Hello. I'm Dr. Helen Barrett. I am delighted to share some of my ideas about using electronic portfolios to support adult learning.
In this presentation, I will answer the question, what are e-portfolios? Including definitions of terms, Components of an eportfolio system, the different purposes for creating electronic portfolios, and finally we will look at the process of creating e-portfolios.
What is a portfolio? Some people think about their investments. But the dictionary provides this definition: a flat, portable case for carrying loose papers, drawings, etc. A portfolio in education is a purposeful collection of work that demonstrates efforts, progress and achievement in one or more areas over time. Portfolios in education have traditionally been collections of papers, often stored in a notebook or file folder.
Today, we will look at how we move our paper-based portfolios from this notebook container to the World Wide Web.
First, a few definitions. In the portfolio literature, we refer to an artefact. That term comes from the field of archealogy and simply means a document or a piece of work. Each document that we save needs a caption, or a brief explanatory reflection about each piece of work in a portfolio. When we look for evidence of learning in a portfolio, there are three components. First, there is the artefact, or piece of work. The second component is the learner's reflection on that work, or their rationale or argument about why this artefact demonstrates achievement of a particular goal or learning outcome. Finally, when this evidence is used for high stakes assessment, there needs to be validation of the learner's self-assessment, which is a teacher or assessor's evaluation of that work.
Why do we want to use portfolios? Because they provide a richer picture of student performance than can be gained from more traditional or objective forms of assessment, such as exams or standardized tests.
What is an electronic portfolio? Today, the documents are in digital form. The evidence is organized and presented with some type of "authoring" software, which I will discuss later. And finally, the work is stored in some kind of electronic container: either a CD-Recordable disc, a DVD-recordable disc (if we are presenting a lot of high quality video) or somewhere on the World Wide Web.
I've been studying electronic portfolios since 1991, when they were either on desktop computers or stored on video tape. In about 1995, electronic portfolios started to be stored on CD-ROM. In about the year 2000, portfolios started to show up on the Internet. I picked the year 2005 as the year that DVD recorders were standard equipment on desktop computers. Today, think about the type of technology that you currently have in your pocket or purse. With PDAs, Flash drives, mobile phones, iPods, all of these technologies can store and show ePortfolios. I am excited to think about what our next storage medium will be.
In terms of the software, we started out with common tools, such as hypermedia, office or Acrobat, moved to web page editors. More recently, there have been new customized systems adopted by institutions, that are based on an underlying data base. In many ways, these systems are work flow management systems for accountability and assessment. The problem right now is the interoperability of different portfolio systems. They often don't share data. It's like they are silos of information.
There is a difference between the building blocks of a Personal Learning Environment [PLE} often called the working portfolio, and a particular story that is told to a specific audience -- often called a presentation portfolio. The working portfolio is the repository or the digital archive of the artifacts. A working portfolio also includes a lot of personal information about a learner, and may also include a reflective journal, sometimes called a blog if it is stored online. The presentation portfolio is the narrative or the story that the portfolio tells. There may be multiple views, both private or public, for various audiences and for various purposes.
This diagram of the components of an e-portfolio system was developed for an e-portfolio research report published in 2007 by Becta in the U.K. This diagram shows some major distinctions: between the collection of work (the archive of evidence) on the bottom, the various presentations of a subset of that work (what we think of as multiple portfolios, depending on purpose and audience) on the top and the various tools used to mediate the process, in the middle.
The traditional portfolio literature identifies the processes shown in the left column. The value-added of technology shows in the right column. First, we have the collection process; with technology, that leads to creating a digital archive of the work. The second step involves selecting specific pieces or work from the collection to demonstrate a particular outcome, goal or standard. With technology, that process is done by creating a hyperlink to the documents in the archive. Some researchers have found that the process of hyperlinking may lead to higher levels of thinking about learning, or meta-cognitioin. The process of reflection helps the learner construct meaning from the work they have selected, and technology creates new models of storytelling to help with that meaning-making. Direction is setting goals for the future, and celebration is a formal exhibition before an audience, either real or virtual. Technology creates new opportunities for collaborating and publishing, especially with Web 2.0 tools.
