ePortfolios: What’s the point?

frustrated man

The other day I came across an article in my Twitter feed about ePortfolios and how they can be done using Google Sites (for the life of me I can’t find it anymore).  I immediately thought of how many of the teachers I used to work with loathed the inevitable process they would have to go through every three years.  Their biggest complaint was that regardless of what they did, they would need to change maybe one or two things and that was it.  There was little formative feedback for them to improve their practice.  What’s more, some teachers didn’t want to receive feedback of any kind, because they were happy with how they were teaching.  I can only assume (yes, I know, very dangerous) this is the process many schools go through, but I fail to see the benefit of doing so.  This leads me to ask, does the platform a teacher submits their portfolio through really make much of a difference?  Isn’t it what’s inside the portfolio that matters most?  Wouldn’t it be more useful to spend time discussing with teachers how to reflect on their practice and how to improve their teaching, rather than on changing the way they submit evidence of the teaching?

I have had some experiences with portfolios and eportfolios in my previous position as a technology director for a K12 school district.  I was the person calling for more electronic portfolios, even though an electronic portfolio doesn’t get to the heart of what makes a good teacher good.  I did what many have done before me and countless more will continue to do after me, I taught the how without putting in a context for why we should be doing this.  I assumed that it was inherently good to do an eportfolio because it was new and used technology.  While since then I feel as I have grown to be able to say we need to talk about what good teaching looks like and how we can make teaching and education stronger as a whole, I feel, and fear, many have not.

An eportfolio may be the new way of showing how well we teach (I actually think it is due to the types of media that we can and do use in the classroom), but it is the same busy work only in a different platform.  The attitudes many feel are the same and the results are almost assuredly the same.  I think reflection is the most important thing an educator can do, because it makes us think.  It makes us think about what we do everyday and whether or not we are making a difference.  However, too many people don’t reflect and we find ourselves looking for ways to improve a broken system (RTTT, Superman, etc.).  I think having the large, overarching conversations at the state or the national level is important, but maybe it’s time we take some time to think about what we are doing so we can figure out where we need to go.

It all starts with reflection.  Take some time, whether it be every day, week, or month, and think about what you’ve been doing.  Have you been making a difference?

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