ePortfolios which is also known as digital portfolio or electronic portfolio is a combination of electronic evidence brought together and managed by an individual better known as a user, and this is often done on the World Wide Web. Now the electronic evidence can include text that has been inputted, images, electronic files, blog entries, multimedia, and hyperlinks. The ePortfolio is both a platform for self-expression as well as a demonstration of what the user can do. A number of e-portfolio applications allow different degrees of access by the audience, so that the very same portfolio can be used for various purposes.
Okay in the field of education, electronic portfolios can be defined as an electronic compilation of evidence showing a person’s learning journey within a period in time. It may refer to particular academic fields or a person’s lifelong journey. Now the actual value in ePortfolio is the reflection including the learning, which has been documented therein, and not just the collation of work. Also, ePortfolios like conventional portfolios can help promote students’ reflection regarding their own learning, which leads to greater awareness as far as learning strategies as well as needs are concerned.
In addition, there are three broad kinds of e-portfolios, even though they may be known by other names. This includes developmental (e.g. working), representational (e.g. showcase), and reflective (e.g. learning). A developmental ePortfolio records things, which the owner has been able to accomplish within a given period in time, and could be tied directly to rubrics or learner outcomes. But a representational ePortfolio on the other hand documents the achievements an owner has made regarding specific work or developmental goals and so is selective, while a reflective ePortfolio is one that includes personal reflection of content and what this means as far as the development of the owner is concerned.
How ePortfolio is being put to Use
Today, ePortfolio is gaining popularity and it is being used in a number of areas including schools and higher education. To this end, ePortfolios in schools and other educational institutions is being considered a replacement or alternative to standardized assessments. However, Helen Barrett a veteran with respect to ePortfolio use believes that this is a misnomer. In her opinion using ePortfolios in this way will make them lose their personal touch. In other words, personal ownerships (in this case students are the owners) will be lost in the process, which defeats the true essence of the electronic portfolio. The ePortfolio for those who don’t know isn’t another textbook.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that it is wrong for ePortfolios to be used for assessment purposes. This is because there are actually two approaches to making use of the electronic platform. The first one may be referred to as the student-center approach. In this particular instance, the student is in charge of his/her own learning, using their portfolios to keep a continuous learning record within a given period in time. In this way, students will use the portfolio to help those set learning goals of their own, to express their views regarding strengths, assess their own weaknesses plus achievements, and then share what they have done with others.
Now the other way ePortfolio can be put to use is for formative as well as summative assessments. The approach in question may be dubbed teacher-and-institution-centered approach. It involves an analytic framework, which permits teachers/institutions in collecting data via rubrics in order to quantify data. It is possible with this for them to look at each student’s work assessing same based on the rubrics and collecting quantified data due to that information. And, the most effective way to make use of ePortfolios in schools is to have an approach that balances these two approaches.
That is one in which the personal ownership of the student’s ePortfolio is not obliterated. Yes, the school may call for a certain format or structure to be followed. There is nothing wrong with that, but this should not destroy the student’s interests. Too often it seems there have been many instances where these electronic portfolios are created purely for assessment purposes without due consideration given to the student’s needs, priorities or interests.
ePortfolio a Lifelong Tool
Many now seem to consider ePortfolios not just as something that is relevant for only a specific period of time, but for a lifetime. This means that rather than restrict their use within schools alone for instance. They can be used along the way in helping to develop a person’s career after completing their primary, secondary as well as tertiary education. In this sense, electronic portfolios will function in the three broad types or categories (developmental, representational and reflective) stated earlier in paragraph three.
In addition, the recent popularity of social media is getting to the point where the line between it and ePortfolio is such that this is becoming blurred. Some might even say today maybe there isn’t any such line. However, the point to be made here is that there is similarity between these two. In that they both have similar content (i.e. images, write-ups, videos, etc.) and both reflect the personal touch of their respective users or owners.
So one of the questions that has risen regarding the use of social networks in relation to ePortfolios is how can what is known about social learning as well as interactivity be incorporated into the use of electronic portfolios in schools or the education sector. Adding images, hyperlinks, videos, plus text updates to social networks are just some of the technology skills, which students already have that is required for developing an ePortfolio. This is important as it will help them adequately make use of this lifetime tool.
Finally, just as social media is evolving so also is ePortfolio. And, so adapting whatever is learnt from social networking in order to apply same wherever it is applicable to ePortfolio will only help to make this tool easy to use and so make it a lifelong partner in the progressive development of its users.
Author Bio: Peter Smith has a good sense of humor and learning power. He also works for a site www.vocado.com as a chief editor. He also writes for other sites.