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Web 2.0, e-Portfolio. PLEs and much more

January 16th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

Before Christmas I did an interview over Skype with Janine Schmidt, Dennis Brüntje, Franz Büchl, Oliver Härtel from the University of Ilmenau in Germany. the title of the interview was ‘Identität 2.0 durch E-Portfolios’ – Indentity 2.0 through e-Portfolios. They have very kindly sent be a transcriot of the interview. A slighly edited versiona appears below. You can also see n more of teh project work on the students’ web site.

JS: Okay. What was the most impressive and effective usage of an ePortfolio you came across so far? Could you please specify your experience?

GA: It’s a hard question. Most impressive and effective use of an ePortfolio. (…) I’ve seen many different people using ePortfolios in many different ways. But of course, it really depends on how you defining ePortfolios in those terms. I think probably the most impressive I’ve seen in formal education was a vocational college in northwest of England where they were using ePortfolios on an auto-mechanics course. And one module on this course they were making a custom car, and they were getting kids who probably haven’t got lots of qualifications really recording their experiences as they went of the work they were doing and reflecting on the work they were doing, so that greatly impressed me.

JS: Okay. So ehm. The second question will be like focal topic for definition and classification of ePortfolios: How do you define ePortfolios and which significant characteristics do ePortfolios have compared to conventional portfolios?

GA: Well firstly and obviously what distinguishes an ePortfolio from an ordinary portfolio is the use of some kind of electronic interfaces, some kind of electronic media. I’d have to say as well I’d say that ePortfolio can be very much mixed, but pretty obviously the use of electronic media gives us a whole new series of capabilities. But after that the definition starts to break down a bit: and I think you can see vaguely three or four different ways in which ePortfolios had been developed and been used. Unfortunately, the predominant thing comes from they’re using higher education and especially from the USA, where they’d been very much used as an assessment vehicle allowing students to record a progress towards preset learning outcomes. Now I don’t think that’s helpful because the students are tended to see them as a part of an assessment regime and in many cases higher education students are already over assessed. And it’s very much limited, the potential of what is seen as legitimate learning. You’ve had another tendency in the UK to see them as a vehicle for planning learning, PDP-processes, which is another way to look at them. Or you’ve got another tendency, which is more of what I favour, which is to see ePortfolios as a way of recording all your learning including informal learning. And of course there is a strand in the literature certainly in the research of ePortfolios which sees ePortfolios as a powerful vehicle or potentially powerful vehicle for reflection on learning. Though I have to say that how that process of reflection is scaffolded and undertaken is less well researched or less well understood and perhaps just a matter of recording, so you got a powerful point about recording learning, assessing learning, reflecting on learning, etcetera, etcetera many different processes and how ePortfolios been used and what they’d been used for, different processes had been emphasized by different people. And to some extend, and this is quite important, some of those processes had been hard coded in ePortfolio-software and series of assumptions made and those assumptions aren’t always made transparent by the people who have developed the ePortfolio applications.

JS: Okay. So the next question would be: Would you rather consider ePortfolios as a loosely composed tool construct or as a specific method used in educational context? Or do you even have a complete different point of view?

GA: Hmm, now I mean, I think that ePortfolios shouldn’t be pedagogical or learning concept first, that’s the key point. For me, it’s the process of recording and reflecting on learning. It is a key essential aspect of it. Now of course if we are talking about an ePortfolio, it assumes that we have some form of tools.
I would certainly prefer probably to see at it as series of loosely coupled tools and you’re moving in a direction of a personal learning environment to that point. But of course it is also possible to provide two steps of some sort of greater or lesser degree of integration to support that process. The key for me is that the tool, I suppose, is about the pedagogically.. the pedagogic concept and the tool concept reasonably in line with each other, the tools do support the pedagogic concept they are putting forward behind the ePortfolio and I’m not sure that is always so. I mean there are series of further technical considerations, particularly the fact that the youth should be able to move that data and keep that data with them. So I see ePortfolio more in a livelong learning context, learn a particular application to support a particular course at a particular time. I think an ePortfolio should be developed over period of time and that implies certain technological approaches, but certainly implies a pedagogical approach.

JS: Okay. So the next question goes into personal learning environments which you already said: To what extent one should distinguish ePortfolios from Personal Learning Environments? What do you think?

