Welcome to the April 2014 edition of the Mahara Newsletter. We have lots of stories to share with you this time, and they come from around the world: Australia, UAE, Ethopia, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Spain, the UK, and the USA. So settle into your chair and make yourself comfortable.
Pace University celebrates completion of a 3-year ePortfolio grant
Pace's involvement in a three year FIPSE-funded grant, Connect 2 Learn, a project connecting 24 ePortfolio-using institutions across the U.S., culminated at the AAC&U conference in Washington, D.C., in January 2014. Two institutions in the project, Pace University and SUNY Empire State College use Mahara as their ePortfolio platform. The Pace team is comprised of stakeholders from key areas of the University: Beth Gordon, Executive Director of Academic Technology and co-director of ePortfolio; Linda Anstendig, Director of the Dyson College Strauss Thinking and Learning Center and co-director of ePortfolio; Sarah Burns-Feyl, Assistant University Librarian for Instructional Services; and Jim Stenerson, Executive Director for the Center for Teaching Learning and Technology and Pforzheimer Center for Faculty Development. Samantha Egan, Academic Technology Supervisor, also helped to support the team with their efforts.
The conference also marked the official launch of the Catalyst for Learning site, a robust web resource documenting the progress of each institution in planning, launching, growing and deepening their ePortfolio projects. Pace's project portfolio outlines the university's journey toward ePortfolio implementation and highlights the best practices of Pace instructors and showcases the outstanding work of Pace students. They also highlight their journey in selecting and implementing Mahara in a post titled "Mahara: From Bucket List to Implementation". The Pace team was asked to extend their grant-funded efforts through June in order to continue to lead the momentum on national ePortfolio growth.
Mahara in use
Mahara at Newham Sixth Form College
Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc) has been using Mahara to diversify assessment and feedback. A successful project involved travel and tourism students creating Mahara pages as a marketing tool. As part of the Level 3 extended diploma, students take on the role of tour operators and, given requirements from hypothetical customers, propose European and long-haul holiday packages. They plan all details, from flights to entertainment and accommodation.
Mahara affords opportunities to be creative with content (adding RSS feeds of the weather at destination, for example) and also to learn about layout and design to make webpages attractive. The pages are submitted to a Mahara group, where the teacher can easily find them, instead of having to search for each student's individual profile. The file space allocated to the group is used to store essential documents, such as the initial brief (students are known for losing handouts) and the feedback comes both from teachers and peers.
As a Dental student, I used Mahara to develop a portfolio of a dental procedure complete with rationale and research for each step. Assembly with a standardized system took only a couple hours and provided a great and very unique product. Since then, I have shared my portfolio with dental students from all over the world and had great educational discussions. It's been presented at research conventions and received much attention. Because it's web based, I regularly update erroneous aspects that others point out to me. It is been three years and is now used as a reference for students at my dental school and many others from around the world. View Babak's portfolio.
ePortfolio initiative launched for Japanese medical schools
Eric Hajime Jego
Tokyo Medical University (TMU) is at the forefront of eLearning technologies among Japanese Medical Schools. Associate Professor Raoul Breugelmans is at the heart of eLearning at TMU, and he organizes an annual eLearning symposium which gives the nation's top experts a platform to lead on eLearning issues. This year's symposium was held on 8 March 2014 and the focus was on the use of ePortfolios in medical education in Japan. Open source solutions were strongly advocated by all the speakers. One of the speakers was a faculty member from Chiba University School of Medicine and described their experience with Moodle and Mahara. They started using Mahara in 2013 along with Moodle, which they started using in 2010. The symposium ended with the kick-off of an initiative to adopt a single ePortfolio platform for all 80 Japanese medical schools. Perhaps Mahara will play an important role in the future of medical education in Japan.
