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“ePortfolios and Faculty Development: Charting the Impact on Teaching, Learning and Campus Culture” – Pace University

During my time at the AAEEBL ePortfolio World Summit 2011, one of the stand-out sessions that I attended was Pace University’s: “ePortfolios and Faculty Development: Charting the Impact on Teaching, Learning and Campus Culture.” What I found really interesting about the session was that it didn’t focus on one particular aspect of their ePortfolio program. In fact, it covered many different pilots including student life, career services, and assessment. In this post, I’m going to cover Pace University’s faculty development practices and their career services pilot.

The Pace Presenters: Dr. Jim Stenerson, Samantha Egan, Dr. Linda Anstendig, Chiara Travia, Dr. Ravi Ravishanker, Dr. Beth Gordon Klingner

The Pace Presenters: Dr. Jim Stenerson, Samantha Egan, Dr. Linda Anstendig, Chiara Travia, Dr. Ravi Ravishanker, Dr. Beth Gordon Klingner 

Teaching Circles
The session started out with an overview of faculty development practices for the preparation of implementing ePortfolios in the classroom. Through an application process, 40 faculty members were selected to participate in a “teaching circle“, which focused on basic technical skills for their ePortfolio platform (Mahara), as well as developing eportfolio assignments and eportfolio rubrics. They conducted a post teaching circle survey, held a follow-up meeting, and conducted classroom demonstrations for students. What I found interesting about Pace’s approach was that they didn’t require those who participated in the teaching circle to use ePortfolios. There was a small stipend to go through the teaching circle and a follow up stipend for those who chose to use ePortfolios in their classroom. I thought it was great idea to introduce faculty to ePortfolios and allow them to get their feet wet before they decided whether or not to use eportfolios the following semester. There was a great quote from one of the faculty members that resonated with me: “I’m in love (with ePortfolios), but I’m not quite comfortable with the relationship.” Based on the feedback from their survey, future teaching circles will have a heavier focus on technical skills building. They have also built some terrific ePortfolios resources on Pace’s Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology website: Even though the resource website has a heavy focus on tutorials for Mahara, I found the links for faculty at the bottom very helpful. So helpful, in fact, that I had to tweet about it!

Twitter post

Career Services Pilot: Employer Feedback
I was excited to hear about Pace University’s career services pilot because I don’t think there’s a lot of research (right now) on the impact of ePortfolios on employment. Also, after conducting my senior capstone on the Impact of Web 2.0 Tools on Employment, I was really interested to find out what has changed (and what hasn’t) in the past two years. 

The University invited employers from various economic sectors for a focus group session — breakfast included. Nearly all of the employers didn’t know what an ePortfolio was, but after viewing student examples 90% said they would look at an eportfolio when considering a candidate for employment and 78% thought it made a great addition to a resume.

When answering the question: “Which pages would be useful in making a hiring decision”, the participants valued professional preparation/resume pages (30%) and co-curricular/extracurricular pages (21%) above everything else (see pie chart below). I wasn’t surprised that the employers weren’t as interested in the other pages: introduction, academic materials, recommendation, showcase, rubrics, and other. While these pages are important for students to develop both academically and professionally, I’m sure hiring managers simply don’t have the time to look at every page in a prospective employee’s ePortfolio. One of the participants explained that the extracurricular/co-curricular activities pages are valuable because they show the student’s ability to multitask and interface with clients.

Career Services Data

If you weren’t able to attend the AAEEBL World Summit, but would like to find out more about the sessions I would recommend checking out the #AAEEBL11 hashtag on Twitter and looking out for additional updates on the AAEEBL website as well as the ePortfolio group/blog on the Commons.

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“Integrating Integrative Learning in the ePortfolio,” and “Translating Vision to Practice: A Program-Centered Model for ePortfolio”

The AAEEBL conference had something for everyone. Since our active ePortfolio program at BCC is only three semesters old, I found it especially valuable  to learn from speakers whose institutions have been “at it” for a long time. Two sessions I attended really drove this home and left me with much to think about as the summer begins hurtling downhill toward the new academic year. Listening to these experienced practitioners talk about aspects of their ePortfolio programs reminded me of my racquetball-playing days, when I always enjoyed competing against players who were just a little bit better than me. I usually came away from those games with a new idea, a new strategy, a new technique.