GA: I think they are on a continuum to be honest. I mean it very much depends on what definition you take of an ePortfolio. I mean I have a definition which very much emphasizes the learning which takes place in all environments and that includes learning at home, learning in workplaces whether it is formal learning in courses. And I have a definition which very much includes informal as well as formal learning: Now I guess if you to take that definition of an ePortfolio, then it’s fairly close to the idea of personal learning environment. However, very often ePortfolios are been introduced in formal educational context where they’re much more constrained and in that way are quite a long way from a personal learning environment. I mean there is also a technological issue because one of the ideas is a technical behind the personal learning environment is that the learner should be able to very much use the tools they want to and configure those tools to sort their own learning. And there’s a pedagogical level that learners should be very much in control of that learning, so I suppose it depends how much are learners in control of their environment, of their learning, how much learners are able to configure and develop their own learning environment. I mean, I would say one more thing, I think, that we should recognize the ability to shape and develop our learning environment, a competence as an outcome itself which often isn’t at moment and we shouldn’t detached that from what is being learned. I think the process of learning, the process of shaping the learning environment is part of learning and should be recognized as such.

JS: Okay. Now to the next focal topic which would be “handling of ePortfolios”: How can ePortfolios help people with less self-confidence to improve in self-expression?

GA: [laughs] It’s an interesting question, isn’t it!? I mean one of the first points you saying less confidence. And less confidence can exist in many ways. I think one of the things is that ePortfolios can be quite personal, I think that ePortfolios can encourage people to recognize all the different learning and all the different competence they’re undertaking. Not just the learning which is taking place for courses, all of us learn to some extend however all through our lives. The big problem is a lot of that learning isn’t been recognized at that moment. So my first answer is, ePortfolios can help through allowing us to people to recognize their own learning and to put forward that learning as an achievement and much of the learning that people undertake at the moment isn’t been recognized. The second answer I think is that we have at the moment an official education system which is excessively text-based. Whereas actually in our use of media in the society we’re moving very much away of text and towards visual means of expression, particularly through the use of electronic cameras where people are taking millions and millions of photos and increasingly through video. So I think one of the things that ePortfolios potentially can do is encourage those people and enable those people who are not so confident in a text- form to present their achievements, to present their learning’s in multimedia and in different visual forms of expression.

JS: Okay. In which way do ePortfolios support processes of reflection? You might already answered a bit of that.

GA: Yeah, I think that’s an extremely tricky question because if you read any of the text or go and listen to any of the speakers about ePortfolios. They are all say: “And reflection is really important and the next subject.” No one really wants to talk too much about it because no one is very confident about how that reflection process can be scaffolded. I think that there are a series of, if we like, competences which can help in reflection and I think we can actually help learners to explore those competences. It’s things like, very simple things, like how to express an opinion, how to listen to the opinions of others, how to ask a question, how to criticize some construct of the criticize some one else’s opinion, how to contribute to a group discussion etcetera, etcetera, so it’s a whole series of different, if we like, micro or smaller exercises which we do which help in that reflection process. And I think in scaffold pedagogically and technically support those processes within an ePortfolio. By far the two most important, I think, is encouraging people to put forward their own opinion which is very different from sighting an essay or something like that [laughs], it’s forming and constructing an opinion and replying to the opinions of others, to the ideas of others, reading others ideas. In that way, I think, blogging is extremely powerful and even possibly … to explore by the use of micro blogging, things like Twitter, and helping to develop that reflective ability. So I think they are potentially powerful, but then I think that those who are supporting teachers or those who are supporting the development of ePortfolios have got to think about processes which are involved in reflection. I have to some extend scaffold and support those processes.

JS: Okay. What did you say; I didn’t get the thing “Things like Twitter”? What was it?

GA: Yes, Twitter is an interesting one, Twitter is probably the technical phenomenon of 2008 and it’s a micro blogging service. It is really a bit strange. You sign up for it and you choose who you want to follow and people can choose if they want to follow you and it allows posts of every blogger, but the maximum number of characters is 140, which is based on the maximum number of characters you can use in a mobile phone message and it has become very successful, some people don’t like, as I say, get it or you don’t get it. And it’s very interesting because you have a lot of opinions and a lot of ideas almost if you’re following enough people coming as a stream of people. It’s potentially interesting because in choosing who to follow and so you’re getting other people’s ideas and you’ll be exposed to other people’s ideas and you have potential to reply to those ideas in a very quick, light-weight format. If anyone wants to try it, you can always follow me; my twitter-name is grahamattwell.

