Since I began the Master ‘s in Educational Technology (MAET) program at Michigan State University about two years ago, I have been using my WordPress blog as a way to submit work, reflect on my learning, and collaborate with colleagues. In CEP 813: Electronic Assessment for Teaching & Learning, I have had the opportunity to explore, examine, and learn how digital portfolios can be used as an assessment tool in educational settings. In fact, many of the benefits we learned about for using digital portfolios in classrooms mirror the benefits that WordPress offers to professionals utilizing it as a digital medium in the educational community. In this post, I will reflect on how the features of electronic portfolios, like this WordPress blog, afford opportunities for learning and professional growth.
Digital portfolios are easily used for self-assessment. Throughout the past few years, I have utilized this blog as a digital platform to organize, document, share, represent and reflect on my professional work. The digital format allows me to easily access my creations and provides a thorough documentation of my progress and performance throughout time. Being able to see where I started and where my learning experiences have taken me is rewarding and encouraging.
Unlike the paper portfolio, the digital medium makes it incredibly easy to compile, organize, tag, link, and revise work. I can easily locate work by searching tags, categories, courses, or even a specific time frame, making a digital portfolio an ideal option for multi-part work. In addition to serving as a platform for document and reflecting on personal progress and growth, digital portfolios make it easy for colleagues and other professionals to collaborate and provide/receive real-time feedback. As we have learned both indirectly and directly in CEP 813, feedback is an essential component in the growth process of any individual. We learn not only from receiving feedback, but also from reviewing our colleagues’ work and providing feedback.
Moreover, by publishing content on the web, I am not only establishing a digital profile and presence within my network of collaborators, I am also opening the door to a global network and audience, allowing for richer, more diverse feedback. By using digital portfolios, educators (and students) are able to make connections with other professionals on the web, establishing a sense of community in a digital context. This has been feature of WordPress that I have truly enjoyed since starting this blog.
Perhaps one of the most impressive affordances of using a digital portfolio for learning and professional growth is that it is both useful AND useable. Not only do digital portfolios allow users to publish text, images, files, etc., they are also accessible. Most Content Management Systems (CMSs) can be accessed on almost any networked device, such as but not limited to: cell phones, tablets, laptops, netbooks, and desktop computers. The ability to access and share information anytime, anywhere takes learning beyond the confines of the classroom walls and turns it into a life-wide experience, reconnecting learning and life. Likewise, the accessibility also extends to viewers who can see new postings in real-time, allowing them to post comments quickly and easily. This is a game-changer for giving and receiving feedback.
In addition to being useable, content management systems offer various tools and supports making them very useful. For example, the review comments feature that allows users to view, accept, or decline public feedback on posts prior to them being viewable to the public is very useful for shy users or users who lack confidence. This way they can still receive feedback without fearing what others may think when they see it. Actually, I prefer this tool so I can manage spam and unrelated posts, but from an instructors perspective, it is a great support to ensure students are not giving or receiving inappropriate feedback. Another useful tool is automatic email notifications whenever there is activity on your site or on the site of those you follow. This way users can manage their online presence and decide how active they want to be with other bloggers they follow.
While my digital portfolio could use some fine tuning and organization, I genuinely appreciate having a medium that allows me to record my thoughts and share my work. There are so many features and supports that digital portfolios offer that often go unnoticed. Before, I don’t think I truly appreciated the global audience and connections I have made with other professionals through this WordPress blog because I didn’t understand the importance of community and feedback. Currently, I value and appreciate the connections and dialogue much more than I had and from a new perspective, too now that I know how to use the feedback given. Before this course, I wasn’t entirely sure how to use a digital portfolio as an assessment tool, but as we bring this course to a close, I have a much better understanding of how utilize digital portfolios in my content area as well as how to assess student learning and provide effective feedback.