IMPLEMENTING STUDENT ePORTFOLIOS                                                        

 

Information Communication Technology (ICT) in Schools and the Implementation of Student ePortfolios: An Innovative Approach To Learning

Nancy Baltodano

Kathryn Darling

Chelsea Hoke

Keith Hoke

Lamar University

Abstract

The integration of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in education is not a new phenomenon, however, whether the use of ICT in the classroom is effective to the learner is not always clear. There are various ways in which to incorporate ICT in teacher practices, whether through computer usage or other mobile devices. In an effort to bring technology into the classroom, many institutions are shelling out the money for the equipment, however, many times it does not prove to be effective for the learner. The impacts of technology use in classrooms have been widely researched, and the results indicated that technology use with clear objectives and appropriate pedagogical methods positively affected student learning (Lei & Zhao 2005). The ePortfolio has proven to be a valuable tool for the learner throughout their schooling experience and as they enter into the workforce. This paper explores the ways in which educators can integrate ICT into their teaching practices in meaningful ways that will enhance the student learning experience. It will also identify the benefits of the ePortfolio, the necessary components in building an effective one, the challenges that are sure to arise along the way, and how to meet those challenges.

        Keywords: information communication technology (ICT), ePortfolio, innovation, student-centered learning

Information Communication Technology (ICT) in Schools and the Implementation of Student ePortfolios: An Innovative Approach To Learning

        The children of today’s society can be considered digital natives, as opposed to digital learners. No longer are children attempting to learn how to work technology through digital devices, it has grown to be a second language to them with many children growing up in a household with multiple mobile devices (Dahlstrom, Brooks, Grajek, & Reeves, 2015). Our students are consumed with technology today. Most have smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc. at their disposal with constant internet access. This is reiterated in the ECAR Study of Students and Information Technology research report that technology is embedded into students’ lives, and students generally have positive inclinations toward technology. Technology has a moderate influence on students’ active involvement in classes (Dahlstrom et al., 2015). As a result of the increased accessibility of technology, more and more schools are integrating it in their teachings through mobile learning, however, using ICT in a way that is purposeful and that will enhance the learning experience has proved to be difficult (Dahlstrom et al., 2015). The process of improving teacher pedagogies through ICT has been challenging for many reasons, including insufficient teacher support, teacher skills and technology dependability (Moeller & Rietzes, 2011).  

        This research based paper highlights the reasons that support a successful implementation of student ePortfolios. It will examine the ways the ePortfolio differs from other portfolios and archival tools. What sets it apart? Furthermore, it will provide a detailed review of the components of an ePortfolio.  

        

This paper will be divided into the following parts:  

-What is ICT?

-What is An ePortfolio and What Are Its Benefits?

-Enhancing Student Engagement and the Learning Environment

-The Components of the ePortfolio

-Challenges in Implementation

-Research needed

Literature Review

        The amount of information on the internet that is readily available to educators is astounding. The great thing is that teachers can learn from others by reviewing case studies and gathering information that applies to them. When looking at the integration of technology in schools, one can assume that the teaching pedagogies of the educators involved are on a higher level than those that do not incorporate technology in their teachings. While that may be the goal, the success of ICT integration relies heavily on these three factors: school infrastructure, technical support, and teacher support (Venezky, 2014). There are a multitude of ways that one can use technology to enhance the learning experience. For the purposes of this paper, the focus will be on the implementation of student ePortfolios. In 2015, Brown explained that a traditional paper portfolio usually represents the only copy of portfolio content, making it difficult to share.  

        In a study done by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, 43% of learners do not feel prepared to use technology in college, universities, or in their work life (Moeller & Rietzes, 2011). This is a very alarming statistic. We live in a digital world, and students need to be comfortable using technology throughout their school years, as these are 21st Century skills that they will need in the workplace. As Dahlstrom noted in his 2015 ECAR report, technology is a tool that has now become embedded in students’ lives (Dahlstrom et al., 2015). Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession (Johnson, Adams, & Cummins, 2012, p.6). Students have become accustomed to turning to technology for nearly everything that they do, and so when taking the effort to incorporate technology in their learning, students generally have positive feelings towards this idea (Dahlstrom et al., 2015). The challenge, therein, lies in effectively implementing technology into student learning so that it enhances engagement, is meaningful to the lesson, and in the process, provides them with the skills needed to prepare them for the future. With the current accessibility to technology and digital devices, it is troublesome that learners continue to go through their schooling feeling unprepared for the real world.  