JS: Ah, okay. I will have a look for it.

GA: Yes, you will have fun with it!

JS: Okay, the next question: Which goals can be reached with ePortfolios? How far should an ePortfolio be focused on a specific aim or should all ePortfolios be focused on a specific aim? Keyword: blogs.

GA: Hmm, ehm, hmm, I think learning is focused on a specific aim, isn’t it? So if I were saying an ePortfolio is something around learning, then of course it will be focused on a specific aim. Of course that aim will change over time, we want to learn changes over time. I mean the key issue, I suppose, is how you negotiate and determine what, I mean I don’t think it is focused on a specific aim, but what aims you have for your learning at any particular period. How that process undertaken and how that process is recorded in an ePortfolio. So yeah I think aims are important for learning. I think that personal aims they may at particular time’s co-inside with course aims, but I essentially think that the key to them is that those aims are learner-driven, not institutionally-driven. So yes it should be focused around aims, but those aims should be determined by the learner and in fact have to be in many ways determined by the learner and if those learners are engaged in some kind of institutionally based learning process then I think that the aims need to be negotiated with tutors, facilitators, co-learners, whoever else is involved in
the learning process.

JS: Okay. What are important aspects when choosing an ePortfolio-software?
GA: Hmm, the important thing is that you know why you want to use an ePortfolio. And you gotta think that very carefully, what’s the point of the ePortfolio, why you are introducing an ePortfolio or how do the learning takes place, what kind of learning and then ones you’ve decided that then you can start thinking about what software will support those learning ideas, those pedagogical approaches, those learning goal.
But start with what you wanted to do, then return to technology….. So it’s in some proprietary format which we should never gonna get there out again, it’s also some usability questions I guess in it, because you do want ePortfolios to be recently easy to use and software should be stable. One other points I am saying about this is that they are, as I said before I think, is some of the ePortfolio applications tend to hard code into the way they work.
GA: Pedagogical assumptions, particularly, to name some names here, the OSPI -Open Source ePortfolio Initiative software. And Mahara which I’ve got a little time for as an application. The open-source ePortfolio software tends to make an assumption about who the student is and they tend to assume they are university students and they tend to assume that they are doing a university course in the traditional way. And while certainly with Mahara you can get around that  with OSPI the last time I looked at it, it was quite hard to get around that. You actually had to go into the Java code and change things in Java to build out those assumptions. And unless you’ve got a handy Java programmer sitting next to you that is not an easy business [laughs].
JS: How important is the presentation of personal skills like a CV, served projects in an ePortfolio?
GA: (…) How important is a CV? Well it depends for what you need a CV? If the user needs a CV, then it is important that they are able to develop a CV and then I suppose you can talk about two things then, don’t you? You can talk about how much an ePortfolio helps them in developing a CV. And you can then say well, you could do a CV outside the PC ePortfolio software, you can do it inside. A European Union funded project has actually produced a piece of plug-in-software which supports one, two, three major software systems which is linked to a PDF-server in Thessaloniki. And that enables construction of an online CV. This is got the pluses and minuses to that. I mean it is quite a good system for constructing CVs. Interface design, least something to desired, but that will improve. But as a plug-in it has this little system’s integration in a CV. So, I mean I’m neutral towards that if you are talking with 14 year old kids probably they don’t need a CV at the moment. So it just depends where you are with it. The issue is, I suppose, can an ePortfolio application be integrated into CV development. I don’t agree it really can a CV, a CV is a CV. (…)
Just add one more thing to CVs: In my view a CV is a particular representation of our learning and competences, right? And it’s one form amongst others. I mean, it’s a form which is particularly common used at the moment. My feeling is that CVs don’t really tell us an awful lot about what people can do.
And as a port.. if and as portfolios become more popular, in one form or another, people will move on to more expressive ways of being able to demonstrate their abilities than a CV, but it is still important it’s still most widely used. And it’s not a particularly expressive format in terms of showing what we can do.

JS: But my, what I what I’m interested in: How you would see a CV presented in an ePortfolio? (…) Do you think it is a good way to present it in an ePortfolio?

GA: I’m neutral about that Janine, to be honest. Ehm [thinks] (…) I, I think it is useful if there are tools to help students present CVs and we maybe talking a little across purposes here. There is the form or formats of CV which of course in multiple ones, but the European Union has produced standardized one. And I think it is useful that people can do that. But I think much more important is what I call presentation. And I’m doing a bit of work on this. And I think that what we should be able to do is take our ePortfolio and make multiple presentations of ourselves coming out on our work, coming out to that ePortfolio. Because I think it’s not just the matter of one format. A different time, say we’re applying for university or saying we’re applying for a job we want different presentations. I mean, for people applying for jobs you never make the same job application twice, you change how you present yourself according to what the job is. So, I think the ability is the flexibility to take all your work within your ePortfolio and to present that work in attractive formats which can be a selected according to what  we wanna do. No, I don’t think that any of the ePortfolio software that I have seen is very good at that at the moment. We’re looking at trying to develop something which can do this – that this should be a canvas if we could see the screen as a canvas. And it should be able to drag things on that canvas and that should support multimedia as well. And that you should be able to graphically show a picture of yourself which is got embedded, text documents embedded, blog comments embedded, videos embedded, pictures in that canvas as a mean to making that presentation. And we hope we’ll build a beta of that application this year within the next three or four months. But I mean, that’s not very easy. So, it depends what  you mean by a CV. But if you mean a CV as a representation or what I call presentation. Yes, I think it’s very important but I don’t think that ePortfolio software applications, at the moment, generally support that.

GA: Yeah. I mean, I think, I think what you’re saying here is differences between an ePortfolio as a standalone thing and how much sharing goes on. I mean in one school I’ve done some work with which had some wonderful being done by kids on developing their ePortfolios. And the ePortfolio software was very nice and allowed them a high degree of customization of the appearance which is very important for kids. And supported a lot of multimedia. But the problem was it is standalone software. So, the only way they could really get any feedback on their work as community learners was to get someone to come and sit beside them and look at it. And of course, that’s quite difficult to do. So, I’m strongly of the opinion that the ability to share your work is very important and the ability to represent a community of learners in some form within an ePortfolio. And in the ePortfolio application which I’m being developing we have an area called community central which shows an aggregation of all the activity between that community if they choose to ‘share it’. Now I say the defaults settings on ePortfolio are set to private.
So, the default setting is private unless you choose that you want to share it. And in fact that is in link with UK government guidelines on using ePortfolio with school kids. (…) But I think the community aspect through commenting so one aspect of it is comment, is that aggregation so you can see all the community. And it’s actually reflecting and commenting on other peoples posts and that is both vital process of learning. But it’s also vital process of community development and community emergence. (…)
JS: Okay, thank you. Ehm.. the next questions will be about application areas of ePortfolios. So, the first question on it: Could you please imagine yourself advising a certain company which does not use ePortfolio solutions so far. How would you convince the decision makers of the utilization?
(…)

GA: Well, since I’ve just been doing that last week [laughs] I suppose we could try and say what I said to them. I said to them that actually within their organization I was advising them to use ePortfolios for, let’s make this example as a concrete, shall we? Cause we talking a lot of abstractions sometimes. I tell you a little about the company: The company is a large careers advice organization. It advises kids between the age of twelve and nineteen about their future careers. And they employ about three hundred people. It’s office skilled work and this work actually requires … induction to understand the aims of organizations, the ethos of the organization, the procedures of the organization etc. So they take on new employees about three or four times a year. And what we’ve talked about them is using the ePortfolios to support the professional development of those new employees. And what we said is that it would be much more effective both in allowing them to support each other, allowing them to reflect their own learning, to built up their own resources. And hopefully, this should allow them to keep to continue on with the ePortfolio when they finish their induction. And we see that as a vital part of knowledge development and knowledge exchange within the organisation. And within large organizations like that communication is sometimes extremely difficult and knowledge development can be a little bit haphazard. So, we see it very much both supporting the individual learning of the employees in the organization but also of developing organisational learning, organisational knowledge exchange within the organisation at the same time. And in terms of how we would advise them, we’re saying well let’s start with the new employees coming in and let’s built it up from that and so we’ll see how that process runs. (…)

JS: Okay (…). What kind of business models of ePortfolios are existing so far? (…)

