Thursday, July 07, 2005

One Portfolio for Life?

There is a movement in Europe and in Canada to create "E-Portfolios for Every Citizen by 2010." There is also a discussion of "one portfolio for life" which evokes many reactions. My initial response was to separate the one "digital archive of my work" for life, and the multiple presentation portfolios that I might develop for different purposes and audiences throughout my life. I know there is an effort to build systems that integrate all aspects of our digital lives, or as Serge Ravet expressed it,
  • My digital clone - A digital representation/extension of my self – my eSelf
  • My work companion - A tool blended into my learning/working environment
  • My butler - A service provider to one’s self
  • My dashboard - An informative display of the state of my skills and knowledge
  • My planner - A tool to plan my learning
  • My IPR management assistant - A tool to value and exploit my personal assets
An educator from New Zealand sent me a link to an entry from her blog, discussing issues around digital identity:
In time our e-portfolio record of learning might develop into a massive “learning identity construction” digitized database “A real celebration of learning across a lifetime” that would make today's efforts seem mute, silent screen versions in comparison.

The tension in this extrapolation is that it is not unlike the “consumer identity construction” information databases that can already reveal our predilection for hanging out in wine bars and txting lovers at the end of the day.

The e-portfolio might be likened to "wiki for data from a security camera, VISA card statement and mobile phone bill", in that both allow the construction of digital identity.

And both might misprepresent the complexity of what it is to be human through representing identity as data.
My concern, in our rush to jump on the bandwagon of "a portfolio for all" and "portfolio as digital identity," we are missing the essential purpose of portfolio as a concept and process as well as product. By broadening the concept of the portfolio, we may be thereby weakening its use for learning. Once again, I remember Catherine Lucas' cautions about portfolio use, especially "the weakening of effect through careless imitation." The broader definition of portfolio also serves to confuse the issues.

I recently heard about assignments in an "electronic portfolio class" where students were asked to create an electronic portfolio for a dog or a cat! If the "heart and soul" of a portfolio is reflection, how can you create a portfolio for a dog or cat? It seems to me that they are creating more of a digital scrapbook than a portfolio. Again, the problem is with definition. A portfolio is a personal document, not a documentary. That class sounds more like a website development course, which just furthers the confusion of what an electronic portfolio really is.


Nick Noakes said...

Hi Helen!

Thanks for the link to the NZ blog. Identity is a key element in all of this. Have you listened to Julie Leung speaking about identity, privacy and the representational of parts of our identity in blogs? She presented this at the Northern Voice Blog Conference in Vancouver and was asked to present it again at Gnomedex. I've linked to the audio file on my blog. Instead of the usual powerpoint, Julie showed images alongside her talk (her talk sounded very like a digital storytelling) and had a fantastic response from the audience. I'm hoping at some point the video of her presentation will get online but haven't seen it yet.

Also have you read Etienne Wenger's recent research agenda on Learning for a small planet? It's on his website and can be downloaded. There is a lot in his research agenda around identities and learning trajectories that can speak to lifelong eportfolios/reflection (although the EU group's notion that everyone has to have one, and that they are for life strikes me as being over the top).

Anyway, a couple of things you might enjoy following up on I hope! :-)

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