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Monday, 24 November 2008

Towards a new 'Digital Divide'?

I’m getting more and more frustrated with the direction that some people are taking with their ‘portfolio in the cloud’ mentality. As much as I am totally impressed by the conviction of Helen Barrett and her evangelical mission to get teachers understanding e-Portfolios, I feel that this approach may actually disrupt an 'e-Portfolio for all' strategy:

I feel that there is now a serious movement towards a new digital divide, not so much about the ‘have-nots’ or 'cannot do' as this is being steadily addressed. For some time, now, the idea of the $100 laptop has challenged our thinking; the USA has had its 'No child left behind' mission; in the UK we have the 'Every child matters' policy throughout all areas of education and now the pilot schemes for 'Home Access' are upon us. So, broadband access may not be the major problem.

However, concerning e-Portfolios, the problem is being generated by those in Higher Education and Teacher Training who have the time (and intelligence) to play with a wide range of Web2.0 tools and then say ‘Isn’t it easy!’ The Digital Divide is therefore one of academic and adult elitism which fails to address the whole spectrum of Lifelong, Lifewide Learning and Leisure.

If the e-Portfolio is to be truly lifelong then it must start in our Primary schools, ideally by the 6-7 yr olds with a system that is easy enough to adopt and entails little management by staff. There is no reason to enforce children to start with one system and then ‘change horses’ at some inconvenient point of their education and repeat the disruption at each transition stage. On the other hand there are still far too many teachers and students who think that the production of a PowerPoint file is all that an e-Portfolio entails.

Here in the UK I have complained for some time about the ‘silo’ effect that Higher Education has had on the understanding of e-Portfolios. Schools on the one side of the silo and lifelong learning, particularly for the less able or disadvantaged, on the other can see no evidence of a continuum.

It seems only logical to me that there should be a national voice demanding the supply of a Lifelong, Lifewide e-Portfolio system (such as eFolio?).

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