GA: Ja, ok. Ehm (…) there’s three models I think of this, this multitude models which have been used. Let’s see we can try and make this very concrete again. Let’s takes Wales which is the part of the United Kingdom, westerly part. There’s a model there where the government through a government supported agency the careers service of this is making an ePortfolio available for everyone with a Welsh address through a server application, online application. Now in that case, it’s the side of the education funded and their contracting very good software developers from London to support that. So, that’s one number one: public service development. There is a second model where you’ve got various private sector providers producing proprietary software for ePortfolios and there’s two main business models going there I think: One is to license the software to them at a blog fee or as many students as they want essentially selling them the software, usually with some sort of maintenance contract.
Another model is that you buy the software per user per year. That’s the model in use by the PebblePad ePortfolio providers which in turn actually are university spin out from the University of Wolverhampton.
Then there’s the fourth model which is the one we work under which is open source. And these aren’t completely discrete models because if you work with open source you can do those thinks. The model we’re working on is that we had various users want our software want particular configurations of our software. And they pay us to develop and make the software do what they want what they wanted to do and look like.  But the software remains open source and remains free to use for anyone else. You got another open source model which is OSPI. OSPI, the Open Source Portfolio Initiative, is now part of the Sakai open source virtual learning environment and in that case Sakai I think is funded by a trust fund which is owned by a series of universities which have put money in to support the Sakai and OSPI process. So you got very, very varied models and business models for ePortfolio development.
JS: Okay, thank you. What do you think, when is an application with an ePortfolio reasonable? For which job or in which industry is it useful and are there any exceptions where it won’t work or will be accepted.. where it won’t be accepted? (…)

GA: Mmh.. it’s an interesting question.. ehm.. my feeling is that we’ve tended to introduce ePortfolios with the group who lead it, need it least which is the is university students who already have a lot of face-to-face learning contact, who already have quite intensive social relations and already have endless means and requirements through recording their learning. I think potentially the greatest use of ePortfolios lies with work based learners, be those on initial training courses for example an apprenticeship, where I think it could be really effective. Or it could be effective for undertakingprofessional development. I also think that if we’ve tended to provide access to ePortfolios for the people who are enrolled on formal education programmes, what’s the people might benefit most from ePortfolios are those people who aren’t enrolled on formal education programmes so I think we’ve got that wrong, in terms particularly industries on that mmmh.. interesting. I don’t think there are any which is not appropriate to. But I suppose you could say that for those people doing programmes where the ability to directly demonstrate what you’re doing in a physical sense is particularly important perhaps ePortfolio are more of a problem because necessarily there are electronic. But even there I’m … that the potential of video through mobile devices makes it offers at new ideas. I do think that moving ePortolios onto mobile devices encouraging the integration features like, like micro blogging will make ePortfolios, will give a whole dimension to usability application of ePortfolios. So, I’m very interested, for instance, in seeing an ePortfolio use in an apprenticeship setting and allowing the access at least in work through mobile devices to to that ePortfolio. And I think that that will be a great new step forward. (…)

JS: Okay, ehm.. To what extend are tools for professional networking like LinkedIn or XING capable to become cross-linked ePortfolio solutions? What do you think? (…)

GA: Yeah [thinks]. (…) I think LinkedIn is interesting certainly and to some extend it is an ePortfolio. I particularly don’t like LinkedIn but I don’t know why I don’t like it. Ehm.. yes I mean I think I think they can be useful, I think my issue is how much they focus on learning and on reflecting on learning. And if you take LinkedIn, LinkedIn is very much a thing which encourages you to say I can do this, I have done this. These are my competences, these are what other people say that I’m great at doing this. LinkedIn isn’t really an application which encourages you to talk about what you’re learning, what you’re trying to learn. Obviously this is a weakness, I mean LinkedIn is rather an extended curriculum vitae rather than in my view a learning ePortfolio.
GA: But fairly obviously, yeah, in any piece where people are talking about learning and recalling the learning and reflecting on their learning, be that Facebook or Myspace or LinkedIn or your German equivalent networks for all these social software applications, there is an aspect of it. And the key issue there, I think, is the portability again and the compatibility. One of the things which I dislike most about applications like, say Facebook, is that they own your data, you sign up explicitly that they own your data. And if you try to get your data out of there, their relation is to ban you from the system – do not the mistake to subscribe -you’re not supposed to, it’s against the rules. So, I think that the big issue probably is data ownership at that point. I think, it’s very important that ePortfolios are owned, both, in a pedagogic sense and in a data sense, by the learner. And the rules and regulations of most of the social networks, in terms of conditions, say that they own your data, and you’re not to do any hacking into the systems to trying to get your data back out, and I think that’s a very big problem.

JS: Okay. Why and in what respect would you.. would it be beneficial -sorry. Once again. Why and in what respect would it be beneficial for pupils to use and handle ePortfolios in school early on? So like in early ages..

