Thursday, March 17, 2011

EdWeek Article on Technology & Testing

Several months ago, I was interviewed by a writer for EdWeek about the role of Technology in Assessment, and the potential for using e-portfolios. Her article was published in the Technology Counts 2011 publication, which can be downloaded as PDF. Here is what she said about e-portfolios:
Examining E-Portfolios
In the meantime, some teachers are using technology tools to create performance-based student assessments, such as e-portfolios.

Helen Barrett, a former professor at the college of education at the University of Alaska Anchorage, has spent the past 20 years researching strategies and technologies for e-portfolios. Such portfolios provide a collection of student work and require students to reflect on their work and progress.

"What we want to do is help learners not only be much more aware of their own skills and competencies as they relate to standards or a rubric, but also to be able to reflect and write on that," Barrett says. "An e-portfolio should be more of a conversation about learning than a one-way presentation about learning."

Having students take ownership of their portfolios is essential to maximizing the potential of the evaluation, says Barrett.

"We need to get students intrinsically motivated about developing the portfolios," she says. "It's not the kind of routine assignment where teachers tell them what to put into it and what to write."

E-portfolios provide students an opportunity to beef up their self-assessment skills and become more familiar with different types of technology, Barrett adds. Students can embed videos and images in their e-portfolios, and they can use blogs or podcasts to reflect on their work.

Mobile devices add another dimension to e-portfolios, allowing students to reflect "at the moment the learning takes place," Barrett says.

Embracing e-portfolios brings a level of authenticity to the assessment that students typically do not experience, says G. Alex Ambrose, an academic adviser at the University of Notre Dame and the founder of EdVibes, an ed-tech consulting firm.

Students can go on to use what they've gathered in e-portfolios to apply to college or use in a job interview, says Ambrose, making the portfolio meaningful beyond the school walls.

Most K-12 schools, however, have not used e-portfolios to evaluate student performance, he says, partly because of "the culture of the school from the administration to the parents. They're just not ready for the technology."
I met Alex last October when I made a presentation at a conference at Notre Dame. I disagree partly with his last statement; in my opinion, it is not just the technology that the school culture is not ready for (many students and their parents use the technologies I mentioned)... it is the portfolio pedagogy as well as the current emphasis on high-stakes testing for student (and teacher!) evaluation. I also have concerns about using e-portfolios for high-stakes evaluation... it would create an Opportunity Cost in the way we implement portfolios for accountability vs. portfolios for learning/improvement that I talked about at the 2009 Assessment Conference. I propose a balanced approach with student ownership of both the process and the product.

I talked to the author of this article again this week, where she is preparing another article just on e-portfolios.

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