In a skype meeting this morning I was asked the question – Are you a constructivist? I hesitated briefly and responded “Yes, I think I am.” I went onto to add… I am If you hold that a constructivist is one who believes we learn by making meaningful connections.

I have been pondering my hesitation and attribute it to the fact that I was debating whether or not go into the full blow definition of contructivism or use the shorthand definition that I have been using most recently- we learn by making meaningful connections.

As a result of this exchange I have reviewed Jerome Bruner’s (1960) definition of learning which states:

Learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge. The learner selects and transforms information, constructs hypotheses, and makes decisions, relying on a cognitive structure to do so. Cognitive structure (i.e., schema, mental models) provides meaning and organization to experiences and allows the individual to “go beyond the information given”.

An active process of constructing new ideas based on new and old information is what I mean when I state learning is the making of meaningful connections. It has been over 20 years since I first studied Bruner’s work and recognized that his definition of learning and his theory of instruction offered a sound foundation for creating significant learning environments. It is good to reflect on where our current beliefs come from and to confirm how we have grown and developed those beliefs.

No hesitation this time – I am a constructivist even in the classical sense.

What are you? What are your learning beliefs based on? When was the last time you revisited those foundational ideas?


A colleague recently sent out a link to a short blog post in which Scott Mcleod, a highly regarded thought leader in Educational Technology pointed to the following challenge:

It is time for instructors to move from simple questions like, “Do you use technology in the classroom?” to the more complex, “For what purpose, and with what learning theories, should I engage digitally-enhanced pedagogies?…”

This quote is part of the conclusion of Adam Copeland’s article Teaching Digital Wisdom in Hybrid Pedagogy which I have been pondering over the past weekend. Copeland argues that we need to move away from the unnecessary debate of for or against technology in the classroom and onto the more important questions of how we can use technology to enhance learning. He offers the following four digital practices as pillars or a starting point:

  • forming collaborative relationships with peers,
  • preparing for citizenship,
  • encountering difference and disagreement, and
  • welcoming complexity.

Copeland’s article is very well written, cites some wonderful resources and challenges us to move away from easy answers that we fall into when we debate whether or not to use technology in our learning environments. But moving away from easy answers is a lot of work and even though Copeland offered a sound rational argument for doing so I didn’t find any inspiration or an emotional appeal in the article that motivated me to go out and start this hard work.

I have been striving to find ways to share my passion for using technology to enhance learning for the past couple of decades and have finally learned that while a rational argument is a necessary component for change it unfortunately is not enough. This type of change requires an appeal to the heart and I have learned through years of trial and error that the head won’t go where the heart hasn’t been (read my post for a full explanation). Even though Copeland’s article appealed to my head I had a nagging angst that while I could have my students read the article I doubted that many would find it moving enough to make a difference. If you really want to move people to action there has to be a heart felt reason why we need to move away from easy questions and answers.

Fortunately chance favors the connected mind (Steven Johnson’s label for digital serendipity) and I came across Nigel Coutts’ wonderful post Lessons from a Hole in the Bucket. Coutts uses the song ‘There’s a Hole in the Bucket’ sung by Harry Belafonte & Odetta to share the story of Liza and Henry as they deal with a bucket with a hole in it. Coutts characterizes Liza as a teacher and Henry as the student and offers the following summary of Henry’s learning experience:

Rapidly a pattern of interactions emerges and this reveals much about Henry’s disposition towards learning. Time and time again Henry confronts a challenge, the initial discovery of the hole, the straw that is too long, the knife that is blunt, the sharpening stone that is dry and at each turn his response is a cry for help. ‘But Liza, there’s a hole in the bucket’. At each challenge Liza responds to Henry in the same manner providing him with a prompt that guides him directly to the solution. ‘Then fix it Dear Henry’, ‘Then sharpen it Dear Henry’.

Coutts suggests that Henry has developed no critical thinking skills because Liza provides Henry a quick answer rather than prompting Henry to solve his own problem. He goes on to argue that this is a classic example of learned helplessness and he offers a contrasting story of how another student with a well-developed disposition towards learning and a broader set of thinking skills positively deals with a hole in the bucket.

While the song and Coutts’ explanation begin to move us emotionally his conclusion is where he hits us hard with the challenging question:

Are we going to prepare a class full of Henrys?

Coutts conclusion is a series of questions where he challenges all teachers to do a better job and provide a better start than Henry was provided. No one wants to be responsible for a single Henry nor a class full of Henrys.

It is this emotional appeal combined with the rational pillars that Copeland has outlined that can make a difference. If we really want to be successful in leading this type of change we need to heed the advice of Harvard change guru John Kotter and “Win over the hearts and Minds”.


