>ePortfolio sessions

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This week I have had 2 ePortfolio sessions with 2 different group of students. One group with a good age mix and another with students arranging from 16-24 year old with a couple probably in the 30s.

About the session:
Well the sessions went well. I always begin by saying use of portfolio in education is not new. It gives the students a sense of believe that what they’ll be doing in the session and later in the course is not new. I normally follow this with a question, how did it use to be done. The answer mostly is on paper. I follow this up with, so what problems arise from doing things on paper? Students are normally quick to point out that things begin a nightmare to manage, forget about sharing and collaborate. Now that the students themselves have identified the problem I introduce the E.
Throwing in the mix Facebook, Bebo, Myspace and Youtube helps and also pointing to students who have profiles on any of these systems that they already have a portfolio.  Facebook, Bebo, Myspace and Youtube could be classified as a SOCIAL Portfolio. ePortofolio – e meaning electronic or going digital. Asking the students now to identify the benefits works wonders. In the two sessions I did this week, students in both sessions identified the ability to share, communicate, collaborate and co-create is vastly increased in an online environment. The concept of leaving feedback on Facebook or Myspace and Youtube is not very different to what the students will be needed to do in their course portfolio. Having discussed this and pointing out that your Facebook portfolio is SOCIAL and what is needed in the course is a PROFESSIONAL portfolio seems to help students understand the concept better.
I like to start talking about ePortfolios by asking students to explain this diagram that was done by my former colleague Hazel Owen.
The diagram outlines three very important elements of an ePortfolio, audience, the stage and back-stage. Knowing who you are developing the portfolio for helps you with the content and also helps you keep the portfolio focused. Students identify their two main audience as teachers and potential employers. The stage I find to be very interesting especially if you have teachers in class. The stage is where you are performing and this rises a very interesting question, who is the performer, the teacher or student? The obvious answer is student, it has to be if he/she is expected to talk about it in the portfolio. But if the teacher takes the centre stage in learning everyday, how can you expect the students to hand-in a good portfolio. An eportfolio for assessment in learning only works if students are handed a fair chance to create its own experience on the stage hence creating a event to reflect on. The content becomes the back-stage, what the student did to prepare for it, planning, time management, documentation, reading, writing and research all spiced up by reflecting on the performance on the stage.
After I have established this platform, I take the students through this plan. The session follows, what an eportfolio is, why create one, getting started and finally posting the first blog to get over any initial fears. We are using Blogger as the platform for students to create their portfolio. The choice to go with Blogger was because it makes managing the content easier since it hookers up with Picasa, Youtube and Google Docs very easily. Students are asked to create a Google account first and in the session I take them through Gmail (Video and Voice chat), Documents, Youtube, and Calender. This combination of tools makes Google a very tempting choice. There is not a huge learning curve for the students to get started with most of Google tools.
Now back to the two groups of students I mentioned earlier in the post. I found the students in the class of age group 16-25 years very open to the idea of ePortfolios, whereas the older students out right commented ‘Why would I waste my time’. I don’t believe in comments like age is a factor in using technology for learning. I believe it is a persons attitude or fear that is holding them back. In the session at regular intervals I run polls and surveys to assure unwilling students in class that you are not alone in this journey. The lecturer and the number is willing students are always available for help, all you have to do is ask. I also at this stage open the room up for discussion and encourage the willing students and persuade and assure the unwilling students why they think eportfolio is the way to go. I found it valuable to get a discussion going amongst students to help them help each other.

Follow up sessions with these students are planned.

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