Susan Kahn of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), and Candyce Reynolds and Judy Patton of Portland State University, respectively led sessions discussing aspects of their experience which, to me, fit the mold of players whose game is ahead of mine. Susan’s presentation took the broader view, narrating a tale of institutional failure and resurrection across departments and programs that she called “Translating Vision to Practice: A Program-Centered Model for ePortfolio.” More on that in a little while.  In a presentation entitled “Integrating Integrative Learning in the ePortfolio,” Candyce and Judy focused more narrowly on their work with freshmen in order to flesh out a very pragmatic understanding of “integrative learning,” a term which, for me at least, has always required some unpacking. Their presentation started with two key insights: first, that neither students nor faculty necessarily understand how to make integrative learning connections on their own; and second, that this quality is best understood as a “disposition,” a kind of posture or approach to learning which a student builds across curricular and co-curricular experiences, and which grows incrementally from making simple connections among ideas and experiences to synthesizing and transferring learning to new, complex situations. At Portland State, development of this disposition is initiated in a “Freshman Inquiry” class, and built upon institutionally agreed-upon learning outcomes, some of them internally driven and others drawn from the AAC&U VALUE framework.  With these guideposts in place (and of course, that in itself is a major accomplishment), the instructor’s work of designing portfolio projects, and the student’s work in completing them, follow a set of very sensible principles:

  • Assign developmentally appropriate projects
  • Build student input—with appropriate instructor guidance—into  choice of topic
  • Make the integrative nature of the project open and explicit
  • Include expectation of a presentation component
  • Make the assignment challenging but not so daunting that students are frustrated
  • Include a reflective or self-assessment element
  • Focus on process as much as product

These principles are themselves dependent on a deeper pedagogical premise: that consciously connecting assigned work both to discipline-based learning and to lived experience, and combining such work with reflective self-assessment over time, will enable integrative learning, or the successful transfer of skills, abilities, knowledge, or methodologies from one context to another. When freshmen at Portland State are asked to rephrase stated learning outcomes in their own words and to connect this thinking to their choice of ePortfolio artifacts, we can see the embryonic outlines of integrative learning. Examples of Portland State ePortfolios can be found here.

Susan Kahn’s presentation focused less on classroom practice than on institutional planning and faculty development. Her narrative began in 2004, when IUPUI’s first ePortfolio initiative crashed and burned. The program had been based on staged Gen Ed competencies and housed in themed freshmen learning communities. What went wrong? From the faculty perspective, the initiative was perceived as a top-down administrative fiat and a series of work add-ons. From an implementation perspective, the software (home-grown) was buggy and inadequate and, perhaps most critically, portfolio pedagogy and assessment were poorly understood. Susan’s conclusion struck me as a kind of thematic undercurrent, which I heard again and again during the conference: IUPUI’s 2004 project reflected a general failure to grasp the extent to which ePortfolios represent a radical and disruptive conceptual shift in how we understand teaching and learning. It’s a lesson all of us need to heed.

Susan then described IUPUI’s current and considerably more successful strategy. Academic units (departments, schools, or programs) apply for development grants. Their ePortfolio projects reflect fairly specific unit-based needs. They need not, for example, be formally linked to IUPUI’s “Principles of Undergraduate Learning” (one can imagine this alone alleviating “top-down” concerns). Projects pursue a two-year development cycle, with the first year devoted to unit-wide curricular and pedagogical preparation. The program provides intensive guidance and support, and faculty are encouraged to contribute to ongoing development of the Sakai software platform. The new strategy has yielded good results, in part owing to smart, strategic decisions about the initial choice of participants. Externally accredited, “assessment-friendly” programs have provided good models. About 20 such programs—undergraduate, graduate, and co-curricular—have been engaged to date.

Concluding her presentation, Susan identified three “success factors” in IUPUI’s redesigned ePortfolio program: buy-in from a critical mass of faculty or staff in a participating academic unit; careful but not obsessive planning; and true curricular integration (as opposed to tacked-on additional work). Doubtless these results flow from the practical strategies she had described. Faculty buy-in, perhaps the most important of all, never “just happens.”  

There was a lot to learn in these presentations, as there was throughout the AAEEBL conference. I don’t play racquetball anymore—as a friend of mine says when describing his exercise habits past a certain age, he prefers to move straight ahead—but there are still things to learn from players who know a little more about the game than you do.

