Friday, February 18, 2005

Where am I at with ePortfolios?

Took me quite a while to catch up on ePortfolios and how they have evolved using digital technology. The article in Educause Quarterly on levels of maturation in the use of web based portfolios (web folios) provides a good guide to the stages of development of ePortfolios.

  • Level 1 basically revolves around a scrapbook concept and
  • level 2 provides more structure to bring it up to curriculum vitae status.
  • The authors argue that a true web folio begins at level 3 whereby there is the ability for both the student and faculty to put together a working portfolio that showcases the student’s work.
  • Level 4 opens the web folio up to feedback from other parties that may include the student’s families, employers (current and potential), various mentors and the faculty.
  • At level 5, the web folio becomes an authentic / authoritative evidence that links the contents of the folio to standards, programmes and “other descriptors including higher order taxonomies.”

My interpretation of these levels is that the ePortfolio starts by being an ad hoc collection of student work. Gradually, more links are put into the work that students add to their portfolio. At level 3 and beyond, these links allow the student to receive feedback on their efforts, first from their teachers and then from the wider community that they live / work in. Along the way, students learn not only about how to select the material that they would like to showcase. They also learn about how to reflect on why they select certain pieces of work and obtain feedback from their peers and community of practice about the appropriateness of the work that they have selected. So we basically have the students construct a framework about their practice and provide them with the opportunity to tap into the knowledge base of their community.

At the moment, we collect paper based portfolios from students for two unit standards (competency based modules). One for breads and one for gateaux / torten. These are level 2 type paper portfolios where the criteria for what to collate is set down and the students produce photos of their products along with accompanying recipes and background information. Bringing this up to level three as a web folio using existing elearning technology at CPIT is not technically difficult. The main barrier would be access to hardware for students who do not own a computer.

However, exploring how a level 3 web folio can be achieved using mlearning technology is the next step I intend to investigate. Nokia’s lifeblog is one concept that may be useful. At the moment, the lifeblog is constructed to act mainly as an archive for various data that comes through the phone (SMS, email, photos). The current version of lifeblog is able to organise the archive data so that it can be posted on to an actual blog site. At the moment, this idea is interesting but a bit limited for the purposes of building up a level 3 portfolio. It is possible to put together a level 1 or a limited level 2 portfolio using lifeblog but the capabilities need to be extended to take ePortfolios up to level 3 and beyond.

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