Tuesday, March 06, 2012

ePortfolios and Counseling High School Students

I received this email today:
...we were discussing how this tool might be infused in the high school... It was mentioned that our counselors at the high school are not convinced universities are interested in seeing digital collections when students apply for admission. Do you have any hard data on this? ...We would like to be able to approach the counselors and make this a topic they could tackle as students move through high school. Thoughts?
My response: I am going to raise your vision of ePortfolios a little higher, toward students building their positive online brand. There are many purposes for students creating ePortfolios; marketing/showcase for college admission is only one of those purposes. I did another blog entry a few months ago about high school portfolios.  I really like the purpose that is addressed in the National Educational Technology Plan:
Technology also gives students opportunities for taking ownership of their learning. Student-managed electronic learning portfolios can be part of a persistent learning record and help students develop the self-awareness required to set their own learning goals, express their own views of their strengths, weaknesses, and achievements, and take responsibility for them. Educators can use them to gauge students’ development, and they also can be shared with peers, parents, and others who are part of students’ extended network. (p.12)
Just as with employment portfolios, I think the primary audience for an ePortfolio is the learner, following under Greek philosophers' maxim, "Know Thyself". Developing an ePortfolio throughout school will help students document and understand their purpose and passions. Just as a portfolio helps an applicant prepare for a job interview, a portfolio can be used to prepare a university application essay (with hyperlinks to an online portfolio). But just as most employers don't know how to read a portfolio (or have the time), the same can be said for college admission officers. (Many resumes and applications are scanned or entered electronically and searched for keywords.) However, referencing an online portfolio might make a difference in applying for some jobs, technical programs or colleges.

Reflective portfolios can help students build self-awareness and build a positive online identity (their personal brand); I often quote from a Harvard Business Review article by Peter Drucker, "Managing Oneself", which is a great way to organize reflection in a graduation portfolio:
What are my strengths?
How do I work?
What are my values?
Where do I belong?
What can I contribute?
I became aware of the Drucker article at a conference on advising highly talented undergraduates, where the opening keynote speaker, from Harvard, said he had all incoming freshmen read this article. You might also be interested in the Saskatchewan Identity Management Project and their YouTube video: Digital Dossier. I also recommend blog posts (from Forbes, PBS and Wall Street Journal Online) that can be found in links on Portfolio Careers and Personal Branding in my online class website.

I was recently interviewed for an online article about ePortfolios, where she asked me specifically about college applications: Beyond the Transcript: Digital Portfolios Paint a Complete Picture. The author also asked me about how parents can support the ePortfolio process; I said, "Parents are the first portfolio keepers." So, hopefully you have some data to share with your counselors. Here in the State of Washington, the high school students develop paper portfolios under a counseling program called Navigation 101.

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