ePortfolios – An Authentic Student Voice Heard From Within The Knowledge Jungle ?

It’s  a Jungle out there – a Knowledge Jungle

Are ePortfolios the answer? Is it possible they could be the vehicle to enable an authentic student voice to heard from within the Knowledge Jungle


ePortfolios – How Can We use Them to Promote Powerful Pedagogical Practice _ A SWAT Analysis

The purpose of this reflective blog is to consider what I have learnt about the value of ePortfolios using a SWAT analysis to explore the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for P-12 Students.

The image below is one I made from this article in Wordle to demonstrate the key concepts – in case you don’t want to read on and just want to head for the summary. Sadly, my name is the least noticed word in the Wordle but you can see that Barrett is a prominent researcher – and one I will follow carefully!

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 3.19.55 PM

An ePortfolio is a selective and structured collection of information gathered for specific purposes and evidencing growth and accomplishments over time.

Portfolios over time have been used to collect information for a specific purpose. Artists use them to demonstrate their art, financial portfolios can be use to demonstrate wealth and an educational folio can demonstrate a students learning and achievements.

What are the strengths and opportunities afforded by ePortfolios?

Digital portfolios offer the chance to capture so much more about the learner and the learning journey. Helen Barrett has been researching the benefits of ePortfolios, published numerous articles in the past ten years and maintains a website dedicated to ePortfolios found at http://www.electronicportfolios.org. ‘Portfolios support reflection that can help students understand their own learning and provide a richer picture of student work to document growth over time.’

ePortfolios provide greater opportunities to capture the learning process because they combine the value of portfolios to collect, select, reflect and project with the value of multimedia to decide, design, develop and evaluate. . The flexibility of eportfolios enables artefacts to be created, reflected upon and modified to reflect new  learning. The structure is fluid, does not need to be hierarchical, enables a more creative and non-linear presentation,and can be changed to reflect the personality of the owner. Students can present learning and reflections over time and can be continually evaluating their artefacts. .

‘Evidence in an electronic portfolio is not only measured by the artefacts that a learner places there, but also the accompanying rationale that the learner provides- their argument as to why these artefacts constitute evidence of achieving specific goals, outcomes and standards.’

If the curriculum incorporates ePortfolios in carefully considered, purposeful and structured ways the students become more connected with their learning.  If Web 2.0 tools are encouraged to become part of the ePortfolio then there are opportunities for student- directed learning, learner choice,collaborative activities, knowledge sharing, peer reviews, critical reflection and debate.

Being able to hyperlink between artefacts and reflections enables the students to connect more deeply with the learning and develop metacognition.  This will require a new set of considerations in encouraging strategies in our students such as self-regulation, initiative and direction without teacher supervision

‘A good self-regulator will pay attention to tasks, persist when it becomes difficult, demonstrate flexibility, and be confident that more effort will lead to positive outcomes.’ As educators move towards using digital media to teach, and we rely more on children’s independent initiative and motivation, it’s important to develop kids’ learning strategies so they stay on topic while they use these tools.’

What are the weaknesses and threats that must be considered?

If the digital portfolio is not permanently accessible and enduring the students will not value their efforts engage in a meaningful way and it will be like the student workbooks that fill the school bins on the last day of school – all that learning just thrown away!

Teachers who have not had any authentic experiences with creating their own  digital ePortfolios may not appreciate the learning opportunities, the potential for reflection and growth and be reticent to plan for and encourage student use.  They may view the ePortfolio as an add on to their courses rather than considering rewriting the course structure to accommodate new learning opportunities and may attempt to adapt the  ePortfolio to fit their current practices.

The careful intent to plan and scaffold of tasks, the guided intervention to develop effective reflective skills and quality and timeliness of quality feedback by the teacher will require further exploration and skills in their professional development.


There are multiple purposes for an ePortfolio that need to be considered further. Firstly, it needs to be a digital archive of the student’s work that documents attainment of standards, it needs to be a quality showcase of samples that reflect the student’s best works but most importantly it need to foster students telling their own digital stories that evidence their personal learning journey over time.

It is important that the true ownership stays with the student for it is only when it is their story, powerfully told by them that the intrinsic worth, the  critical reflective value and the optimized learning potential of an ePortfolio to will be realized.


Barrett, H. C. (2007). Researching electronic portfolios and learner engagement: The REFLECT initiative. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy50(6), 436-449.

Barrett, H.C 2013 Is The Future Of ePortfolio Development In Your Pocket

http://maclearning.org/articles/7/is-the-future-of-e-portfolio-development-in-your-pocketegulate/ Accessed  11 Jan 2014

Challis, D. (2005). Towards the mature ePortfolio: Some implications for higher education. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology/La revue canadienne de l’apprentissage et de la technologie31(3).

Pelliccione, L., Pocknee, C., & Mulvany, J. (2009). The Use of Social Interaction Technologies in E-Portfolios. Handbook of research on social interaction technologies and collaboration software: concepts and trends, 233.

Uhls, Y.  (2012).  As Digital Tools Abound Help Kids To Self Regulate 


Accessed  11 Jan 2014


Be Strategic In Note Taking – SWATs Wrong With That

Why not consider alternatives to note taking and a way to mix things up. I used a SWAT Analysis  ( Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to put the decision of implementing portfolios based on the article by Challis. Note I even used APA referencing in the SWAT

Okay I’d better cite it here using my trusty new cite copy and paste trick from Google Scholar

Challis, D. (2005). Towards the mature ePortfolio: Some implications for higher education. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology/La revue canadienne de l’apprentissage et de la technologie31(3).