I believe that reflection is the "heart and soul" of a portfolio. An electronic portfolio without reflection is just a fancy electronic resume or a digital scrapbook or just a web site with personal information.
To help guide reflection, I often ask three simple questions that tie the past with the future: What? So What? and Now What? First, we look at what has been collected, or the artifacts selected to demonstrate a particular outcome, goal or standard. The second step is to discuss what these artifacts show about what has been learned, or my current reflections about my knowledge and skills. Finally, I ask Now What? What direction do I want to take in the future? What are my future learning goals?
This "Now What?" question is often left out in many portfolios, but I think it is the most important part of reflection. Because identifying future learning goals turns portfolio development into powerful professional development, which contributes to the lifelong learning journey.
lifelong learning is understood as a cyclical process with four key pillars: e-portfolios can support them all.
"Knowing the learner (Self awareness)" focuses on understanding the learner's prior knowledge, motivation for and attitudes towards learning. A portfolio can serve as a mirror, helping a learner understand themselves and see their growth over time.
"Planning for learning (Self management)" refers to the setting of goals and the development of a plan to achieve these goals. A portfolio can serve as a map for future learning.
"Understanding how to learn (Meta-learning)" describes the awareness that a learner has developed with respect to different approaches to learning (deep versus surface learning; rote versus meaningful learning) and different learning styles.
"Evaluating learning (Self monitoring)" refers to a systematic analysis of all aspects of the learner's performance. "Self monitoring is synonymous with responsibility to construct meaning ... [and] is very much associated with the ability to be reflective and think critically"
While the above pillars are of importance in any effective teaching and learning process, the main characteristic of lifelong learning is the reflective nature of the entire cycle. A portfolio provides the best environment for that reflection.
There are multiple purposes for ePortfolios, which has led to a lot of confusion. It reminds me of the famous poem of the six blind men from India touching an elephant. Each man touched a different part of the elephant and, not seeing the big picture, described the animal as a snake or a spear or a fan, etc. The same can be said for ePortfolios, as shown in the picture on the right. There is no one type of ePortfolio. A portfolio can be created for each of those purposes.
First, there is the learning portfolio, designed to support learning, or planning, or just document the learning process.The underlying philosophy is the phrase carved onto Greek temples, "know thyself" which has led many people to a lifetime of investigation, with Self-knowledge as a major outcome of learning. In this book, called the Learning Portfolio, the author documents many examples of learning portfolios in higher education in the U.S. A learning portfolio is where reflection and documentation (or the artifacts) combine with collaboration or conversations about learning. The use of a blog as a reflective journal can be a powerful learning portfolio.
Showcase portfolios are created by a learner to showcase their best qualities to an audience, whether marketing services as a professional (such as an artist or web designer) or applying for a job. This type of portfolio lets a learner tell their own story, and is one of the primary motivators for many portfolio developers. Many of these portfolios look like fancy electronic resumes. The individuality and creativity of the development tools is very important to achieve this purpose.
Assessment portfolio systems have become very popular in higher education today, and have spawned a large number of commercial tools to support institution-wide portfolio development. Often, program assessment and accountability are the primary motivators for many educational institutions to invest in portfolio tools. There is a major difference between portfolios created for formative assessment, meant to provide feedback to improve learning, and those created for summative assessment, to collect data for more high stakes evaluation. I have written extensively about these differences on my website. Those assessment portfolios are most often constructed in a customized system using a data base, which often limits the creativity and flexibility of the portfolio development tools.
How can I create an ePortfolio? We are going to first talk about some of the tools, and then look at the process.
Because of my website, I am often asked what is the best tool to use to create an electronic portfolio. My answer is always, "It depends" upon the specific context in which the portfolio is being created, and as I have already discussed, the different purposes for an ePortfolio. But having one of these pen drives is a great, inexpensive tool to collect artifacts and transport them for use with any ePortfolio system.
