Wednesday, November 24, 2004

E-Portfolio Q & A

A respected co-worker recently heard that I had done some research into e-portfolios and asked a few pointed questions. I'd be curious to hear if anyone else has input on these, as my responses were pretty off-the-cuff and at the end of a long day. Perhaps I was too negative...although I did preface all of the answers with an always vague "well, it depends".

Do you really see ePortfolio being used with success by the masses?
Not really. There are government and commercial groups talking high and mighty about "an e-portfolio for every citizen" and the like. I think portfolios may be irrelevant for the masses, but potentially helpful for some people.

Will an ePortfolio really help a student get into a college of their choice?
Not yet, and probably not ever in most schools. A friend works in admissions at one of Canada's biggest universities, and I asked him about e-portfolios for applications. He sort of laughed, then described the very regimented, standardized assembly line methods they used to process applications. There's no room for creative reflections of student's personalities. Maybe in a small, very competitive school, it could be more valuable. And some desirable schools may require a kind of e-portfolio -- think of it as an enhanced application package that includes personal reflection and samples of their best work.

Land a cool job out of high school?
Probably not. So much depends on the field, and most fields aren't particularly compatible with portfolios. In any creative work, your portfolio is a lot more important than your resume. Many high school students are graduating with amazing technical and artistic skills that they can show online -- if they're in demand, their portfolios will get them hired. But certainly not most students in most lines of work.

Help an unemployed steel worker get reemployed?
No. At least not in blue-collar industries. A portfolio could help someone organize their transition through the process of retraining, though.

Will there be a day very soon when everyone knows about and uses ePortfolio effectively? And for what mainly?
Not very soon. There is lots of momentum building for k-12 usage of e-portfolios, and many college programs are introducing them, so I guess all of those kids will be forced to know about e-portfolios...not sure how effectively, though. In education, the goal is to get kids managing their own learning process, outside of the traditional realm of test scores and credits. So it may help assess soft skills, or help kids connect to each other in meaningful ways, but a lot of this is just being developed now.

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