Sunday, October 30, 2005

The "e" in ePortfolio stands for "exciting"

I've just left EIFEL's EuroPortfolio conference, this year held in Cambridge, England. The first day was billed as a "PlugFest" which focused on the IMS technical specifications and showcasing interoperability between different systems. I wrote the following slide for my presentation the next day:
If we build it, will they use it?
And HOW will they use it?
What about the users?
What is the relationship between the capabilities
(and interoperability) of the tools, and the extent to which
they are used for lifelong and lifewide learning?
Why would learners want to use an ePortfolio?
I am concerned that more effort is going into tool development and not into the important human dimensions of this process.

During my opening keynote presentation, I emphasized:
  • Context: 21st Century Learning (Partnership for 21st Century Learning, Friedman & Dan Pink
  • Product: Digital Archive for Life (mostly the contents of my blog entry on 9/24 plus Educause Review article)
  • Process: Portfolios and Reflection
  • Digital Storytelling - In a half hour keynote, I only had time for one example of a reflective digital story. I also made sure that I only re-used a few slides from my speech last year.
I had a lot of fun talking about the progression of e-portfolio technology, starting on computer desktops, moving to CD-R, the Internet, DVD-R and now "pocket tech" pulling lots of items out of my pockets: iPods, flash drive, and three cameras - my new small Casio, my cell phone, and my Palm Zire 72.

I find these Eifel conferences very interesting, since they bring together people with many interests in e-portfolios from around the world. The proceedings document also provides many new perspectives to add to the literature on ePortfolios. I appreciated the paper by Simon Grant from CETIS that clarified a lot of the language/definitions around ePortfolios. There were also a lot of papers presented by a group from the University of Wolverhampton, and their PebblePAD system. I hope to get an account on their system so that I can see how it works, as well as a couple for my grandchildren on the version that they are adapting for primary school students. I really need to revisit my study of online portfolios, and add a few more: Carnegie Foundation's open source KEEP Toolkit, PebblePAD from the UK, and Interact's new ePortfolio add-on.

The focus on reflection this year was also encouraging. One of the plenary speakers on the second morning showcased her reflective portfolios with her student teachers, and was very emphatic about the role of reflection is critical thinking and analysis. I am really looking forward to the next Eifel ePortfolio conference in Auckland, after my two weeks in Australia. This will be an opportunity for me to reconnect to my friends in New Zealand, and continue the dialogue down there.

Oh yes, the title for this entry came from one of the participants in the Cambridge conference, who made that statement after the opening plenary session on the second morning. "Exciting Portfolios!" Sounds good to me! I hope we implement them in a way that the users agree!

1 comment:

Scott Lankford said...

Helen, I'm new to your work (and this blog) but remain amazed and gratified to have discovered such a rich source of experience, research, and inspiration. Read through your keynote powerpoints from the conference and found so much to agree with there I don't know quite where to begin: especially the emphasis on the potential of ePortfolios for a kind of deep learning -- and your question to the conference: if we build it, will they use it.

I began my own sabbatical research recently based, in part, on the frustration of attending similar tech-based conferences where millions of dollars had been spent (wasted?) designing high-tech, instantly obsolete eportfolio platforms that NOBODY USES.

The double-irony, of course, is that so many of our students are so deeply involved in building, maintaining, and developing ePortfolio-equivalents of another kind in their private lives outside school (on MySpace, Xanga, Freindster, etc. etc. etc.). Somewhere the disconnect has to be overcome.