A chapter in a book on Electronic Portfolios to
be published by
the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE), Fall, 2000
This essay is intended to be more practical than philosophical, drawing on my own experiences as well as my students', focusing on the questions often asked about electronic portfolios: Where do I start? What software should I use? What strategies seem to work well? I view portfolios as a process rather than a product--a concrete representation of critical thinking, reflection used to set goals for ongoing professional development.
An electronic portfolio developed for this purpose includes technologies that allow the portfolio developer to collect and organize artifacts in many formats (audio, video, graphics, and text). A standards-based electronic portfolio uses hypertext links to organize the material, connecting artifacts to appropriate goals or standards. Often, the terms "electronic portfolio" and "digital portfolio" are used interchangeably. However, I make a distinction: an electronic portfolio contains artifacts that may be in analog (e.g., videotape) or computer-readable form. In a digital portfolio, all artifacts have been transformed into computer-readable form. (Barrett, 2000)
I derive a framework for electronic portfolio development from two bodies of literature: portfolio development in K-12 education and the multimedia or instructional design process. These complimentary processes are both essential for effective electronic portfolio development. Understanding how these processes fit together and how standards or goals contribute to electronic portfolio development, faculty gain a powerful tool for demonstrating growth over time.
Creating an electronic portfolio can develop a faculty member's multimedia development skills. The multimedia development process usually covers the following stages (Ivers & Barron, 1998):
From the discussion of both the Multimedia Development Process and the Portfolio Development Process, five stages of Electronic Portfolio Development emerge. Here are the issues to address at each stage of this process.
Electronic Portfolio Development Stages
|Portfolio Development||Electronic Portfolio Development||Multimedia Development|
|Purpose & Audience||1. Defining the Portfolio Context & Goals|| Decide
|Collect, Interject||2. The Working Portfolio||Design, Plan|
|Select,Reflect,Direct||3. The Reflective Portfolio||Develop|
|Inspect, Perfect,Connect||4. The Connected Portfolio||Implement, Evaluate|
|Respect||5. The Presentation Portfolio||Present, Publish|
Differentiating the levels of Electronic Portfolio Implementation
In addition to the stages of portfolio development, there appear to be at least five levels of electronic portfolio development, each with its own levels of expectation. These levels are closely aligned with the technology skills of the student or teacher portfolio developer.
Levels of Digital Portfolio Software
In this first stage of the electronic portfolio development process, the primary tasks are: Identify the assessment context, including the purpose of the portfolio. Identify the goals to be addressed in the portfolio; these should follow from university standards for promotion and tenure and from standards set by relevant professional associations. This important step sets the assessment context and helps frame the rest of the portfolio development process. Knowing the primary audience for the portfolio will help decide the format and storage of the formal or presentation portfolio.
Before making any decisions about the development software, identify the resources available for electronic portfolio development. What hardware and software do you have? What technology skills do you have or want to develop?
This stage of the electronic portfolio development process occupies the longest span of time and is the stage I call, "Becoming a Digital Packrat!" Knowing which goals or standards you are trying to demonstrate should help determine the types of portfolio artifacts to be collected and then selected.
Select the software development tools most appropriate for the portfolio context and the resources available. Just as McLuhan said, "The medium is the message", the software used to create the electronic portfolio will control, restrict, or enhance the portfolio development process. Form should follow function as well, and the electronic portfolio software should match the vision and style of the portfolio developer.
Use whatever software tools are currently being used to collect artifacts, storing them on a hard drive, a server, or videotape. Set up electronic folders for each standard to organize the artifacts (any type of electronic document) and use a word processor, database, hypermedia software or slide show to articulate the goals/standards to be demonstrated in the portfolio and to organize the artifacts.
Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat and WWW pages created with HTML editors are the most common software packages used for electronic portfolio development. The primary advantage of Word and Acrobat is ease of use, and Acrobat files can be created from any application. Creating a portfolio in HTML, even with the many tools available, has a higher cost in terms of effort to convert documents and organization of the large number of files usually generated. Creating a portfolio in PowerPoint can emphasize the portfolio as "multimedia presentation," rather than as reflective tool.
Identify the storage and presentation medium most appropriate for the situation (i.e., computer hard disk, videotape, local-area network, a WWW server, CD-ROM, etc.). There are also multiple options, depending on the software chosen.
Gather the multimedia materials that represent your achievement. You will want to collect artifacts from different points of time to demonstrate growth and learning that has taken place. Write short reflective statements with each artifact stored, to capture its significance at the time it is created. You might convert significant documents into Adobe Acrobat format and attach electronic "sticky notes" with your immediate reflections.
Use everyday software, such as Word Processing, Slide Shows, Hypermedia, or Database programs to list and organize the artifacts that are placed in the Working Portfolio.
Convert your work into digital format
Use appropriate multimedia to add style and individuality to your portfolio. Save your work in a format that can be easily used. (Throughout the year, I convert a variety of files in my own Working Portfolio into Adobe Acrobat format, attaching electronic "sticky notes" with my reflections, and store them in a "new items" folder for later use. This includes word processing files, web pages I create, e-mail messages I might want to include, all stored for use in later stages.) Use a scanner (or camera) to digitize images, including documents that come to you in paper form. Use a microphone and sound digitizing program to digitize audio artifacts. Use a video camera, digitizing hardware and software to digitize video artifacts.
