Overall, the conference proved to be very useful, particularly when gaining new perspectives on how ePortfolios might be used to support learning and teaching. I have found that the subject of ePortfolios can be emotive in much the same way as Marmite can be. The biggest source of contention often seems to be whether they should be used solely for Personal Development Planning (PDP) purposes or as an assessment vehicle. Underpinning this particular disagreement seems to be the issue of ownership. Some feel that learners should own the ePortfolios outright and be encouraged to use them as part of their own personal and academic development, without being told to or coerced by tutors/teachers. Others feel that when used within an institution, both parties have a stake in how the ePortfolio is used as well as ownership of certain types of content, particularly when used for assessment purposes.
As someone that has used ePortfolios for assessment and CPD purposes, I feel a mix of both approaches is necessary. This echoes the general consensus of those using ePortfolios with learners at the conference. In fact, quite a few argued that a carrot and/or stick approach is sometimes best, especially when encouraging primary engagement. Quite often, claims such as these raise more than a few heckles, but drawing on my own experiences, I have to agree. I used an ePortfolio, because not doing so would have resulted in me failing my MA and also losing out on valuable feedback from my tutor. I enjoyed using it and found it a useful way to support my studies. As a result of my initial use, I’ve seen the value of using ePortfolios to support collaborative activities with colleagues and for continued professional development (CPD) purposes. Looking back, I think it is highly unlikely that I would have used it had it not been part of the course requirements.
For me, I think caution needs to be taken when proposing how ePortfolios should be used, particularly when it sends out a message that they are for one use and only that. Such a prescriptive approach may negatively impact upon learner and tutor buy-in. Even worse, it may curb the enthusiasm of those willing to explore new ways in which ePortfolios can be used to support learning. Simply because technologies have been marketed as doing this, that or the other, it shouldn’t stop us looking for new ways to reappropriate them. I mean, in everyday life we use objects for different things other than those they were initially intended for, so why should technologies be any different? Just think about the last time you used a knife to pop the lid on a tin of paint or screw a plug back together. Who’s to say an ePortfolio can’t be constructed in something like a wiki rather than an off-the-shelf product?
The above are my own personal views and I hope that they prompt further discussion. Let us hear your comments, what you think and about your experiences?