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“Creating her Sense of Self: Feminist Advising, ePortfolio, and Integrative Learning”

Presentation by Rebecca Reynolds and Abigail Lewis

This was a fascinating presentation (a good example of how great content can overcome not-so-great PowerPoint). Douglass Residential College is a women’s college with a long history that has recently been made a part of Rutgers. The women live together and have advising and support, but their classes and faculty all come from Rutgers–from the wider Rutgers community. Of course I saw analogies to Macaulay here–the challenge of being a separate program within a larger university and having students with dual identities.

There are also some specifics that they have been working out at Douglass, particular to the situation of being a women’s college, and this is where I saw some really unique and powerful intellectual analysis of the eportfolio activity–as something that has precise echoes in feminist and gender theory and feminist pedagogy. As the Douglass students navigate their particular roles and develop their ambitions and progress in eportfolios, the work of doing that documentation (and presenting it) gives them opportunities to think about the conflicts and implications of gender in the world of higher education and beyond. The Douglass team uses these eportfolios to help with advising and counseling their students. But more importantly, the students have the opportunity to use the eportfolios themselves, as they progress, to integrate their personal growth and their academic growth.

Again, lots of parallels to what is happening at Macaulay, and I very much want to connect more with the Douglass folks.

(One take-away tidbit that I found especially thought-provoking: Douglass students have written in their eportfolios about the problematics of the idea of a mirror or the concept of reflection. For young women in particular, these may not be transparent terms or ideas, as they bring up connections to issues of body image and appearance which can have strong emotional and social resonances. This is not to say that those terms should not be used–but that we should be conscious of, and help students to articulate, the tensions in those terms. This is not something I had ever thought about–but something that I will think about from here on.)

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“Fostering Integrative Learning in a Senior Capstone Seminar”

Presentation by Susan Kahn and Karen Johnson

After Joe’s session, I walked to the opposite side of the Plaza level to hear nationally recognized ePortfolio professionals Susan Kahn and Karen Johnson from IUPUI, who are on the opposite end of the spectrum from Joe and Macaulay.  I would have just as gladly made a trip halfway across the country – one size does not fit all and these two bank on years of experience with rubrics and ePortfolios.  It’s not so much that the creative students can just take care of themselves.  But, as my colleague Rebecca Mlynarczyk often notes:  We can’t teach the students we wish we had; we have to teach the students we have.  Whether they come straight from the farm, a small town in Indiana, or from an immigrant neighborhood in NYC, first generation college students provide us with the most numerous and most challenging teaching and learning problems.

People do not walk on the grass at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis – pronounced oo-wee poo-wee).  This gorgeous downtown campus with 20+ schools serves 30,000+ students who are first generation college students.  Most students are professionally oriented, living in a “red state” – and one with low levels of educational attainment.  Part of the orientation to city life in Indianapolis means learning to live with others and to respect public and personal property.  Susan and Karen provide genuine assistance and expertise in this context, helping students adapt and adjust to the realities in what is perhaps best identified as Type I on Darren’s four-fold cell structure.

Susan and Karen represent the IUPUI English Department, with six tracks in the major.  The Senior Capstone, E450, serves all six tracks.  Desired outcomes for students include integrative learning and the articulation of this learning in terms that are meaningful to employers and other audiences.  The capstone seminar has two components:  Career/professional development and English in the world.  And, it prescribes two major tools:  the matrix and the web-folio.  The two components require students to take different views of course themes from the four-year experience.

In the Career component, students create a resume and a career reflection.  The latter consists of a reflection essay and samples of past work – the samples provide a focus for the reflection.  For the English in the World component, students create a reflection essay using samples of past work – the focus of the reflection essay – plus their senior project and an annotated bibliography.

I found their comments on “Preparing for Reflection” to be the most useful in the session.  This is a problem thematic that has recurred throughout the Making Connections seminar over the past three years at LaGuardia. What is a reflection?  Why reflect?  English at IUPUI uses a rubric to help students in the development of reflective thinking:  the ability to self-assess, awareness of how one learns (meta-cognition), and the development of lifelong learning skills.  The tools are somewhat familiar to everyone engaged in teaching first-generation college students in the paper world:  evaluating and responding to sample reflections, written and oral peer reviews of rough drafts and then, a final reflection that can be shared.  A key outcome of reflection is matrix thinking – becoming aware of the competencies and where one is in the matrix.  The web-folio intends to take students beyond matrix thinking.  It provides both students and site visitors with individualized, engaging, and visually exciting representations of student achievements.