Portfolio Learning Approach at Ramaqia Boys School
Education in the 21st century leverages technology to support the learning process. A Portfolio Learning Approach to Education (Leslie, 2012, published in Opening up Learning) offers practitioners a framework of e-processes that support activities including content delivery, classroom interactions, demonstration of competencies, sharing and reflection.
All teachers in the Sharjah Education Zone maintain a portfolio for professional assessment. This study will provide teachers in the Ramaqia Boys School a means to transform the paper-based portfolio into an on-going portfolio learning process.
Teachers will use cloud-based tools to create their portfolios. An informed selection of tools allows teachers to control their own data and supports collaboration with other teachers both within their school and throughout the zone.
The Mahara portfolio platform facilitates tailored versions to be prepared for various audiences including colleagues, parents, administrators and Ministry officials.
- SWC Education CommunityPortfolio Learning site
- Longer description as conference paper abstract
Mahara e-portfolio project for language learning
Language learning is a long process that requires commitment and reflection if you are to stay the course. Learning a language alongside studying for a degree can be demanding, especially if your main subject of study is unrelated to languages. This is often the case for students on the Institution Wide Language Programme at the Language Centre at the University of Warwick. With a limited amount of face-to-face contact time and the desire to make sufficient progress in a short period, many students may struggle to reach their desired outcomes. Assessments are mainly summative and measure performance against the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
It is against this background that we decided to award credit for students who could show they had reflected upon the process of language learning and could make explicit their learning journey. Using Mahara, over 100 students a year are encouraged to collect evidence of their experiences and analyse their learning strategies. They produce bilingual ePortfolios evidencing their learning journey. The ePortfolio project is described in detail in this case study. Now in its third year, students are positive about the ePortfolio experience as they have increased their digital literacies and their insights into their learning. You can see their feedback in this presentation. Some examples of the students' work can be seen in this short video. Our team of tutors (Spanish, German, French, Chinese and Japanese) have also found this experience useful as they have gained insights into student experiences which have influenced their teaching.
Creating a portfolio to demonstrate teaching and coaching standards
The Physical and Sport Education BA Hons degree programme at St Mary's University in Twickenham, have, for the first time this year, used Mahara as a platform for students to create an electronic portfolio based upon their experiences at their teaching or sports coaching work placement for the work-based learning modules.
The portfolio requires students to collate evidence to show they have met the PSE programme's teaching or coaching standards, using a series of file formats, which are clearly presented on each page of the portfolio, and embedded within references to academic literature. Once the portfolio is completed, the summative assessment is conducted through presentation of the portfolio to a member of staff, where the student articulates how particular work placement experiences show how teaching / coaching standards have been met.
Once the summative assessment has been completed and the work-based learning module has ended, the portfolio is not disregarded. The students make use of, and continue to build on their portfolio in preparation for securing another work placement, to assist in securing a place on a teaching qualification, or even to help them to find employment within the teaching / coaching industry.
Showcasing student growth
We know our students, we know how to assess them, we know how they are performing, and we know how they are developing. Oftentimes though, we educators struggle with how to most effectively share this information with parents. Parent conferences, written reports, and paper portfolios all capture a piece of puzzle but taken individually, these reporting methods do not give parents a holistic view of the developmental growth their child has made as a learner throughout the school year. Is there a better way?
For the past two years the early childhood center at the International Community School of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has been implementing ePortfolios for all their youngest learners using Mahara! Every classroom teacher manages 16 collections, each representing an individual student's Mahara ePortfolio that is developmental in scope and focused on showcasing student growth throughout the year! Read the blog post or the presentation for more information or.
Construção de e-Portefólios por adultos de curso de formação
Um grupo de 14 formandos do curso de Educação e Formação de Adultos de Assistente Administrativo(a), promovido pelo Instituto Bento de Jesus Caraça e a decorrer em Paços de Brandão (Portugal), tem vindo a desenvolver, no módulo de Cidadania e Empregabilidade, a construção de e-Portefólios na plataforma Portfoliocommunities - Mahara.