The current state of the art of ePortfolio development can be divided into two parts: how they are published (optical media, either CD or DVD) or the World Wide Web; and the authoring environments or tools that are used to construct these portfolios. These tools include common software tools, such as Office or Acrobat, one of the many customized or commercial systems built for institutional portfolios, open source ePortfolios tools, and web 2.0 technologies.
As you begin the planning process, you should ask yourself why you are creating this portfolio. What is your purpose? For adult learners, the most common purpose is either authentic assessment (receiving feedback of their work so they know where to improve) or showcasing their best work and growth over time. The software capabilities should allow interaction between teachers or coaches and the learners focusing on their learning activities and products. Another big issue is what kind of internet access does a learner have: good or poor. Less than half of all households have high speed internet, so the tool choices are often limited by the speed of the internet connection.
If you have poor Internet access, such as over a dialup network, then you will want tools that do not require Internet access to create the electronic portfolio. These tools include the Office Suite (Word, Excel and PowerPoint), Adobe Acrobat, the Apple iLife suite which includes iDVD and iWeb, and any number of web page editors, such as DreamWeaver or Front Page. These tools, especially Acrobat, work best when publishing the portfolio on a CD.
The main advantage of the office tools, whether from Microsoft or the open source OpenOffice.org, is that that they are on most personal computers, so they form a common toolset. It is relatively easy to create hyperlinks to artifacts, easy to add comments for reflection and feedback, and you don't need Internet access to develop portfolios, so students can work off-line. Publishing is often on CD, but these files can also be uploaded to GoogleDocs when high speed Internet access is available..
If you have good high speed Internet access, then there are a variety of tools available on the Internet that can be used to create ePortfolios. These tools require only a web browser because the software is on the remote hosting server, not on your local computer's hard drive. These tools include any commercial fee-based system; the free GoogleDocs and Google Apps, which includes documents, presentations and a web page builder. There are also other so-called Web 2.0 tools, which are also mostly free, including blogs and wikis.
The real advantage of Web 2.0 tools is that they are either open source or free tools available on the Internet, including types of "me publishing," A blog is short-hand for web log, which is like an online journal with entries published in reverse chronological order and wiki, which means quick in Hawaiian, allows multiple authors to edit an online document. GoogleDocs have three types of tools: Word processing documents, spreadsheets and the new presentation tool, emulating the Office tools online, but allow collaborative authoring. Google pages facilitates creating a web site. The disadvantages of these systems is that they may require a higher level of technology competency than their desktop equivalents, and are mostly not secure or private websites, and so are inappropriate for private information.
My vision of portfolios is David Weinberger's concept of the Internet as "small pieces, loosely joined." This is a visual model that I created that showed the ePortfolio as a "mash-up". Many of my artifacts are on my website. My digital stories are stored on my .Mac account, or could be stored on YouTube. I have a blog where I maintain my learning journal. I store my images on Picasa, another Google service. Other people use Flickr. I can put my bookmarks in del-icio,us, my podcasts on iTunes, my social network on MySpace or FaceBook. My presentation portfolio is comprised of my reflections and links to my artifacts that are spread all over the Internet.
Here are my favorite Web 2.0 tools. I like the WordPress blog because you can also create pages in addition to blog entries. Here are two popular wiki tools, pbwiki and wikispaces, and of course I have already talked about GoogleDocs and Apps.
Most artifacts are created as word processing documents or are captured with a digital still camera. However, I encourage people to add audio and video to create multimedia artifacts and reflections. You can download the open source Audacity software to record and edit audio. Odeo.com is a website that allows you to record audio. All you need is a microphone. I've also shown here an iPod with a Belkin microphone added to the bottom, which lets you use your iPod as a portable recorder. You can also capture video with a video camera. This Flip camera is a very inexpensive digital video camera that lets you transfer the video using a USB connection that pops out of the side. You can edit this video with Apple's iMovie, or Microsoft's MovieMaker2, a free download. You can also create digital stories from still images using Microsoft's PhotoStory, another free download, and you can upload your digital video to YouTube, which provides the code to either embed that video into your portfolio, or create a hyperlink.
