Saturday, June 02, 2007

Passion and Future ePortfolios

I just finished watching the Steve Jobs-Bill Gates fireside chat at the All Things Digital Executive Conference, sponsored by Dow Jones. It has been more than 20 years since these two people have been on the same stage together, and some of the moments were hilarious. It was also funny to watch the video from 1983 (the Macintosh Software Dating Game). But the real value in watching the entire program was the vision of these two pioneers of the future of personal computer technology (and other post-PC devices). What impressed me was that these two geniuses don't have a clear picture of where we will be in ten years, but they are both excited to take us there! It is also obvious that these two people have passion about what they do, and this passion is what drives them: not the money, but the act of creation, of "inventing the future" (to quote Alan Kay).

That reminded me of a statement made by Thomas Friedman in The World is Flat: CQ + PQ > IQ (Curiosity plus Passion is greater than IQ) in the learning process. As I look at my work on ePortfolios, I feel a real disconnect between my vision of the ePortfolio as a way to document the story of deep learning, and the pervasive implementation of ePortfolios as a source of data for accountability and accreditation. As I quoted Hartnell-Young and Morriss in an earlier blog entry, portfolios created for this purpose "tend to be heavy with documentation but light on passion."

As I wrap up my current study on ePortfolios in secondary education, I know what I want to study next: this issue of passion, or framed a little less suggestively, excitement, flow and engagement. When I talked with students last year, I heard more excitement in the students' voices when they talked about their use of MySpace than their use of the academic tools. If part of the problem in education today is that many students are bored and see no relevance in schools, I want to find examples of where students are excited about learning, using ePortfolios as a way to demonstrate that excitement for learning. Maybe those places are few and far between, but if we are going to change education, we need to change the way students document their own learning. My passion for the last decade (or more) has been ePortfolios, and the related processes that enrich the experience (reflection, digital storytelling). I realize that I have changed my vision from the early days, when I was more focused on assessment and standards-based portfolios. Today, especially due to my travels around the English-speaking world, talking to primarily educators at ePortfolio conferences, my vision has broadened to a more lifelong, life wide perspective. ePortfolios aren't just for schools... in fact schooling may be ruining the experience for a lot of learners. I hope that we can find the passion again in documenting, and better yet, celebrating learning within a worldwide community. That is a future worth working toward.

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