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ePortfolios … Part Deux April 29, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Resources, Tools.
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The previous post outlined the reasons behind our investigations into ePortfolios. Here are some thoughts following those explorations.

ePortfolios mean different things to different people and are defined subtly differently. For Sutherland and Powell1 an ePortfolio constitutes a

… purposeful aggregation of digital items – ideas, evidence, reflections, feedback etc, which ‘presents’ a selected audience with evidence of a person’s learning and/or ability.

and this is where the highly informative and extensive JISC Infokit begins.

George Siemens summarises other definitions and also examines in more detail the components forming an ePortfolio, their benefits and uses and the steps necessary to implement a system, then create the portfolios themselves. Lorenzo and Ittelson produced a helpful overview through an Educause ELI Publication, covering definitions, issues and different types (student, teacher, institutional), rounded off with some useful case studies, though these are all understandably within a higher education context. To find material more closely related to primary/secondary (K-12) education, you need to dig a little deeper, but there is plenty there. Dr Helen Barrett produced a Google site which explores how ePortfolios might be provided through Google Apps and John Pallister provided a detailed and informative account of how Wolsingham School engaged its community in the eportfolio process … and product!

Process? Product? Both?

Our students will be recording and reflecting on their ongoing learning, activities and participation yet at some points the collection of artefacts they’ve aggregated will need turning into a product provided for an audience or audiences. It’s this process-product interaction which steered us towards considering an ePortfolio solution to service those needs. But, as I asked in the previous post, is it really a full-blown ePortfolio we need? Or might there be other options?


There are several continua across which different solutions can be mapped.

  • Control: the extent to which the solution is in the hands of the institution or learner. Is it locked down or open, rigid or flexible, fixed or customisable, learner-centric or institutionally driven?
  • Alignment: the extent to which a solution meets the specified requirements
  • Cost: always a thorny one! Accounting for the hidden costs is often problematic, especially attributing a specific value for aspects such as people’s time, whether the teachers’, technical support or administration.
  • Features: the range of features the solution offers.
ePortfolio Continuum

ePortfolio Continuum, Ian Guest (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/) / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Here’s one example within which, from back to front, feature-richness and alignment increase, and indeed, likely does cost. And control? Well that could probably be argued either way. Some solutions may be feature-rich, more costly but be well-aligned with our needs whereas others might be more flexible, cheaper, but less well-aligned. So how to reach a more objective decision?
In some sense it could be possible to ascribe a numerical value to each of the potential solutions and thereby place them more objectively on each of the continua. A weighting could be applied to each continuum based on the degree of importance i.e. if cost is critical, that could be weighted more highly. In this way each solution could be scored and compared with other alternatives … but that’s quite some job. Particularly so when you begin to explore the possibilities out there:

About.me https://about.me/
Desire2Learn http://www.desire2learn.com/products/eportfolio/
Easy Portfolio (app) https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/easy-portfolio-eportfolio/id516212900?mt=8
eFolioworld http://v2efolioworld.project.mnscu.edu
epsilien ePortfolio http://corp.epsilen.com/k12/eportfolio/
Foliofor.me http://foliofor.me/
Foliotek http://www.foliotek.com/
Google Apps for Edu https://www.google.co.uk/
Mahara https://mahara.org/
OneFile http://www1.onefile.co.uk/tour_eportfolio_overview.aspx
PebblePad http://www.pebblepad.co.uk/
RCampus http://www.rcampus.com/eportfoliohomeshellc.cfm?view=cp
Relection2 http://www.symplicity.com/reflection
Sakai http://www.sakaiproject.org/
Taskstream https://www1.taskstream.com/solutions/student-assessment/
Wikispaces http://www.wikispaces.com/
WordPress http://wordpress.com/

… which is of course just a flavour of what’s available across the spectrum and is far from exhaustive, leaving us with much pondering, ruminating and exchanging of views still to be done.

1Sutherland, S. and Powell, A. (2007), CETIS SIG mailing list discussions [Online] Available at: https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A1=ind0707&L=CETIS-PORTFOLIO#3 (Accessed: 13 August 2012).

ePortfolios … or maybe not? April 23, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in Resources, Teaching Idea, Tools.