What is ICT?

        Information Communication Technology, or ICT, is a term that refers to any device used for communication purposes (Rouse, 2005). Items might include computers, iPads, iPhones, tablets, and Chromebooks.  In everyday life, one might turn to one of these devices for a quick google search to a question or for turn by turn directions to get to a location. People have grown so accustom to using these devices in every facet of their lives, that one person might carry with them a laptop computer, a mobile phone, and an iPad all at the same time. So, what does ICT look like in education? This is the process of utilizing these ICT devices in teachings to enhance the learning experience (Venezky, 2014). In an article for ISTE, Helen Crompton (2014) stated that “educators should give students opportunities to be creative and reflective within a real-world context and to use digital tools and resources in both face-to-face and virtual environments”. While it is important to allow students to learn using digital tools, studies have shown that many times, schools will shell out the money to buy the necessary equipment, but instead of helping it bring their institutions into the spotlight and in the 21st Century, the plan backfires (Newcome, 2015).  

        The 2015 Horizon report cites project-based learning, inquiry-based learning and challenge-based learning as methods that foster more active learning experiences for students (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, and Freeman, 2015). When considering ways in which to incorporate ICT in student learning that is purposeful and will enhance the learning experience, the student ePortfolio is a trend that is quickly gaining momentum.  

What is An ePortfolio and What Are Its Benefits?

        Educators have been having students compile work into portfolios for years. So, what is this ePortfolio all about? While the ePortfolio still serves as an archival tool for projects and artifacts, what sets the ePortfolio apart from other tools is that while they are only focused on the end product, the ePortfolio is a demonstration of what has been learned in the process of getting to the end product (Danielson & Abrutyn, 1997). For learning, the major difference between ePortfolios and other teaching systems and tools is that ePortfolios will be the source for the development of life-long learning ability across the dimensions of time, courses, disciplines, and positions (Wang, 2009). An advantage of using ePortfolios is not only can teachers share ideas with each other and students, but the students can also learn from each other by sharing, reviewing, and collaborating (Barrett, 2007). In addition to housing artifacts, the deep critical thinking process is documented by the learner through personal reflections in the form of blog postings. This is referred to as the developmental process. While the posted artifacts show educators and institutions what has been achieved, many times, these personal reflections are of more value, as they show what has been learned and understood (Danielson & Abrutyn, 1997).   Teachers are no longer the primary source of information and knowledge for students. Students have websites like google, bing, and yahoo to search for anything they need or any information they want to know. Instead, it is up to teachers to reinforce the habits and discipline that shape life-long learners, and guide their searches to credible sources (Hertz, 2013). Creating and utilizing an ePortfolio will foster the kind of learning that will compel our students to push beyond an internet search and dig deeper into the subject matter because it will be an ongoing project that each student can add to and update for many years to come. One can get a better understanding of the learner’s strengths, weaknesses, and personal goals through their writings.  As artifacts and reflections are posted over time, the ePortfolio serves as a powerful tool for higher education institutions, as they provide an accurate assessment of what has been learned and achieved (Miller & Moraine, 2009).

In their research, Reese and Levy (2009) found that, ePortfolios allow students a platform to present a comprehensive overview of academic and extracurricular activities as well as perform self-reflection and provide supporting evidence , or artifacts, to a potential employer. In turn, this can almost become a digital resume. In their studies, they document several students’ stories of how having an e-portfolio benefited them when they went on the job market. The students proclaimed that several institutions that interviewed them mentioned their websites, and stated that the ePortfolios were what initially drew their attention to those job applications (p.5).

