Applying Local and Global Research on ePortfolios to Students’ Post Secondary Needs        

Applying Local and Global Research on ePortfolios to Students’ Post Secondary Needs

Tiffany Iannello

Lamar University EDLD 5314

May 12, 2019

Introduction

A portfolio is a collection of student work that is collected over time, that displays what has been learned (Merriam-Webster, n.d.).  If you think of the traditional portfolio or a collection of work, how much use does it actually get?  The typical collection of work consists of updated work in the portfolio and the older work in storage. To be able to look for a specific piece of evidence, it can be time consuming, looking for it in multiple locations.  The expectation of a portfolio is to be organized, chronological and updated overtime.  This idea slowly falls further and further from the truth, due to the lack of storage.  

In the time of digital natives the drive for technology, traditional portfolios seem to be a thing of the past. With the use of an ePortfolio, it would ensure that students are able to collect work and actually be able to look back at that work at any given time.  Students would want to save their work, rather than their first reaction, to dispose of it.  By compiling their evidence of learning, students have the confidence to use these materials.  Students can use their ePortfolio for post-secondary institution applications, the workforce, or for a moment to reflect and grow.  The purpose of this literature review is to support the use of ePortfolios in the classroom not only prepares them to be lifelong learners but also prepares them for the future, whichever post-secondary path they chose.

Explanation of ePortfolios

An E-portfolio is a tool that can accurately measure what a student has learned.  An ePortfolio is an electronic representation of a student’s learned that displays proof of learning, learning materials and any successes (Lorenzo & Ittelson, 2005).  Whitt emphasizes accomplishments, instead or achievements.  The purpose of an ePortfolio is to showcase the students’ learning process and how they grow, not if they meet an expected score or goal.  Whitt explains that, achievement is trying  reaching a quota or check the boxes; whereas an accomplishment is geared towards a personal goal (Whitt, 2017).  This belief  supports the new shift in student-centered learning.

        An ePortfolio is now being used as a tool, to show learning, as opposed to a gradebook.  As learning progresses, ePortfolios ae evolving from what they may have been used as, in the past.  The goal of ePortfolios is to be more than collecting work and storing it in a digital folder.  ePortfolios are supposed to get students to activate the higher level thinking skills and improve their learning (Roberts, Maor & Herrington, 2016).  An ePortfolio, is like a gradebook, but with details about every, single assignment.  When a student looks at a gradebook, they are able to identify if a grade improves, but not if actual learning and understanding improves.  A gradebook does not indicate what content or levels of thinking that are assessed. With the use of an ePortfolio, the student is able to identify the following: the learning process, the content that is being assessed, the levels of thinking that are being assessed and reflect of the assignment.

Benefits of ePortfolios in the Classroom

        There are many benefits to incorporating ePortfolios into the classroom.  One reason being, it encourages digital literacy.  Students already know how to use the technology that they enjoy, such as social media applications.  When it comes to using technology in the classroom, it can sometimes be a struggle.   With ePortfolios, students learning is enhanced, due to the variety of options that are available, to display student learning.  Through the use of ePortfolios, students are able to include visuals and audio evidence.  (Nichols, 2017).  Whitt states, that important skills that are necessary for our students to practice are speaking and written communication. By allowing student to reflect and communicate with others, students are able to practice these crucial life skills (Whitt, 2017). Digital literacy skills are important and necessary for a future of independence, in their post-secondary life.

        By shifting to the use of ePortfolios it allows students to keep their work and access it at anytime (Watanabe-Crockett, 2015).  Accessibility is a huge benefit to having an ePortfolio.  Since students are able to access it anywhere, it allows them to add their evidence of learning, with ease. Watanabe-Crockett brings up a great point, because if the ePortfolio is at their fingertips they are more inclined to update it consistently.  As students continuously add their work, their pride and ownership for the ePortfolio increases.    

