Scooch Over LMS, E-portfolio Wants a Seat at the Table

Do you want to give your students a digital footprint? Even if your school is not already practicing e-learning or blended learning, you can still accomplish that with an e-portfolio. If you’re already using a Learning Management System (LMS), you might already have an e-portfolio available that can showcase authentic work.
What exactly is an e-portfolio? Dr. Helen Barnett, the e-portfolio guru, defines an e-portfolio as the following:

“A portfolio is a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student’s efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas. The collection must include student participation in selecting content, the criteria for selection, the criteria for judging merit, and evidence of student self-reflection.”

The better e-portfolios should allow for three different stages of collections:

  1. Student collection of artifacts. Artifacts can be digital documents, PowerPoints, audio files, video files, links to websites, images, scanned documents, blog posts, etc. Students are brainstorming and collecting here and are not discriminating much in their collection.
  2. Teacher assessment of artifacts. Students and teachers both can select artifacts for assessment. Students can choose which artifacts best satisfy the learning goal, and teachers can require certain artifacts to be featured or submitted.
  3. Showcasing artifacts. Students can select which artifacts that they would like to have a “public” view. This can also be used for college and job application.

Fields like the arts and design have led the way on e-portfolios (please take note, STEM). They have been using portfolios for decades and e-portfolios consistently since the 90s. Those fields make actual artifacts, and they like to showcase them.
Let’s face it, the “Sage on a Stage” who gives two Scantron tests in a semester is not producing students who can show true mastery. Industry leaders are pushing back. They need teachers who can teach, economists who predict, and engineers who can build. Schools need students to make authentic learning products.  Students need to demonstrate that they can “do” it. The e-portfolio helps showcase that.
So why an e-portfolio and not just a portfolio? If it’s just a digital versus quill and scroll question, it’s an obvious e-portfolio win, but let’s go deeper than that. An e-portfolio allows a student to tailor portfolios for different audiences easily and e-quickly© (I’m not only leaving that type-o, I’m copyrighting it). Students can edit, collect valuable artifacts, and transform a portfolio into a real workable resume.

Best Features for Students

Students are introduced to metacognition as they reflect on why they added a particular artifact. Reflection is a key component in all of the e-portfolios. Students are actually attaching their artifacts to learning goals and explaining why they are a match.
The learning process now becomes more student-centered as students are allowed to choose some (or all) of the artifacts to include in their portfolio.
E-portfolios allow not only feedback from instructors but from peers, too.
Students have a chance to showcase their efforts and talents with some projects becoming the model for how to make, write, record, or video an artifact. This fosters the idea of students helping students.
Students will have a body of work to display for college or job applications. That makes class work REAL relevant all the sudden.

Best Features for Teachers

Teachers can see a more complete picture of a student’s understanding and mastery.
Teachers can more easily see the gaps in their curriculum.
Teachers can grade peer comments and help develop a student’s capacity to give meaningful, constructive feedback to other students.
Teachers can showcase their own personal and student projects that they’ve created.

Best Features for the Community

When a student creates a really great artifact or project, why should only one adult (the teacher) get to see it? Think of the amount of great student work that parents and the community have never has a chance to see. Think how often the community wonders what teachers and students are actually doing in that prison-looking facility at the end of the street. End that speculation with an e-portfolio showcase.
Check out the Shawnee Mission School District. Shawnee uses for the its e-portfolio.

If you scroll down the Shawnee page, you will see a directory of Shawnee students.

Using school guidelines, students select which artifacts that they want to make public. Fantastic!
Here’s an example from the university level:

You can see that Eda is ready to take her e-portfolio right to the workforce. You can also see how students can customize their pages to reflect their own digital profile.
There are five important features to look for in an e-portfolio.

  1. Is it easy for teachers to assess the artifacts? Are rubrics for assessment easily created?
  2. Does the e-portfolio have a good balance between letting the student choose which artifacts are used for assessment and allowing teachers to set some of those standards, too?
  3. Can school, district, and state goals be easily incorporated?
  4. Is it life wide? Can students use it for things other than their traditional classes? Can it be used for internships or personal projects?
  5. Is it lifelong? Can students take the e-portfolio with them when the graduate?

You may have access to two powerful e-portfolios already. If your district is a Moodle user, check out Mahara. It’s a free, open source plugin for Moodle. It can be hosted separately, too, for as little as five dollars per student per year. The e-portfolio Digication is free for Google Apps for Education.
If you’re already showcasing student work in an e-portfolio, send us a link! We would love to see it.

Adam Renfro

Adam was a classroom English teacher for ten years and began teaching online in 1998. He now works for the North Carolina Virtual Public School, the 2nd largest virtual school in the nation. Adam has blogged for Getting Smart since September of 2011.

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Tom Vander Ark

Great post Adam.
Add to the list of great portfolio tools

TCU eLearning

Very informative piece! I've referenced it in our piece on ePortfolios:

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