This stage of the electronic portfolio development process usually preceeds evaluation reviews (for summative portfolios) or employment applications (for marketing portfolios). In the formative portfolio reflections typically occur at significant points in the learning process, and are added contemporaneously as noted in the previous stage. Reflection on one's work is requisite if the portfolio owner is to learn from the process. As John Dewey said, "We don't learn from experience; we learn from reflecting on experience." One challenge in this process will be the need for confidentiality of these reflections. This is the place where the personal, private reflections of the learner need to be guarded, and not published in a public medium, such as the World Wide Web.
Record feedback on work and achievement of goals. Strategies that I have found useful with my students' portfolios include:
To some degree, this stage is unique to the electronic portfolio, because of the capability of the software to create hypertext links between documents, either locally or on the Internet. At this stage, if you haven't done so, convert word processing, database or slide show documents into either PDF or HTML and create hypertext links between goals, work samples, rubrics, and reflections. Insert appropriate multimedia artifacts. Create a table of contents to structure the portfolio; I recommend using the outlining capabilities of either Word or PowerPoint, or the graphical organizing AND outlining capabilities of Inspiration.
The choice of software can either restrict or enhance the development process and the quality of the final product. Different software packages each have unique characteristics, which can limit or expand the electronic portfolio options. It is important to select software that allows easy creation of hypertext links, to be able to link evidence of achievement to the goals and reflections and identify patterns through this "linking" process. Hartnell & Young (2000) point out the unique benefits of creating portfolios with hypertext links:
Use the portfolio evidence to make instruction/learning or professional development decisions. This process effectively brings together instruction and assessment, portfolio development and professional development.
At this stage, record the portfolio to an appropriate presentation and storage medium. This will be different for a working portfolio and a formal or presentation portfolio. The best medium for a working portfolio is video tape, computer hard disk, Zip disk, or network server. The best medium for a formal or presentation portfolio is CD-Recordable disc, WWW server, or video tape.
Present the portfolio before an audience (real or virtual) and celebrate the accomplishments represented. This will be a very individual strategy, depending on the context, and an opportunity for professionals to share their teaching portfolios with colleagues for meaningful feedback and collaboration in self-assessment. This "public commitment" provides motivation to carry out the professional development plan of a formative portfolio.
Evaluate the portfolio's effectiveness in light of its purpose and the assessment context. In an environment of continuous improvement, a portfolio should be viewed as an ongoing learning tool, and its effectiveness should be reviewed on a regular basis to be sure that it is meeting the goals set.
Post the portfolio to WWW server, or write the portfolio
to CD-ROM, or record the portfolio to videotape.
Skills for Developing an Acrobat portfolio.
I find Acrobat to be the easiest way to publish my portfolio because this software most closely emulates the 3-ring binder most often used in paper-based portfolios. In my opinion, PDF files are the ideal universal container for digital portfolios. In fact, here is how John Warnock, Co-founder and CEO of Adobe Systems, Inc. defined the Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format:
2. Scan/capture and edit graphic images
3. Digitize and edit sound files
4. Digitize and edit video files (VCR -> computer)
5. Organize portfolio artifacts with Acrobat Exchange, creating links & buttons
6. Organize multimedia files and pre-mastering CD-ROM using Jaz disks
7. Write CD-Recordable disc using appropriate CD mastering software
As educators develop web-based portfolios, it is worthwhile to have a dialogue about publication of truly reflective portfolios on the public Internet. Here are some of my concerns.
-- What elements differentiate an electronic portfolio from a web page or a multimedia presentation or a digital scrapbook? What makes a web page a portfolio?
-- Do "real" portfolios belong on the public Internet?
-- What happens to intellectual property rights when portfolio artifacts are posted online? Has anyone developed a release form for students to sign related to publishing their portfolios online?
-- Research on metacognition in preservice portfolio development has shown that faculty and students see different purposes for portfolios (Breault, 2000): Students see portfolios as marketing tools whereas, faculty see portfolios as assessment and formative evaluation tools. This confusion of purpose can create dissonnance.
-- The move to "high stakes performance" portfolios may undermine the transformative nature of reflective portfolios.
-- Publishing a reflective portfolio in a public environment may inhibit the quality of the reflection.
Barrett, Helen (2000) " Electronic Teaching Portfolios: Multimedia Skills + Portfolio Development = Powerful Professional Development." Proceedings of the Society for Information Technology & Teacher Training (SITE) Annual Conference.
Breault, Richard (2000) ýMetacognition in Portfolios in Pre-Service Teacher Education.ţ Paper delivered to American Educational Research Association Conference, New Orleans, April, 2000.
Burke, Kay (ed.) (1996). Professional Portfolios. Palatine, Illinois: IRI/SkyLight Training & Publishing
Burke, Kay; Fogarty, Robin; Belgrad, Susan (1994). The Mindful School: The Portfolio Connection. Palatine: IRI/Skylight Training & Publishing
Campbell, Melenyzer, Nettles & Wyman (2000). Portfolio and Performance Assessment in Teacher Education. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Danielson, Charlotte; Abrutyn, Leslye (1997) An Introduction to Using Portfolios in the Classroom. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Hartnell-Young, Elizabeth and Morriss, Maureen (1999). Digital Professional Portfolios for Change. Arlington Heights: Skylight Professional Development
Ivers, Karen, and Barron, Ann E. (1998) Multimedia
Projects in Education. Englewood, Co.: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.