Digital Portfolios are becoming a “big thing” in education (as they should be), and people are starting to think about how this can change assessment practices. Although it is a great idea, there are still a lot of districts and schools struggling with implementation at the student level.
So what is the biggest road block towards this initiative being successful? In my own experience it is our own lack of experience that is holding our students back. If we have never done this practice ourselves, “digital portfolios” become nothing more than digitized paper portfolios. It quickly becomes a “digital dump” of our work where we simply add links to what we have done, with not much else added to the process. A “digital” portfolio should be something more than a replication of what we could simply do offline.
If we are too really move forward with this type of initiative, it is imperative that time and support are given (this is true with everything) to make it happen. This is not just showing us the possibilities of what a “digital portfolio” could do (which many tech companies are trying to do right now), but to actually have the time to play and see the opportunities that a different type of platform gives us for areas like assessment, open reflection, developing a digital footprint, literacy, inquiry based learning, and a whole host of other things. The real power is not in what we can currently do with digital portfolios, but what we can do in the future. As digital tools tend to develop, so do the opportunities, as well as our thinking. Digital portfolios are less of an endpoint and more of a beginning of what we can create for learning, but time is needed for support and play.
Many teachers have seen with the development of their own digital portfolios is the power of having their own “thinking” space, while also developing their own digital footprint. What’s powerful about this process for teachers is that this is their own space. This is crucial in the planning for student portfolios. So when we are moving forward with this process in our schools, we have to ask think about is this something students are making in school, for school purposes, or is this something that is being created to make an impact both during and after school. If it is truly “their portfolio”, then shouldn’t students be able to have ownership over the majority of the content and who has the ability to see it? I know that if someone were to decide for me what I put in my portfolio and who was allowed to see it, I probably wouldn’t put much effort into it Wouldn’t students be any different?
One of the most important aspects of a digital portfolio is that it is (and should be) a very personal process. If I am knowingly having other people look at what I am sharing, I should be able to have an enormous say in what I share and why I share it. But I am not sure I would have come to this conclusion unless I created my own space. The process has led me to be empathetic of what the learner would want from this process, and I would much rather do a portfolio than have a portfolio done to me. And that is why I see the roadblock of many educators (although there are seeming more and more doing this themselves which is awesome!) not having done this process as more of an opportunity than a problem. Doing something from the viewpoint of the learner will dramatically change this process of digital portfolios in schools, and if we put ourselves in the place of our students, I wonder how much different this opportunity will look for our students if we are to jump in first.
Just my thoughts…
Just in case you are looking to go deeper into the topic, here are some articles and resources that I have written on the topic of digital portfolios: