About e-portfolios again

As mentioned for several times, e-portfolio is one of my research interests. I have taught implementing e-portfolio for supporting professional development for in-service teachers and tried to implement e-portfolio in the context of pre-service school practice. The latter one has been more difficult as it presumes more organizational support from the lecturers, practice units, schools where the practice takes place and so on. Now our center started with the new project (eP in human resources), funded by the Era-Net and the project is mainly my responsibility with my colleagues Mart and Kai and that is why I started to think about eP more thoroughly again.

Based on those experiments and trials, I have faced several issues:
1. My main concern is related with the fact that development of eP seems to remain as one time event and eP comes like a container. We teach how to develop own eP, but so few teachers continue updating it and their developed eP becomes like their static web-page. eP should be dynamic and change over time in accordance with the personal/professional development.
2. I don’t believe that eP is merely the collection of digital artefacts. On one hand it should reflect the learning journey of the owner of the eP. On the other hand this journey should be related with those digital artefacts. And thirdly, the eP should contain the reflection which is important part of the artefacts and gained experiences and practice
3. Reflection. How to support the owner of the eP to reflect? It is not even important if they reflect in their learning management systems, personal learning environment, e-portfolios or other type of systems, they don’t tend to do it anyway. But it should be part of the learning process. In eP it is important, because the reflection provides meaningfulness to the content and supports keeping the eP dynamically updated. In the sense of the community, which is also considered as important aspect of ePs, personally I believe that reflection is the key element, which is interesting for the community members. Reflections are more personal and I have learnt from the reflections more compared with the digital artefacts or public profile
4. The relation between the personal learning environment and eP. Few times I ago I wrote about it and after that I have faced the same issue in our unit for several times. Namely, our PLE experts do not feel that eP is the same as PLE. Few times ago together with my colleague we wrote the book chapter how the eP can be considered as PLE and I was not sure if it was a correctly said or not. After our last review, I updated it as “E-portfolio in Personal Learning Environment”, because I don’t believe myself either that eP and PLE are the same in their nature. As mentioned before, I liked the parallel that Attwell (2007) have drawned, he sees the e-portfolio as the DNA of the PLE which may indicate that if PLE is a just an a concept or selection of different open tools and systems, then the eP is a technological solution that carries the data of the PLE.

Recently I bought the book “Handbook of Research on ePortfolios”, editors Jafari & Kaufman. In general I am aware that the book was launched in 2006 and especially technology has developed a lot since then. Probably that is the reason why the technologies in this books were quite institutionalized and the open solutions were mentioned less seldom. But I assumed that lessons learnt and pedagogical approaches are still relevant and browsed it through quite thoroughly. I picked some of the ideas:

– Technology should not be over-emphasized. When educators try to implement e-portfolio in K12, higher education or any other type of formal education, they tend to focus too much on technology. Participants’ training focuses mainly on technological aspects and different functionalities that can be used. Several studies in this book indicated that users of the eP miss the point why is the eP useful for them, why do they develop it and to whom is the eP adressed? It leads us to another question that was asked – why is the eP used, does the using of eP really solves some problems? Also what are the users learning about themselves professionally and personally by using eP, is it clear for all the involved participants? Therefore it is suggested to use goal-settings (also expected results) formulation in the eP, that may help users to become more aware why are they developing their eP-s and what should be achieved as a result;
– Community. Although ePs are considered as professional development/learning tools, it is believed that ePs become more meaningful in the context of the community. Students should be encouraged more into peer assessment and collaboration instead of submitting their eP just to an instructor or employer.
– Reflection has been considered important element in eP
– Institutionalized e-portfolios. The book was almost of full examples how students in higher education or K12 use some eP solution provided by their educational institution. It can be understood that different users (pre-service studies, K12, medical students) have different needs and therefore each institution develops the tool that seems most relevant for them. But in general I believe that students should have the possibility to select their own tools based their preferences.

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