Susan and Karen are authentic educators – they provided in this session real insight into their pedagogical innovations and struggles, fully cognizant of the inherent problems and challenges:  balancing the needs of stronger and weaker students, especially in terms of instructions and prompts; modifying concepts appropriate for traditional students so that non-traditional students see the value of their non-academic experience; and maintaining first-generation students’ pride in their educational accomplishments while helping them form realistic expectations for employment.  Practical suggestions in the presentation included having students begin the web site construction in the first two weeks; writing short reflections on individual artifacts before writing the final component; helping students understand the realities of the job market; providing support as students face confusion and fear; and increasing coherence through disciplinary learning.

E450, as Susan and Karen so openly acknowledge, is a work in progress.   Their work with students may sound much more pedantic (yawn) and far less sexy than Macaulay’s student guide on the side.  Yet, in my opinion, it’s reassuring to know that if an IUPUI graduate decides to get on a bus to NYC, chances are that when arriving at Penn Station, he or she will know:  which subway to take, the address of their local destination, what KSA will be required for the job to which they will be reporting; what to wear; and how to get there thirty minutes early.  This will be coupled with that old-fashioned Hoosier commitment to a work ethic – plus the memories of these two faculty members who cared enough to about them to teach them what they need to know to succeed in the new economy in one of the most vibrant cities in the world.  And, after all, the last two NYC mayors have been “reds.” The IUPUI student should arrive in the city that never sleeps with a high enough skill level to join or defect from the economic mainstream – perhaps even competing successfully with Macaulay alums in the “creative class” in cool neighborhoods.

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“Open Source and Open Directions: The Macaulay Honors College ePortfolios”

Presentation by Joseph Ugoretz

Three sessions today, taken together, provided at least a moment of clarity on the various tensions inherent in the ePortfolio process and most especially mapping onto this process the eternal dilemma of “student-centered” versus “standards centered” orientations.  The first was by CUNY Online Baccalaureate colleague Joe Ugoretz, who provides maximum flexibility to  CUNY Honors students.  My favorite slide was one in which he shows a campus with folks literally creating paths in the landscape, a “controlling metaphor” for ePortfolios at Macaulay and their commitment to seeing where the students are going and then building digital structures – creating paths – that help them.  Joe views the ePortfolio less as a filing cabinet and more as a curio – not just a compilation of assignments, but something the student creates.  The student, in this model, is the “guide on the side.”

Another slide with the world’s largest Swiss Army knife reminded me of the old adage in medicine:  If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  Joe uses the impractical giant army knife as a metaphor for the need to provide creative students with lots of different tools that can be used in lots of different ways.  That’s the rationale behind their choice of WordPress – a rationale that may work better in the context of a Macaulay than a community college populated mostly by developmental students.  Nonetheless, I emerged from the session convinced that the expressive potential of the most creative and advanced students need not be – and probably shouldn’t be – constrained by structures designed to help less advanced students navigate through a basic skills matrix.

Joe’s vernacular speech is vivid and memorable. WordPress is free and open source:  free like free speech, not like free beer – free like a free puppy, not like free beer.  You have to take care of it, but this care takes place within the context of a creative WordPress Multi-User community with lots of able and willing volunteers for plug-ins.  There are now 10,000 such developers.

Examples ranged from student’s “active museums” to experiments with course sites, such as “Where Students Hold the Government Accountable for the Environment.”  The professor (maybe Joe will comment and fill in the name) for the site now runs it much like the CUNY Virtual Enterprise, where students take over a virtual company, with the work of the last cohort intact.  This sounds like real life, right after an election…  But I emerged from the session feeling much like a pianist who at last sees on the horizon a chance to play some jazz – maybe even a little rock ‘n roll – after years of struggle mastering technique through the thousands of Bach exercises that everyone who has ever played the piano has heard played badly a zillion times.

