Theory (4)
Fourth, the use eportfolios is governed through temporality, where regardless of the form they take, they are temporal artifacts. Roles change for both student and teacher. Students begin as “designers” or “craftspeople” and become “technicians” using a variety of methods or techniques. Further, teachers may have their roles changed as well. For example, in "The Portfolio System" proposed by Elbow & Belanoff (1986), a teacher may become more of a "coach or editor" (p.337).


When the portfolio process involves "peer review" (apparent in some pedagogies using portfolios), a peer may work as a "technician" helping the portfolio's owner to fix the inevitable product. Blair and Hoy (2006) describe this tedious relationship (between peer and author) in relation to the difficulties of revising online pieces for eportfolios in their work, "Paying attention to adult learners online: the pedagogy and politics of community" (pp.39-41).

Let me begin by quickly describing some highlights of Ellul’s theory of “technique” from The Technological Society, then let me clarify the idea of temporality. Ellul (1967) describes the term technique, defining technique as "the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity" (p.xxv). He plays with this definition in numerous modes, where technique 1) presents man with multiple problems 2) certainly begins with the use of the machine 3) exists independent of the machine 4) leads to more rational and less indiscriminate use of machines 5) precedes science 6) is always put to immediate use 7) no longer rests on tradition, but rather technical procedures 8) integrates older traditions, 9) is nothing more than means and the ensemble of means 10) is opposed to nature 11) destroys, eliminates, or subordinates the natural world, and does not allow this world to restore itself or even to enter into a symbiotic relation with it 12) is organized as a closed world 13) demands immediate application, because it is so expensive 14) has only one principle: efficient ordering.

Ellul (1967) discusses the historical development of technique as the most primitive activity of man, further elaborating on the character of technique as it applies to communism, capitalism, social interaction, production, efficiency, and society as a whole (including religion). Finally, he claims labor has been entirely replaced by machines, and the technicians that maintain them. Do eportfolios have technicians? Yes, students are technicians who maintain their machinery, these technologies, eportfolios. Students work to maintain, develop, and even repair their technologies. Students have to find and assess problems in the textual components of the portfolios, yet they must also locate and repair problems in the digital components of the portfolios. If online, they must correct codes and so forth.

Students using eportfolios even move beyond being technicians (as De Certeau alludes to in The Practice of Everyday Life). I have observed how students may move one step beyond being technicians, where they do not allow themselves to be identified with the technology or process. Although this perspective is problematic, the point is relative to the pedagogy in play. Consider that students do not see themselves as technicians, they see themselves as simply students, yet they must be taught how to repair and revise components of the eportfolio before a certain deadline. Likewise, students must also be technologically aware of the forces which may perpetuate difficulties, such as hackers and even the dreaded “downed” server.

Finally, they must be aware of De Certeau’s (1988) argument that “Writing becomes a principle of the social hierarchization now privileging the technocrat (p.139), although the process of moving through the social hierarchy like the process of composing an eportfolio is a temporal one. The act of composing an eportfolio takes time (as it belongs to a step in the almighty composing "process"). Students begin with a process (a production), and then end with product. Interesting that we do not refer to "process" as "production" (perhaps that is too Marxist). There is a distinct starting point and a distinct ending, although in-between is the “tweaking” of technologies, where the students acting as technicians use their techniques to, as Ellul’s theory suggests, begin creating with the use of the machine (a computer) to create something that exists independent of the machine, which integrates older traditions and has only the principle of efficient ordering to guide it.