Wednesday, August 25, 2010

ePortfolios: Concept, Process, and Product

I believe ePortfolios are CONCEPT, PROCESS, and PRODUCT.

I have lately been presenting about the CONCEPT of "Balancing the Two Faces of ePortfolios": (process vs. product, workspace vs. showcase, learning/improvement vs. accountability). The international community is recognizing this perspective, since my concept map/diagram has been translated into Spanish, Catalan, Japanese and Mandarin! Unless we recognize the importance of both approaches to ePortfolios, I believe it will be more difficult to realize the practical contribution of ePortfolios for supporting reflection and lifelong learning. As an ePortfolio community of practice, we need to be clear about the multiple purposes for developing portfolios, and the multiple strategies that can be used... and not constrain our thinking by specific tools or products or narrow purposes. The development of ePortfolios can help build lifelong habits of reflective practice, but I fear that the process is in danger of being hijacked for accountability purposes (see The Accountability/Improvement Paradox:  --a higher education perspective, but there are comparable viewpoints in K-12).

My working portfolio, that documents the PROCESS of my learning/growth over time, is my digital footprint through my website, my blog, my Facebook account (mostly "friending" my family members), my Twitter posts (@eportfolios), etc.: my personal learning environment (PLE) that I contribute to and learn from on a regular basis. This "portfolio-as-PROCESS" is a powerful environment for lifelong learning and reflection, with digital media adding a contemporary boost to an ages-old process. I also agree that smart phones and other mobile technologies (i.e., iPad, tablets) are going to be an important direction for more widespread adoption. This aggregation of my online presence is how I construct my digital identity, using tools across the Internet, where I store videos in YouTube or blip.tv, images in Picasa or Flickr, presentations in slideshare.net, documents in scribd.com or googledocs, etc. (What I am missing is some type of database or tool where I can keep a record of links to all of these resources with meta-tags -- right now, I use a googledocs spreadsheet.) It is this process paradigm that constitutes the "everyday-ness" of ePortfolios in a highly interactive environment.

Every once in a while, I add an entry to one of my presentation portfolios (organized in one of many tools that I have explored) which represents a significant accomplishment in my professional life. This "portfolio-as-PRODUCT" has a specific purpose and audience, organized thematically using a specific authoring tool, such as Mahara, Google Sites, eFolio, or any one of the commercial tools. I spent years studying many of these tools for creating presentation portfolios, and I came to the conclusion that many of these systems are often institution-based, created within a finite time frame (i.e., a school or university program). Once a learner leaves the institution, with a few exceptions, the presentation portfolio remains behind or unchanged in an HTML archive: frozen in time as an artifact of that institutional experience (much like my tenure portfolio in PDF on a CD-ROM from 2002). I wish I could find data on the percentage of students who continue to pay subscription fees on commercial systems; my assumption is that it is fairly low. That is why I am an advocate for learners to own their own online spaces to publish their own presentation portfolios (i.e., Google Sites, WordPress, Weebly), or for the commercial providers to adhere to one of the standards, such as LEAP2A to allow portfolio content to be migrated between compatible systems... another argument for open Web 2.0 systems.

I am trying to finish my book over the next two months, so these ideas are front and center in my consciousness. I am looking for more stories of using Web 2.0 tools to create ePortfolios across the lifespan, in and out of formal education. I also maintain a couple of Google Groups that focus on Researching Web2.0 Portfolios and Using Google Apps for ePortfolios in K-12 Education.
(My post to eportfolio_conversations@googlegroups.com, facilitated by Coach Carole in Australia)

1 comment:

Way2Go Updates said...

Hi Helen, thanks for that succinct 'think piece' on concept, process and product - I've passed that on with some appreciative inquiry questions to the new CoP in Australia.
There are some 'stories' developing there!
Good luck with the book - I'm waiting patiently.
CC