Apesar das dificuldades inerentes ao facto de terem um nível muito baixo de competências informáticas, todos os formandos construíram os seus e-Portefólios e vários evidenciam estar motivados para os continuar a usar após a finalização do curso.
Esta experiência serve de base a um estudo descritivo a publicar brevemente, no qual se procura apreciar: a importância do e-Portefólio como estratégia de aprendizagem; a adequação do Portfoliocommunities como suporte tecnológico personalizado, colaborativo e incentivador de aprendizagens ao longo da vida, para adultos com habilitações escolares básicas; as expetativas dos formandos quanto ao uso que irão dar no futuro aos seus e-Portefólios.
Construction of ePortfolios by adults in a training course
A group of 14 trainees of the course of Education and Adult Education Administrative Assistant, sponsored by the Institute Bento de Jesus Caraça and held in Paços de Brandão (Portugal), has been developing the construction of ePortfolios in the citizenship and emplyability module using the Portfoliocommunities Mahara site. Despite the difficulties inherent in the fact that they have a very low level of computer skills, all trainees have built their ePortfolios and a number of them are motivated to continue to use their portfolio after the completion of the course.
This experience provides the basis for a descriptive study to be published soon, in which we want to address the importance of ePortfolios as a learning strategy, the adequacy of Portfoliocommunities as as site to facilitate collaboration and support of lifelong learning for adults with basic educational qualifications, the expectations of the trainees in regards to the use of their ePortfolios in the future.
Using Mahara in a collaborative setting
At Rovira i Virgili University in Catalonia, we have implemented a Mahara ePortfolio as learning and assessment tool to be used by pre-service teachers in Child Education. The Mahara system has been settled as an institutional service integrated with Moodle by the university.
The experience comprised a group of 142 students completing the assignment "Teaching and learning experimental sciences, social sciences and math" focusing on how to teach sciences by developing enquiry-based learning using practices related for example in developing the scientific method.
Working with ePortfolios in a large group was a challenge, which was overcome by working in groups and creating ePortfolio group pages collaboratively. It has been a tremendous experience where careful planning of the instructional design was necessary in order to align learning objectives with the ePortfolio activities. There were five sessions that allowed for time and room for student teachers to express themselves, drive their own learning and get the most out of it. Principally, feedback and reflection strengthened by evidencing observations, data and group discussions about practical science experiments using enquiry-based learning and assessment with ePortfolio rubrics.
It was demonstrated that it is possible to work in large groups with Mahara, and that it is not only the technology, but also the careful alignment with instructional design principles that is a key aspect of ePortfolio integration.
Mahara in upcoming events
MUGSE in Brighton, UK, 31 March 2014
The inaugural South east UK Mahara User Group meeting (MUGSE) took place in Brighton on 31 March 2014. MUGSE is joining a group of active Mahara User Groups in Europe and the USA: MacHara in Scotland, Mahara User Group Rhine-Neckar in Germany and the first of them all, MUG in New York.
MUG meeting in New York, USA, May 2014
The next non-virtual MUG meeting is being organized to be held at Pratt Institute at the beginning of May 2014. The exact date has not yet been confirmed, but it should either be 8 or 9 May 2014. All Mahara users who are in the vicinity are invited to attend. Please contact Beth Gordon to be put on the list of interested attendees or watch for updates on the group's Facebook page. The announcement about the event will also be made on Mahara's Twitter account.
