ePortfolios: Documenting Our Changing Relationships and Digital Environments

As usual, I am indebted to my colleague Tamara Malloff at Mt. Sentinel Secondary for posting this TEDxABS talk on the SD8 Professional network yesterday. I am also thankful for her inspiration and forward-thinking approach about what 21st century learning will look like for both students and teachers.
Here’s Dr. Helen Barrett, the grandmother of electronic portfolios, and former professor at the University of Alaska, Anchorage speaking at TEDxABS. Dr. Barrett makes a very strong case for why social networking, the human desire for mastery, and the importance of intrinsic motivation all naturally dictate the inclusion of the eportfolio as an important component to demonstrate not only learning, but of documenting one’s own changing relationships and the ever-evolving digital environments to which were are becoming inextricably linked.

A couple of personal highlights from her lecture…
This is a process (3:03)
A portfolio is a record of continuous personal development and NOT just a store of evidence; eportfolios are a process where the means is just as important if not more so than the process 
Impact of social networks on eportfolios (3:48)
Facebook closely mimcks the purpose of the electronic portfolio and I’m not sure that this is just coincidence either. The engagement factors of social learning and portfolios are similar!
A digital archive of life (6:13)
Process and product are linked (6:31)
Barrett argues that eportfolios serve us in so many ways, but at it’s base level it is really just a digital archive of our lives. It includes informal and formal learning opportunities. 
Becoming good at something that matters (8:26)
Isn’t that what we really want for ourselves as learners? Then why not for our students, too?
Openness and autonomy (9:03)
While the system chosen for eportfolios (and there are many) requires discussion and thoughtful consideration, ultimately, the system needs to be “as open as possible” and provide the greatest degree of autonomy available.
Self-direction is a basic human need (9:53)
The urge for self-direction is a natural need; the need to be engaged. We have essentially buried this innate human drive in nearly all of our students due to the industrial model of public educational. The shining example of the destruction of self-direction in our student is the proverbial questions: Is this going to be on the test?
A portfolio is a story our own learning (13:16)
Why couldn’t this apply to professional development? With many teachers intensely involved in their professional development, the eportfolio offers a way to track and organize our professional development process which is on many levels a multi-media, evolving, personalized journey that we rarely document or recognize as essential to our practice in the classroom.
The eportfolio as an “academic MySpace” (13:40)
Well…the students get it. So, why not the rest of us?
“Rewirement not retirement…” (15:22)
I also appreciate how the idea of a portfolio changes as we age and rediscover our passions–whatever they are–“ongoing ageless framework for self-renewal”. And it’s never too late to start anything!
Reflection and relationships not technology (18:28)
I’m so glad that she addresses and emphasize this point, because whether you are a technophile or technophobe, as educators we can all appreciate and recognize the important need for relationships and reflection in our lives. Why would portfolios be any different?
I’m slowly starting to wrap my head around the process of eportfolio implementation and usage across all subject areas and curricula, and how I can best begin to ‘sell’ this idea as the way we do business at school to my administration, my colleagues, and our students.

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