When I started teaching Middle School, in 1998, I was introduced to the idea of ePortfolios by an expert in education. At that time, there was a great deal of interest, in the State of Vermont (where I was teaching), around the idea of implementing them into the classroom. Well, here it is 14 years later, and the talk of ePortfolios from K-20 is still a topic of discussion, and something we’ve yet to implement well, particularly in K-12, not just in Vermont but nationwide. Why so? There are a few reasons why this is the case.
The first is that Higher Education departments of education primarily implemented systems specifically designed for meeting accreditation standards. They were difficult to use and definitely not something you’d use in a K-12 classroom to get kids excited about learning. Yet, these were the only eportfolios pre-service teachers were familiar with using.
Second is that the cost of proprietary systems are generally out of the reach of most school districts, especially when there is no mandate to have them. Even when there is a mandate, it is usually not followed by money to help with the implementation. Open Source options are often frightening to districts, and there are no salesmen at conferences pitching their products. Schools have been on there own to come up with a solution, and then try to help the teachers learn how to build ePortfolios into teaching & learning in the classroom.
All of which leads to the third reason: teachers were never taught how to use ePortfolios, nor the purpose of them. To me, this is the most troublesome thing of all, because ePortfolios can be extremely powerful tools when used properly.
And finally, ePortfolios aren’t easily ported from one system to the next, but students are. And this is the primary reason that a state-wide portfolio system K – 20 is the ideal way for these to be implemented, most especially if this is taken on by a State University system that could host the application for all schools in the state. AND, if it was an Open Source solution, students of the system could have access for life. The State could host it, and charge a cost recovery fee for schools to use it. Precedence has already been set in New Zealand where the entire country is on the Mahara system. The social networking components of the system allow educators and students to interact with each other on a national basis as well as a regional basis. Students can move from school to school and their work follows them.
The benefits to the State System would be the ability for students to move throughout the system, from Kindergarten through life and take their portfolios with them wherever they went. They would have a complete record of their learning, their skills, even their dreams. Pre-service teachers would be using the same system their students would use. Portfolios could be used to meet entrance requirements for the University system. And the list goes on and on.
In the fall of 2010, while I was at Plymouth State University, we hosted a state-wide K-20 ePortfolio Day. It was extremely well attended. It was clear that educators from Elementary, to Secondary, to Tertiary education needed to collaborate with one another in the effective use of ePortfolios and participants expressed an interest to keep the dialogue going. http://www.plymouth.edu/office/online-education/531/eportfolio-day-2010/
There are a number of states that are currently poised to take this on: Being that I’m now in New York State, my hope is that NY State will see the value in this idea, and it will be the first state in the nation to implement a state-wide comprehensive K-life ePortfolio system that really works. NY’s current system (MyPortfolio) is focused on career and technical abilities, and is set to fail because of this. ePortfolios can be used for teaching & learning, for building projects, for critical thinking skills, etc. Here is a perfect example of what can be done on the K-12 level: http://myportfolio.school.nz/view/view.php?t=TpvU3eGSIOzy64aP7Kbn