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Student Leadership, Reflection, and Assessment at Lehman College

In this session Gina Rae Foster, project director of Lehman College’s  grant-funded Supplemental Instruction (SI) program, described how Lehman’s ePortfolio platform (Digication) provides SI leaders (students who lead supplemental study groups for their peers) with the capacity to build program-based portfolios, which are then used for formative program assessment and reviews of their performance. More than simply providing the template for an individual portfolio, however, the Digication platform is also being employed to manage the SI program more generally. Resources and documentation of many kinds are being housed on program portfolios and made available to interested or relevant parties. Interestingly, this mirrors a phenomenon we’ve seen at Bronx Community College, where a number of co-curricular programs are beginning to deploy Digication ePortfolios as, in effect, a substitute for web sites. Similarly, some faculty have started to use ePortfolio to publish their credentials, their accomplishments and, in one instance, informational and organizational material for a scholarly conference.

Lehman’s curricular focus for this SI project is in the Business and STEM disciplines, where tutorial and instructional support is often a critical need. As the project has developed, it’s become clear that the full extent of activities required of SI leaders amount to the equivalent of a well-designed academic course (theory, practice, self-reflection, collaboration, assessment). Consequently an SI program goal is to move toward establishing this work—articulated and organized in ePortfolios—as a credit-bearing course for students. Gina’s expectation is that SI leader ePortfolios will be one persuasive form of evidence for the success of the program and helpful both in the curricular approval process and in moving the program forward in the future.

Clearly, there is great potential in this use of an ePortfolio platform. This sort of co-curricular and student support program is fertile ground for employment, transfer, and pre-professional application. Somewhat like the Brooklyn College SEEK program, Lehman’s SI program is exploiting this potential very effectively. It falls outside the standard academic model for ePortfolio utilization, but it’s definitely well worth considering. I would like to explore it in our Instructional Technology Tutor program at BCC. I suspect it could have great value for students whose work as peer tutors and technology assistants often generates compelling narratives of growth and change. These are the stories, after all, that often make the most compelling features of ePortfolios.

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“Is There a Portfolio in This Community? Tensions in the Use of ePortfolios for Employability Beyond the Academy”

Presentation by Darren Cambridge

Darren Cambridge delivered a wallop of lofty sociological theorizing on Western understandings of self and community integrated with practical applications via specific cases of ePortfolio implementation.  His own portfolio work centers on the Arkansas Community Portfolio Project, which was introduced as one of four possible configurations in a typology derived from a four-fold table with two types of tensions:



I gave this five stars because it’s right where I am in terms of thinking about ePortfolios and right where I perceive the CUNY Online to be re the development of the virtual campus.  Just as George says we are “building and flying” at the same time, Darren addresses the color of the parachute.  So this was less about “When are we going to get there?” and more about “Where are we going and why do we want to be there?”

On the lofty plane Darren positioned the ePortfolio (and earlier print portfolio from which it evolved) as a manifestation of cultural capital, a single-authored artifact which draws together in an aggregative or integrative style the narrative of one individual. However, more collectivist ePortfolio versions have emerged via global diffusion into geographic areas and cultural contexts with higher emphasis on collectives and groups rather than individuals.  Darren understands the aggregative and integrative poles as defining the endpoints of tension concerning how relationships between multiple pieces of evidence are organized.  He understands the individualist contra collectivist tensions within the framework of traditional and contemporary sociological theorizing.

Darren then focused on the question of looking at the portfolio as a collective rather than an individual enterprise with employability as the integration of these two tensions.

In an integrative employability model, says Darren, individuals create a career identity, which is cultivated by a narrative that integrates social capital, human capital and adaptability.  Human capital components include doing good work, expertise and competencies.  Social capital components include ethics and communitarian concerns:  professional contributions to society, personal integrity.


Quoting from Nicholas Rose in Powers of Freedom, Darren described the contemporary global problem of unemployment:

Unemployment is now conceptualized as a phenomenon to be governed – through acting on the conduct of the unemployed person, obliging him or her to improve “employability,” by acquiring skills, both substantive skills and skills in acquiring work, obliging the individual to engage in a constant and active search for work…Personal employment and macroeconomic health are to be ensured by encouraging individuals to “capitalize” themselves, to invest in the management, presentation, promotion and enhancement of their own economic capital as a capacity of their selves and as a lifelong project.”

In the current environment, governments insist that individuals take an active role in being “employable” – we must be in a state of constant change and update to be employable.  The portfolio is in this context a tool for development of self – a powerful technology, which in some larger sense allows for “working on the self” toward this goal of being “employable.”

