Monday, April 26, 2010

Which Portfolio Tool?

I have been receiving a lot of emails lately (or reading blog posts) asking the question about the best e-portfolio tool. It seems like I do one of these blog posts every year. Whenever I receive that question about what tools are best, my answer is always, "It Depends!" Context is everything: purpose, audience, technology infrastructure, age of student, budget available, etc. Purpose should determine what tools to use. Different tools have different affordances. There are basically two models of electronic portfolios, as described in the draft National Educational Technology Plan released in February: a student-managed learning portfolio (p.12) and an analytical serve assessment purposes (p.34). Each type of portfolio requires different tools. I briefly describe these two strategies in my blog.

I actually recommend a variety of Web 2.0 tools for many reasons: authenticity, audience, continuity after graduation, ownership, engagement. I also like WordPress/EduBlogs because of the interactivity/feedback, a good classification system for blog entries, and the ability to construct multiple pages in addition to blog posts. I responded to that same request that was made on the Google for Educators website. To summarize, I think there is a difference between a student-centered e-portfolio that engages the student in their own learning/self-assessment, and an institution-centered assessment management system that is prescribed and pre-structured for the student (much like the Sakai system). The bigger question to ask: what type of assessment do your e-portfolios support? Formative assessment to support feedback/improvement? or Summative assessment for accountability? Those differing paradigms of assessment produce very different portfolios... and levels of student engagement. Last fall, at the IUPUI Assessment Conference, I pointed out the Opportunity Cost of each paradigm of assessment. I posted a version of that presentation online: Balancing the Two Faces of E-Portfolios (the Opportunity Cost discussion is in the last 15 minutes).

I also recorded a TEDxASB presentation in Mumbai in February, where I discussed the issue of Intrinsic Motivation, based on Dan Pink's latest book, Drive, and how the boundaries are blurring between E-Portfolios and Social Networking.

On my website I have a specific page where I show Categories of E-Portfolio Tools which has links to a variety of commercial and open source tools. I should comment that there are very few customized e-portfolio tools developed with K-12 students as the primary user; they were primarily developed in higher education for higher education students. I also have a Delicious list of links.

I am working with educators across the world who want to develop student-centered e-portfolios with Web 2.0 tools. A major consideration is that the implementation of electronic portfolios is a major change process. Schools can select a minimal level of implementation (ARCHIVE: electronic storage of artifacts), a secondary level (PROCESS: documenting learning over time using a reflective journal/blog with linked artifacts), or a higher level (PRODUCT: organizing reflections and artifacts thematically in a showcase/presentation to demonstrate specific outcomes/goals/standards), explained in this article on my website.

I sponsor an open Google Group for K-12 Educators who are interested in exploring the use of GoogleApps for ePortfolios.
I also sponsor a more moderated Google Group on Researching Web 2.0 Portfolios across the lifespan.

I am in the middle of working on a book on Interactive Portfolios, that outlines the use of Web 2.0 tools to build student-centered e-portfolios across the age levels, from early childhood to professional teaching portfolios. The book will be published by ISTE and I will be making a presentation about the main points at the ISTE Conference in Denver in June 2010. I  am writing the chapter in my book right now on strategic planning to implement portfolios, and preparing to lead planning workshops for schools in New York in May, so the issues are foremost on my mind right now. Here is a link to a PDF planning document/decision tree for K-12 educators, covering the many issues to address when exploring that question, What Tools are Best? I'd love some feedback. What questions are missing?

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