Queen Margaret University

Image Mr Pauly D CC - By NC ND

I had the pleasure of attending the ePortolio Scotland conference, run by JISC Regional Support Centre for Scotland North and East on the 10th September. It was nice to be back in my home town again but I went mainly to catch up with new developments in the eportfolio and PDP field. They have posted the available resources on their website.

It was well attended and they had a good range of speakers and workshops, as well as a wee TeachMeet-style lunch session. Here are a few of the highlights:

Margaret Faulkner from the Uni of South Australia presented on their experience of implementing ePortfolios across a wide range of subjects. The thing that struck me most about her talk was that they had obviously considered issues to do with multiple personal identities in relation to the learner-owned nature of ePortfolios.  I’m mis quoting but, as ePortfolios need to reflect the lifelong, lifewide nature of learning their use needs to acknowledge the different aspects of someone’s identity as an individual, a learner, a professional, a citizen etc. She also talked about the difficulties in helping users adapt to ePortfolios. She said that time needs to be allowed for learners to develop an understanding of the concept of ePortfolios and to develop their own reflective skills. “How to” guides were effective to a point but she reported success in augmenting that with student peer-to-peer training as well.

Simon Grant from JISC CETIS presented on the work around the Leap2A portability standard. He spent quite a lot of time asking the audience questions about the nature of their ePortfolio use and the systems they were employing. I was intrigued that Mahara was used by the most institutions represented – I would have thought PebblePad but it looks like open source is winning lots of friends. My main take-home point from Simon was the need to think about future uses of the information in ePortfolios when implementing. Portability standards are one thing but how far will they allow users the carry with them the content that usefully represents their learning in contexts that are not easy to predict.

Derrin Kent from consultants TDM gave us a breathless, infectious showcase of the strengths of recently released Mahara 1.3. There was quite a bit of buzz amongst the tweeters about the tools for collaborative working. He also quoted a 9year old’s view of ePortfolios that I think I might stick to the wall next to my desk:

“ePorfolios are there to show us how much we’ve grown.”

Linda Steedman from eCom Scotland demo’d their SkillsLocker product. It’s principally for use as a way of documenting accreditation of skills and learning in the workplace but I was struck by how much it differed from the model of ePortfolios in education. Ownership of the portfolios seemed to rest much more with the institution than the learner/employee and that the business’ hierarchy determined much of its structure. To me it seemed a much more restrictive environment than other implementations I’ve seen; I guess it’s just more functional, recording CPD activity and compliance to standards like health and safety certification and focussing less on personal reflection.

Gordon Joyes from Nottingham Uni closed the event with a keynote on JISC’s work with ePortfolios and a reflection on the “threshold concepts” surrounding ePortfolios; how certain misperceptions of the technology in a number of areas need to be overcome before an institution can grapple with their use effectively.

Other honourable mentions:

Robert Chmielewski from Edinburgh Uni presented on the mammoth task of implementing PebblePad there. I’d quite like to get his input at future Netskills ePortolio workshops.

Carol Walker (@weedog) delivered a great workshop on capturing video evidence for use in eportfolios using free tools like Windows Live MovieMaker and Photostory3. Somehow managed to make it all seem really simple while still explaining some of the complexities of codecs and video file formats!

Elaine Mowat for her 5 minute TeachMeet on using drawing to help reflection. Reminded me a bit of Sacha Chua’s approach to drawing.

Kenji Lamb – for boundless enthusiasm.

Martin Hawksey for his AV work and uncannily demonstrating what could happen if you splice the DNA of John Cusack and David Tennant. ;)

Thanks to the staff at RSC Scotland NE for organising this event.