A common struggle for students is finding a job in their degree field upon graduation with no work experience. Students have an extremely difficult time conveying the information, skills, and techniques they learn within the classroom and lab settings as on the job experience. (Reese & Levy, 2009). Yancey (2009) portrays defeat over this situation with the idea that, unlike their print cousins, ePortfolio models are designed to document learning not just inside a course but across courses and across experiences in college and beyond. When it is all said and done, employers who are looking to hire students straight out of school, want to know what they have learned, not what course titles they completed in order to earn a degree (Gallagher, 2016). Students will use ePortfolios to showcase the skills they have actually obtained by compiling everything as they progress through their educational program in a digital format (Lumsden, Garis, Reardon, Unger, & Arkin, 2001). Craig (2014) talks about this importance of helping students better connect with employers through the use of eportfolios as being good customer service.

An advantage of the portfolio being in digital format versus traditional is that students can easily duplicate and share their work. Not only do ePortfolios give students a platform to share their work with everyone who has internet access, but this ease of sharing also allows instant teacher feedback, more parental involvement, and encourages peer to peer interaction. Todd Bergman, an independent consultant and teacher at Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, Alaska, defines a portfolio as a purposeful collection of student work demonstrating the student's achievement or growth as characterized by a strong vision of content (Brown, 2015). It is much more than just a place to display artifacts. The ePortfolio allows students to collaborate and share with others digitally. Brown (2015) points out in her writing in “Education World” that there are three types of portfolios, the working portfolio - which contains projects the student is currently working on or has recently completed, the display portfolio - which showcases samples of the student's best work, and the assessment portfolio - which presents work demonstrating that the student has met specific learning goals and requirements.  

Enhancing Student Engagement and the Learning Environment     

Research has shown, over the years, that reflection and inquiry are the key to effective learning (Wosniak, 2012). The ePortfolio is a tool that will have been created and maintained solely by the learner (Batson, 2012). As a result of the creation process, the learner takes pride and ownership of their ePortfolio, all while learning the necessary technological skills needed to be an active digital citizen in the 21st Century (Danielson & Abrutyn, 1997). The article Maximizing the Function of Student e-Portfolios makes the point that e-portfolios that are only used for assessment will end up being meaningless electronic filing cabinets (Oehlman, Haegar, Clarkston, & Banks, 2016). Evidence from the study showed that when the e-portfolio was used for reflection, the portfolio became a living, evolving document that grew as the student’s knowledge and skills grew (Oehlman et al, 2016). The article states that the most surprising outcome of the study was the effect of the blog component of the e-portfolio. One of the students in the study reflected that when students knew that their work was accessible to everyone, it made them work harder to create higher quality artifacts (Oehlman, et al, 2016 p. 13).

The ways in which the ePortfolio can benefit the learner is bountiful. An effective ePortfolio can serve as an educational resumé, of sorts for High Schools, Colleges and Universities, in addition to assisting learners applying for scholarships and awards (Project Share, 2013). While evidence shows that effective e-portfolio use corresponds with student success and learning (Hubert, Pickavance, & Hyberger, 2015; Sanchez, Soto, & Gonzalez, 2015), technology enhanced lessons and artifacts should not be recognized as a substitute for traditional assignments. Instead, it should be an enhancement to a school’s more traditional methods of teaching.

The ePortfolio provides students a safe environment to research, read, write, collaborate, and publish their work on the web. It gives them a way to share their work with others in an engaging and motivating manner (Herring & Notar, 2011). The ePortfolios are linked on the school's website which makes them accessible to peers, parents, family members, and the community. This gives students an opportunity to receive feedback that will assist them in their future endeavors. Students are engaged every day while working on a project in the ePortfolio. Creativity, collaboration, and peer assessment are strong components of each project. Herring and Notar (2011) also point out that reflection of the learning experience is included in the ePortfolio also. This can be done through blogging or simply writing a reflection to add to the students work.

