I've just finished three days in Vancouver, B.C., focusing on ePortfolios, first at the LIFIA Pan American Forum on ePortfolios, and then doing the keynote at the preconference session of the BCEd Online conference. It is interesting to compare the two meetings. The LIFIA meeting brought together a small group of ePortfolio researchers and developers from across mostly North America and a few from Europe. For the first time, I heard some of the results of the evaluation of the MNSCU project, of the eFolio Minnesota, available to any resident of that state. What is fascinating to me is the positive response to the use of their system, which is not mandatory. It makes me think that the power in portfolios is "choice." I was heartened by the pervasive opinion of the LIFIA participants, that learners owned their own portfolios (not the institution or provider).
After my keynote presentation for BCEd Online this morning, I had a teacher come up to tell me about his own son, in the 10th grade, where B.C. requires students to begin their required high school graduation portfolios. As he expressed it, his son hates his portfolio, at least the way he is required to do it. His teacher told him not only what he had to put into his portfolio (based on the provincial requirements) but also what he couldn't, even though those items were the most meaningful to him. I want to ask, after all, who's portfolio is it? Or is it really a "portfolio?"
It made me think about some comments that I heard last fall, from the developer of the Minnesota project, that some of these mandatory implementations of portfolios were "poisoning the well" for many learners, both at higher ed and K-12. The little I hear about what is happening with the top-down mandates has that same effect. It breaks my heart, because we are ruining for many learners the whole portfolio concept, due to uninformed implementation.
I made the public statement this week, that high stakes assessment and accountability are killing portfolios as a reflective tool to support deep learning. Those mandated portfolios have lost their heart and soul: not creating meaning, but jumping through hoops!