My classmates and I started a Lit Review in an earlier class in Digital Learning and Leadership. The class I am in now has allowed my partner and I an opportunity to explore in more depth the literature. We have found a lot of very useful information that works well with our Innovation Plan. My plan is to integrate ePortfolios into my classroom. This has proven to be a difficult task if not planned correctly.
I have learned that there must be a lot of quality professional development to ensure the teachers understand ePortfolios and how to utilize them. The plan has to be interjected slowly, not to overwhelm teachers or students with too much information. There must be an adequate infrastructure to accommodate the learners. Most importantly there must be a clear and attainable set of goals that are shared upfront with all stakeholders.
There have been many failed attempts at integrating digital portfolios in the classroom because of poor planning, lack of communication, and inadequate technology devices. In the Literature Review below many of these problems have been explored and ways to correct the problems are discussed. I feel like I have a pretty good understanding after much research of some plans that have failed and those that have succeeded. It takes a lot of planning, behind the scenes work, and adequate training to make an implementation successful. I will continue to work on my innovation plan to ensure its success.
EPORTFOLIOS: AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO LEARNING
The integration of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in education is not a new phenomenon. Whether the use of ICT in the classroom is useful to the learner is not always clear. There are various ways to incorporate ICT in teacher practices, whether through computer usage or other mobile devices. Many institutions are spending the money for the equipment in hopes of increasing technology usage in the classroom; however, many times it does not prove to be advantageous for the learner. To ensure these efforts are beneficial to the learner, and not solely following the latest trends, educators must ensure the focus remains on the pedagogy, not the tools themselves (Harring & Luo, 2016). 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 an impactful tool for the learner throughout their schooling experience, during their higher educational journey, and continues to display its usefulness as learners enter the workforce. This paper explores the techniques in which educators can integrate ICT into their teaching practices in meaningful ways that will enhance the student learning experience inside and outside of the classrooms. 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.
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 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 key factors of implementation of student ePortfolios. It will examine how the ePortfolio differs from other portfolios, archival tools, and stagnant paper documents. Furthermore, it will provide a detailed review of the components of an ePortfolio, the challenges in implementation, and the current gaps in the research that will be filled.
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 lessons. While that may be the goal, the success of ICT integration is largely based on these three factors: school infrastructure, technical support, and teacher support (Venezky, 2014). In 2015, Brown explained that a traditional paper portfolio usually represents the only copy of portfolio content, making it difficult to share. Educators can integrate technology into the classroom through various techniques to enhance students’ learning experiences. This paper will focus on the implementation of student ePortfolios and the added benefits to the learning experience.
In a world as digital as ours, it is shocking to realize that people are not more comfortable with technology in school and the workplace. For example, a study by Nellie Mae Education Foundation, indicates 43% of learners do not feel prepared to use technology in college, universities, or in their work life (Moeller & Rietzes, 2011). Students need to be comfortable using technology throughout their school years, as these are 21st Century skills that will be needed 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). There is a skill level rise in every profession and discipline in the incorporation and importance of digital media literacy (Johnson, Adams, & Cummins, 2012). Students have positive feelings about incorporating technology into their learning. They turn to technology in one way or another for nearly everything they do, both in and out of school (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 not only any device used for communication purposes, but also the networking components, systems, and applications that allow everyday people and organizations to thrive in the digital world (Rouse, 2017. Items might include computers, iPads, iPhones, tablets, and Chromebooks. People have grown accustomed to using these devices in every facet of their lives. This is evident every day. From the toddler in the grocery store playing internet-based games on a tablet, to the elderly gentleman struggling to navigate his way home using the GPS on his cell phone, technology is everywhere; and in a world of continuous access to limitless information, the generations coming forward expect to have access to it all, at all times (Johnson et al., 2012).
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). 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 higher in the 21st Century learning, the plan backfires and is not executed as planned (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, & 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 using portfolios to compile students’ work for years. So, what sets the ePortfolio out from others? What is the ePortfolio all about, and why is it better? 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). Educators have started to use digital portfolios to demonstrate mastery because they recognize that the process has the power to transform instruction. Teachers argue that ePortfolios used for compiling, reviewing, and evaluating student work provide a richer and more in-depth display of what students have achieved and learned over the more traditional portfolios (Portfolio Definition, 2016).