        Implementing ePortfolios in the classroom allows the teacher to assess learning in a different way, that accommodates struggling learners.  Not all students are able to perform well on the standard assessments given in school.  By using this tool, students are able to learn in a way that is beneficial to them (Nichols, 2017).  There are varying levels in the classroom and it’s the teacher's responsibility to ensure that students have the tools to learn and demonstrate the learning process.  This tool allows every student to show growth and learning, without showing grades, that could discourage struggling learners.  Using an ePortfolio in class not only allows the student to show the learning process, they are able to do so using their strengths and, in turn, are able to develop a sense of confidence related to school.

        The way of thinking in education is shifting and the ePortfolio certainly helps to improve students’ way of thinking.  By using the ePortfolio, it’s been proven, to assist with a shift in the students’ fixed mindset to a growth mindset.  Dweck defines the growth mindset as the thought of  making progress on an individuals learning by working, challenging and reflecting on a individual and peer basis. (Dweck, 2016).  With the consistent updating and reflecting on the students’ assignments, they will be able to develop or get closer to improving their mindset. In the study performed by Singer-Freeman and Bastone, 62% of the students that used ePortfolios felt that they shifted to the growth mindset.  Student made the following statements, in relation to the use of ePortfolios and the growth mindset: ePortfolios allow for students to focus on the learning and not a grade .They also allow for students to learn on an individual basis allows and to link concepts to prior knowledge  (Singer-Freeman, K., & Bastone, L.,2017).  By shifting to the growth mindset, students are more accepting of challenges and not afraid of failure.  They simply feel that every aspect of the learning process helps them grow and notice an improvement in throughout their learning process.

Implementation of ePortfolios in the Classroom

In order for students to successfully develop their ePortfolio, they need to know what is expected of them.  According to the article, “3 Keys for a Successful E-Portfolio Implementation”, there are three major factors to the ePortfolio process.  Nelson states that students must know their expectations, for learning (Nelson, 2011).  ePortfolios are a way to indicate the learning process, but they are also a form of assessment.  Nelson isn’t suggesting that students be told exactly what to do, but there needs to be clear guidelines given to the students.

A crucial step of the ePortfolio process is reflection.  Reflection is a high level thinking skill and will help develop the growth mindset in students.  Students do not really understand what it is to truly reflect.  When asked to reflect, students usually state that they either did or didn’t complete the task.  The teacher needs to instruct the students to ask themselves how they learned and if it worked or how they could have done it differently.  Nelson states that when students reflect on their learning, they are able to own their learning (Nelson, 2011), that is goal of ePortfolios.  By students taking ownership of their ePortfolio, there is increased engagement,  effort, and learning.

ePortfolios are versatile and can be in every classroom setting.  Students appreciate that the assignments or tasks, they are taking time to complete, is actually of use to them.  When students are shown that this tool can be used in a variety of settings, they see the relevancy and feel a purpose.  Nelson states that ePortfolios can be used in a variety of settings.  It can be used in high school to display learning, college admissions or for the workforce.  It also shows what the student  knows about technology.  Reiterating in classes and showing the uses of an ePortfolio, will showcase its’ importance, which will display the effectiveness of the tool.

EPortfolio Trends in the Classroom

According to 2014 Horizon Report, when students were able to bring their own device to school, they bought into ePortfolios.  They are more invested in their learning, because they get choices and are in control of their learning (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, and Freeman, 2014).  The report states that student-centered learning is what allowed students to feel this way about their learning.  It was also noted that participating in student-centered learning, allowed for inquiry based learning, which resulted in a positive impact on student content knowledge.  This is exactly what using an ePortfolio, a student-centered learning platform,  will do for students.  

The 2015 Horizon Report  states that real life learning experiences are lacking in schools.  Schools now aren't always participating in authentic learning.  Using ePortfolios allows for students to become lifelong learners (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, and Freeman, 2015).

