Blogs as a Potential Portfolio Delivery Format…

In order to try and stoke the embers of my floundering blog thougths, I have dug through some past notes that were posts-to-be. I found a few gems, one of them being from Aaron at Teacher in Development entitled “The Eportfolio? . I had commented on the post, but would like to do some pasting and further reflecting here. Aaron’s is a very timely piece of writing for anyone who is teaching within BC, where the Ministry of Education has implemented a mandatory graduation portfolio that students complete between grades 10-12 and have to present in order to graduate.

In Aaron’s post, he explores the possibilites of a portfolio being ensconced within a blog:

If the portfolio were a blog…now that is an interesting thought. The teacher/student could post their reflections, action research, personal mapping (where I was, where I am, where I’m going). The interesting thing here is adding a whole other diminsion to the portfolio: The diminsion of community. The social portfolio, where the owner is not developing in isolation, but inside a community of practice. ( “The Eportfolio? )

Using the tools of blogging (internal and external linking, categories, comments), the portfolio would take on a fluid, evolving appearance…isn’t that more representative of who we are as individuals? If we are actively engaged in learning /reflecting/ experiencing the world around us, then we will be fluid organisms, changing and evolving as we learn/reflect/experience more.

The blog-portfolio also provides a great forum for a multi-faceted portfolio. Thanks to the ideas of blog pioneers like Barbara Ganley, things such as images, photo essays, and podcasts of lectures, interviews, radio plays, dramatic readings, etc. can easily be incorporated into the blog environment. (check out the following websites for great lit. podcast examples:
Shakespearecast
Shakespeare by any other name

This is the potential that I am attempting to get my Literature students to dial into. As I have volunteered to help students meet the Info-tech portion of their portfolio, I have been doing a lot of thinking around this area. You can read my practical application in a handout I created ( Surviving ) The blog provides a strong filing and delivery format for students to house their portfolios and keep them current.

There is one problem that I am finding as far as this goes: When you are not hosting them yourself, there is a risk that your work could fall victim to a crashed network or hosting service. Currently, I am digging around to find some (free) webpage capturing software so that my students can save their blogs to disc and reduce the risk of a total loss. Converting files to pdf works, but the result is not very visually appealing. Any ideas?

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13 thoughts on “Blogs as a Potential Portfolio Delivery Format…

  1. I think there is a difference between a blog’s best use (to construct learning in a sometimes messy, unordered way) and the purpose of a portfolio (to present the final piece of work, a means of showing off one’s best effort). Having two separate entities allows people to know what it is they are looking at. Is this a personal learning blog or is this a final polished product on the basis of which I might offer this kid a job / place at college…

  2. Pingback: Teacher in Development :: More Reflections around PD and Portfolios :: January :: 2006

  3. Ewan…

    I appreciate your comments, but am a little confused as to their meaning. Perhaps this is my tiredness coming through.

    I think the blogfolio could be either one of the two methods you mentioned. It could be a fluid artefact of ‘constructing learning in a sometimes messy, unordered way,’ and/or it could be a presentation of a ‘final piece of work’. The difference I see is that this final piece of work is one that tracks student progress or, rather, archives students’ best work and reflections.

    One of the crucial aspects of the BC graduation portfolio that students must include is active and meaningful (ie purposed and directed) reflection on their product. This suggests that the portfolio will have aspects or archival evidence of that ‘messy learning construction’ as well as polished, finished products.

    This is not a preofessional portfolio in the sense of business; it is an archive of student growth, a demonstration of learning and reflection.

    I see the ambiguous nature of blogs as being exceptionally well suited to this task of creating high school graduation portfolios. By using categories such as ‘reflections,’ and uploading final products, students marry both the ‘end product’ and the ‘actual learning event’

    What do you think?

  4. Aaron,

    Thanks for the koodos. I have jumped over to your post and read it. Very interesting. Yes, I am glad to have the benefit of being plugged into a community of learners. It saves a lot of time and ‘reinventing the wheel’ type scenarios.
    I like your comments around blogs ‘reinventing along with their owner’…
    In a fluid world, what is the benefit of being static? McIntosh’s comments re the law exam are a convincing piece of evidence in favor of this.
    cheers

  5. I’ve written a couple of posts that sum up my views on e-blog portfolios. At the end of the day I think what is important, as ever in a good lesson or course, is the aim of the blog. Is it going to be just ‘final’ products, the messy trail to get to the end or a combination of both? Then the question is whether the outside world would know that they had to interpret this messiness as just that. I fear that there are still too many companies out there that, when wanting to see their future job candidates, might mistaken the messiness for the final product. Again, very much dependent on the culture in which one lives.

  6. Ewan,

    Yes, culture is an important context that we need to consider. Context, in general, is crucial …

    I agree that I would not necessarily want a future employer to view a blog, depending on the topic and purpose of said blog.

    You raise an important point, that being that we need to be explicit in conveying the purpose of a blog if it is to be used as a portfolio. Perhaps the ‘about’ page could contain a key for reading and viewing; and introduction to the blog and a context within which the viewer could read and experience.

    Thanks for your comments…very challenging. What is your ideal delivery format for an e-portfolio (if you think there is an ideal)?

  7. Graham,

    that is some way cool information you sent re lulu. I have spent a bit of time snooping around their site with my grandiose ideas of publishing sometime…it seems like a viable tool that is also affordable. Publishing on demand….what a brilliant idea!
    I will be checking out that post. Thanks for the heads on that one…
    cheers

  8. I started exploring the “blogfolio” as a concept back in the Spring of 2005 and I’ll be presenting about it this Spring (2006) at TESOL-Arabia.

    With few exceptions, it seems that blog-cultured is focused mainly on swapping opinions with little evidence of what I call “professional peer development” which is just a fancy way of saying learning from one’s colleagues. It kind of reminds me of parenting: people tend to be willing to listen to what others say but normally only follow the advice of people who tell them what they want to hear. Few really step outside of their own paradigm to experiement. Myself included.

  9. Daniel…

    very valid points.

    I guess this is a downside of the ‘learner centered’ approach: we only invesigate what we are interested in and, often, only follow advice that coincides with our own interests…
    Most of the blogs I follow would fall into that kind of category, although blogs like Bard Ganley’s really are challengning my concepts of teaching writing…this is, however, a positive challenge: I don’t feel myself cringing or disagreeing strongly with the information I encounter.

    I do wonder, however, how much advice we truly follow that is counter to our current mindsets…example: in a ‘formal’ classroom project…We may mandate certain topics for exploration and certain criteria, but it is the students’ choice to either follow the criteria or step outside of it. Usually, such digression is met with academic penalty (ie: a bad grade), but is learning inside a box really learning?

    Thanks for joining the conversation.

  10. Is learning inside a box really learning?

    Yes, when the learner is not familiar with the contents of the box in question. Once the learner has attained a level of mastery over the contents of his box he is then able to transition into another box or construct a box of his own.

    Probably should have let go of the metaphor early on in that comment, but I think you get my meaning.;-)

  11. daniel,

    good point. Learning what the box is and the contents of it are learning, especially if that person does not know the box.

    Last night I was reading Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”… I gotta make the connection….When the person is removed from the box, or the cave in which he or she inhabited….sees reality, sees that daylight and freedom as opposed to the shadows which he/she once called reality…can they go back into the cave/box?
    Is it our duty to reinforce the world of the box, or to show students that there is a reality outside of that created box?

    Just some questions…

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