I’ve been a longtime proponent of student portfolios and one of the most appealing things about Web logs for me has been the obvious ease with which they could be used to create an online repository of student work and reflection. I’ve written a lot about this here, and these struggles aren’t new, but I’ve been trying to slowly work toward implementing them on some small scale with the hopes that the idea would grow. Today I sat with my English Dept. supervisor and explored the idea in more detail, and it became obvious that despite the promise, there are still some serious issues to work through and some serious differences between online portfolios and digital portfolios.
The biggest stumbling block is the potential for plagiarism. I’ve done some testing, and the good news is that Manila sites that are Editor’s Only sites are not Google-ized. Posts from our Creative Writing class (which is a closed site) haven’t come up in Google searches to this point while most stuff from open sites usually shows up within a matter of weeks if not days. So making all the sites eds only would solve the problem to some extent. But one of the reasons I like the Web log is the open publishing aspect of it. That, to me, is one of the most important parts of the portfolio process, the one part that until now has been the most difficult to accomplish. But if student Web logs were online, I don’t think it would be a big step for kids to find work done by students in earlier sections of the same course. (Yes, a good teacher will be looking at process for any assignment, but it’s easier to start at the end and work backwards in many cases.)
The other issue is the carrying forward of teacher comments that are most often found in writing on student work. Unless teachers input those comments into the Web log, which they certainly could do, there would have to be another way of capturing them.
So I’m weighing the pros and cons here with a general tepid response from teachers in the department primarily due, I think, to an incomplete understanding of how this would work. The plan has to be clearer before I can sell it. I’m sure there will be more about this later.
Tom McKenna says
As a daily reader of Weblogg-ed, I have many a silent conversation with you, so first, thanks for being so generous with your time and insights on this site.
Today’s comments about using weblogs for electronic portfolios are absolutely timely for me. This afternoon, I’m to meet with the director of our M.A.T. program for elementary teachers, and with an adjunct technology instructor to begin planning portfolios in which the MATers capture ‘work samples,’ including, we hope, streamed video clips. I see many aspects of the utility of including instructor commentary as documentation of process, so would love to share notes with you as we progress. When I wear my English teacher hat–less and less frequently, unfortunately–I like the idea of incorporating the digital audio commentary that I give students while they develop their work. But I’m not audioblogging at all yet…So much to do just to keep the bugs from totally infesting our version of Frontier. (We crash chronically.)
To put the electronic portfolio work here in a larger context, our university’s TLTR group (Teaching and Learning with Technology Round Table) is piloting electronic portfolios this year. A colleague is using the OSPI demos at http://www.theospi.org/, and I’ll be using Manila.
No pointed solutions or additions to your quandry today. I just wanted to let you know that I’m reading and thinking and tinkering with you, and that I appreciate your work.
Tom Grey says
From a more business perspective, what about setting up a SCOOP database engine, like kuro5hin or, now, dailyKos (the latter explicitly leftist). K5, especially, allows lots of ratings of others, and comments & ratings of comments.
On the plagiarism issue, it’s prolly going to get worse before better, if ever. Short in-class tests about what was written should help: even those who copy others would then have to know a bit about what they copied.