Eportfolios: more than a digital resume

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited ConsultantAllison Miller is a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog. Allison is passionate about providing learners with the knowledge and skills that they need in order to succeed in the world of work. Here she discusses ePortfolios, often misunderstood to be solely digital CVs, but in reality offering so much more.

Isn’t an eportfolio just a digital resume?

The concept of electronic portfolios or eportfolios has been around for nearly 20 years but still many educators grapple with what it is and how they could use it.

One of the main reasons for this is that an eportfolio is both:

  • a product – a digital collection of evidence which demonstrates a person’s learning, and
  • a process – a strategy to help people manage their own learning (Barrett, 2011).

Often people get hung up on the product and view an eportfolio solely as a digital resume or CV. This is because, as a personal online space which can be shared with others, people often only see the final product of the eportfolio, that is: the digital information and files which showcase a person’s experiences, achievements and knowledge – so you can see why people think this way.

In reality, however, it is the eportfolio process, or eportfolio approach to learning, which is the killer aspect of an eportfolio, so let’s unpick this through these five steps.

5 steps to an eportfolio approach to learning

An eportfolio approach to learning involves leading and supporting a learner through a five step, iterative process which helps learners learn how to manage their own learning. It begins with:

1. What do I want to achieve? – The answer to this question may have already been determined for the learner such as:

  • performance criteria in a unit of competency,
  • learning objectives/outcomes in a curriculum document, or
  • standards set by a regulatory or professional body.

Or, it might be working with the learner to set some personal or professional goals.

2. What do I need to do to achieve it? – This step is best done through using an action planning approach which helps learners to determine the steps, key milestones and resources they need to achieve their learning outcomes or the goals they set in step 1.

3. How will I know when I have achieved it? – This step is often overlooked by educators as they are the ones who decide whether someone will pass something or not, without even including the learner in this decision-making process. However, educators should help their learners recognise when they are competent or achieved their learning objectives. The best way to do this is by teaching learners how to recognise their own ‘picture of competence’.

A picture of competence is when someone is performing what is required of them in a job role eg a barista making the perfect flat white coffee. To help a learner recognise their own picture of competence, you need to deconstruct the picture of competence so a learner can recognise when they have achieved it.

This is best done by using a rubric which explicitly describes what people are doing or thinking when they have achieved their picture of competence.

4. What evidence can I capture to show that I’ve achieved it? – once learners recognise that they are competent or have achieved their learning outcomes or goal, the learner then needs to capture evidence of this achievement. In a digital age, learners can use a variety of ways to capture this evidence and keep it in their eportfolio, such as using:

  • An audio recorder on their mobile phone to capture reflective dialogue with others.
  • A digital camera or video recorder on their mobile phone or via a Go Pro type camera strapped to their head to capture live evidence of them doing something.
  • Writing blogs or online journals (either public or private) to capture what has happened on the job or at their work placement, or writing reflections of their learning journey through describing what they have achieved and why it is important.
  • Using Movie Maker, iMovie or Photostory to create digital stories about themselves and their learning journey.
  • Adding digital badges and digital certificates that they have received from their study, training or attending workshops.

5. How can I present this evidence to third parties in a way which meets their requirements? – This where the product part of an eportfolio comes in.

This step, however, isn’t just throwing together all of the evidence that a learner has gathered. It’s a thought out process which enables the learner to present their information in such a way that it demonstrates what they are capable of, and the presentation of this evidence will change depending on their audience.

This is where a good eportfolio tool comes in such as Mahara or PebblePad, as these tools allow learners to easily reuse and repurpose the evidence that they have stored in their eportfolio. This step also requires the learner to have good digital literacy.

Why use an eportfolio approach?

As a summary, an eportfolio is more than just the final output ie the online collection of evidence. It is the process which empowers learners to manage their own learning. In an era which requires people to have higher order thinking and problem solving skills (Australian Government’s “Ideas Boom” Innovation Agenda), an eportfolio approach provides a learning-centred approach to education and training.

In simple terms, the eportfolio approach is about:

  1. Goal setting
  2. Action planning
  3. Reflection
  4. Multi-media and file management
  5. Web presence development

To learn more about eportfolios

The power of video blogs to reinforce learning

Lilian AustinLilian Austin is a member of the professional team of accredited consultants at eWorks. An e-learning consultant offering learning design advice and services to educational organisations and companies, she is well suited to this role. During her extensive experience working in a faculty of education, Lilian has seen the power of video blogs to encourage reflection and reinforce learning. This is her story.

