6 October 2013

ePortfolio Forum Takeaways

Thoughts in no particular order arising from having attended the 2013 ePortfolio forum organised by ePortfolioAustralia.

- Met lots of like minded people whom you don't need to explain what an ePortfolio is!
- What is an ePortfolio? remains an open question. A tool? A space? An approach? A story?
For me the ePortfolio starts with the "who". Who is  making use of it? "Who" moulds the shape the ePortfolio takes as it is his/her specific purpose (evidencing of learning for assessment, reflective practice, professional learning, workforce entry, employability, career management, online presence, showcase of achievements, process of learning etc) that is the driver. "Who" 's life journey leaves positive digital traces, the ePortfolio, dynamic by nature, documenting and keeping a memory of experiences and accomplishments.
- When introducing ePortfolio it is crucial to know "who" and empathize with the needs and wants, the goals and aspirations of "who".
The actions involved in building a structured ePortfolio (collecting digital assets, selecting them for a purpose and a determined audience, of connecting ideas through thinking, and connecting with others for comments/ collaboration) constitute a personal, educational, professional story.
- by showing selected parts of a structured, purposeful ePortfolio, users demonstrate digital competence. And a digital presence. Enough said.
- Implementing an ePortfolio has to combine a top down and bottom up approach, framed by learning design. Top down to ensure infrastructure, access, support are available. Top down to support relevant curriculum development and pedagogy that lend themselves to ePortfolio development. Bottom up by giving tangible, relevant, authentic reasons to develop an ePortfolio and opportunities to users. Bottom up by making explicit the potential for developing digital literacy as well as making visible a wide range of skills beyond the qualification recognized by the institution.
Talking of skills:
- More and more conversations around employability revolve around not only the hard earned qualifications, but also around soft skills (communication, critical thinking, willingness to learn, knowledge sharing, being a team player, listening skills and ability to teach, mentor…) The ePortfolio is a perfect venue to evidence and develop these skills.
- To engage learners into an ePorfolio development, they must be involved in shaping it and taking control of it from the outset, through punctual explicit training if necessary, but mainly by empathizing with each individual's goals and scaffolding their steering.
- an ePortfolio is not just the work of an individual: the sharing with an audience, commenting from peers, feedback and feedforward from teachers or lecturers, collaborating on projects and gathering feedback, communicating on forums, crowd sourcing an idea that shape a personal ePortfolio. Learning is social.
Which leads me to the tool:
- Mahara allows for granular permissions, ensuring privacy if/when/where needed, has a resume building, aggregates productions made in range of files off or online, has a built in social network. It allows for pages to be submitted for assessment. It can be hosted on a dedicated server or online. Which means also that it has got to be institutionalized in the first place… This is important for context. At least to start with!
What is (even more) exciting?
-   ePortfolio, the learning centre, evidence gatherer, thought processor + open badges, the visible indicator of accomplishments, skills, interest, across communities and platforms = lifelong and life wide learning!

Why are ePortfolio supporters still pushing the rock uphill?

- Learning in 21st c has changed. Not everyone has noticed.
- ePortfolio have mainly gained traction in education so far. Period.
- Technology is changing everyday. It is not at the heart of ePortfolio building though.
- ePortfolio as a vehicle for common vocabulary across stages of life (school> training/university> work/life) is yet to be realized (although OpenBadges may offer a step towards this!)
- their potential for employability and careers is huge, or so it promises. Employers need to be shown ePortfolio more readily. Employers want qualifications AND skills so employers need to be involved and asked if/ how they can make use of eportfolio for recruitment but also for productivity and skill evidencing for themselves and their employees. While supporting digital literacy development. Or else it will remain an academic pursuit.
- Professional associations need to be made aware of ePortfolio potential for ongoing professional learning, accreditations and evidencing of on the job skills. That could have some impact on the employers' perception of ePortfolio.
- Careers services outside of learning institutions (job re entry, immigration, skills gap analysis etc) need to be made aware also.
- There is no longitudinal research (that I am aware of so please do correct me and comment if I am wrong) to see if ePortolios continue to be populated by their owner pass education.

It's time to get out the building and into the "world" post education to go and find out if ePortfolios live up to their status of life long learning companion!
That is the road I am choosing to take with ThinkAgency. While remaining faithful and committed to my interest in ePortfolios in schools.

Prof Phillip Long from the University of Queensland’s Centre for Educational Innovation and Technology will share what the role of the eportfolio will have in a distributed digital learning future.
Dr Alan McAlpine (Queensland University of Technology’s Career and Employment Unit) will share what’s happening with the use of eportfolios in the recruitment and employment marketplace.
(Will link to both keynotes recording when made available)
Shane Nuessler Learning Design Reflections in Higher Education
Portfolio the work of an individual? Kristina Hoeppner
Pictures from the ePortfolio Forum
Angela Shetler' Storify of ePortfolio Forum

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