In the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology article Engagement with Electronic Portfolios: Challenges from the Student Perspective the authors point to student disillusionment with the fact that they all too often are being asked to do something, create an eportfolio, which most instructors have not done. The following response from a student focus group session reveals students frustration in the fact that instructors are talking the talk but now walking the walk when it come to using eportfolios:

In terms of promotion the problem is the people trying to explain it have probably never used it so in a way they have no clue what they are talking about, basically. To put it frankly – after listening to them you would be like, Okay so you as an outsider who never even used it is telling us we should do this because it is the best thing since sliced bread but you have never used it – you can’t find someone who did use it – you don’t have enough information to tell us how to use it – and now you’re telling us use it and we’ll grade you on it – this kind of makes it hard for students to accept or appreciate it.

I have been keeping an eportfolio since the late 90’s. Unfortunately, my earlier work was maintained on sites that I did not control and when I left those organizations I was not able to take my work. Therefore my current site archives only go back to 2009. Lessons learned — take control of your domain and site and ensure that you can take your work with you.

Rather then attempt to explain what goes into an eportfolio I am going to offer the following list of examples. You will note significant diversity in the way the sites are setup, the content that is covered and the levels of sophistication. The common factor is that each of these eportfolios highlights the authors personal, professional and social interests and passion for sharing their ideas and experiences.

This post/page will be a work in progress and as I find additional examples they will be added. The examples are broken into the following categories:
Primary & Secondary Students
Undergraduate Students
Graduate Students
Teacher & Principals
Professors/Instructors and Academic Professional

Primary & Secondary Students Eportfolios:

Levi Harapnuik – My Life as an Extreme Athlete. Levi’s started his eportfolio in primary school and after graduating from high school started to shape his portfolio to help him gain sponsorship for his Down Hill Mountain Bike racing career. The following post and video point to the advantages keeping an eportfolio
Levi’s main site:

Undergraduate Students Eportfolios:

Vance Holms

Urban Planning Portfolio

Andre Malan

Jesse Lee

Karen Bell

Graduate Students Eportfolios:

Roselynn Verwoord’s Electronic Portfolio highlights and shares the work that she is doing with a diverse community of educators, community-based practitioners and researchers, and policy makers, at both the local and international level.

Savita Malik – Masters of Public Health Portfolio

Rebecca Lynn Taylor – Graduate student teaching portfolio: Graduate student developing a portfolio for professional development

Teachers & Principals Eportfolio Examples:

Sean Robinson – On The Side of Technology – His post Who Needs a Digital Portfolio points to the postive benfits of having a digital portfolio.

George Couros – The Principal of Change: Stories of learning and leading
Related Youtube Video – Blog as Portfolio #leadership20

Joe Bower – For the Love of Learning

Erin Klien uses her background in teaching and program development to create ideas to infuse technology enhanced activities that directly correlate to the common core national standards.

Professors/Instructors and Academic Professional Eportfolios:

Tony Bates personal site for resources in online learning and distance education. Perhaps one of the best Academic Professional sites.

Karen L. Kelsky, Ph.D. spent 15 years as an R1 tenured professor, department head, and university advisor, and will tell you the truth about grad school, the job market, and tenure.

Wesley Fryer – Moving at the Speed of Creativity

Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D., is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts on K-12 school technology leadership issues.

Kevin Corbett’s site highlights his professional interests as they relate to the Internet, education & media technologies.

Michael Stephens – Tame the Web site focuses on emerging trends, tools and processes driving change in library and information communities.

Tony Karrer’s eLearning Blog on e-Learning Trends eLearning 2.0 Personal Learning Informal Learning eLearning Design Authoring Tools Rapid e-Learning Tools Blended e-Learning e-Learning Tools Learning Management Systems (LMS) e-Learning ROI and Metrics

Alec Couros – Open Thinking and Digital Pedagogy is Alec’s personal and professional blogging. Alec is a professor of educational technology and media at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina.

Dr. Helen Barrett – No list would be complete without an acknowlegement of Dr. Barretts work with Electronic Portfolios and Digital Storytelling for lifelong and life wide learning.

Luke Wroblewski – LukeW is an internationally recognized digital product leader who has designed and built software used by more than one billion people worldwide. The simplicty and elegence of Lukes site is impressive.

Innovative Educator – Lisa Nielsen is currently a director of digital engagement and professional learning and an advocate for changing the future of education. Her blog is a great example of a professional eportfolio.

Tony Wagner – Transforming Learning

Tosh, D., Light, T. P., Fleming, K., & Haywood, J. (2005). Engagement with electronic portfolios: Challenges from the student perspective. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology/La revue canadienne de l’apprentissage et de la technologie, 31(3).


What Is Privilege?

July 15, 2015 — Leave a comment