GA: I didn’t catch the first part of the question, but I think I know what you said. Yeah, I think that’s very important, I mean, we’re using.. in a school I worked in North England, they were starting ePortfolios at the age of -I think about -eight. And we are using ePortfolios in the southeast of England like in January, with some more groups, we were starting in the age of fifteen. I mean, look, kids today are used to using social network applications, they’re used to using software, the internet is everyday part of their lives, so I have seen no reason why we shouldn’t be helping them and faciliating them to use software applications to support their learning from that age. So I’m in favour of e-learning ePortfolios for lifelong learning, and that includes younger kids as well as older people.
JS: Okay. How can it be beneficial in their learning progress for them? So that they start early..
GA: How can it be beneficial? Because it supports them in social forms of learning. It supports them in looking at all their learning, not just the school based learning. It supports them especially in learning to reflect on their learning and that recording on learning, but essentially the reflection on their learning and, I think, critically, within the context of our present education system. ePortfolios can support a variety of different media and we haven’t been very good in using that multimedia up to now. And I suppose another quite important thing for me is working with kids.. in ePortfolios, we can teach teach them about data protection, about data security, about the safety, but even more important, we’re starting them exploring the process of forming their own digital identities. And digital identities is going to be extremely important in the future, we will all have, to greater or less extent digital identity, and the kids ought to reflecting on what their digital identity is, and they can shape their own digital identity, so I think, the earlier we start looking at these questions, the better. And I think that the issues are issues which should being addressed to the education systems and all too often aren’t to being addressed at the moment.
JS. Okay. What are the demands on university didactics regarding a potential ePortfolio implementation?
GA: Njah, I think they’re vast. Ehm. If you really want to move towards ePortfolios and particularly towards personal learning environments, universities have to realise that they are not the source of all knowledge, that there are a many, many different sources of knowledge out there now, especially through the web, we can access all points of experts, we can access peer-groups, we can access learning in many different forms, and universities are only one of them. And then I think the big challenge is for
them, is to accept that the students will learn from many different sources, and we should be allowing the students to express their learning from all those sources. The second demand is to understand that an ePortfolio is owned by the learner, not owned by the institution, not owned by the university. And so we have to start reflecting that in the way we approach the development and delivery of education and training.

The third thing is, that, for me, ePortfolios are most.. err.. powerful, when they’re used in reflective process. So, the issue of universities is: are you encouraging your students to reflect on learning? Are you encouraging peer-group learning? Are you encouraging social forms of learning? Or are you running a system where you stand up while the professors come in and stand up in the front and deliver a lecture and then go again. So, of course, there are varied university practices towards the very good to the very bad, but in general, I think that the ways we learn today using the internet are bypassing universities, and universities are in danger of making themselves become irrelevant to the real learning processes which go on in our society. So, I think, universities have got to do some hard thinking, about what their mission is, what their purpose is, and about all, what didactic approaches they are making to learning.

JS. Ok, thank you. What kind of additional scenarios for the utilisation of ePortfolios do you see in the future, facing constantly growing? (…)
GA: Okay, uhm, I think, it’s once more related to my last answer. The technical and creative possibilities, of course, the creative and technical possibilities of web 2.0 and social software for learning. Than we have to look at the way, the generations which are coming into university today, are using those creative and technical possibility, and they can do expect a very different things of education. So, I think, it’s very big pressures
on the university, not just in terms of technologies they provide, but in terms of their pedagogic and didactic approaches to learning. And therefore, I think, there is a pressure on universities to respond to that. I think that, probably, most universities will stop fighting ePortfolios. I think that, one of the issues, again, is going to be: is this just an ePortfolio supported particular course, is this an ePortfolio supports a group of courses, or is it an ePortfolio that supports the learning which is taking place when that student’s at university. Then, I think, one of the big issues for university: who provides the ePortfolio? Is the university selling this providing ePortfolio, how can we assure that learners themselves can import the data from perhaps an ePortfolio got from school, and, critically, how can ePortfolio be supported in the future. Is the data gonna be transferable out, or are the universities gonna commit themselves to support an ePortfolio after the students left the university, and they probably can afford to do that. And so this whole series of big big issues which universities have do examine in
that respect, so I don’t really give you scenarios, but I’d say there’s issues which have to be addressed.

JS: What meaning would you give a standardisation of ePortfolios? (…) Like a standard-CV and stuff.

