W/R Position Paper April 14, 1999

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Tim Everson

Position Paper

April 14, 1999

I have chosen to react to the article Digital Portfolios: Capturing and Demonstrating Skills and Levels of Performance written by Terry L. Wiedmer which appeared in the April 1998 edition of PHI DELTA KAPPAN.

Mr. Wiedmer begins his argument for digital portfolios by stating that the use of electronic portfolios is gaining popularity because educators as well as business people are discovering that electronic portfolios are a great means of evaluating an individuals performance. New technology is enabling people to show what they know in ways that were not available before. He defines a digital portfolio as a purposeful collection of work, captured by electronic means, that serves as an exhibit of individual efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas.

Wiedmer explains that one of the primary benefits of developing a portfolio is that it causes the creator to be involved from the very start. He notes that it is important for the creator to analyze what type of information will be included in the portfolio and then decide what software will make that information most effective. He mentions that portfolios can constantly be updated and edited. The creator must also decide how they want the viewer to move through their portfolio. Linear movement will allow the user to move only from one page to the next while non-linear movement will allow the viewer to move through the portfolio at will, much like hypertext on Internet websites. Also in this process, hardware requirements must be taken into account. It is very important to take the viewer of the portfolio into account. This means thinking about what software and hardware the viewer will need in order to view the information included in the portfolio.

Wiedmer talks how portfolios include main menus that allow viewers to see what information is included. Once the creator decides how the information will be organized, they must decide the most appropriate way for the viewer to see, hear, or view the information. According to Wiedmer, the importance of the portfolio is to show what the creator can do by actual examples of their work instead of a letter grade.

Wiedmer states that rubrics are essential in the assessment and evaluation of the portfolio. He stresses that it is important to focus on the performance that is being displayed and not so much on the final product. Three types of rubrics were discussed in the article. These include the following: analytic rubrics which break the portfolio into parts and rate each part, holistic rubrics which evaluate the portfolio as a whole, and primary trait rubrics which assess the demonstrated performance.

According to the article, a portfolio that has been burned onto a CD can serve as a good overall indicator of an individuals talents, style, and accomplishments. The CD serves as a good source to store this information since it is compact and readily accessible from most computers. The author also stresses that it is the portfolio developers responsibility to make sure that the information that is exhibited in the portfolio is an accurate picture of the their performance.

Wiedmer is definitely a proponent of digital portfolios and I agree with the author. The use of electronic portfolios are indeed becoming commonplace in both the working and educational environment. Portfolios open new channels of communication between students and teachers (Education Office of Research Consumer Guide, Student Portfolios: Administrative Uses, December 1993, http://www.ed.gov/pubs/OR/ConsumerGuides/admuses.html).

I feel that electronic portfolios will prove to be a very useful addition to our existing methods of evaluating student work. I agree that it is important for teachers to help students create a portfolio that is an accurate picture of what the student can do. This would also be important for the job seeker to keep in mind. I plan on using rubrics to assess the portfolios but feel that the work that goes into the final portfolio should be the very best that the student can do. This may mean editing and re-editing work until it is correct. Electronic portfolios allow the creator to demonstrate a much wider dimension of knowledge than just paper-and-pencil reports or exercises (Tuttle, Harry Grover, The Multimedia Report: Electronic Portfolios Tell a Personal Story, http://www.infotoday.com/mmschools/jan97mms/portfol.htm). In my Visual Basic programming classes, it would be very beneficial to have examples of actual code that was created by the student. Much can be seen about the students ability to think logically by the structure of their code. Deciding on the contents of the portfolio contributes to the students metacognitive growth (Hebert, Elizabeth A., Lessons Learned About Portfolios, PHI DELTA KAPPAN, April 1998, p 584). This means that the student will have to look ahead as they produce their portfolio. They will have to decipher between quality work that shows true ability and projects of mediocre value. Not all projects will be useful in showing a students true ability. By creating an environment where students must strive to achieve quality work that they are proud of and then exhibit this work, the teacher is creating an environment that is very similar to the work environment that the students will someday be entering. The important lesson learned is that the motivation to achieve quality which must come from within (Glasser, William, The Quality School, p 41, 1998), the teacher themselves cannot force this to happen.

-- Anonymous, April 14, 1999

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