Miles Kimball (2005) suggests, "Portfolios [in general] encourage students to take control of and responsibility for their own learning" (p.437). He continues by suggesting that students grow as lifelong learners by managing their work, by using their discretion to choose which artifacts show their accomplishments, and by explaining how those artifacts show learning (p. 437). We, as teachers, cannot deny the value of electronic portfolios. But, eportfolios are technologies. Technologies abide by a few conventions, not necessarily physical conventions, but the theoretical conventions discussed above. As we evolve with technology, we must consider and apply technological theories to seek what is apparent in other technologies, things such as unintended consequences, symbiotic relationships with users, collapse and decay over time, and even repair, as well as other concerns.
Some connections to eportfolios and other teaching technologies are obvious, for example: Technologies demand technicians; moreover, technology always needs repair. Therefore, there needs to be a technician (e.g., Marx and Ellul), a student, a system administrator, or someone who knows technology. Others connections may not be so obvious: For example, with technology there are social implications: a cultural world (Heidegger), where there is one who creates, one who uses the technology, and the critic. As a discipline, we need to contemplate these issues and their outcomes. For example, theorists, such as Robert Johnson in User-Centered Design and Donald Norman in The Design of Everyday Things, consider the interactions between the technological world and the social world much more closely with respect to creating products. Perhaps scholars in our discipline can study these implications for eportfolios as well.
Finally, in applying technological theory, we can recognize important facets of eportfolios from a theoretical standpoint as well as a pedagogical one. Using our technological lens, we can improve our use of eportfolios in the writing classroom. Likewise, we can improve our understanding of eportfolios in general. We need to recognize differences between paper and electronic mediums, and we see the role of the student change from simple creator/writer to technician and beyond. We need to recognize eportfolios as tools and as a means of changing the social climate of the classroom and even the practices of our social spaces (e.g. the classroom).
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