We went “a conferencing” and this is what we learned…

Sometimes it is dangerous to go to conferences; there is no place to hide from the ideas, the issues and the changes that presenters share. In many ways, it is like going to a Las Vegas buffet.  There may be some things you don’t want to try, some things you have all the time, but there is always at least one seductive dish that you just can’t resist and…voila…you have a new favorite.

Debra, Sue Maberry, Jean-Marie Venturini and I recently attended and presented at a conference hosted by Campus Technology and the Association of Authentic Education and Evidence Based Learning (AAEEBL). This is a growing area of education since pedagogy, technology, and evidence of learning are now key partners with disciplinary content.  We dived into issues of integrative learning, multi-modality evidence, and ePortfolios.  In many ways, Otis is ahead of the curve with ePortfolios (all our students have them, many faculty use them, and we are now assessing through them), but we came back with new ideas for furthering their use to improve student learning and  using them to evidence scaffolded student learning to address the core competencies.

What impressed us?  Students taking real responsibility for their portfolios and the content in them so they could use portfolios as showcases (a new term we picked up) for grad school and potential employers.  Students embedded more than writing and images; they included videos in which they demonstrated their competency in required areas of disciplinary expertise and WASC core competencies such as oral communication–imagine a fashion major doing a quick demonstration of a design or approach.  How about a product design major talking about a particular project or skill or design process? In these portfolios, students talked about their learning experiences, and presented themselves as accomplished ready-to-be professionals.

We came back with lots of new contacts and ideas to further refine our use of the eportfolio to demonstrate student learning and—even better—to facilitate how students connect the various areas of their education, how they apply and integrate information from one field to another, and how they can demonstrate and archive their growing expertise.  Finally, we came back even more committed to giving students regular opportunities to reflect on what they are learning and why it is valuable to them.  I think of that as a much needed “intellectual breathing space,” a moment to stop, consider, reflect and then document where they are going and how they are getting there.  That is a lifelong skill that we all need because we can’t know where we are going without knowing where we have been.