Moving ePortfolios From Individual Practice to the Field
MY GOALS FOR THE DAY
I was very excited to be at the AAC&U 2nd National ePortfolio Forum. This forum, AAEEBL, ePAC, and I/NCEPR all demonstrate the burgeoning field of ePortfolio practice beyond individual institutions and their programs. The new International Journal of ePortfolio and the two major FIPSE grants awarded this year, Lifelong Learning Curriculum Transformation Project and Connect to Learning, all demonstrate the continued growth of ePortfolio pedagogy, practice, research, and the importance of connecting our work in the field. The forum nicely built on themes established in last year's forum demonstrating the powerful growth of the field in one short year.
I took the photograph above on a very early morning cable-car ride on the Powell-Mason line. It was pouring outside. Through the front window, you can see that there is a clear path ahead, but the rain and the lights distract. I thought it was a nice metaphor for our national ePortfolio work. There's a clear path ahead, but sometimes we get distracted by other things along the way.
I came to the ePortfolio Forum to learn about new and emerging practices. I wanted to hear from schools that were new to ePortfolio or whose practice was new to me. I was also interested in thinking with other colleagues about how we move forward in the field, continuing to connect our practices.
WHAT I NOTICED & LEARNED:
I had a difficult time choosing which sessions to attend beyond our communal time in keynote sessions because I was interested in everything. I am excited that the California Virtual Campus will make many of the concurrent sessions available on-line later.
The most important observation I made during sessions was how we've moved, as a field, beyond the basics (e.g. How do I...) to more sophisticated presentations of how different institutions have shaped and crafted their ePortfolio work to address some of these questions.
Melissa Peet's morning keynote address set the right tone, encouraging us to find connections, exploring the neural networks emerging in our work. Although we are all engaged in ePortfolio work on our own campuses, I agree that this is collective work, work which benefits from all of our discoveries along the way. The forum encouraged these connections, particularly through the reflective process (here, on Twitter, on Google Docs, and on Facebook, compiled here).
One dominant theme for me, a connection among several presentations I attended was that students are the center of this work.
For example, Salt Lake Community College has come up with a very inventive approach to student ownership. Their focus on student-authored ePortfolios, having students create open source ePortfolios, has also solved the problem of managing portfolios in several systems by linking them back to the college's registration system so that faculty can easily see them. (David Hubert)
The University of Minnesota-Duluth is tackling life-long learning with their focus on helping students to become independent, life-long learners by embedding staged, independent learning into the ePortfolio structure. (Paul Treuer & Jill Jenson)
Clemson's work in having students review ePortfolio using rubrics is definitely a compelling model of student engagement, peer mentorship, and collaborative learning. (Gail Ring)
Connecting Our Work
Melissa Peet, Bret Eynon, Judit Torok, and Trent Batson presented two different sessions on new grants which are bringing together institutions around the country to connect our ePortfolio work. You can read more about them above (linked in the first paragraph). Connecting our work was a big theme in the forum, building on previous conversations and collaborations.
I was riveted by Gary Brown's presentation of the amazing gains and transformation of assessment culture at Washington State University. WSU's work has been a touchstone for many of us in moving our own assessment work ahead. Accordingly, I think the whole audience was shocked and horrified by his tale of "assessment gone wrong." It was a heart-breaking note on which to end the day, but also a realistic analysis of institutions.
Two areas emerged through the Twitter feed and casual conversation as missing in the overall conversation: data to support the claims of the field and a clear path for people who are interested in beginning this work at their institutions.
WHAT I AM TAKING HOME WITH ME:
I am interested in continuing to support communal reflection so that we can grow in our ePortfolio practice and pedagogy beyond conferences and meetings into a clearly defined field with shared practices and expectations.