Sunday, December 26, 2010

Another question about "best" portfolio tools in higher ed

This message was sent to the Researching Lifelong ePortfolios and Web 2.0 listserv that I facilitate: "In your opinion what is the best ePortfolio software or website for university students & staff?" Here is my response:

You asked this question in a list that focuses on Web 2.0 tools for ePortfolios. That implies an environment and an approach, not a specific tool. Before identifying specific tools, you need to identify the PURPOSE for developing a portfolio. There are purposes imposed by an institution (and frankly, that is the way most individuals begin a formal "portfolio") but we are implementing portfolio-like processes throughout our lives, regardless of technology or tools:
  • collection (our natural tendency to save those objects that remind us of important events in our lives)
  • selection (well, we can't save everything, so we have to make choices, based on a variety of criteria, consciously or subconsciously) 
  • reflection (the sign of deep learning... But not always called reflection. Humans have been keeping journals for hundreds of years, to help record experiences, or "thinking in print" to make sense of them) 
  • direction (in this case, setting goals... what I call reflection in the future tense... an essential component of success) 
  • presentation (putting a public face on the portfolio for a selected audience for a particular purpose) 
  • feedback (that's where the learning gets reinforced or suggestions made for improvement) 
  • evaluation (either by self or others, depending on context)
When we look at the various processes, and the way that technology supports those processes (archiving, hyperlinking, storytelling, collaboration, publishing, aggregating), there are a lot of tools that can support these efforts. I hope universities want to help students develop lifelong skills, that will last after students graduate. Learning a specific commercial tool that requires a paid subscription, may not meet that goal. But if students are using "world ware" (software in use it the world) then they are developing skills that can be applied in the "real world" outside of formal education. We should also look at how students are naturally using technology in their lives: social networking, mobile communications, images, audio and video, etc. I believe we should build on the tools that students are already using... I am not suggesting that we use Facebook for ePortfolios, but that we should look at the intrinsic motivation factors that drive the use of social networking, and apply those factors to the ePortfolio environment: autonomy, mastery and purpose (thanks to Dan Pink's book, Drive). I talked about these issues in my TEDxASB talk that can be found on YouTube.

But the practicalities of universities seem to require a specific tool... I recommend selecting one tool for student-centered portfolios (that they can continue to maintain after they graduate) and another tool to collect evaluation data by faculty, and used to aggregate data for institutional purposes. In my opinion, the "best" student portfolio tools are Web 2.0 tools, such as:
  • blogs (WordPress, Movable Type) implemented by a lot of universities, such as Penn State and UMW
  • Google Apps (Docs, Sites, Picasa, Blogger) also implemented by a lot of K-12 schools and universities, such as Clemson
I have blogged about some interesting tools under development to help aggregate Web 2.0 content stored in the cloud to support ePortfolios (Paul Kim's PrPl/PCB model discussed in the BJET, November 2010). I am also concerned that any tool that is used be well integrated with mobile devices. There are mobile apps available for most Web 2.0 tools to support the various components of the portfolio development process.  My current research is focusing on the application of mobile devices (iOS and Android) to support ePortfolio development across the lifespan. See my latest Google site, under development:

Enough of my sermon.
Happy Holidays!!!

Sent from my iPad

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