Tuesday, February 15, 2005


i) What are e-portfolios?

The construct e-portfolios is a simple extension of the "artist portfolio" where an artist keeps representative samples and exemplars of his work. In the digital age, it only makes sense that this construct move online and become part of wider communities of practice. This is especially true for education and technology where more and more professional practice occurs in a digital format.

I particularly like the opportunity to reflect and explain in the online portfolio. In the classic portfolio, the artifacts spoke for themselves -- the artist's inclusion of this or that work goes unexplored and unexplained. As Helen Barnett points out, the electronic portfolio allows for that reflective exploration of an artifact. Why is it included? What does it represent to me? What significance does it have?

ii) How can they be of use to me and my classes?

It would be easy to consider the artifacts of a class as being the grist for a portfolio. But from an educational standpoint, the value of class related artifacts rests in their ability to trigger reflection ("Oh, my! I'd forgotten I'd done THAT!") and to add a level of meta-cognition to the eduational process. ("Final Exam: Pick the 3 most important artifacts you created in the course, and explain why each is significant individually, why they are significant as a group, and how they reflect the changed state of your understanding of the content. Place (at least) those three artifacts and your paper in your permanent portfolio.")

I think the REAL value -- and I've seen this happening as I've been assembling my own portfolio -- is that months, or years, later, the portfolio becomes a powerful tool for synthesis and evaluation. I wish I'd had mine longer. I'd really like to have some of the artifacts from my early computer days. Pictures of my first computer (the one I built), the software I created to measure program complexity, the presentation materials from my first conference, pictures of the ships I helped build -- all of those are lost now.

Helping students -- especially those in secondary or post-secondary education -- to form the portfolio habit would be immensely useful for many of them.

iii) What relationship is there between blogs and e-portfolios?

Blogs can serve as repositories for portfolios. My portfolio is stored in a TextPattern blog. One of the artifacts is my "professional" blog space -- Cognitive Dissonance -- and serves as a repository of all my formative writings relating to distance education. In a certain sense, a blog becomes a portfolio in the absence of other artifacts, the same way a diary becomes a marker for reflection and synthesis. The public nature of the blog or portfolio means that everybody has the opportunity to build a little place to show the world what you are and where you've come from.

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