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Thursday, 15 January 2009

Why so many confusions re e-Portfolios?

Two recent blogs got me going. In essence both questioned why there was so much confusion, and even in-fighting, about what purposes an e-Portfolio should serve. I repeat some of my responses here:

I wrote a paper, Who's Hijacking my e-Portfolio? almost two years ago, identifying this situation and asking that e-Portfolio users and designers should not hijack the e-Portfolio concept for their own individualistic purposes.

It all depends on where an organisation is starting from. The universities have generally started from a content delivery system, a tool for PDP and job-searching or a minor mandatory course in ICT competencies. Careers counsellors use their versions of an e-Portfolio specifically for just the one subject of 'Careers'. The 14-19 Diploma portfolio concept has evolved out of the paper-based portfolios of work in Design and Technology and ICT classes, many of which still produce a ‘digital portfolio’ as a PowerPoint or web-page presentation with none of the security features or control of audience that a proper e-Portfolio can provide. Many Primary schools have appreciated the immense value of a paper-based portfolio as a tool for teaching and learning and some have moved on to encouraging their pupils to ‘collect’ samples of best practice and present the same on their VLE. At the other extreme, and possibly coming to a state near you, is the concept being developed in some European countries that the e-portfolio should be a tool expected of all adults to assist in data-mining by the state in order to manage skills training in areas of deprivation.

There is one other ingredient to add to this boiling pot of confusions, that of the function of an e-Portfolio when contained within a VLE or close-coupled to an institution's MIS. Here in England Becta has clearly mandated that all schools should have a VLE installed by last year ie Spring 2008. Some VLE vendors have provided some form of e-Portfolio with their VLE which apparently ignores any possibility of transition or portability beyond the institution.

That said, it has always been my contention that we should all step back from our immediate situation and look at the concept of Lifelong, Lifewide Learning and Leisure:

IF Lifelong Learning, ie from ‘5-95’ and thus owned for life, then it must be simple to use and transportable through all the transitions of compulsory schooling and the ‘Seven Ages of Man’

IF Lifewide,
then the e-Portfolio should be capable of configuring, by the learner as owner, to represent the image of ‘ME’ that the learner chooses to express at that time as I attempted to illustrate through the five learning phases of an imaginary student.

IF Learning is the prime focus of the e-Portfolio then why not include ALL aspects of learning, including a space for every different subject, access for collaboration by permitted peers and mentors, places for planning, reflection, collaboration, formative assessment etc etc. Again, one page from a popular SlideShare must suffice.

IF Leisure is a recognised part of learning, of doing and sharing, then the e-Portfolio should be able to recognise all the extra-curricular, informal and experiential forms of learning that are not normally included in one’s credentials. The present work in Recognition and Assessment of Prior Experience and Learning (RAPEL) begs the use of this sort of e-Portfolio.

Perhaps one of my first documents, trying to explore what are the fundamentals of any e-Portfolio system were defined some two years ago in my ‘Ten Prime Directives’

Concerning interoperability my immediate reaction is, “Don’t hold your breath!” I am a member (well, fringe member) of some of the interoperability groups – and they all have different agendas and appear not to be talking to each other! We just cannot wait another 10 years before interoperability between e-Portfolio could become a reality. I am also a member of two suppliers’ groups SALTIS (schools) and ‘The Information Authority'(FE). The problem is that all the different parties have not agreed exactly what interoperability is. Is it about passing data from one VLE to another? Is it about passing data from a VLE to an e-Portfolio? Is it about e-Portfolio-based assessments being passed back to the MIS? Is it about translating the learner’s e-Portfolio from one system to another? Is it about exporting and importing content? And without degradation????

Quite simply, if the e-Portfolio is to retain all the features, including the tools that the learner prefers, the cosmetic image, templates and accessibility functions, the audience controls, access to on-line support etc, if the hosting service is to be maintained (not just archived), if it is to ‘transition’ from institution to institution, if it is to be ‘portable’ anywhere throughout the European Union, never-mind the world, then an independent hosting service is essential.

I know that I’ve quoted it before, but one further piece of reading might help, notes supporting a presentation that I gave almost a year ago, my Paris Thesis.

Also some 12 Slideshare presentations at:

1 comment:

John Pallister said...

I share your concerns and frustrations. The importance of reliable, sustainable hosting is reinforced this week as Google announces that it will no longer provide some of the 'free', cloud in the sky space that some people had begun to think might be a suitable home for some ePortfolio content.

I am beginning to worry that, despite all of acknowledged strengths, value and potential of the ePortfolio process, the UK does not have the 'will' to tackle the shift in teaching and learning that the process requires. Ah, but that is exactly the same process that is required to introduce the PLTs. The skills set that is at the heart of all of the recent curriculum developments. Jig saw; pieces; do they all fit together?

John Pallister