Friday, February 06, 2009

Which ePortfolio Tool?

I've been getting more requests for my recommendations on software for ePortfolios. Here is a request on one of my listservs"
I'm heading a small group of teachers wishing to implement electronic student portfolios for about 100 students. We're looking at various options and wondered what your experiences are. We'd need something accessible from home and school (Web based?) and scaleable to approximately 2,200 students. We are not a 1:1, but may be eventually (really, shouldn't everybody?). Any guidance, lessons learned, limitations, etc... are much appreciated.
My response: Here is my answer to anyone who emails me about ePortfolio tools: "It Depends!" The first question to ask is not about what tool to use, but rather: "What is your purpose for having your students develop an e-portfolio?" A clear description of the purpose should then drive the selection of appropriate tools. [Yes, plural... integrate multiple tools into the process.]

Do you want a student-centered ePortfolio that is the student's story of their own learning, or do you want a system to collect data about student achievement for an external audience (accreditation, accountability). These are the extreme ends along a continuum, but also the major debate in the field today. In my opinion, if you say you want to do both, then pick two different tools, because when these two functions are combined within the same system, data collection/management tends to depress creativity and personal expression in student portfolios. [See my last blog entry about MySpace.]

I will be doing a webinar for ISTE on February 16 entitled, "ePortfolios and Web 2.0" where I will focus on a variety of tools to create student-centered portfolios: WordPress MU (a multi-user blog with pages you host on your own server), GoogleApps for Education, and a variety of Wikis. Google Sites is Google's version of a wiki (replacing Google Pages) and well integrated with GoogleDocs and other Google tools (except Blogger). I just recommend that if you decide to use Google, establish your own Google Apps for Education site, with your own domain name, as a quasi "walled garden" where student work can only be viewed by someone with an account within your domain.

The Electronic Portfolio Action Committee (EPAC) is conducting an online discussion on Monday, February 23, to discuss the whole range of tools that I outlined on my website ( or in my blog, where I am currently exploring what I call "balancing the two faces of ePortfolios" as mentioned above. You can read my article that is "in progress":

I'm also doing a "bring your own laptop" workshop at NECC (Saturday, June 27) entitled, "Web 2.0 Tools for Classroom-Based Assessment and Interactive Student ePortfolios" where we will focus on GoogleApps, but will also discuss blogs and wikis.

There are more commercial ePortfolio systems out there than course management systems (per Trent Batson in Campus Computing, 1/7/09). Most of these commercial systems are what I call "assessment management systems" developed in higher education to meet the accreditation requirements of Teacher Education programs [or as an add-on to a course management system used primarily in higher education]... There are few commercial systems that were created specifically for K-12. With the current economic environment, most schools are looking for a free solution... I just worry about the continued economic viability of some Web 2.0 sites. That's why I tend to prefer the big "cloud computing companies" (especially Google).

Sorry this message is so long... it just seemed like a "teachable moment" and very current with my own discussions in the ePortfolio community [including my own Google Group on Researching Lifelong ePortfolios and Web 2.0... requires membership application with reason for wanting to join].


sam said...

thank you i found this blog post just in time!

Weez said...

very thought provoking articles - thanks for sharing - has got my brain fizzing