of students working in pairs on inquiry questions, as well as student-generated Web archives and research logs; they included careful analysis of discussion threads in online spaces and student reflections on collaborative work; they included not only new forms of multimedia storytelling but evidence of their authoring process through interviews and post-production reflections about their intentions and their learning. One of the consequences emerging from these new forms of evidence was that, as faculty looked more closely and systematically at evidence of learning processes, those processes started to look more complex than ever. The impact of transparency, at least at first, seemed to be complexity, which can be unsettling in many ways.

Pieces of Insight
This phenomenon had a significant impact on the kinds of findings and claims that emerged from this work. We set out looking for answers (“what is the impact of technology on learning?”) and what we mostly found were limited claims about impact, new ways of looking at student learning, and often dynamic new questions. In fact, the VKP projects followed a pattern typical in faculty inquiry.  Whatever the question that initiates the inquiry, it often changes and deepens into something else. For example, Lynne Adrian (University of Alabama) started off investigating the role of personal response systems (“clickers”) in a large enrollment Humanities course to see if the use of concept questions would increase student engagement, but was soon led to reflect much more interestingly on the purpose of questions in class and the very nature of the questions she had been asking for more than twenty years. Similarly, Joe Ugoretz (Borough of Manhattan Community College), in an early inquiry, hoped to study the benefits of a free-form discussion space in an online literature course, but got frustrated because the students would frequently digress and stray off topic; finally it occurred to him that the really interesting inquiry lay in learning more about the nature of digressions themselves, considering which were productive and which were not. The changing nature of questions, and the limited nature of claims, is not a flaw of faculty inquiry but its very nature. John Seely Brown describes the inevitable way that we build knowledge around teaching: “We collect small fragments of data and struggle to capture context from which this data was extracted, but it is a slow process. Context is sufficiently nuanced that complete characterizations of it are extremely difficult. As a result, education experiments are seldom definitive, and best practices are, at best, rendered in snapshots for others to interpret.”5

Here is where the power of collaborative inquiry came into play. That is, what emerged from each individual classroom project was a piece of insight, a unique local and limited vision of the relationship between teaching and learning that yet contributed to some larger aggregated picture. We had, in the microcosm of the Visible Knowledge Project, created our own “teaching commons” in which individual faculty insights pooled together into larger meaningful patterns.6 Each of these snapshots is interesting in itself; together they composite into something larger and significant. What follows below is our effort at putting together the snapshots to create a composite image in which we recognize new patterns of learning and implications for practice.

A Picture of New Learning: Cross-Cutting Findings

Collectively, what emerged from this work was an expansive picture of learning. Although we started out with questions about technology, early on it became clear that the questions were no longer merely about the “impact of tools” on learning; the emergent findings compelled us to confront the very nature of what we recognized as learning, which in turn fed back into what we were looking for in our teaching. Over the years, faculty experienced iterative cycles of innovation in their teaching practice, of reflection on an increasingly expansive range of student learning, and of experimentation shaped by the deepening complexity (and at times befuddlement) that emerged from trying to read the evidence of that learning. From this spiral of activity developed a research framework with broad implications for the now-emergent Web 2.0 technologies. We have come to articulate this range of cross-cutting findings under the headings of three types of learning: adaptive, embodied, and socially situated.

Briefly, by adaptive learning we mean the skills and dispositions that students acquire which enable them to be flexible and innovative with their knowledge, what David Perkins calls a “flexible performance capability.”7 An emphasis on adaptive capacities in student learning emerged naturally from our foundational focus on visible intermediate processes. What became visible were the intermediate intellectual moves that students make in trying to work with difficult cultural materials or ideas, illuminating how novice learners progress toward expertise or expert-like thinking in these contexts.

Our recognition of the embodied nature of learning emerged from this increased attention to intermediate processes–the varied forms of invention, judgment, reflection–when we realized that we were no longer accounting for simply cognitive activities. Many manifestations of the affective dimension of learning opened up in this intermediate space informed by new media, whether it was the way that students drew on their personal experience in social dialogue spaces, or the sensual and emotional dimensions of working with multimedia representations of history and culture. In these intermediate spaces, dimensions of affect such as motivation and confidence loomed large as well. We have come to think of this expansive range of learning as embodied, in that it pointed us to the ways that knowledge is experienced through the body as well as the mind, and how intellectual and cognitive thinking are embodied by whole learners and scholars.

