Recently I came across a definition for ePortfolios that aligns so nicely with the Philosophy of Portfolios that we’ve launched at my school this year:

A more comprehensive definition of the variety of ePortfolio affordances was elucidated by Duncan-Pitt and Sutherland (2006) who described it as: A system that belongs to the learner, not the institution; populated by the learner not their examiner; primarily concerned with supporting learning not assessment; for life-long and life-wide learning not a single episode or a single course; that allows learners to present multiple stories of learning rather than just a simple aggregation of competencies; and, importantly, where access to them is controlled by the learner who is able to invite feedback to support personal growth and understanding. (p. 70)  Recommendations for Effective Scaffolding of Reflective Thinking in Higher Education International Forum of Educational Technology & Society, Pauline Roberts, Dorit Maor and Jan Herrington

Could blogs be a means to life-long and life-wide conversation skills?

I’ve blogged a lot about my thoughts on this (see here or here).  I think one opportunity inherent in a school ecosystem and culture where blogging thrives is the comment section.  The comment section is often belittled as not worthy of reading.  Talk shows ridicule the comment section, and (see here) sometimes with good reason.  Schools, especially those with a reputation for encouraging future-ready skills, have a responsibility to up the ante on technology as an amplifier of compassion. How do we do this?

Simple.  We share commenting-best practice, and teach commenting next-practice.

Looking for a list of commenting role models?

On a recent episode of Ear Hustle, the producers take a break from their normal structure to respond to questions they received from fans.  That’s the power of interaction: you can shape content, provoke conversation, and enhance the audience experience. Don’t believe me? Check the show out for yourself, and rethink the power of curating questions.

The TED blog hosts some of their most insightful comments on a special ‘comment of the week’ feature available here. Interested in talking more about that ‘amplifier of compassion’ idea? Start with this one.

Zooming out, there’s a lot of role modeling happening in the comment guidelines of leading news institutions:

From The Guardian:

1. Participate in conversations about our content, and take responsibility for the conversations you start.

2. Focus on the constructive by recognising and rewarding intelligent contributions.

3. Don’t reward disruptive behaviour with attention, but report it when you find it.

From the MIT Tech Review:

We want you to be a resource for your fellow readers and we hope that you’ll use our comment section to do that. We’ve designed it to elevate and amplify the most intelligent and civil responses, and diminish or hide the worst.

So how do we steer our students towards better comments?

Be specific, guide them with prompts, and see it as an opportunity to teach and explore logical fallacies in an authentic way.  I’ve put together this easy comment prompt, feel free to use it or remix it:


Do you have a commenting protocol you use with students?

Please share your thoughts on the best ways to encourage more thoughtful online conversations in the comment section below.


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