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Monday, 22 August 2011

The Perfect Example?

four mannequins fitting jig-saw pieces togetherFollowing my last post, Barbara Nicholls asked the challenging question concerning the 'Perfect ePortfolio'. Let me start by repeating my belief that an ePortfolio should be 'Lifelong, Lifewide and for Learning and Leisure'. Secondly, my observation upon studying many hundreds of ePortfolios is that they generally appear to ignore many principles of constructivism - of team working, responding to a mentor's advice, of asking for feedback. Is it that institutions are trying to bolt on new technologies onto traditional pedagogies?

Firstly, it is probably the institution that introduces the eP concept and that generally based upon one discipline or subject. BUT, as soon as the eP is controlled by a single discipline it will tend to be little more than an assessment tool and preclude all the other exciting things that a young student is capable of doing.

On the other hand, the 'learner owned' eP could contain little more than the confused renderings of a Facebook account or the directionless accounts of a 'Dear Diary' blog.

By the time that the eP becomes the showcasing pride and joy of the young graduate looking for employment, some of the earlier peer to peer classroom stuff might well be considered a bit immature and the learner may not include evidences of such nascent learning, valuable as it might well be.

And then, again, as is the case with some of my examples by older professionals, they tend to display a very polished if somewhat conservative presentation which can provoke nothing but awe and admiration.

Recognising, therefore, that the eP is invariably engineered for a single audience, we might never see the "perfect eP". However, we, as teachers, ARE interested in the learner's Life Story, of the 'multiple metamorphoses' of the eP from cradle to grave - and this is a 'big ask'.

Maturely constructed ePortfolios that include all of the above are probably impossible to find. Even if teachers in Primary schools had the right software and vision many years ago, and even if numerous institutions later the learner’s ePortfolio had survived multiple transitions with various interoperability standards it would be rare for a mature learner to display all the hidden pages of an ‘evolutionary’ ePortfolio. Unfortunately, this may be the reason why we rarely see 'long-term reflection'.

The only way to encourage learners to demonstrate this sort of ePortfolio longevity would be through the establishment of some sort of competition – but even then people might be too shy to step forward.

I think, therefore, that at any stage of a learner’s career their ePortfolio should demonstrate as many ePortfolio ‘skills’ as possible. What is evident in my selected examples is that no one example includes ALL the potential skills for that context. As alluded to in my opening paragraph, it may be that we will not see the 'perfect ePortfolio' until we acquire a completely new cohort of teachers capable of creating a 'whole-school' constructivist culture.

The potential total of ‘skills’ for any stage throughout lifelong and Lifewide learning would make an interesting matrix – but that might be another post!


Barbara Nicolls said...

Thanks Ray for your reply and the examples included - a pleasure to see your collection.
I agree that one size does not fit all purposes: it is not possible for one to have a perfect e-Portfolio for life to satisfy every audience and that is why, we choose a tool that allows us to create different views.
For me the important elements are evidence, reflection in and on it and collaboration to demonstrate communication skills as well as learning through dialogue and I believe that I should customise them to suit a particular audience. E.g. a Standards-based eP satisfies the assessment needs on the PGCLTHE course and if the same eP is to be used for appraisal purposes, the former needs to be adjusted. So I wouldn't judge a showcase portfolio that is public in the same way I would judge a Standards-based portfolio.

Ray Tolley said...

Thanks, Barbara.
Perhaps the main reason for choosing eFolio is that as people transition through their various phases of education they do not need to learn a new set of tools.

Some years back, on my website, I tried to illustrate how a Primary school child could steadily develop their eFolio through successive 'transmogrifications' so that the same tool that they started with at 5yrs old was still 'fit for purpose' when applying for a place at university.

You mention PGCE - this is particularly relevant as new teachers have enough on their plates without having to become familiar with the school's ePortfolio system. If only I could persuade both schools and TTCs to use the same eFolio tool!

I'm not sure if you are aware that eFolio is capable of presenting different views or personas to different audiences concurrently. This means that we can select from the one set of artefacts, say, for peer-review at the same time as submitting as a draft(through a different 'view') to my tutor.

Barbara Nicolls said...

I have been looking at eFolio and was wondering how I could use it myself. Is there something I need to download? Does it need to be hosted by a server?
Now that I have completed my dissertation and managed the PGCLTHE participants to create their Academic Practice Portfolio using Google Sites and the e-Portfolio concepts, I have time to surveying other tools. eFolio looks easy to use and as you say - one tool for a life time is something I would subscribe to.
Please advise what the next step is. Many thanks

Ray Tolley said...

Hi, Barbara,

eFolio is externally hosted - this makes it perfectly 'portable' and independent of any institution.

I have been avoiding setting up for individuals as it is not as cost effective as setting up for a group. My latest charges work out at £10 per pupil per year for single classes with a reducing scale for whole year-groups or whole school implementations.

The ball-park figure I have been given for single hostings is £20 but I hope to push this down to £15 per annum if you're interested. The benefits of a system that is geared to all-age use, including several levels of on-line support, (including myself) is most important.

You obviously understand the principles of eP design and use. We could talk more off this site about doing a long-term evaluation for the UK market???

Best Wishes,
Ray T