         This report also supports the use of portfolios to assist with the feeling ownership.  The reports also states that portfolios teach students to be a lifelong learners.  The case study noted that, through the use of reflection, students were able to improve their articulation and explanation of the learning process, while teachers noticed an increase in engagement.  With supporting evidence from the Horizon Reports, it is very clear that the use of ePortfolios will benefit classroom, if implemented appropriately.

What Worked

Technology integration in the classroom has come a long way and has benefited so many learners.  By using technology, lessons can be differentiated to meet all needs.  In the case study, Engaging Community Service Students through Digital Portfolios, students with intellectual disabilities were able to demonstrate learning in their own way (Lawler, 2013).  Students were able to demonstrate learning in their way and reflect upon the experience. The integration of technology and flexibility, with delivery of the assignment allows students with needs, to be able to show what they learned and showcase their strengths.  By being able to complete assignments geared towards the learners, their interests, and strengths; the individuals were able to foster a sense of confidence that they may not have had in the past.

ePortfolios challenge the individual to use higher level thinking skills.  In the study, Using Digital Portfolios to Develop Non-Traditional Domains in Special Education Settings, students in special education benefited from the reflection piece of ePortfolios.  Students were able to self-reflect and make more meaningful connections (Clancy & Gardner, 2017).  Another life skill is self-advocacy.  Students with IEPs were able to improve their self-advocacy skills by creating a portfolio about their strengths, needs and any other important information pertaining to the IEP and their disability (Glor-Scheib & Telthorter, 2006).  By reflecting and self-advocating, students develop a sense of being self-aware, which is a crucial life skill.

The integration of ePortfolios also helps prepare students for the the future. In post-secondary life, individuals will need to develop some sort of portfolio for the work or school. (Barker, 2006)  By completing an ePortfolio, during their high school career, students are able to get practice, experience and get feedback.  By working with the ePortfolio tools, it also gives the individuals practice learning how to operate certain technology and be well versed in the tools and prepared to use it in the future workplace.  On the other end of the post-secondary spectrum, some colleges are now requiring students to complete an ePortfolio, as a graduation requirement (Silva, Delaney, Cochran, Jackson & Olivares, 2015).  Whether the student path takes them to work or school, being exposed to and having experience with ePortfolios, will prepare them for the future.

What Could Have Been Done Better

        The most prominent issue that is a general theme across all of the poor communities, is lack of resources.  In the poorer regions, in Africa and the Middle East, it isn’t common for individuals to have devices (Isaacs, 2012).  Those who do have devices are usually have older, outdated ones that may also be a limitation.  In addition to either not having a device or ones that can work quickly, internet connection may be slow or nonexistent.  But these regions aren’t the only ones that are faced with this barrier.  In Mexico, with the ICT study there were some regions that had no issue with internet connection while others only had a single computer connected to the internet (Venezky, n.d.).  Even though there were a few places in the world mentioned, this is a constant problem for many poor areas, in every country, all around the world.

        Another issue that an individual can encounter is resistance to change.  There maybe be students or teachers that are resistant to incorporation technology, ePortfolios into the classroom or being assigned a device.  In North America,  some students don't like the idea of having to switch to an assigned device when they might have one of their own  (Fritschi & Wolf, 2012).  This year laptops were given out to students and there have been many instances when they have forgotten or not brought there assigned laptop, which has caused multiple issues.  There has also been issues with teachers who believe that devices may be a distraction for students (Fritschi & Wolf, 2012).  UNESCO also states that there maybe be individuals; such as parent, administrators or even teachers that may not think that anything education can be done on a cellphone (West, 2012).  These types of resistance can be possible barriers, in the individual in unsure of how to address the situation.

