As the search for the best model for an ePortfolio tool gathers steam, I remain confused about what an ePortfolio is for. Should not function drive form?
Here is part of a comment that I dropped on Karina's excellent site at York
"I still don't understand the utility of an ePortfolio as something separate from my life. Have I missed something?
My old friend Paul Evans, the greatest project manager of all time, always used to push back at me when i fell in love with a new idea by asking me what it was meant to do.
His point that all great tools must have an objective and a utility. Have I missed the utility part of your search? If I have please forgive me but here goes my view of utility.
Who is it for?
1. If for an employer - I don't want to look at static data - That would just be a more lengthy CV. I am looking for an easy and safe way to find talent. If this is my aim then surely I want to see quickly evidence of the quality of the thinking and I would want to see the extent of the person's network.
So, using you as an example, imagine that I am a VP Academic of a university and I want to make progress in this sector. I would search Google for ePortfolio. Because you are blogging - you would rank highly. Google yourself - you are at the top of the search. Sign A that you might be worth a look. I would look at what you say and, as importantly, at who you are linked to.
Sign B I see that you are linked to many of the A list in the field. Now I read your blog more carefully and see that you are a major thought leader. You are now on my short list.
Why would I bother with a lesser process? Why would I wade though hundreds of ePortfolios to find my talent when Google will filter it out for me for me based on a real ranking? What would I look for drones who are only going through the paces?
2. For the learner. Learning comes not from explicit but from tacit learning. This is a problem with the formal system that gives credit based on ticking the box. But an employer wants to know more than whether I passed the course or read the book. The employer wants to know if I know.
Tacit learning can only arise from conversation. Regurgitating the last book I read does not cut it. Learning takes place in the context of a field. Universities are acutely aware of this - hence peer review etc. Every field has a boundary and to be any good, you have to have entered the field. Without public participation in the field you do not exist. You are not a player. So if I want to become expert in a field I have to have a talented group to exchange views within. If we can accept this as the basis of real learning as opposed to basic accreditation, then the tool must allow one entry to a field. So it has to be dynamic.
In this context then, a blogging format is ideal - as you are surely experiencing this process yourself as you explore the new field of ePortfolios. So by design, the tool has to be community based and conversationally dynamic.
Currency is critical today as fields move so fast. Only participation in a dynamic community can keep a learner and even an expert current. There is no field that can kept up with by passive reading anymore.
So if I was an employer - why would I find a static site with lists of minor achievements interesting? If I was a serious learner why would I pass up an opportunity to learn with others who share my passion and instead spend time pasting stuff into an album?
I think that the ePortfolio is right before our eyes. It is a modified blogging tool with a category fior our best stuff. The day to day aspect of it is the artists sketch book. The "best stuff" part of it is where we put the examples of our thinking that we are most proud of. Artists do this all the time. Visual artists sketch constantly. This is where they develop ideas. They then put this into a work. The work then goes out into the field and is adjudicated by the field.
The ideal tool would combine a dynamic conversation with a showcase for the best thoughts. It would not be a proprietary system that could own me. It would fit into the search world. This search criteria is vital and thus excludes all flash sites that are not picked up by Google.
What I suspect may be going on is a trendy search for a showcase for mediocrity. Is the real search for a tool to showcase the average student who plods there way through school? Is this only a fat CV that will end up like 98% of CV's of no import unread? Is the real search a way of packaging an accreditation system that focuses on the explicit and the static that has no value except to the accrediting body - the University?
What would be the utility other than selling software of such a quest? If I am wrong or you disagree - challenge me. But let's focus on the why before we work too hard on the what.