Mahara Hui FR, Paris, France, 4-6 June 2014
2014 celebrates the 10th anniversary of the annual francophone meeting of Moodle users (Moodlemoot FR) and the 3rd anniversary of the Mahara Hui FR (aka Maharamoot). This year these meetings will be held in Paris at the Sorbonne University, from 4 to 6 June 2014. The organisers are proud to announce the presence of famous keynote speakers including Martin Dougiamas. The main themes of this Mahara and Moodle meeting are collaboration, accessibility and Open Badges. For more information and to register go to the conference website.
ePIC, London, UK, 9-11 July 2014
This year ePIC, the ePortfolio and Identity Conference, moves from central London to the University of Greenwich where it will be held 9-11 July 2014. This conference is an opportunity to meet and listen to ePortfolio experts from all around the world. For anyone interested or involved in ePortfolios and Open Badges, ePIC is the conference of the year not to be missed. This year the main theme is: Evidence-Based Learning - "How digital technologies transform the way we collect, organise, visualise and exploit evidence to inform future learning". The proceedings of previous years and the registration form are available on the official website.
Mahara UK14 in Brighton, UK, 17-18 July 2014
Sea Change: How digital transformation is shaping learning experiences with Mahara ePortfolios
Mahara UK14 is a UK-based conference dedicated to the leading open source ePortfolio software Mahara. This annual conference brings together educators, learning technologists and developers, who have an involvement with or an interest in Mahara and ePortfolios. It offers a valuable forum in which to explore both the technical development and pedagogic practice of Mahara, with the opportunity to network with colleagues, share ideas and discuss future developments.
The conference runs over two days, featuring a programme of keynote speakers, presentations, workshops and exhibitions designed to engage, enhance and inform the use of Mahara in education and work-based learning.
This year the conference is kindly hosted by the University of Brighton. In keeping with the location, the conference has a seaside inspired title, drawing on the changes taking place in the delivery of education and in the use of technology, which is transforming the ways in which we learn, work, connect and interact.
Please see maharauk.org for more details or contact the organising team.
2014 Moodle-Mahara Meetup in Melbourne, 30 September 2014
The 2014 Moodle-Mahara Meetup, being held on 30 September 2014 in Melbourne, is calling for proposals to present based on the theme "Thinking outside the box". The event will showcase how Moodle and Mahara are lowering the barriers to online learning through better integration, also known as Mahoodle. You can submit proposals until Monday, 19 May 2014.
For more information contact email@example.com.
Follow the Moodle-Mahara Meetup:
2014 Eportfolio Forum and Workshops in Melbourne, 1-2 October 2014
The 2014 Eportfolio Forum and Workshops (#eportforum), being held in Melbourne on 1-2 October 2014, is calling for proposals to present based on the theme "Moving forward". The Forum will showcase ePortfolio practice from education, industry, professional and community groups from across Australia and beyond. Submit your proposal(s) here until Monday, 19 May 2014.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow 2014 Eportfolios Forum and Workshops:
At Mahara Hui in Wellington in March 2014, there was interest amongst participants to form a Mahara User Group in New Zealand, or maybe even two: One for the North Island and one for the South Island. If you are interested in joining the conversation and participating in events organized in New Zealand, please email Kristina.
Mahara in past events
Moodle//Mahara//Moot in Leipzig, Germany, 25-28 February 2014
The German MoodleMoot has a long tradition. However, this year marked the beginning of a new era because it was the first time that Mahara was an equal partner in the conference. Two pre-conference workshops, one for beginners and one for advanced users, were followed by 19 presentations over the two conference days. Mahara users from European German-speaking countries as well as abroad gathered to exchange ideas, examples and learn from each other. Links to presentation files or recordings as well as blog posts can be found on the conference website.
EUfolio workshop in Ljubljana, Slovenia, 4 March 2014
On 4 March 2014 a workshop on ePortfolio practice in Slovenian schools took place in Ljubljana as part of the EUfolio project. Technical developments of Mahara were an the agenda as well as first ePortfolio experiences of teachers and students during the workshop.
The project EUfolio is devoted to the implementation of ePortfolios in lower secondary schools in Cyprus, Ireland, Lithuania, Slovenia and Spain. The Austrian project partner, the Department of Interactive and Educational Media at Danube University Krems accompanies the process with a process specification and a functional specification. For the workshop, the Austrian ePortfolio experts Dr. Klaus Himpsl-Gutermann and Dr. Thomas Strasser (both from the University of Teacher Education in Vienna) joined the Austrian delegation to enrich the workshop with additional input.