What is the process of actually creating an electronic portfolio? I am going to use screenshots from portfolios that I have created in Google Pages and GoogleDocs Presentation tools. You can see these portfolios on the link shown here: eportfolios.googlepages.com.
To get started, you need to first define the purpose of the portfolio: is it for learning, showcase, assessment? What is this portfolio supposed to demonstrate? You will need to create a digital archive of your work (that's where the flash memory USB drive can be very useful). Collect those documents from your hard drive, or convert them into digital format by scanning or using a digital still camera. You may also want to convert some audio and video. Select specific documents to meet the goals that you identified in the first step. I found that in the process of selecting my documents, the goals emerged.
Here is my list of artifacts that I made when I put together the first version of latest portfolio. All of my artifacts are online, so I created a list in Excel, put in the URL or web location in the first column, the title of the document in the second column, and then proceeded to classify each piece around a set of competencies (the columns with the X's). The circles indicate the primary competency for each artifact, and I used this list to organize my presentation portfolio. This was an excellent advanced organizer for me.
Here are the steps to create a portfolio: first create a cover page as an introduction and table of contents, then set up a structure, with one page for each goal or theme. Then upload the artifacts, or create a hyperlink to a document that is already online. Write reflections on how the selected artifacts demonstrate achievement of the goals. Write future learning goals, and then publish the portfolio online (or on a CD or DVD). Here is more detail on each step.
Here is the first page of the portfolio that I created in Google Pages. It provides an Introduction to the Reader, and a Table of Contents, on the left, with hyperlinks to all of the separate pages in the portfolio.
On the right, you can see here a larger view of the Table of Contents that I created in Google Pages. I also created another version of my portfolio in PowerPoint, which I uploaded to the GoogleDocs Presentation Tool. You can see the Contents slide above on the left from the PowerPoint version, where I created a separate slide for each competency
This is the Site Manager for Google Pages, where you can see the different pages that I created for this version of my portfolio.
After the pages are created, upload the artifacts or create hyperlinks to artifacts that are already online. This screen is a list of the files that I uploaded in my GooglePages portfolio, where there is a 100 MB limit on storage of uploaded documents, which is plenty for almost any portfolio, especially if you store your videos on YouTube.
Write reflections on each goal, standard, or competency (an overview of the achievements identified for the collection of documents) plus a caption for each artifact.
Write up your future learning goals, You could create goals for each outcome, goal or competency, or you could do one overall reflection, as you see here. I chose to create a single overall page of goals with a mission statement.
Then publish your portfolio for the world to see. The Google Pages version is meant for the reader to navigate using the hyperlinks that you will need to create. The GoogleDocs Presentation tool can be shared in real time. Send the URL to people that you want to include in your audience. I've even connected to another person through Skype and we talked about my portfolio as I shared it. Pretty cool!
In summary, my current goal is to see how we can find the "every day-ness" in ePortfolios. How can we make ePortfolio development a natural process integrated into everyday life so that it truly supports lifelong and life wide learning, and lets us tell our unique stories? I think some of the new generation of mobile phones, such as the iPhone, gives us a glimpse of the types of tools that may eventually have the capability to support adult learners' ePortfolio development process. I am hopeful that the tools in the near future will be as ubiquitous and easy to use as today's mobile phones or iPods. Then we will truly be able to document the stories of our lives.
I created another video for a conference in Finland last May, which is posted on my website, where I discussed the role of digital stories in ePortfolios. This video briefly explains the digital storytelling process, the relationship with ePortfolios, and provides many examples of digital stories created for different purposes.
My final wish to you is that all your electronic portfolios become dynamic celebrations and stories of deep learning across the lifespan.
I welcome your dialogue and conversation about these ideas. I'm waiting to respond to your questions! Thank you very much!