Yesterday I posted a speculative tweet:

Several people were kind enough to respond, but it quickly became clear how open I’d left the question. Since some responses revealed avenues I might not have otherwise considered, that actually proved to be rather serendipitous. (More about the responses in a post to follow). So perhaps it would be more sensible to outline what we’re actually looking for and see whether anyone can suggest other alternatives I’d not even considered.

Where we are

For some while now, we’ve been concerned that we don’t have a formal system:

  • through which students can record participation in co-curricular, school- and non-school-based activities, other than a brief section in their planner.
  • by which staff (curriculum, pastoral and leadership) can monitor and/or comment on student activity and participation, other than by checking individuals’ planners.
  • which feeds the aforementioned data into our reporting system. This process is currently a summative event undertaken by form tutors in negotiation with the students and for various reasons significant facts sometimes get missed.
  • which will provide an overview of all activity being undertaken and/or filtered down by for example Year group, interest category etc.

Where we want to go

So in summary we’re looking for a solution which:

  • allows students to record participation in co-curricular activities (long-term and fine-grained):
    • in different ways: online, by email, text(?)
    • in different forms: text, photos, scans, links
  • allows students to search, filter, organise, edit and append their records
  • is longitudinal, following students through school, year on year
  • can be monitored, searched and filtered by staff
  • allows staff to see summaries:
    • for different groups of students
    • under different categories
    • over time
  • feeds information into our reporting system
  • potentially at least, allows the students to leave school and take their record with them.

The above constitute our “Essentials” whilst the following might be considered “Desirables.” We need a mechanism which will:

  • showcase academic/mainstream curriculum work
  • allow staff to comment/provide feedback
  • allow peers to view/comment/contribute
  • allow ‘outsiders’ to view: parents, potential employers, admissions tutors
  • allow outsiders to contribute, comment etc e.g. work experience feedback.

Now the more astute amongst you will recognise that the essential criteria don’t precisely constitute an eportfolio. JISC1 summarises things quite succinctly:

…an e-portfolio is a product created by learners, a collection of digital artefacts articulating learning (both formal and informal), experiences and achievements.

the operation of which can be represented diagrammatically as:


Understanding how e-portfolios work (Adapted from Hartnell-Young et al 2007) [https://epip.pbworks.com/w/page/40907849/Defining%20e-portfolios]

So if we go looking for an off-the-shelf eportfolio system, will it be over-specified for what we need? Or maybe there are no eportfolio (or other) systems which do offer the specific functionalities we need? As Frasier would say “I’m listening.”


Coming out of the shade – from lurker to speaker December 19, 2009

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Resources, TELIC.
Tags: , , , ,
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It’s comfortable in the shade.  Secure.  Safe.

Cats in the shade

from TJflex on Flickr

I know I’ve got to be brave about this, but it’s taken some while to work up the courage.  And I’m still not entirely convinced I’m doing the right thing by going public, but many others have gone before and surely enjoyed a sense of liberation as a result?  Oh what the hey, I have to announce I’m coming out!

Yes, I’ve lurked at TeachMeets for long enough and benefitted from the experiences of others, so the time has come to step up to the plate as presenter and perhaps put a little back in.  Unfortunately I can’t get to BETT to enjoy any of the TeachMeets there, but that excuse doesn’t hold for TeachMeetYH2010 on 26th March, barely a half hour’s drive away.  So I’ve signed up for a 2 minute ‘nano’ – “eportfolios by stealth: What a student can produce on a learning platform if you give them free rein.’

This topic has been inspired by work produced by some of our students undertaking the EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) as part of their post-16 studies.  The colleague guiding them asked for each student to be provided with a mini-site within our learning platform, that they could develop in whatever way would suit their needs.  They are required to keep a ‘production log’ which documents the stages in their project, including evaluative and reflective comments.  Their site would become their production log, whilst also providing communication channels with their teacher and fellow students.

You perhaps get a picture now of why ‘e-portfolios’ sneaked into my presentation title.  As a school, we recently began the process of examining possible ways we might choose to move forward with e-portfolios.  Maybe our students are already leading the way?

(Haven’t yet decided on the format of the preso., but will refresh this post when I get that far)