GA: Hm, the driving for this – right. Let’s use the word standardisation -because it means quite different- I don’t think, we’re moving towards standardisation, but I think the big question is software standards. Which means that we can transfer data from one ePortfolio into another ePortfolio. We do have the IEEE-LMS, which is the education standard working group, going on ePortfolios, which we have to three different standards for ePortfolios. I’d have to say, most of that standards are not particularly helpful, not particularly constructive at the moment, and so we are looking at developing some standard which will allow that data-exchange, but I have to say, its proving quite difficult, not that much from the technical viewpoint, but it’s proved difficult to agree on educational approaches to what should be contained in an ePortfolio, and how that data can be represented as standard. If you want to find more about that, you should look
on the CETIS-website, which is C-E-T-I-S, which is the Center of Educational Technologies Standards in the UK, and they’re heavily involved in that work, I think it’s www.cetis.ac.uk -and it’s quite a lot of information on now, but I think, it’s very limited. I think, in the future, it will be small things like CVs where we will make progress, rather than on the bigger issue of trying to get standards for ePortfolios as a whole. So I think, we should look at these smaller things, and we should look at standards like RSS, which are effective standards which actually are probably more powerful in allowing standards to develop than the very large educational standards which in many cases are very difficult to work with.

JS: Okay, so this question is a bit you already mentioned: the Welsh Government is having the career- thingy, and as you are from Wales, I would be interested in your opinion on that, how you feel about this, that the Welsh Government supplies every person who has a residence in Wales with the possibility to run an ePortfolio -do you think it’s a governmental challenge?

GA: Yes. I think it’s an extremely good initiative. I mean, one reason they have been able to do it, its quite interesting how it’s been done, and it’s been done for the career service. Now: first of all, in contrast, to say, Germany, the career service is relatively strong in the UK, as organised as part of education, but as a separate service it’s not part of the schools, for instance, a bit complex how it works. Now, in England, it’s been separated out in separate career companies covering local areas. Wales, because it has different structure to the education system and education is run by the Welsh Assembly Government, not by the English or the UK Government, they decided not to do that.
And Wales has a national career service, which means has it has far more resources. Now I think that resources issue is particularly important, because if we take a country like Germany, which is renowned for its technology and technology implementations, progressing educational software has been quite slow, and that’s because, in my view, the “Lander”-governments each have responsibility and autonomy for that development, and it’s been a failure to develop a sufficient collaboration and founding for that collaboration across the “Lander”.
So I think it’s an initiative. However, as a whole, I think the Wales initiative is very good. I think it’s especially good, because, they say, even if you are not in education, you’re entitled to have an ePortfolio.

My worries are always data privacy and data security and how to insure that the governments or government agencies providing ePortfolios, than, that data does remain owned by the learner, and the … on how governments can access and use that data. And that’s a constant issue which is a solid issue, and one that we have not resolved at the moment.
JS: Okay, so we are through. I want to thank you, it was a pleasure. Thank you very much!

3 Responses to “Web 2.0, e-Portfolio. PLEs and much more”

  1. John Pallister says:

    Quite an interview Graham! I enjoyed the read, but will probably have to sit down again to have another read, small brain vs lots of content to assimilate – needs a second/third pass! I think that you have managed to covered all of the major issues – I particularly like the acknowledgement of the importance of the process and the pivotal role of reflection. I would certainly agree that promoting Reflective learning is the major challenge and that the difficulty in devising ‘scaffolding’ that is capable of promoting/encouraging learner reflection, presents significant problems for teachers. Keep up the good fight!

  2. Hazel Owen says:

    A lot of what you had to say rings true 🙂 At a recent conference in Australia (AeP2) there was a lot of discussion around what an ePortfolio (especially in education) is for, who ‘owns’ it, and how it might be used in an environment where employers, as yet, are often not committed to, or interested in, viewing ePortfolios. Web 2.0, has its own potential, especially around creativity, portability, development, choice etc, but issues arise around offering suitable scaffolding, and who/how assessment is to be ‘standardised’ if options around tools are more open. Interesting times indeed. Many thanks for the thought provoking comments and ideas.

  3. henrylow says:

    Influence can be defined as the power exerted over the minds and behavior of others. A power that can affect, persuade and cause changes to someone or something. In order to influence people, you first need to discover what is already influencing them. What makes them tick? What do they care about? We need some leverage to work with when we’re trying to change how people think and behave.

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