SWAT Analysis


Another strategy that works very well is 3SQR – great to focus and absorb more from your readings 


Evernote this online note taker synchs between my iPhone, iPad and MacBook – it’s free and also works on Android

EvernoteEvernote this online note taker synchs between my iPhone, iPad and MacBook – it’s free and also works on Android
You can use it to take photos of the best slides from a presenter, then write annotations or just record the presenter.

If A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words – What Is Youtube Worth?

youtubeYoutube is the second largest search engine in the world and growing. In my studies I have discovered some powerful Youtube clips that have enhanced my understanding of working as a 21st Century Educator

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 6.46.43 PM21st Century Learning is a snapshot of what the future has in store and summarises the needs of a 21st Century learner

21st Century Learner


Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 6.51.01 PMThe Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership produced this brief overview of 21st Century Education and how it will impact on teachers and students.

21st Century Education 

21:21 is a documentary film produced by 21 Foundation to highlight the urgent need for the adoption of 21st century learning methods.
In the film, which was shot in schools in 9 countries, Learning Activist and 21 Foundation founder Patrick Newell highlights the problems with traditional teaching techniques, before introducing a number of fundamental elements of 21st century leaning – and demonstrating the positive effect that they have upon learners from all backgrounds.”

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The clip is quite long but it is worth watching how empowered and inspired the students are when they are in charge of their learning. There are many examples of discourse that I envision would be used by an”Ideal Teacher” and also tasks that could be inspirational tasks for an ePortfolio.

21:21 – Aligning 21st Century Learning with 21st Century Learners

Interested In Developing Different Reflective Lenses With Students- Hats Off To You!

Image             Hmmm !

If developing the skills of viewing through different reflective lenses with teachers is going to be hard how will I go about it with the students.

A simple way I am considering is using De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.

De Bono's hats 4

The starting point could be to pose a problem that has many different solutions depending on which lens you use to view it.

Should birds be kept in cages?

Describe the features of De Bono’s first five hats and ask students to contribute ideas for any hat and justify why it fitted the lens of that hat. Repeat the process with a few examples and then ask them to write a reflective piece on why I engaged them in this activity.

  • Information (White) – considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?
  • Emotions (Red) – intuitive or instinctive gut reactions or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification)
  • Discernment (Black) – logic applied to identifying reasons to be cautious and conservative
  • Optimistic response (Yellow) – logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony
  • Creativity (Green) – statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes

Accessed from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Thinking_Hats


Going The Extra Mile – Transforming Reflection

Reflection is not a new concept for many teachers and students but to transform it into effective reflective practice is a complex but worthwhile journey.

Many academic journals that I have been reading over the past ten days define reflective practice in different ways dependent on their focus audience.

Valverdi’s definition is one I would use for a formal staff meeting

Valverde (1982) viewed reflection as

“Examining one’s situation, behavior, practices, effectiveness, and accomplishments by asking: What am I doing and why? The self-evaluation that follows involves active, persistent, and careful consideration and contemplation of the practitioner’s beliefs and knowledge and leads to professional development, growth, and greater understanding of self and the profession.”

But Kottkamp’s definition says it simply and I would use this for informal situations with teachers and students because I feel that it is an easier definition to connect with and link to prior learning.

Kottkamp (1990) defined reflection as

“A cycle of paying deliberate attention to one’s own actions in relation to intentions . . . for the purpose of expanding one’s opinions and making decisions about improved ways of acting in the future, or in the midst of the action itself.”

The diagram below might be a simple visual to assist teachers and students to understand the layers that have to be explored to develop effective reflective skills.

reflect triangle2

Changing World Changing Times – Innovate or Dessicate

To put this blog into perspective here is a brief description of the key aspects and challenges of my role.

The title ‘eLearning Coordinator’ sounds like such a great and exciting role for the 21st Century!

I have worked in this role at a couple of schools over the last ten years and have head butted into so many brick walls with lack of equipment, network blocks, strangling bandwidth and over worked teachers – not really conducive to enthusiastic innovation but we have moved forward and had some great successes along the way.

brick walls

WordPress Aha  Moment ! I just learnt that you can only scale an image down and not up hence the image above cannot be made larger!

Exciting times ahead as I am changing to a new school next week that is a total iPad school – Years 7-12 with personal devices and Prep – 6 with iPad trolleys so many of my recent barriers have now disappeared.


My role is to nurture trusting relationships and encourage teachers to plan innovative digital projects that will embed ICTs into the curriculum, implement, reflect and refine for second iterations. I have a great deal of experience teaching with a diverse range of Web 2.0 tools and Learning Management Systems such as Moodle and Sharepoint but now I am jumping head first into Edmodo which will be an adventure and a steep learning curve.

Although I have been involved in working with students with digital portfolios in the past I have found that the readings in the course are encouraging me to begin exploring  reflective ePortfolios, using more deliberate, scaffolded opportunities for effective reflection and developing metacognition.

My first strategy once I settle in to to identify some ‘champion’ teachers who might be keen to join me on this ePortfolio adventure.

Saving The World – One Tree At A Time

treeSaving The World – One Tree At A Time

A Note Taking Adventure

Printing up hundreds of pages of notes to read, highlight and annotate is just a total waste of paper. I decided to read all the journal articles online – great idea! First step was to access the article,  download the pdf files, read through and highlight the relevant headings, paragraphs, sentences, phrases. The trouble was that the highlighted sections were spread over 20 – 30 pages which was hard to flip through as a pdf. Not a problem – open a word document and cut  paste – text jumping all over the page – create a table – looking organised now – save the file to my EER504 folder.

Repeat the process for the next article and then it’s time to review my learning so far. After half an hour of clicking from page to page, pdf to word and back again my idea did not seem such a great idea.

Do you know… sometimes the old ways ‘just work’ !


Just heading out into my garden to plant some trees – sorry world!