Another point to highlight of the ePortfolio is it’s versatility and flexibility. Students want easy and timely access not only to the information on the network, but also to tools, resources, and up-to-the-moment analysis and feedback (Johnson et al., 2012, p.4). E-portfolios are stored online and have great accessibility for the portfolio owners themselves, teachers, colleagues, and employers (McCowan, Harper, & Hauville, 2005). The ePortfolio can easily be accessed by anyone, anywhere, and on any device (Project Share, 2013). There is no need to carry around a tangible binder, as everything is housed online. Simply provide the URL and it can be seen anywhere.  

The Components of the ePortfolio

        Students love being able to use technology as a part of their learning, and in turn, the ePortfolio is a tool that can dramatically enhance the student learning experience. While there is no set template for creating an ePortfolio, there are certain components that must be present in order for it to be considered an effective one (Salama & Salem, n.d.).  

About Me

        There must be an “About Me” section. While the learner may give this section a different title, this is essentially a section of the ePortfolio that serves as an introduction to the world.  Audiences want to know who the learner is and what their interests are. Many times, the learner will include where they are from and provide personal photographs of themselves or their family.  In most cases, the more the learner personalizes, the more connected the audience feels.  

Reflections

        The posting of reflections is usually done through a blogging platform in a separate section of the ePortfolio. The learner will regularly post their thinking process on important topics of study, and they will share their personal views and their opinions. This has been referred to by many as the hardest component of maintaining an ePortfolio. It is challenging because it requires deep critical thinking (The Free Library, 2014). In addition to posting reflections on certain topics of study, the learner will also reflect on their own personal goals (The Free Library, 2014). It is important to post these personal reflections on a regular basis, to show activity in the ePortfolio.  

Supporting Artifacts

        As with the traditional student portfolio, the ePortfolio will house various artifacts on different subjects, and may be posted in different formats, such as keynote presentations, word documents, videos and photographs (Salama & Salem, n.d.). The purpose of posting artifacts is to collect data to provide an assessment of what the student has achieved, their strengths, and their weaknesses (Moeller & Rietzes, 2011).

Challenges in Implementation

        As with the integration of any new initiative, there are challenges that institutions will have to work through in order to create successful student ePortfolio program. Technological support, teacher support, and teacher expectations and attitudes have all proved to be some of the challenges that schools face with technology integration (Moeller & Rietzes, 2011). Having dependable WiFi access throughout a school has been an issue for many institutions. A school may have access to many internet capable devices, however, with no dependable WiFi connection, those devices are useless and a waste of time and money (Dahlstrom, Brooks, Grajek, & Reeves, 2015). Having mature technology integration strategies, a higher level of technology skills, and a support system or close collaborators were also indicators of high levels of e-portfolio use. It is crucial to have support from the technology department to incorporate ePortfolios successfully (Barrett, 2007).

        In addition to insufficient technological support, lacking teacher support also serves as another roadblock in ICT in education. Many schools are not providing their teachers with the proper training needed to use ICT devices in the classroom. Schools that are focused on creating a student-centered learning environment are slowly shifting from the large group lecture, or “one size fits all” approach to professional development and training (Moeller & Rietzes, 2011). When insufficient technological support and lacking teacher support occur simultaneously, teacher attitudes and expectations quickly decline while criticism rises (Newcombe, 2015). Educators must be able to adapt to the rapid advancements in technology and be diligent with teacher training (Venezky, 2014). Again, the support provided to teachers, must be ongoing and not a “one stop workshop.” Although one day workshops may be inspiring and motivational, teachers need to be able to have the ongoing support to successfully bring about change in a classroom. It is only human to forget things, and without someone to refer back to for support, the motivation that was quickly gained begins to disappear.  

Further Research Needed

         ICTs for Education A Reference Handbook, Haddad makes the point that even though there has been a great deal of progress in educational research so far, there are a lot of areas where the supporting evidence is missing (Haddad, 2008).

