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More thoughts on e-Portfolios

April 14th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

E-Portfolios just won’t go away. I has an interesting email the other day from a friend in Austria (yes I know it is old fashioned to use email, but I still do sometimes 🙂 ). Graham, she said, I am looking at e-portfolio’s from a techno-sociological view on ICT based innovation. “For me it is still strange, how many initiatives have been out there and why in – especially German-speaking countries – so little uptake is to be seen.

And I agree totally with you that it is more than the software, rather the tension of the educational
system which does not really want an individual development….”

I think the issue of e-portfolios remains interesting, not least in that we have a relatively mature, socio technical development which can provide us some understanding of the issues involved in the use of technology for learning.

Here are a few observations:

  1. Often e-Portfolios have been introduced in situations where they are not really relevant or useful. Especially in north america, they have often been viewed by students as another layer of assessment and not only unnecessary but an aditional burden of externally imposed testing.
  2. Allied to the above e_Portfolio design has too often been obsessed with outcomes and assessment systems, to the extent of ignoring any learning which cannot be accounted for within the formal course struture.
  3. When lined to more radical pedagogical thinking, the use of e-Portfolios has often been constrained by course and accreditation demands and regulation.
  4. Many people are developing e-Portfolios through the use of social software – it is just that they are not using e-portfolio software and don’t call it an e-Portfolio. But they are using technology to record their achievements and reflect on their learning. Just because this might take place on a blog, on Facebook or Twitter, does it mean it is not an e-portfolio.
  5. E-Portfolio’s have considerable potential in the vocational sector, where they can bring together work and classroom based learning and allow an interlinking of theory and practice. Yet this is one area where there has been limited piloting.

Just one final point. In the UK there seems to be a creeping take up of e-Portfoliso in those occuaptions where continuing professional development is mandatory – e.g teching, medical sector. Hoever, to my knowledge, there is no proper evalaution of this development.

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