Darren created a four-fold table using his two dimensions of tension and then provided examples for each type thereby produced:

INDIVIDUALIST NedCar (Holland) UtilVIF (Quebec)
COLLECTIVIST Internet Shiminjuku Augusta Community Portfolio

The first example, NedCar in Holland, is a fairly traditional I/O assessment model.  There are specific KSA’s (knowledge, skills and abilities) needed and it’s the individual’s responsibility to learn them.

Case #1:  NedCar in Holland (

  • From job-based to project-based industry
  • Document competencies and market them to potential employers
  • Plan retraining

Competency Matching for Employability

  • Choose competency frameworks defined by employers
  • Determine and document competency profile
  • Compare with career profiles
  • Connect to learning activities to fill gaps
  • Match with jobs

The second example, integrative individualist, uses utilVIF in Quebec to illustrate the use of portfolios to document and facilitate the integration of immigrants in three stages.  This type highlights a view of individuals as seeing employment within the context of other parts of lives.  But, again, like the aggregative individualist model, the individual conforms him or herself to adapt to the external demands of employers.

Case #2: utilVIF in Quebec

  • Successful and harmonious integration of immigrants
  • Modular personal portal links services to self representation

The project rolled out in three phases:

Phase 1:  Basic integration

  • Language proficiency
  • Personal profiles
  • Experiences
  • Competence

Phase 2: Work integration

  • Finding employment
  • Performing interviews
  • Local employment culture
  • Starting a business

Phase 3: Daily life

  • Housing
  • Family
  • Banking
  • Leisure
  • Citizenship

The third case, Internet Shiminjuku in Japan, provides and example of aggregative collectivist approaches, in which individuals have responsibility for each other)

Case #3:  Internet Shiminjuku

  • Juki as lifelong institution of learning
  • Juku of citizenship
  • Autonomous, social and tool
  • Firi – respect for social relationship
  • Wa – tinkering for integration

Part of citizenship is contributing to learning of others, thus peer teaching is used to build social capital.

The model features:

  • Regional online learning network
    • Citizen lecturers
    • Citizen participants
  • New career paths
  • New enterprises
  • Digital archives

Teaching in this model is distributed across community – it is not an isolated function of the educational system.

The fourth case represents an integrative collectivist approach.  Here, were look at the whole of the town of Augusta, Arkansas.

Case #4:  Augusta, Arkansas (Darren is working on this)

Augusta is a small impoverished town that needs to find role in new economy with a very successful literacy program based out of a regional health center.

Goals of the Augusta Portfolio

  • Make visible to the world the impressive reading and writing of the people of Augusta
  • Part conversations about Augusta’s heritage, achievements and aspirations
  • Provide and online place to conduct and share such conversations
  • Help people in Augusta develop 21st century literacies
  • Synthesize and communicate a vision of Augusta’s future

Three layers

  • Exhibits – designed by readers and writers in Augusta with the media – digital artifacts, social media conversation – vision more than a reality at this stage
  • Collective representation
  • Individual – this is on the margins.  Darren used a FaceBook example to show a counter example of how individuals can lose control over what gets posted by others to their individual portfolios

In this integrative collectivist model, the two tensions pull against each other— there is a logic for how things are organized – someone is responsible – but all of the pieces fit together as outlined below.

Public Displays of Connections

  • Blogroll and friends lists as messages (Donath and Boyd, 2004)
  • Intentional performance of identity rather than a transparent representation of a social network
    • Note re loss of control in FaceBook
    • “impression management is an inescapably collective process” (2008) Danah boyd as suicide girl
    • self-representation is necessarily a collaborative enterprise
    • widgets connected – you cannot draw a boundary
    • Materially Connected
      • Neither fully productive or consumption
      • Compare to “authorship” and “ownership” and “control”
      • Meaning and functionality dependent on connections  (Perkle 2008)
      • Where’s the text in this context
      • Traditional boundaries are gone

Lots of food for thought and nourishment for integrating thinking and planning while already in flight.  Contact for Darren Cambridge below.  Slides are available on SlideShare.

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“ePortfolios Enhance Learning, Assessment and Job Applications”

Benjamin Stephens from Clemson University spoke about the form and function of ePortfolios for outcomes in the undergraduate psychology program. In 2006, Clemson University implemented an ePortfolio program that requires all undergraduates to create and submit a digital portfolio demonstrating Clemson’s general education core competencies.