        With technology, can come so possibility of misbehavior.  A major concern that was noted by schools was inappropriate behavior, such as: cyber bullying, sexting, cheating and  going on social media (Fritschi & Wolf, 2012).  Schools have reported having to address all of the inappropriate situations. When thinking about the ePortfolio initiative, students are at risk for bullying.   If students aren’t reminded ahead of time to be appropriate when giving feedback and leaving comments on their peers’ ePortfolios, there is an opportunity for students to misbehave.  Safety is a major concern when introducing technology into the class, which should be closely monitored to ensure the devices are being used appropriately (West, 2012).

Application of Lessons Learned to High School ePortfolio Usage

In order to provide all students with an equal opportunity, to develop their own ePortfolio, the schools should provide devices to all students.  It  has been noted that schools that provide devices, see an improvement in achievement in their students (Fritschi & Wolf, 2012).  This information would apply to my ePortfolio initiative, because to be successful all students would need to have the necessary tools. To have a successful roll out of the ePortfolio initiative students need to be able to do the following: reflect on their learning, give and receive feedback, be able to access their ePortfolio at any time, and meaningful depict their learning process.

In Denmark, there are policies in place such as, Bring Your Own Technology (Hylen, 2012).  Students are able to bring in the technology that they have accessible to them and use it, in the classroom.  The report stated that they are advancing and that in a city, the teacher and students would be provided with devices.  In respect to my initiative, luckily all teachers have their own device.  This past year, students were given a personal device that they could use in their classroom.  By giving the students their own devices, students will now have the accessibility to their ePortfolios at all times.  Giving students the access allows for continued learning, communication and reflection, outside of the classroom.

For students to be successful with the implementation of ePortfolios, the teachers must first be successful.  In England, Teachers that were given continuous training on ePortfolios were successful, as opposed to teachers in Malaysia (Kilbane & Milman, 2017).  To be confident with the technology and to give students a full understanding of expectations and the purpose of an ePortfolio, all staff must be knowledgeable.  Throughout my ePortfolio initiative, there will be scheduled and as needed professional learning available.  In addition to professional learning, it is crucial to have set observations.  Eportfolios in the classroom promote reflecting and providing and receiving feedback.  By observing teachers, feedback will be given in order to improve and benefit the students’ learning process.

        Learning with the ePortfolio, must be authentic. For students and teachers to accept a new way of learning, through the use of ePortfolios, it must be integrated correctly.  The implementation of ePortfolio should provide meaningful opportunities for learning. This will facilitate an authentic learning experience (Clancy & Gardner 2017).  Learning must be relevant or authentic to the student to be fully invested. Students would then take ownership and pride in their learning and their ePortfolio.  Throughout the ePortfolio initiative, students will be able to be shown exemplars or ePortfolios.  Students will also be shown possible uses of ePortfolios in high school and during post-secondary life.  

        With any organization, there must be an individual or individuals that are leaders.  This can be administration, teachers that are well-versed in a particular field, or teachers that are piloting programs.  In LA School District, their initiative came to a halt, due to lack of leadership and planning (Chambers, 2014).  To be successful, there must be a mutual goal in mind.  Prior to rolling out the initiative, those who are involved should have their assigned jobs and responsibilities laid out.  Throughout the ePortfolio initiative, there will be assistance provided to any staff that is in need.

Reflecting on the Research

        When looking for possible gaps in the research, there was one area that might have been looked over.  When thinking about the types of students it mostly focuses on the students that can be motivated by their interests and being extrinsically motivated, but what if they don’t fit into those categories.  Are their studies on the students that focus on at risk youth, students that really aren’t motivated by much?  Being able to have a present a study on these types of students, would really help to address all students.

Conclusion

Implementing ePortfolios in the classroom,  prepares students for post-secondary life. It is an educator’s responsibility to prepare them for the future, not the now.  Giving students a chance to create and develop their own ePortfolio, allows them to take ownership and pride.  Teaching students how to use these technological tools, fosters digital literacy, a skill that is necessary to be successful in the world.  Using this tool allows all students to demonstrate their learning process and improves academic confidence.  The use of ePortfolios addresses all students’ needs to prepare them to be successful in the future.

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