The Slovenian teachers whose students are already using ePortfolios reported that a shift in the students' learning culture is a positive result of the work with Mahara. The self-directed and interactive work is not only stimulating the motivation, but it also initiates the students' ability for self-reflection. The exchange of tips and tricks for the use of Mahara as well as didactical hints made the group sessions inspiring and let everyone look forward to try out more features in their practice. Continue reading the full workshop report.
Mahara Hui in Wellington, New Zealand, 19-21 March 2014
Mahara users in the Australasia region had the opportunity to meet in Wellington, New Zealand, from 19 to 21 March 2014, to participate in Mahara Hui, the first New Zealand conference about Mahara. One hundred participants listened to 31 presentations and had ensuing conversations, and shared their knowledge about Mahara with each other. New contacts were made and many great uses of Mahara demonstrated. The programme now contains links to all the presentations that are publicly available. The two days of presentations were followed by a one-day hackfest in which developers and users worked together. You can read a summary of the event.
The Mahara Hui organizing team is going to make the logo and also the name for the gathering, Mahara Hui, available for others to use for their Mahara conferences. It is a suggestion and not a must. :-) "Hui" means "gathering, assembly" in Te Reo Māori and denotes nicely what we wanted to achieve with our event: bring together users of Mahara and give them the opportunity to meet others and network.
Mahara in development
Mahara 1.9 release candidate
The release of Mahara 1.9 is on the schedule for this month, and we are still aiming to release mid-April. In order to accomplish that, we want to invite you to test the release candidate that was made available recently. Please get your testing gear out and give the release candidate a thorough check, report issues to us and help make the 1.9.0 a stable one.
Integration with BigBlueButton and Moodle
Smartway-me Co. works on developing solutions in the eLearning field in the Arab world, especially in Saudi Arabia, and it takes first steps toward supporting integrated eLearning solutions. Currently, Smartway-me is preparing to launch the beta versions of two products that use Mahara as a backbone because Mahara is very good platform for ePortfolio and social educational networking web application.
The first project is Smart Meeting. The main objective of this project is to build a social education and eLeaning environment using Mahara and BigBlueButton (BBB). This project will allow users to create their own institutions (communities) and add new courses and start their meetings with different options and shares. For the project I created many Mahara blocktype plugins to implement the integration with BBB and PHPCal and others to accomplish the project goals.
The second project is and eTraining system that we implemented in its beta version for King Abdullah Institute for Research & Consulting Studies. This project will use Mahara, BigBlueButton and Moodle as talent management system. This system will allow managers in any organization or company to design their eTraining programs and assign these programs to users and groups and start monitoring their e-Training progress and build reports that can reflect a measurement of talent for each user according to specified parameters.
Announcing the Clippy plugin for Mahara
I got a lot of great user feedback at the 2014 NZ Mahara Hui. And one of the main things I heard from Mahara users was their concern about usability. They wanted Mahara to be easier to learn, and more fun to use, especially for kids.
So I consulted with some usability experts to find out how to engage children with a software product. Iime and again they all brought up the best-of-class solution for this problem: the beloved animated office product, Clippy the Paperclip.
Thanks to the good folks at the Clippy.js project ( https://www.smore.com/clippy-js ) it was a snap to integrate Clippy into Mahara as a Block plugin. So now, you can add Clippy and all his friends to any Mahara page.
The plugin is available on my github repository ( https://github.com/agwells/maharacontrib-blocktype-clippy ), and I've also installed it on mahara.org for demo purposes. You can check it out on my profile page, for instance:
What's next for Mahara and usability? Well, the other thing the usability experts told me was that kids love fun fonts. So I'm working on a theme that replaces every font in Mahara with Comic Sans.