Practical placement, fieldwork or work…

… are all used widely in a range of programs, to give students the opportunity to experience the real world of work and to focus on authentic learning and assessment tasks. Typically students have been asked to complete some tasks whilst on their practical placement, often in the form of a reflective diary. In the past this was a written diary that was handed in to the teacher after the placement. A placement diary can be an excellent tool to both encourage reflection and reinforce that which is learned, but a post-placement submission is too late for any in situ intervention that might be needed. With the advent of new technologies, students have often been asked to complete written electronic blogs or participate in online forums in the LMS. Unfortunately, however, many students use these blogs to merely recount the daily activities without delving into deeper reflective practice.

Personal development through personal visual media 

I worked for years in a faculty of education where students went on practical placement in schools for up to four weeks at a time. For many of these students this is a confronting and highly charged emotional time as it came only seven weeks into their Graduate Diploma of Education. Many are shaking in their boots at the thought of teaching a class of pubescent year 9s. Their fear and anxiety is palpable. For one lecturer, the process of trying to adequately support them during this time was an ongoing challenge. Together we worked on ideas which would make the reporting and reflection on their practicum more real and focussed, and an opportunity for them to start to develop their professional, teacher persona. For years she had been asking students for a regular electronic blog, but we decided to try and combine video and written blogs.

Key to our thinking was the development and critique of the pre-service teachers’ professional identities which are being formed and moulded at this very challenging time. The lecturer wanted to see if we could gain insights into how they were travelling, and how the university staff could support them better. We wanted to see if video blogging could offer us a new way of assessing practicum experiences. Lastly we wanted to see if video blogs would allow students to better integrate their cognitive, motivational and emotional responses to their roles as emerging educators.

So what happened?

Students were asked to keep a regular written journal in their ePortfolio, but to also film themselves speaking to the camera at the end of each teaching week. These three-minute videos were also posted to their ePortfolio so that the lecturer could view them. The lecturer monitored both the written and video submissions throughout the student placements, rather than finding out what happened at the end. This meant that students who were struggling with their placement for whatever reason could be easily identified and assisted before it was too late to do anything about it and the placement effectively wasted. For some students the message and story they told in both mediums was consistent. For others, however, the video blog offered a window into their emotional and very personal experiences in the classroom which had never been seen before. The lecturer watched as pre-service teachers exhibited pride, affirmation, self-doubt, fatigue, adaptation, pessimism, optimism, idealism, achievement satisfaction, affection, hopelessness, disappointment and even anger. Just as students learn in different ways, it seems that they also have tendencies towards effectively communicating their experiences using different types of media.

The tough days

One student filmed himself at his desk in his bedroom. Over the weeks, as he became overwhelmed with the experiences of the practical placement, the bedroom behind him became more and more chaotic. There was no hiding his fatigued and somewhat fragile state after the first week. The lecturer contacted him with a chatty email and some strategies for dealing with the issues he was confronting in his classes. Gradually, over the weeks of the placement, the tone of his videos moved. There was less fatigue, shock and pessimism. There were moments of joy and recognition of himself as ‘a teacher’. His voice and demeanour were telling his story in a way that he didn’t communicate in his written blogs.

The breakthroughs

But it wasn’t all challenges and confrontations! When pre-service teachers had a good lesson for the first time, they were able to video themselves celebrating this intensely enjoyable moment. The lecturer commented that:

The complexity of emotional experiences were conveyed in a more meta-analytical way in the videos. Was this due to the greater sensory representation video provides, or did the action of talking to camera, without an immediate audience, act as a kind of confidential debrief? Did they imagine me listening? Did they remember me saying we would share them?

When the students returned to the relative safety of the university classroom, they shared and reviewed some of these videos with their peers. As a group they were able to grapple with the complexity of emotions in their first teaching experiences. Using the videos to guide them, they started to cast a professional gaze over the whole classroom landscape and their role within it. Video blogs were a powerful and insightful tool for these students and their lecturer. Students were able to view themselves from a distance, to intellectually explore what was happening, and to develop resilience strategies for future teaching experiences. In other words, they became better teachers!

Credits: Mirror, mirror on the…..floor by Andrew Fysh

Video blogging: the way forward?

Video blogging offers creative opportunities for many different types of educational programs and courses. Filming of student activities within placements, interviewing mentors and key personnel, showcasing actual work or work processes and – most importantly perhaps – reflecting on their learning. All of these approaches are real and authentic ways to assess students and guide their development. For those who worry about plagiarism in online learning video blogs are also a wonderful way to ensure that the students are learning and completing the assessment themselves.