Inasmuch as this new learning is embodied, similarly is it socially situated. Influenced by the range of work on situated learning, communities of practice, and participatory learning, our work with new technologies continuously brought us to see the impact new forms of engagement through media had on the students’ relative stance to learning. This effect was not merely a sense of heightened interest due to the novelty of new forms of social learning. Rather, what we were seeing was evidence of the ways that multimedia authoring, for example, constructed for students a salient sense of audience and public accountability for their work; this, in turn, had an impact on nearly every aspect of the authoring process–visible in the smallest and largest compositional decisions. The socially situated nature of learning became a summative value, capturing what Seely Brown calls “learning to be,” beyond mere knowledge acquisition to a way of thinking, acting, and a sense of identity.

These three ways of looking at pedagogies–as adaptive, embodied, and socially situated–together help constitute a composite portrait of new learning. Each helps us focus on a different dimension of complex learning processes: adaptive pedagogies emphasizing the developmental stages linking learning to disciplines; embodied pedagogies focusing on how the whole person as learner engages in learning; and socially situated learning focusing on the role of context and audience. In this sense, the dimensions are overlapping and reinforcing in any particular set of practices. For example, consider Patricia O’Connor’s work making use of Web authoring tools to lead students to engage in close reading of print fiction. Calling the activity “hypertext amplification,” O’Connor asks students to make increasingly sophisticated “associational” connections, to move from novice reading encounters with texts to more expert ones. She wants them to experience “associational thinking” on multiple levels, from the personal and emotional to the definitional and critical. Ultimately, students’ ability to engage fully along a continuum of expert practice is shaped by their knowledge that their Web pages will be public, and their presentations to their peers a social act. All three key dimensions are in play in her teaching practices, as in so many of the case studies coming out of VKP.

Nevertheless, we believe it is a valuable exercise to slow down and look closely at each of three areas, and to begin making sense of how each dimension might be better understood for its shaping influence on learning. We now explore each of these areas more fully below.

A Note on Findings
Because faculty inquiry lives at the boundary of theory and practice, we have chosen to present the findings in two forms: as conceptual findings (representing the way theory informed practice, and vice versa) and design findings (representing some of the key claims on practice made by these concepts and values about learning). As a further response to the challenge of representing collective findings in a messy research environment, we also present each area with a set of “tags,” keywords that help associate the findings with various trajectories. Finally, at the end of each finding description we link to several relevant case studies within this volume.

[jump to Part II]

1. Sam Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001). [return to text]
2. Many good resources exist on the scholarship of teaching. Two essential resources can be found at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/CASTL/) and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning tutorial at Indiana University, Bloomington (http://www.issotl.org/tutorial/sotltutorial/home.html). [return to text]
3. In all, more than seventy faculty from twenty-two institutions participated in the Visible Knowledge Project over five years. Participating campuses included five research universities (Vanderbilt University, the University of Alabama, Georgetown University, the University of Southern California, Washington State University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), four comprehensive public universities (Pennsylvania’s Millersville University, California State University (CSU)–Monterey Bay, CSU Sacramento, Ohio’s Youngstown State University, and participants from several four-year colleges in the City University of New York system, including City College, Lehman, and Baruch), and three community colleges (two from CUNY–Borough of Manhattan Community College and LaGuardia Community College, and California’s Cerritos College). In addition to campus-based teams, a number of independent scholars participated from a half dozen other institutions, such as Arizona State and Lehigh University.  The project began in June 2000 and concluded in October 2005.  We engaged in several methods for online collaboration to supplement our annual institutes, including an adaptation of the digital poster tool created by Knowledge Media Lab (Carnegie Foundation), asynchronous discussion, and Web-conferencing.  For more detailed information, see the VKP galleries and archives at http://crossroads.georgetown.edu/vkp/. [return to text]
4. Cathy N. Davidson, “Humanities 2.0: Promise, Perils, Predictions,”  PMLA 123, no. 3 (May 2008): 711. [return to text]
5. John Seely Brown, “Foreword,” in Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008). [return to text]
6. For a broader discussion of the “teaching commons,” see Pat Hutchings and Mary Huber, The Advancement of Learning: Building the Teaching Commons (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005). [return to text]
7. David Perkins, “What is Understanding?” in Teaching for Understanding: Linking Research with Practice, ed. Martha Stone Wiske (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998), 39-58. [return to text]