Thursday, May 12, 2011

Generic Tools Requirement for E-Portfolio Development

What are the best tools for e-portfolio development? My answer is always, "It depends!" But I have some requirements. Here is my recent response to a university about the generic tools I think are needed to address the portfolio development process:
  • online space for students to store their work that is either initially owned by the student, accessible after graduation or can be easily transferred to a student-owned space any time (individual documents must be accessible by URL) - Digital Archive
  • online reflective journal (blog) where students can keep a contemporaneous learning record, with the ability to contribute evidence in audio, video, images and text from mobile devices or computers (individual blog entries need to be "tagged" or assigned classifications for ease of retrieval) - Electronic Documentation of Learning
  • an online system to aggregate and present evidence (artifacts and rationale) of achieving "gen-ed" student outcomes plus requirements of specific majors - Showcase/Presentation Portfolio
  • a data management system to collect and aggregate faculty evaluation data of students' summative portfolios - Assessment Management System
I also have other requirements: whatever tools are used should allow students' "Choice and Voice" in portfolio development with an emphasis on expression rather than structure. I prefer systems that students can maintain for a lifetime (either by adopting an open Web 2.0 system, or initial learner ownership of their own online personal web space).

The issue of ownership is critical. Of the four items above, only the last one needs to belong to the higher education institution. If we are committed to student lifelong learning, e-portfolio development strategies can be powerful tools for self-directed learning, self-knowledge and self-management, but only if we introduce the process appropriately, and support student ownership, both technically and psychologically. I guess that is why many students are engaged in their social networks,  where the technological activities are similar to e-portfolio development, but are not the purpose or motivation. Learner-centered web-based tools exist to support the portfolio process... and many undergraduates are tech-savvy, at least in social networking skills. How can institutions build on these skills and intrinsic motivation as e-portfolios are implemented?

In the short time I was at Hostos Community College in New York City, after my presentation to faculty, I met with a small group of students. Rather than doing a formal presentation about e-portfolios, I led an informal discussion about their current uses of technology, the differences between social networking and e-portfolio development, and the potential for building an online digital identity that they could use to explore their passions and create their preferred futures. When I left, a lot of the students were intrigued and excited. If we want student engagement, I believe e-portfolios should be stories of deep learning, not checklists of competencies.

My older blog entries about selecting e-portfolio tools:
2010: Another question about "best" portfolio tools in higher ed
2010: Which Portfolio Tool?
2009: Motivation and Selecting an ePortfolio System

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