One area of research that is needed is measuring the extent to which posting artifacts to digital portfolios impacts student engagement of high school level students. In the article Using Eportfolios to Deepen Civic Engagement (2016), students at the collegiate level were provided eportfolio templates with the main sections already in place. O’Laughlin and Serra (2016) found that eportfolios served as an ongoing student-teacher dialogue with the opportunity for students to share with wider audiences. Their research showed that the students quickly took ownership by customizing their portfolios. Students were able to demonstrate knowledge of using multimedia artifacts while also showing a sense of pride in their learning.(O'Laughlin & Serra, 2016).

Evaluating the effectiveness of ePortfolios on career placement is another area research is necessary. The use of ePortfolios to document learning experiences as they occur across multiple curricula levels will prove beneficial when time to interview and go to work after completing an educational program (Lumsden et al., 2001). Studies from major universities such as Florida State University show this trend in career ePortfolios as one where students, faculty members, and employers will all benefit (Hoover & Lumsden, 2007). Following the ePortfolio implementation, Hoover and Lumsden conducted quantitative and qualitative measurement analysis. The study shows students improve skills and techniques helpful during the interview process; faculty members gain insight to where their students stand in reference to course objectives; and employers found ePortfolios useful in screening candidates and supplementing interviews (Hoover & Lumsden, 2007).

Research is also limited in collecting data to see how sharing artifacts in an ePortfolio impacts collaboration among high school art students within and outside of the classroom. ePortfolios give students a way to share information, ideas, and receive input. They provide sound educational means for assessing the structure and sequencing of the curriculum, and delivery of the teaching within it (Rowley & Dunbar-Hall, 2012). Queensborough Community College in Queens, New York includes ePortfolios because they provide an opportunity for students to store and reflect upon their own work over time, share their knowledge, as well as to communicate virtually in real time with other students in an academic environment (Darcy, Dupre, & Cuomo, 2010). The issues of learner engagement and motivation seem to be most critical in high schools today. Barrett (2007) shares that ePortfolios can serve as a catalyst for increased student ownership of the learning process; however, this can only happen if the portfolio project is implemented in such a way as to encourage student engagement.

Conclusion

        Growing up as digital natives, today’s children love the idea of being able to incorporate technology in their school learning, however, educators must remember that bringing technology into the classroom must be meaningful, purposeful, and must be relevant to the topic at hand.

        The student ePortfolio is a powerful tool created and maintained by the learner (Project Share, 2013). It serves as a record of achievement, while at the same time providing institutions and administrators with a greater understanding of what has been learned (The Free Library, 2014). ePortfolios provide us with a model that favors finding a balance between using portfolios to support the learning process and using them for accountability (Barrett, 2007). While many believe that the regular postings of personal reflections may be the hardest part of maintaining the ePortfolio, it requires critical thinking of the learner, a skill they will continue to need as they become active digital citizens of the 21st Century (The Free Library, 2014).

        Once students become excited about the benefits that ePortfolios can bring to them, and they actually engage in true collaboration for the right reasons- more than just a grade- they will most likely continue to update and develop their eportfolios after graduation. Students realize and identify the value of documenting non-course and research activities such as internships and personal life experiences (Miller & Morgaine, 2009; Reese & Levy, 2009). Students also expressed interest in maintaining their e-portfolios after graduation (Reese & Levy, 2009). As students near the end of their program of study, ePortfolios can help colleges stand above and beyond. They have the potential to help job placement rates, they could help with recruitment, and could possibly help with student retention and satisfaction (Lumsden et al., 2001).

Rhea Kelly from Livetext  states that e-portfolios “contain all learning experiences from both inside and outside the classroom, reflect on areas for improvement, and use that record of growth to create a portrait of their achievements in shareable e-portfolios” (Kelly, 2016 p 1). E-portfolios are the future of education. Schools need to implement them because they allow students freedom over their educational journey, allow teachers to evaluate the student’s individual success, and allow administrators to share a student’s progress with all of the stakeholders involved with that child. Many institutions and educators have also realized that not only is the student ePortfolio an effective tool of learning in the classroom, but the lifelong ePortfolio is just as powerful, if not more. Maintaining an ePortfolio into adulthood encourages lifelong learning through one’s own experiences and reflections (Wozniak, 2012).

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