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Wednesday, 12 November 2008

In response to a trainee teacher

I recently came across a challenging blog by a trainee teacher who was obviously struggling with a range of ideas and advice. To cut a long story short, here's my response:

I must say that there is a lot of GOOD thinking about e-Portfolios here but, as with many in academia, not so much thinking outside of one's own experience.

Firstly, if an e-Portfolio is supposed to be 'lifelong' and 'lifewide' it should not be used, as some institutions would have it, as a skills competency test or worse still, as an excuse for basic ICT training classes.

There is plenty of talk about 'in the sky' computing - but how does this sit with a 7yr-old or the elderly or those who are not of the top 10% of academia or those who have not got the time or skills to spend building their own e-Portfolio?

Secondly, it is the whole concept of the purpose of an e-Portfolio that some may not understand. As much as young professionals may want a medium for showcasing their work, this is only one small part of the whole list of capabilities of the e-Portfolio. On my website ( I identify some 15 distinct functions of an e-Portfolio.

Perhaps one of the most important points, for me, is that of the security of one's digital identity. Working in the schools sector it is essential that we provide an e-safe working environment for all the great things that an e-Portfolio can help students do without any fear of predation or offence.

Above all, a good e-Portfolio system allows the owner, apart from the normal organisational needs, to 'cosmeticise' the whole format in a style that shouts out 'This is ME!' Using a variety of templates, skins, fonts and avatars etc each individual e-Portfolio can look completely different but at the same time have all the functionality one needs.

Audience, is another important factor. A good e-Portfolio should be capable of presenting different 'faces' to different audiences all at the same time if need be. After one has been around for any length of time we pick up a variety of qualifications, interests, experiences and skills, all of which we might not want to present to different audiences. (Just think of applying for two very different jobs at the same time!)

Lastly, the point of longevity. It is obvious that an institutional portfolio cannot be hosted within that institution for ever. For several reasons it is therefore obvious that the e-Portfolio should be hosted externally, which, apart from anyting else, avoids problems of portability and degradation. My company offers a low-cost solution for all learners, which can be fully maintained 'between jobs' or periods of 'relaxation'.

Apologies if this looks like advertising - it is not (really!). What I do want to help clarify is the vast amount of muddled thinking about e- Portfolios and how we can help all learners, of any age, to benefit, whatever their abilities.

Kind Regards,

Ray Tolley

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