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Saturday, 22 November 2008

The danger of 'Adult' e-Portfolios

I recently came across a very attractive and accomplished e-Portfolio by Sarah Stewart, a Senior Lecturer in Midwifery in Otago, New Zealand:

She also links this well organised e-Portfolio to her blog at:

And a YouTube video:

All three are well worth looking at and reflecting upon.

However, for those of us involved in developing tools for mainstream education I really think that we must step back a bit and ask ourselves if such a tool is totally appropriate.

Firstly, in her enthusiasm for the technology, she has had to invest much time in gaining an understanding of the skills required. Is it appropriate for a generic tool to be provided to all Primary school children and expect them to get on with it?

Secondly, as an adult, she freely allows a fair amount of personal information to be publicly available. I worry that however much one might explain to children the reasons for non-disclosure of personal information I believe that schools should have firmer controls in place to ensure that no child becomes vulnerable.

Again, because, as she admits, some of her practitioner details must remain confidential - there is therefore a dilution of the validity of her 'evidence' and thus requiring a probable duplication of electronic and paper-based reports.

As my regular readers will be aware, I am very concerned about all aspects of e-Safety as related to e-Portfolios. It should therefore be of no surprise that although I am a keen proponent of Web2.0 technologies, I am firmly of the opinion that any such tools should be contained within a safe e-Portfolio environment and NOT available to the whole 'cloud' until individual students are deemed to be appropriately responsible.

Knowing how easy it is to forge official paper-based certificates, I am amused by the common suggestion of providing links to scanned-in .pdf copies of original documents. Is the UK the only country to establish a central MIAP-type repository of one's qualifications?

In terms of collaboration, Sarah does admit that her site is available for public response. However, within the school situation I would hope that there are sufficient controls in place to allow collaboration only with identified peers or mentors etc.

One of the special features of eFolio is the ability to present different representations of one's self to different audiences. How students may wish to represent themselves to their peers, using their own patois, rich media etc may be very different to that side of themselves that they may wish to present to their parents, teachers or potential employers etc.

Perhaps one of my most fundamental concerns is in relation to the research community, including the intelligent and forward-looking people such as Sarah Stewart. The publication of research papers and other reports often suggest that the ubiquitous e-Portfolio, based on 'cloud' computing is the way forward for all. Yes, it might be for the top 10% of our community. But is this the best solution for the majority of the not-so-ict-literate?

I am not thinking in terms of a 'digital divide' as such. We are rapidly moving to a stage where the 'divide' defines a much narrower group created by an 'elite' who choose to separate themselves from a broad grey area, the wider community, who are already using ICT every day of their lives. This new 'silent majority' may not want to spend time building and maintaining their own e-Portfolio systems or blogs. Certainly our youngsters in schools, those out of work, those with educational disabilities or the elderly would be better provided for with a simple low-cost system that provides the security and privacy that they may need.

Is it not time that all organisations, including the SMEs recognised the place of e-Portfolios in enhancing their workforce through a sense of 'membership', offering training and suport and providing the opportunity for self-representation?

So I return to the title of this piece and ask if there is a silo effect generated by academia which interrupts the potential for the concept of an e-Portfolio for Lifelong, Lifewide, Learning and Leisure?

1 comment:

Sarah Stewart said...

Hello Ray

Thank you very much for checking out my ePortfolio and getting in touch. I really appreciate your critique and kind comments. One of the reasons I have it in an open forum is because I value critique so that I can improve it.

Time: yes, it has taken me a lot of time to learn the skills and develop the portfolio. But if I was using this approach with students, I would introduce them to the skills over a period of time, scaffolding their work/learning. But the beauty of this is that now I have the skills, I can use them in all areas of my professional and personal life, so it is not 'wasted' time.

Ultimately, I believe adults should have the choice of how they develop their portfolios. As for primary children, I cannot comment with authority because I am not a primary school teacher (although I am a mother), but I do believe we should be teaching children skills that are 'skills for life'.

best wishes Sarah