Students collect work from their classes and elsewhere, connecting (tagging) it to the competencies (Written and Oral Communication; Reasoning, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving; Mathematical, Scientific and Technological Literacy; Social Science and Cross-Cultural Awareness; Arts and Humanities; and Ethical Judgment) throughout their undergraduate experience.

Benjamin discussed the difference between general education ePortfolios vs. resumes explaining that ePortfolios may assist supervisors in becoming more aware of an applicant’s knowledge, skills and abilities. A study was conducted by Clemson in which recruiters from a career fair and students rated four types of applications for the position of career counselor: paper resume, web resume, ePortfolio and interactive resume. Resumes were seen as more easily understood than ePortfolios and ePortfolios which included resumes were viewed more favorably. ePortfolios and interactive resumes were rated as having the most impact on the job outcome. While ePortfolios and interactive resumes had the same amount of information, participants rated ePortfolios as having the most information out of the four types of applications.

Interactive resumes seemed to be a better fit when used to apply for a job — a middle ground. That is not to say that ePortfolios aren’t necessary because the hyperlinks from the interactive resume link to different parts of a a student’s ePortfolio. Benjamin explained that he plans to survey employers to get a better understanding of how ePortfolios can best be utilized in the hiring process.

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“How ePortfolio Transformed Our Students, Faculty and Program: The BC SEEK ‘Benchmarks for Success’

Presentation by Martha Bell, Sharona Levy, and Longfeng Gao

This was a session focused much more on ideas and strategies (and successful ones!) than on technologies. Martha Bell, Sharona Levy, and Longfeng Gao of Brooklyn College explained how they are using a very specific eportfolio program that they call “Benchmarks for Success” to work with their SEEK students (who are admitted to Brooklyn College, but without the kinds of academic preparation that most Brooklyn College students have).

The program, which started with paper portfolios and has now switched to “e,” has been phenomenally successful–some key indicators–not all attributable to the eportfolios, but they have certainly played a role in all of these.

  • 100% of SEEK students pass the CPE (this is amazing–a figure that, Sharona was kind to point out ;), even the Macaulay students at Brooklyn can not equal).
  • Huge increases in retention and graduation rates.

    All members of the program (including office staff-who are often overlooked) participate in developing and evaluating the benchmarks.

  • Focus on specific benchmarks (success in early accomplishment of the speech assessment, financial aid expertise) that the program needs to know about but which may not be precisely academic.
  • Clarity on program goals and ideas about outcomes.
  • Students see the task as effort, and it is difficult, but they also (sometimes later on) see the value.
  • Graduates of the program work to do evaluation.
  • Even the Middle States evaluators (!!) mentioned the program in very positive terms.

The program works with very specific benchmarks or goals for the students–a whole wide range of goals–things like decorum and appropriate address, using a syllabus, seeing the importance of tutoring, pre-writing and drafting, reading and annotating–a large collections of essential skills they want students to achieve. And they’re all spelled out clearly for students, and then students, in their eportfolios, provide a written response and a piece of evidence for each of these benchmarks.

It’s all required, and all evaluated (by those graduate students).

The session was excellent–very interesting to me for a couple of reasons. First is that at Macaulay, our eportfolios are not as goal-driven or structured. These eportfolios at BC SEEK are like a contract–every student sees exactly what they have to do, and they must fulfill that contract. Ours allow students to set their own goals and determine their own purposes. It was good to see the contrast, and to think about the different needs of different groups of students. I wonder if SEEK students could also benefit from more of the creativity and open-ended approach we promote, and if our students could benefit from more of the direction and distinct structures of the Benchmarks for Success.

I was also interested to see that the Benchmarks, in the way they’re set up and in the types of evidence that students provide, also include a good deal of what I’ve seen as so exciting and inspiring in Sharona Levy’s work in the past–the idea of annotation as a way to think (particularly in reading) more deeply and critically.

These eportfolios focus on “transportable skills”–which students need to succeed in all their classes.

A fascinating session and I think there are models here that should definitely be shared with other SEEK (or similar) programs–as well as programs of different types.

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Helen Barrett stresses the importance of reflections in a presentation scheduled for tomorrow in Mumbai: 

Blurring the Boundaries: 
Social Networking & ePortfolio Development  

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