Luckily the technicalities of actually taking videos have largely disappeared with the advent of smart phones. Most student have no difficulties in filming a three-minute sequence. Similarly, most LMS or ePortfolio systems allow students to upload short video sequences for their teachers/lecturers to access. The learning for both the student and teacher can be profound. At the conclusion of the course, looking back at their earlier, novice steps, students can clearly see just how far they’ve come. Powerful, real, authentic learning.

What do you think?

About video blogs and personal visual media in general? Lilian would love to know your thoughts. Thanks to Dr Julia Savage, Deakin University, for her assistance with this topic.

Will anyone look at my e-portfolio?

Lilian AustinLilian Austin‘s specialty is learning design – but does she follow her own advice when it comes to e-portfolios?

In this changing world of work and study…

…we need to constantly reinvent ourselves, continually presenting our skills and knowledge to new audiences such as clients, professional bodies, educational institutions and potential employers. Just recently I had to return to my own e-portfolio when I left the university for which I had worked for many years. It was a time to re-assess, re-collate and re-curate my own e-portfolio to align it with my new work priorities and opportunities. It was also a time to put my ‘money where my mouth is’ – after years of encouraging students to develop and maintain an e-portfolio, I could hardly shy away from the task myself. This process brought home to me, yet again, one of the real advantages of e-learning – the opportunities to represent our skills, knowledge, projects and learning with evidence from both formal and informal education. Theory meets learning meets real world experience.

Credits: Portfolio mosaic, by allispossible

Constructing our future with e-learning

As educators and trainers we have the opportunity to make e-learning and e-assessment become part of the way that our students construct their future and ongoing professional personas and therefore shape their lives. By carefully designing learning and assessment tasks we can assist students to gather evidence as authentic artefacts and place them within their e-portfolio space. This gives them the opportunity to revisit their learning, consider it afresh in the light of their new plans, and compile the evidence or products of their learning as rich narratives of their knowledge and skills.

But nobody will look at my e-portfolio

Yes they will! I have heard this from teaching staff and students too. Increasingly potential employers are looking at LinkedIn and other social media profiles – why not look at e-portfolios which have the potential to present a candidate in a very real and authentic way? Indeed during the process of writing this article I learned that eWorks recently assessed e-portfolios as part of their recruitment of an intern. I remember a pre-service teacher who was embarking on the task of getting teaching employment, putting together a rich and engaging e-portfolio. On her opening screen she featured a video of herself speaking to the camera about her passion for her new career and for working with teenagers in the science classroom. Her e-portfolio included an array of multimedia examples of her skills in teaching and was so much more illuminating than a mere CV.  She took her laptop into the job interview and opened the e-portfolio at appropriate times to demonstrate what she was asserting in the interview. It definitely had the wow factor. Needless to say she got the job and is now science co-ordinator at that high school.

The Challenge

The challenge is to construct assessment tasks which allow students to creatively evidence the assessment criteria. These can be collated in an integrated e-portfolio and used again and again in multiple iterations as students reconfigure their e-portfolios for different audiences over time. This is a wonderful win-win – teachers see evidence that their students have learned, and students can use this evidence to:

  • gain a qualification
  • learn 21st century skills by using and applying multimedia and ICT skills which are sought by employers
  • pursue employment and other interests in the ‘real’ world.

For a chat about the use of e-portfolios in education, or for general advice about good learning design, contact Lilian.

E-portfolios: Helping kids in hospital to celebrate and share their learning

Emma Fraser

Emma Fraser is a teacher and the head of literacy at The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne Education Institute. The Institute works in collaboration with young people, families, schools, and education and health professionals to ensure that children and young people continue to engage in learning and remain connected to their school community throughout their health journey. In Personalising learning with e-portfolios we heard about The Institute’s plan to implement the use of e-portfolios, now we have a lovely update on their progress.

Earlier this year…

you heard from our Head of Teaching and Learning, Lauren Sayer, about The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne Education Institute’s plan to implement the use of e-portfolios. The idea was to further develop evidence of learning activities in which students take part while learning at the hospital, so as to facilitate a smooth transition into the next stage of their education and lives upon leaving the hospital. We promised to keep you updated on our progress, so you will be pleased to hear that our teachers have been busy using Evernote as a tool to track and assess student progress, share learning insights and reflections and link students back to their home schools, as seen in the case studies below. This flexible learning technology has also become a valuable internal communication and reflective tool; linking teachers within the hospital.

