As the first U.S. ePortfolio conference, this meeting at LaGuardia Community College (April 10-12) had a special feeling about it. Drawing over 500 people from both LGCC and across the U.S. (and a few other countries), the conversation had a richness that was indicative of the maturity of ePortfolio practices. Holding the conference in the middle of a very active campus within a few subway stops from Times Square also created a very vibrant feeling, much different than the usual conference experience in hotels or convention centers. We were literally in the middle of the action! I loved how they involved so many students in conference t-shirts to help with the conference logistics.
In addition to the usual speakers (and an excellent keynote address by Kathleen Blake Yancey), there were also a lot of presenters sharing their practice at LGCC. The Center for Teaching and Learning at LGCC is establishing a National Resource Center on Inquiry, Reflection & Integrative Education to support innovation on campuses nationwide. I especially liked the focus on their students' unique stories, using the power of personal narrative in their ePortfolios.
I also took advantage of my trip to the East Coast, and attended the Rhode Island Sakai Conference, on April 9, where I learned more about the efforts in that state to establish a Proficiency Based Graduation Requirement (PBGR). I was most impressed by a small group of students who talked about their beginning efforts using Sakai. I especially liked their comments on what they would like to change (i.e., allow more personal expression in the OSP, like they can do in Facebook).
At the LaGuardia conference, I did see some student portfolios from the University of Michigan that looked very creative, using the Sakai tool. I have asked them to give me an account on their system, so that I could try to re-create my portfolio, since I have not been able to do so in the existing demonstration templates.
I am hoping that these conferences will begin a national dialogue on the role of ePortfolios in transforming learning, not only in higher education, but also in secondary schools. I met with a small group of educators that would like to begin a national research project, looking at the various statewide high school portfolio initiatives in Washington state, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Ohio. It is time to bring secondary schools into this dynamic conversation.