Friday, January 06, 2006

EPortfolios: More than the tool of the day!

How do we reflect on our creations? How do we store and share what we create? How do we let people know what we create? At one time we painted on the cave walls, wore plackards down the street, mailed resumes, held art shows, created journals or carried portfolios. Now we have the electronic portfolio (ePortfolio).

What do ePortfolios do for you? How often have you been through a course, done some great work, and then were never able to find it? Or perhaps you’d like to take the time to make changes and tweaks to make them better, or adapt them for a different audience. This is a tool for student-centered learning – where students can store, document, reflect, reassess and edit their artifacts over time at their own pace and carry them over from their academic world into their personal world, and on into the work world.

Definition: An ePortfolio is a highly personalized, customizable, web-based information management system, which allows students to demonstrate individual and collaborative growth, achievement, and learning over time.

Eportfolios support the growth of a student throughout their academic career. They give students the opportunity to reflect upon their social and academic growth, and get a head start on the development of work search tools. It places the student in the center of their learning and development.

Functions of ePortfolios:

  1. It’s a storage system, allowing the dynamic access and control of student generated artifacts – resumes, media files, professional documents, resumes and more.
  2. It’s an Information management system that allows the students to learn and demonstrate information management skills through the creation, collection, selection, evaluation, maintenance and accessing of data artifacts.
  3. It’s a connection system. Some ePortfolios are designed to link to various units within the larger educational community. Through managing and storing information students can be connected to various units within the larger educational community.
  4. It’s a communication tool. Students can create various public web pages to display artifacts localized for specific consumption. They can learn how to repurpose their private content for very specialized public consumption. They can control access to these public spaces – making them available to specific audiences –like friends or family – or larger audiences like professional or volunteer associations. From one private source of information, a variety of very specific “pitches” can be made attuned to different audiences. It’s not all a one way street either. Students can receive and solicit and receive comments and feedback in response to their postings.
  5. It’s an historical tool, documenting a student’s developmental voyage through the educations system. Through progressive assessments, and skill requirements cross referenced to course or curriculum objectives a history of a students progress and advancement can be identified.
  6. It’s a community tool, keeping students and faculty in touch with each other and building a sense of community that can live beyond the end of a course, of the school year or of the program.

Eportfolios can be excellent tools for community building, reflection, learning and recording - but consider these basic points when developing an eportfolio strategy and seeking eportfolio tools:

Be aware of licensing issues and limitations of proprietary eportfolio systems
Eportfolio are the student’s property. The student should retain ownership and control access. And it should live beyond their association with an educational institution. It is a personal tool – don’t weigh it down with institutional requirements, assessment and job searching. Use portfolios as an assessment of learning.

Recommended - Free tool!
Elgg is a learning landscape with the goal of connecting learners, instructors and resources creating communities of learning. Elgg lets you set up a personal presence online and then use it to interact with others! Create your own weblog, journal, store of files like photos and Word documents, create communities, establish social networks, manage your online content. Use Elgg to enhance reflective thought, your development, your resource base and you decide who to share these with.

Overview of the use of eportfolios in higher education institutions. Lists the benefits and drawbacks and ends with a succinct summary of future predictions.

The Open Source Portfolio Initiative (OSPI) is a community of individuals and organizations collaborating on the development of the leading non-proprietary, open source electronic portfolio software available.

For more information see this great article from Graham Atwell: Recognising Learning: Educational and pedagogic issues in e-Portfolios

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