From “Defining the ePortfolio” by Jill D. Jenson & Paul Treuer – 2014

These are the 4 defining characteristics of ePortfolios given by Paul Treuer in 1996 to software developers:

1. E-portfolios were to be owned and managed by the users (i.e., the students).
2. E-portfolios were to be used responsibly, through selective, thoughtful sharing of granular pieces of digital information.
3. E-portfolios were to be used to promote critical reflection.
4. E-portfolios were to be used to foster lifelong learning.

I think point number 2 is of particular importance as we think about the role of FYC in preparing students to create their ePortfolios. Specifically, if we ask first year students to create an ePortfolio, we have little hope of their being able to compile artifacts of their learning in a selective, thoughtful, responsible way if for no other reason than the fact that they will only have a single year of college instruction to draw from (to say nothing of the fact that most (maybe all) of their selections will be, at the end of four years, their LEAST representative work.

Goals 1, 2, and 3 however can (and probably should) be long term goals that students are introduced to at the beginning of their college careers. The earlier they start thinking in these terms about their learning, the more prepared they will be by the end of their degree.

So maybe the role of FYC is to 1) prepare students to make an ePortfolio down the road by introducing the concept, its goals, its payoffs, its methods, etc.

2) have them practice these habits of mind by creating a practice (or learner’s) portfolio.

This is where the eportfolio tool in Canvas might be incredibly useful: allows them to practice without making it public and ties in to their course work (at least the courses that use Canvas) throughout their career. The added benefit is that students who never complete the final, polished, public ePortfolio will still have practiced the skills of connection & reflection between all their classes rather than simply taking each course as an individual unit of learning.

Maybe we call them Spider Portfolios–emphasizes that their job is to make a web of learning AND it sounds more interesting than Practice Portfolios 🙂

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E-Portfolios: Go Big or Go Home by Darren Cambridge

E-Portfolios: Go Big or Go Home

Published on Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Darren Cambridge

Synopsis: The transformative potential of ePortfolios is only achieved when the student is able to deeply integrate their learning from several classes. Not only does an ePortfolio fail to transform the learner when it is assigned to meet the requirements of a single class, but it can in fact be detrimental. To make the most out of the experience for a student, faculty need to think more broadly about their responsibilities to students. The goal of an ePortfolio project must not be to document learning in a single class, but rather to broadly connect learning from across the curriculum. This is not to say you can’t use an ePortfolio for learning AND assessment—but in order to do both, you have to integrate “activities across the curriculum at a scale almost never attempted by programs invested only in meeting the demands of external accountability”. So, Cambridge proposes that the best practices in individual classes might be what he calls Low Threshold Assignments:

     These assignments may not involve e-portfolios directly or at all. Rather, they have two possible goals: either supporting the development of students’ reflective practice, or using multimedia and social software to document experience and identity. The products of these low-threshold assignments could be collected in a shared e-portfolio space provided by the institution. Integrative e-portfolio activities could then ask students to select from and reflect on this archive of evidence of their learning.

The power of the ePortfolio is not its ability to meet traditional goals (or assess student work) in a new medium but rather to disrupt traditional learning by asking students to forge new connections between learning experiences.