Credit: Children at school, by Lucélia Ribeiro

A day in the life of The Institute

During the course of a given day there are two early years group learning sessions, four primary group learning sessions, and two adolescent group learning sessions. Use of a flexible learning tool has allowed our teaching team a way to share their work with each other instantly, and has enabled subsequent planning for sessions later in the day. This is also the case when teachers are working on projects together, and can use it as a central storage location for all work relating to that project.

A writer’s notebook program

This year we have begun a writer’s notebook program to generate an interest in writing. Each student is given a notebook to keep. Students are encouraged to write daily entries; both in teaching sessions and when they are alone in their rooms. Students can collect artefacts, write observations, record experiences, memories, narratives, and understandings of the world in these notebooks.   The implementation of e-portfolios has been an effective way for our teachers to ensure that we capture the students’ writings from these notebooks.

The inpatient music program

Becky Hall, one of our primary school teachers, runs a music program with inpatients, and she feels that use of a cloud-based learning tools has allowed her to provide authentic links between music and literacy, focusing on drawing out the creative elements of the writing process using students’ notebooks. Just recently, Becky’s learning sessions for the week focused on teaching students how to create mood in a piece of writing, using music as a prompt for inspiration. Her students were taught how to play a song, focusing closely on the lyrics and they were then encouraged to recreate this song using a journey of their own as the focus. Students listened to various pieces of music and then wrote their narratives thinking about the mood of their journey, paying particular attention to the use of descriptive words and setting the scene.

Nikita, a student who participated in this learning experience, used her writer’s notebook as a way to plan, and create her song. Evernote was then used to showcase Nikita’s progress throughout the week. Her learning intentions from each session, class discussions, work samples and reflections were all captured and made available to her classroom teacher. The flexible learning tool was particularly useful in this instance because Nikita was unable to complete this task entirely in hospital, however during her recovery period at home Nikita finished and was able to send her narrative back to Becky. This was attached to her e-portfolio and has subsequently been forwarded to her regular school.

So much more than learning

Another teacher, Alexandra Klazinga, has been working with Josh for the past two years. Josh has had periods both on the wards and recovering at home. Josh and Alexandra have been building his e-portfolio consistently during this period. Originally it was used to document Josh’s learning journey so that he could review and reflect on it, as well as share his work with his teacher and his peers at school to maintain school connectedness. It also helped him to see that the work he completed at the hospital had a purpose and was important to his classroom teacher. Since January, after losing his vision, Josh’s e-portfolio has become more of a storage point for his completed work, for the benefit mostly of his classroom teacher. She has used the documentation contained within it to assess Josh’s current strengths and weaknesses, and to plan for his return to school in Term 2.

The beauty of sharing

Early childhood educator, Sonja Fea, has also found e-portfolios useful in her work with Rhys, a six year old, who is enrolled with Distance Education Victoria. Sonja has created a portfolio as a way to share Rhys’ learning within the hospital environment with his teacher at Distance Education. Sonja has been documenting all of Rhys’ sessions, focusing specifically on the areas of literacy and numeracy. This work is then shared with his Distance Education teacher who reviews and assesses the work samples and then provides feedback to Sonja. This in turn informs Sonja’s next teaching action, to ensure that Rhys is achieving all of the standards required by Distance Education.

Figure 1

Figure 1 shows an example of the interdisciplinary nature of one his sessions; a numeracy lesson focusing on one-to-one correspondence and phonetic awareness using images of different food beginning with the letter ‘s’. Sonja finds that e-portfolios are valuable tool which allow her to reflect with Rhys before, during and after learning sessions to gain an understanding of his progress.

Celebrating and valuing children’s work

As a teaching team, we agreed that the use of e-portfolios is holistic and personalised in its approach to the student’s learning and education, age and development appropriate, flexible and future-orientated, based on the student’s strengths with a focus on potential and shows evidence of student learning to schools and families. The three case studies described above demonstrate the flexibility offered by e-portfolios in the way they are used to suit individual needs and help with the transition between learning environments. The teaching team are finding that the platform that they used does not meet the needs for all students. Becky, who runs our music program has found the lack of video function difficult, for example, as this is a way she captures the student’s learning. Sonja also relies on film and video in her teaching, as this is a way to capture the role playing aspect of her learning sessions. Overall, it was agreed that using e-portfolios has enhanced the learning experience for not only the students but also the teachers of the RCH Education Institute, and has been a great way to celebrate and value all children’s work.

Do you have an e-learning success story to share? Then please contact eWorks.