For learning, the major difference between ePortfolios and other teaching systems and tools is that ePortfolios will be the source for the development of lifelong 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). The primary source of information and knowledge does not lie solely on the teacher. Instead, there is a shift in responsibility to the student. Students have websites like google, bing, and yahoo to search for anything they need or any information they want to know. Teachers have the responsibility to reinforce ethical habits and individual discipline that shape productive life-long learners and guide their searches to credible sources (Hertz, 2013).
Creating and utilizing an ePortfolio will foster the learning that will compel our students to look beyond an internet search as they work harder and dig deeper into the subject matter. Being an ongoing project, ePortfolios will help each student develop a thorough understanding of the larger goals of the courses, and will remain active for many years to come (Harring & Luo, 2016). 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 proclaimed that the ePortfolios were what initially drew their attention to those job applications.
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, edit, 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 keys 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). In the article Maximizing the Function of Student e-Portfolios, the point is made that e-portfolios which are used for assessment purposes only will end up being meaningless electronic filing cabinets (Oehlman, Haegar, Clarkston, & Banks, 2016). Evidence from the study showed that when the ePortfolio 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 finds the most surprising outcome of the study was the effect of the blogging feature of the e-portfolio. One participant 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).
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 can be linked on the school’s website which makes them accessible to peers, parents, family members, and the community. Accessibility of this magnitude 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 & 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 its versatility and flexibility. Students want easy and timely access to digital devices, networks, and information on the network, as well as tools, resources, and collaborative work and feedback (Johnson et al., 2012). 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 show great favor to the use of technology as a part of their learning, and in turn, the ePortfolio is a tool that can dramatically enhance the student’s learning experience. The ePortfolio is highly customizable which gives students added freedom while augmenting the students’ interest during personalization, and increases the sense of ownership over the project (McCowan, Harper, & Hauville, 2005). While there is no set template for creating an ePortfolio, there are certain components, such as the ones that follow, that must be present in order for it to be considered an effective one (Salama & Salem, n.d.).
The “About Me” section of an ePortfolio is very flexible, yet important. While the learner may give this section a different title, this is essentially a section of the ePortfolio that serves as an introduction of themselves to the digital world. Because ePortfolios are customizable, adding personalization in this section enhances the ownership and pride the learner will display through their work within this platform (McCowan et al., 2005). 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 becomes.
Reflection is a critical piece to the effectiveness of ePortfolios. The reflection section ties together high-level metacognitive skills and aides in the development of integrative learning (Harring & Luo, 2016). 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 will share their individual views and personal opinions on the subject. 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.
As previously mentioned, the ePortfolio will house various artifacts on different subjects, much like a traditional portfolio, but now they may be posted in different formats, such as keynote presentations, word documents, videos, photographs, and more. This increased versatility creates an interactive platform for both users and viewers (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
Factors Causing Failure of a Portfolio Initiative
While evidence grows showing that effective e-portfolio use correlates with student success and deep learning, deployments are only as good as the vision used to create the deployment (Chambers, 2014; Hubert, Pickavance, & Hyberger, 2015). The iPad initiative in Los Angeles is one example of a collaboration between business and education that had major problems with the process and the implementation (Chambers, 2014). According to the research, LAUSD did not lay the proper groundwork, it didn’t have clear visions and common goals, and it didn’t have an adequate plan for the type of district wide deployment attempted, given the tools available at the time (Chambers, 2014).
Issues with Infrastructure
As with the integration of any new initiative, there are challenges that institutions will have to work through in order to create a successful student ePortfolio program (Moeller and Rietzes, 2011). Budget is the biggest issue when it comes to integrating technology in education. Like the rest of the government agencies, the recent years of economic hardship have necessitated tighter budgets as the recession pounded school districts everywhere (Donlevy, 2012). Amid growing calls for tax caps, weary taxpayers are demanding that administrators and school board members look hard for savings and still meet ever-higher standards with dwindling resources (Donlevy, 2012).
