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September 20, 2009


ePortfolios: Building Rationale

by fambrojoe

Here is a snapshot of a sample “shell” ePortfolio that is being considered for use in the middle school:

Screen shot 2009-09-20 at 3.16.55 PM

The last several weeks have been filled with interesting conversations about our ePortfolios and their relationship(s) and effects on student digital literacy, online safety, and digital responsibility.  There are many opinions within our learning community and the issues we face will not be solved quickly or easily.  Some of the issues are embedded in these questions:

  • Should the ePortfolios be open or closed?
  • Who owns the information and ideas in the ePortfolio?
  • Who is responsible for the ePortfolio (student or school)?
  • What is appropriate ePortfolio information for the online community?
  • Can middle school students be responsible for their digital watermark and online presence where school related work/information is involved?

Thinking through some of these questions has caused me to reconsider and revisit the purpose and rationale of ePortfolios.  And, whereas revisiting the purpose/rationale is a simple process, prioritizing the reasons supporting and detracting from the use of ePortfolios is not as simple.  In any case, here are some of the rationales that I believe are central to determine if and how ePortfolios should be used:

  • Audience
  • Data
  • Metacognitive growth
  • Learning style identification
  • Digital citizenship and Responsibility
  • Communicating/reporting

Even though there may be varying opinions regarding the uses of ePortfolios and how they are implemented in a k-12 learning environment, the points of rationale are certainly worthy of moving ahead cautiously.

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sep 21 2009

    Hi, Fambrojoe,

    Sitting here at my desk in a cool North of England it might be hard for me to fully understand the context within which you are working.

    However, one point that I feel you might have missed is that of how the e-Portfolio will change Teaching & Learning. I feel that t the moment too many people are thinking of the e-Portfolio as just supporting traditional didactic styles.

    Similarly, I feel that the e-Portfolio willreally challenge our approaches to feedback and assessment.

    Please see my latest post on this at:

    Best Wishes,
    Ray T

  2. Oct 12 2009

    Hello Ray,

    I apologize for the long delay in replying to your comment. The last couple of weeks have been filled with days of staying in bed and going to the doctor! At last I am feeling much better and have mostly recovered from pneumonia.

    Your blog post entitled, “What is Feedback?” is right on track in regards to formative assessment. In my current school we often refer to formative assessment as formative feedback and hope that it is an ongoing, multi-directional approach. In my experience formative assessment comes too late and is “one-way” in teacher-centered classrooms where there is little/less student ownership of learning. On the other hand, classrooms that are student-centered, inquiry-based and the teacher is more of a facilitator, there is much more of a “team” approach where feedback from teacher to student and student to teacher is rich and often.

    One thing that I am not sure about is the use of e-Portfolios in the formative assessment/feedback process. There are many types of portfolios (project, growth, achievement, competence, celebration – “Classroom Assessment for Student Learning”, Stiggins et al). Some of these types are more appropriate for enhancing the feedback process. We intend to use portfolios that are more achievement and celebratory in nature, meaning that students will choose selected pieces of work to exhibit in the portfolio after they have completed the work. Because we are a 1:1 laptop school and try to use collaborative technologies such as Google Docs with students, this allows for there to be on-going records of the development/revision process that students and teachers can use as a basis for feedback instead of the e-portfolio.

    In closing, your overarching point that I may have missed “how the e-portfolio will change teaching and learning” isn’t missed… I think you are correct that I haven’t considered or prioritized this enough. I do think that it is largely embedded in the other reasons I submit for using e-portfolios, but it may be necessary to highlight.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    I look forward to reading your blog in the future.


    • Oct 12 2009

      Joseph, sorry to hear of your troubles!

      You refer to Stiggins et al – unfortunately their thinking is shaped by the limitations of a previous generation of e-Portfolio tools. I strongly argue that there is no reason to have separate e-Portfolios for different purposes. Now a single tool, containing all of one’s legitimate artefacts can be used to present to different audiences, concurently, and with appropriately different ‘faces’ or views.

      However, of more concern is the paper ‘Classroom Assessment For Student Learning (CASL)
      Perspective on the JCSEE Student Evaluation
      Standards’ by Judy Arter. Although the paper is well presented, it discusses principles of teacher assessment (ie informing the teacher) which were commonly addressed some 20 years ago. In fact I advised my colleages (as director of e-Learning some 25 years ago) that this is the way teachers should be going.

      Formative Assessment is equally about advising the student about learning strategies long before final outcomes. I think that W.J. Popham’s powerful little book ‘Transformative Assessment’ really makes for a balanced understanding of both aspects of this work.

      Good feedback should be capable of helping the student understand if different learning strategies might be more appropriate (or even going to different teachers!). In other words, the control of learning should be in the hands of the learner rather than the dictates of the teacher.

      Finally, Judy refers to ‘evaluation’ as if it is the prerequisite of the teacher. Rather, as I try to spell out at: , evaluation has some five components which aid a student’s progression and is performed by the learner. This is more of a summative assessment rather than the formative assessment with which we should be regularly supplying to our students.

      • Oct 13 2009

        Hi Ray…

        You make some interesting points. Popham’s book is great read. Sounds like you have years of experience! Thanks your comments.

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