Many people in e-education these days wonder what e-portfolios are and where they fit into the e-learning landscape. Serge Ravet from the European Institute for E-Learning (EIfEL) gave an inspiring talk on e-portfolios at the IEEE ICL 2006 conference in Villach, Austria.
He started by saying that these are more than just paperless portfolios, then analysed the Information Society as a whole, which I liked a lot as I see e-learning as part in the big societal change we are faced with in all our lives not just education. The quote by Alvin Toffler has some power to express this:
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn” (Alvin Toffler)
Ravet distinguished the Industrial Society from the Information Society in a few words, where the former had a clear separation of producers and customers, whereas the latter merges these two. Thus learners are not only consumers but also producers of knowledge. Previously, training was an assimilation to learn to work; nowadays it becomes increasingly important that learning is accommodation and an integrated process, learning is work. He also mentioned the transformation in the media, where, previously, technology was centred on authorities and organisations, while now content is “res publica” (e.g. through social software) and the technology focusses on people.
The learner-centredness of technologies is a shift away from teaching technologies previously in use, e.g. the OHP. The focus in learning technologies lies on people realising their social capital, where they are reflective producers of knowledge, and where knowledge is shared and aggregated. We also see an emergence of organisational portfolios that follows the same pattern.
The early definition of e-portfolios given by the US NLII (2003) defines an electronic portfolio as “a collection of authentic and diverse evidence, drawn from a larger archive representing what a person or organization has learned over time on which the person or organization has reflected, and designed for presentation to one or more audiences for a particular rhetorical purpose.” In this view e-portfolios consist of:
- archives – collections of assets, documents or achievements
- views – presentations of assets, e.g. CV-style, personal profile
- services – that allow the exploitation of assets: this may entail value of learning achievments, reflection, cross-referencing, profile matching, peer feedback, knowledge sharing etc.
Ravet went further than that and focussed on the digital identity/identities that we all develop to have via e-Health, e-Citizenship, e-Administration services. A person can have several IDs, several social networks, several e-portfolios. An e-portfolio then is a tool to construct one’s identity within social networks and organisations.
e-Portfolios contain public parts: vCard, CV, blog, stories, biography, etc.; and restricted parts: work in progress, old stuff, reflections, etc. They help people grow, get recognition, and exploit, both in formal and informal ways. Ravet did not find the common typology of e-portfolios useful, he rather concentrated on the benefits to the individual. ‘Grow’ here means personal development, exploitation examples he gave were job applications, APL, and the (self)management of competencies or professional development.
Regarding the learning services that e-portfolios offer, Ravet asked how we evidence learning is taking place and suggested blogs, reflection and the recording of learning events as support tools. The next question was how learning could be measured, suggesting cross-referencing learning outcomes with standards, or by getting informed feedback from clients, peers, etc.
The second generation of e-portfolios has developed out of the paperless assets’ pool and workflow and provides elementary knowledge management, e.g. competencies, key skills, as well as socialite aspects of interconnected knowledge workers.
Ravet’s final quote came from H.G.Wells, making e-portfolios: “a depot where knowledge and ideas are received, sorted, summarized, digested, clarified and compared”.