A few weeks ago I finally joined LinkedIn. While I was creating my account I realized that what was going on my page were things like a bio, work experience, strengths/skills, achievements, awards, links to videos and other forms of evidence of work, and in general I’ve been creating a place to record my work in a way that can be easily seen by a larger network. It’s an ePortfolio.
I find this funny because many students at my school have come to dislike this word and cringe at the mere mentioning of it. This word is heard and it brings back unpleasant memories of struggling to try and create an ePortfolio at school. The stigma against ePortfolio’s comes from many places. The tools used in the past have been confusing to manipulate. The directions were not always self explanatory, and often times hard to follow. There was an attempt at one point to grade them. They felt forced. There wasn’t much freedom to how it was set up. Everyone would be confused as to what they should add. And just in general it just has never been an easy process on the students or teachers when we’ve tried to use ePortfolios in class.
The other reason I find this situation funny is because I’ve been semi-trying (as in I know it needs to be done and it’s on my to-do list but not high up on priorities) to update my blog site to use it as more than just a blog; to make my site into more of an ePortfolio or sorts. However, I have not made much progress as evident by looking at this site.
I understand the value in having an ePortfolio, and I think many of my peers do as well. However, for some reason school has yet to crack the code for how to best help students create an ePortfolio and understand why it should be taken seriously. I know my sister, who recently was officially accepted into ID next year actually, has actually been working on a small team of students and teachers in the middle school on improving the ePortfolio process. I don’t really know much about that work other than the fact that it’s happening, but it makes me wonder why this challenge has proven so difficult. Clearly it is difficult because we’ve yet to crack the code in the educational world, and yet I spent maybe 2 hours on LinkedIn (potentially longer) purely out of choice and I found it much easier than any ePortfolio creation I’ve tried in the past.
One difficulty to successfully having ePortfolio’s in education that I’ve realized is that I think many students are under the perception that only “school work” can go on an ePortfolio they make at school. But let’s face it, the “real world” doesn’t care about every single project you do in Freshman Biology (just for example). Students need more “real world” experiences and meaningful work opportunities so that they have things to put in their ePortfolio. This also means that schools need to really embrace the mindset of a historian to capture everything! A picture is worth a thousand words, and video documentation is like the secret sauce to a great meal. No one likes to just read thousands of words about every new thing you add to your portfolio, but most people find a page much more inviting if there are some pictures, videos, or other media forms to keep them engaged in new ways.
What this all makes me wonder is if rather than trying to create our own educational ePortfolio system, we should take advantage of systems already available liked LinkedIn. And this mindset goes for more than just ePortfolio’s. This situation has just reminded me yet again of how critical it is for us to bridge the gap between school and the real world, and how we don’t really need to just go create all of these new systems in order to accomplish this goal. There is a lot of valuable information and tools already available to us in this world, it’s just a matter of finding it and using it.