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). Incorporating up-to-date technology integration strategies, more advanced technology skills, and a local support system of collaborative teammates were also key components of successful implementation of ePortfolios. It is crucial to plan ahead and have support from the technology department to incorporate widespread ePortfolio use successfully (Barrett, 2007).
Issues with Personnel
In addition to insufficient technological support, inadequate teacher support also serves as a major roadblock for ICT in education. Technological support, teacher support, and teacher expectations and attitudes have all proved to be some of the extensive challenges that schools face with technology integration (Moeller & Rietzes, 2011). 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). Professional development (PD) for teachers is central to improvement in any educational effort, particularly integrating technology into classroom instruction. A successful implementation of education technology, like the student use of digital portfolios, depends upon extensive, high-quality teacher PD and ongoing support (Martin, Strother, Beglau, Bates, Reitzes, & Culp, 2010). Bill Gates, cofounder of Microsoft, admitted that the practice of school districts just providing teachers and students with devices without the necessary training and support has a horrible track record. However, he goes on to point out that the correct use of tools, resources, and support does have the potential to change education (De Bruyckere, Kirschner, & Hulshof, 2016).
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.
Issues with the Community
The use of digital technology in education has, for many people, come to represent the antithesis of learning (West, 2012). Through the research in UNESCO Working Paper Series on Mobile Learning, West found that there was some skepticism in the community concerning introducing technology into the classroom. Community members thought that even though a particular technology is widespread does not necessarily mean it has application to education. There were parents and even experienced teachers who recoiled at the thought of internet and classroom used in the same sentence (West, 2012). West found that despite the fact that digital devices are well-situated to improve and extend learning opportunities, many adults and even students, tend to view any kind of digital technology as potentially harmful to students by providing access to inappropriate content and enabling destructive behaviors, such as cyberbullying (West, 2012).
In addition to the student safety concerns, West (2012) found that the community saw the use of digital technology by students in their learning environment as isolating. In reaction to the issue of the safety of their students, many schools and governments have banned or seriously restricted the use of technology in educational settings (West, 2012).
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, O’Laughlin and Serra (2016), demonstrate how 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 which is conducive to collaboration (Darcy, Dupre, & Cuomo, 2010). The most critical factors in high schools today are issues with student motivation and learner engagement. Barrett (2007) shares that ePortfolios can serve as a change agent for enhanced student ownership of the learning process. This dramatic change can only happen if the portfolio project is implemented in such a way as to encourage student engagement.
Growing up as digital natives, today’s children thrive on 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.
For an ePortfolio initiative to be successful principals and teachers must attain the autonomy to determine what would work best for their classrooms. If administrators try to control things from the top without strategy input from classroom teachers, the result is compliance, where people just go through the motions (Lapowsky, 2015). Teachers must apply the model envisioned by administrators by coming up with their own version that is unique to their students (Lapowsky, 2015).
The student ePortfolio is a powerful educational tool created and maintained by the learner. It serves as a record of achievement, a source for reflection, and a continuously up to date showcase of work, while also providing institutions and administrators with a greater understanding of what has been learned. ePortfolios provide rich resources to not only students, but faculty members and administrators as well, as they provide opportunities to learn about self-reflection, peer-reflection, assessments, and course outcome achievements over time (Lumsden et al., 2001). 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 and beyond (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, with recruitment, and with student retention and satisfaction (Lumsden et al., 2001).
The ePortfolio is an innovative part of technology that has numerous possibilities for students, faculty, and institutions. It offers 21st century solutions to problems that were previously not available with seemingly limitless potential. The ePortfolio is becoming a mainstay in the education system and could eventually take the place of its paper counterpart (Chatham-Carpenter, Seawel, & Raschig, 2009). Many institutions and educators have realized that not only is the student ePortfolio an effective tool for learning in the classroom, but maintaining the ePortfolio long-term can be just as powerful. The student ePortfolio can be the beginning of a journey that could lead to countless opportunities. Maintaining an ePortfolio into adulthood encourages lifelong learning through one’s experiences and reflections (Wozniak, 2012 ).
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