#digitalportfolios : Key #1 for student motivation
In Who needs a Digital Portfolio, commenter Kristine Hodgins asked about first steps for creating a digital portfolio. A great question. I answered, but I thought the question merited more reflection. Where does a teacher start when inspired to have students build digital portfolios (ePortfolios)? What are the next steps once the passion hits? You might be expecting me to start with: choosing a platform, getting admin on board, or informing parents. These are early steps. But I think there are three things that really should come first. I'll call them keys.
You might be surprised. These keys may be steps that you hadn't really thought of. They are, however, crucial in answering the question: Where to start? In order to give each of these keys some focus, I will give each a post. This first one of the three, I believe, is the most important and often the most overlooked:
Key #1: Develop your own digital portfolio
From a student on eportfolios:
In terms of promotion the problem is the people trying to explain it have probably never used it so in a way they have no clue what they are talking about, basically. To put it frankly – after listening to them you would be like, Okay so you as an outsider who never even used it is telling us we should do this because it is the best thing since sliced bread but you have never used it – you can’t find someone who did use it – you don’t have enough information to tell us how to use it – and now you’re telling us use it and we’ll grade you on it – this kind of makes it hard for students to accept or appreciate it.
- Tosh D. et al. (2005)
David Tosh, Tracy Penny Light, Kele Fleming, and Jeff Haywood, from universities in both Canada and the UK, did a study called Engagement with Electronic Portfolios: Challenges from the Student Perspective as they introduced ePorfolios to university students. They mention that most studies on portfolios look at the effectiveness of the portfolio from the teacher's perspective. This was a unique study in that its focus was the students' experience. The results were extremely telling and should be read by anyone planning to introduce digital portfolios to their students.
One message that came through loud and clear in their study was that the students had a hard time embracing a digital portfolio when they felt their teachers hadn't. It was like students were saying: "if a digital portfolio is so important, then why don't you have one? It can't be that important if the person who is asking me to do it doesn't even need it." This screams hypocrisy to our students and has a huge impact on student acceptance. Tosh further comments:
If students do not accept the e-portfolio as a holistic means with which to document their learning in different contexts and, more importantly, agree or wish to use the e-portfolio as an integral part of their educational experience, then the potential impact the e-portfolio could have on learning will not be realised. - Tosh D. et al. (2005)
The Tosh D. et al. (2005) article covers a range of important ePortfolio elements: buy-in, motivation, assessment and e-portfolio technology but their "bottom line is that students need to know why their knowledge is important." Not only do we need to share our examples of digital portfolios, we need to share stories of how our portfolios made a difference for us. How are our digital portfolios important to us? How can a student's portfolio be important to them?