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Friday, 18 December 2009

Research or Introspection?

Banner of NZCARNFrom the illustrious University of Canterbury (New Zealand) I saw this impressive report entitled, 'NZCARN Research Symposium Paper on ICT'. I quote the section on e-Portfolios:

"e-Portfolios are increasingly being adopted in a range of educational settings for a variety of purposes including learning, assessment, presentation of achievement, and personal professional development (Stefani, Mason, & Pegler, 2007). In terms of learning and personal development, e-portfolios can have a key role in supporting individuals to reach their full potential by promoting the development of lifelong learning skills such as reflection, self regulation and collaboration (Lamont, 2007). The advancement of 21st century educational technologies has focused attention on the e-portfolio as a powerful learning tool, and has prompted many authorities to consider the benefits (Fox, Britain, & Hall, 2009). Fox et al. (2009) identify some additional key components of an e-portfolio, which are essential for our conception of an e-portfolio: author ownership, where the user can maintain a personal lifelong record of learning; interoperability, allowing the user to transfer their e-portfolio from one environment to another; and confidentiality, where students have the opportunity to think critically about their work and to speak openly about their progress in a secure environment.

"Mahara ( ) is a fully featured open source electronic portfolio, which was developed in 2006 by the New Zealand e-Portfolio Project funded by the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission’s e-learning Collaborative Development Fund. Mahara is a web-based e-portfolio, designed for tertiary education as a learning portfolio which is constructivist in nature (Stefani et al., 2007), with the emphasis being on the ownership and lifelong learning and development of the user. Mahara was designed with accessibility, ownership, interoperability and transferability in mind, and includes collaborative and communication tools. Mahara is currently being used within teacher education programmes in Massey University, the University of Canterbury, Auckland University of Technology and Victoria University. It is also being piloted with some New Zealand secondary school students (Fox et al., 2009). The design features support ongoing collaborative approaches to action and research to which NZCA&RN aspires.

"Within the context of action research and related approaches, the e-portfolio has the potential for practitioner and researcher ownership of a lifelong virtual private space for: setting and reviewing goals; reflecting on actions, learning and progress; engaging in professional critical dialogue; disseminating knowledge; and showcasing skills and dispositions. This virtual space can be accessible from anywhere; and the user can select particular aspects to share with individuals and communities of practice. The virtual space also allows for recording emerging knowledge, skills and ideas privately until such time as they are mature enough to share with others, or be dismissed or laid aside to return to at a later date. An e-portfolio tool therefore, has great potential to enhance collaborative action and research networking, and to navigate the ‘braided rivers’ of action research approaches and ‘whanau of interest’ (Macfarlane, 2009). However it is important to note that the issues identified by Margaret Lamont (2009) when implementing ePortfolios in teacher education are also likely to apply to their use in research too. These include equitable access and development of a shared vision of purpose among the NZCA&RN communities of practice."

To me, this looks like encouragement to further introspection rather than trying to understand how Lifelong, Lifewide Learning and Leisure can be supported through an e-Portfolio. Mahara might well be a good basic tool for those in HE but what of the rest of society, for all Ages, Aptitudes, Abilities, Accesibilities and Attitudes?

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