Designing Digital Portfolios for Technology Support Students

By Ali, Azad I. | Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology, Annual 2008 | Go to article overview
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Designing Digital Portfolios for Technology Support Students

Ali, Azad I., Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology


Using digital or electronic portfolios has been increasing at a rapid rate and also has been capturing the attention of many in academia. Batson (2002) for example, described the development of digital portfolios as "the biggest thing in technology innovation on campus (p. 1)". Love, McKean and Gatherocal (2004) described Webfolios (a type of digital portfolio) as "the most significant significant effect on education since the introduction of formal schooling" (p. 24).

Despite all the developments regarding digital portfolios in education, only a few majors such English, Art and Journalism are taking the lead to introducing them to their curriculum (Batson, 2002). At the same time technology programs are not proceeding at the same pace in introducing the same portfolios for their students (Ritzpaugh & Singh, 2006).

This study is intended to conduct an investigation regarding introducing digital portfolios to technology programs. It illustrates the experience of the Technology Support and Training (TST) department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and describes the preliminary steps that have been taken in this regard by faculty members in this department to implement the requirement of digital portfolio for their students.

The remainder of the paper is divided into four sections. The first section describes portfolios in general and digital portfolios in particular. The second section discusses the advantages and uses of developing portfolios for students. The third section elaborates on the considerations that may need to be taken into account before introducing digital portfolios as a requirement for the students. The fourth section details the experience of the TST faculty and their students in developing the digital portfolios. A summary of the paper content and plan for future research is presented at the end.

About Portfolios

Using portfolios for business applications is not something new; to the contrary, portfolios have been used in business for some time. Financial investors are known to hold a portfolio of their investments that shows different portions of their stocks and the contribution each made. Salespeople have been known for a long time to carry a binder or a folder with them on their trips to show their clients about the company they are representing and the products they are selling. Similar trends were noted in other fields such as graphic arts (Snadden & Thomas, 1998).

The use of portfolios in education is more recent and followed a number of developments that created a need for a comprehensive assessment tool to evaluate students' knowledge over longer period of time than just one course. Worthington (2000) noted that "We need methods much closer to narrative that shows where a student stands with respect to the long art of learning" (p. 242). Snadden and Thomas (1998) on the other hand indicated the main purpose of developing portfolios in learning and education is "the collection of evidence that learning has taken place" (p. 192).

In regards to the specific time portfolios began to be adopted in academia, Dubinsky (2003) explained that the use of portfolios in academia began to gain a foothold in the early to mid 1980s by some teachers in English composition and writing. Dubinsky further added about the increasing usage of portfolios by composition teachers:

"Adopted them as an alternative assessment strategy, one that could show students' development (in terms of writing ability) over time and permit students to have a say in the ways in which their work organized and presented. Since then according to Vavrus (1990), teachers have continued to use portfolios in systematic ways to monitor growth of the students' knowledge, skills and attitudes" (quoted in Cole, Ryan, Kick, & Mathies, 1995, p. 9)

The use of portfolio in education was limited to assessing student work initially.

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