Digital portfolios are mandated for public schools in New Hampshire, with two generally understood purposes:
- gauging effectiveness of instruction at meeting National Educational Technology Standards (NETS).
- providing a "permanent record" of student achievement for self-assessment and college applications.
Were data storage and summative evaluation the only goals, I think the required costs in training, administration, instructional time and infrastructure would to outweigh the benefits without a pre-existing 1-to-1 initiative.
However, by creating blended learning intranets for the formative evaluation of student work by self, peers, and faculty, this initiative could kick-start a profound advance on a statewide level, if the vision equally weighs both formative and summative assessment, and both student and teacher review.
Two open source projects - Sakai and Mahara - have been adopted by many New Hampshire schools for this requirement. Both are capable of serving as blended learning environments, not just repositories: they support projects as well as portfolios. Teachers create project sites for blended learning using a suite of Web 2.0 tools: assignments, forums, blogs, wikis, and other options reside on the project page. Students log in to contribute content and comments.
On a student's personal portfolio site, each student submits a major artifact associated with the project (a research paper, web page, etc.), along with reflections. In the standard design, teachers are notified via email of the submission and offer feedback for one revision & resubmission, limited as they are by the burden of having many students, little time, and limited access to their computer labs.
The promise and power of the blended learning + portfolio model can be realized when the reviewing is done by peers as well as by teachers.
That way, student work and peer review (comments crafted to address teacher-made "response rubrics" that value constructive digital citizenship) would form a "cumulative curriculum" (a term introduced by my mentor, Dr. Robbie McClintock). Referencing the work of current and past students in the crafting of new knowledge and expression can be more germane and empowering for learners than textbooks and online materials, because the work is created within and for the particular learning context and culture.
After a few cycles of peer review (during which teachers comment on interchanges as teachable moments emerge), a student can self-assess the readiness of work for teacher review, with the understanding that there will be at most one revision (in deference to the teacher's workload).
When ePortfolios are implemented best, I believe the teacher's responsibility to create curriculum materials and assess student work will be shared with students. As a blended learning model, students would not do their commenting and revision in computer labs, but use home internet access to contribute to the academic life in their classrooms.
In this way, ePortfolios can be adopted without teachers overworked, labs overscheduled, networks overloaded, or students overly concerned with products over process.