eFolio - #2 -  What makes a good e-Portfolio?


Helen Barrett is possibly the leading author on e-Portfolios. Her list of ‘metaphors’ is the classic description of an e-Portfolio as a place for reflection, a map, a story, a sonnet, or as Helen herself says, ‘A Celebration of Learning Across the Lifespan’.  [see ref 1 below]

In order for this lovely environment to happen we need to establish certain criteria:

1.  The e-Portfolio MUST be ‘portable’ – or rather ‘remotely accessible’ – in other words, the e-Portfolio cannot be stored or owned by a single institution.  The repository for the e-Portfolio must be external if the student is still to have access to its contents when moving either ‘horizontally’ to another school location or ‘vertically’ as the student progresses through the Key Stages and on through CPD and lifelong learning.  It is accessible anywhere, 24/7/365.

2.  The e-Portfolio MUST be personal – it is that private place, free from MIS intrusion, where the student can feel at home in a self-decorated ambience (see Jay Cross’s description of the ‘Googleplex’) [see ref 2 below] that says ‘This is Me!’ through the use of selected ‘skins’, menus and fonts appropriate to ages and stages.

3.  The e-Portfolio ‘tells a story’ – it is the place where the student can present a range of artefacts (photos, scanned graphics, audio, video as well as text) that describes a history of that person.  The student can construct a personal ‘profile’ of both formal and informal learning which may, eventually, be used as part of a CV or job application etc.

4.  It is a place of organisation and collation of materials from a variety of both formal and informal sources.  How the individual chooses to organise and access this compendium of finished, ongoing and ‘will-do-someday’ activities is up to their own way of thinking.

5. It is a ‘window’ or a number of ‘windows’ through which any visitor can see some ‘public’ aspects of the owner.  Other ‘invited guests’ can see more – as much as the owner wishes to reveal.  The beauty of this system is that, at the same time, different visitors may see different aspects of that same e-Portfolio – according to the ‘rights’ given to them.

6.  Collaboration is perhaps the most powerful tool within the e-Portfolio.  Howard Rheingold writes profoundly of the ‘Groupmind’, “The feeling of tapping into this multibrained organism of collective expertise…”  [see ref 3 below]  Well, a collaborative group of classmates might not always be described as above but the principle is still the same!  The ability within a closed group to share opinions, comment on partially completed work and learn from each other in the patois of the day should not be disregarded.

7.  Profiling or the ability to ‘Know thyself’ is not limited to the great masters of MIS, interview panels or careers advisors.  Within a good e-Portfolio there should be a tool that enables the private and confidential entry of information about themselves, their grades and ambitions etc, with some hope of getting constructive feedback.

8.  Reflection, Self-Assessment and Planning, again, have the ideal sanctuary within the e-Portfolio. Here, within my personal space, but with access to my on-going work, I can review and reflect in the cool of the day and wherever I may be.  What a boon!  What a dramatic potential we have for today’s cyberkids. How often have we as teachers bewailed the under-use of the school ‘Planner’.  Now we have a tool appropriate to the lifestyle of our charges and within their ‘ownership’.  As the student matures into adulthood and CPD this space becomes the perfect long-term PDP tool.

9.  ‘Showcasing’, or the ability to present one’s self using a variety of electronic media, and even providing links to a secure certification repository such as MIAPS, is ostensibly the up-and-coming use of the e-Portfolio.  Unfortunately, it would appear that few institutions are as yet ready for this relatively simple task.   However, within schools the potential for establishing the principle of a continually transmogrifying e-Portfolio is near.

10. Simplicity is probably the overriding factor governing the take-up of the e-Portfolio.  It must be free of any individual institution if it is to be ‘portable’.  It must be equally appropriate for all abilities and ages from ‘5 to 95’.  It must have a seriously low annual rental if adults are to retain it after compulsory schooling and lastly it must be ‘wanted to be owned’.

               [i] http://electronicportfolios.com/metaphors.html

              [ii] Cross, Jay (2007) ‘Informal Learning’ p.54

             [iii] http://www.rheingold.com/vc/book/intro.html see ch.2


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