learning & teaching

small is beautiful

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I have unashamedly been an avid FlickR user and advocate for the past 4 years. At this point in time I have 8,357 items and 32,147 views. Paying the annual USD$24.95 is worth every cent for a PRO account that allows me full access and organisational ability. Of my 73 contacts about half are personally known to me. Others .are people I value for their content, photography and design skills. I've found FlickR to be secure, spam free and reliable. I use backupify to archive.

I've been increasingly interested in how FlickR might be used in educational contexts as a visual portfolio platform. To that end I've put in an application for 2010 Flexible Learning Framework for some innovation project funding with the ACE North Coast Community Colleges. We're keen to target a group of students undertaking the Certificate II in Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Cultural Arts based up at Nimbin.

Now I'm most definitely an "E-portfolio" skeptic  (note the capital E). Instead of equipping learners to capture their learning and progress, and make real connections within authentic professional networks we feel a need to over complicate and formalise platforms and hide them away behind gates along with the blessed LMS. Rhetoric about student ownership and 'migratable' content is all very well but how practical is it really? How attractive is that prospect for the learners? How many will do anything but stick a DVD in their drawer?

And how financially within reach are commercial portfolio platforms for community providers and their learner cohort?

So what I hope we can prove if funded is that a free web-based platform such as FlickR can equip individuals to establish and manage a personal online portfolio for their art work. As well as enabling a self managed visual portfolio that is free and easy to use, the course facilitator will have the means to establish course and community Groups for display, assessment and promo. We'll use local community centre facilities and equipment to support the digitisation of work and by placing images online the learners will be able to connect and communicate with artists and communities way beyond their current community. Students will immediately create and manage a personal portfolio of their artistic work that will extend across and throughout their lives.

Within their free (or if they wish, Pro account) students can upload images (scanned or photographed paintings if necessary) and determine permissions for access and reuse. Each item can be made public or private for example, and assigned an “all rights reserved” or a Creative Commons licence. Tags can be applied - both individual and course related. Each image online can have annotated ‘notes’ or hotspots added to it to highlight and describe specific areas of each piece of work and there's room for a description of the process or final work, and viewers (peers, teacher, community members or other artists) can comment if given access. Here's a slideshow example using my recent mosaic table project:

At the course level a FlickR Group can act as a central hub for group activity. Students are made members of the Group and are able to control which of their images are assigned to show up in the Group area.
Teachers can also create FlickR based ‘galleries’ of selected images that could be used to showcase exemplars, or RSS based ‘badges’ or slideshows based on users, groups or specific tags that can be embedded into other course sites, an LMS, blog or wiki etc.

I'll be redeveloping my existing FLickR in Education guide for their local context;  into a plain English minimal text wiki with screengrabs or short instructional video (housed in FlickR of course) and plenty of scope for discussion, sharing and evolution. Question is, will such a small simple platform be taken seriously and given a chance?