The EdVantage of Efolios

By Vermilion, Emilee R. | Distance Learning, July 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

The EdVantage of Efolios


Vermilion, Emilee R., Distance Learning


INTRODUCTION

Electronic portfolios (eFolios) are a relatively new teaching and learning strategy, with their roots in colleges and universities. They have gradually worked their way down to high schools and now into the lower grades. Through recent studies, ePortfolios have proven to be excellent documentation tools for a variety of purposes. Efolios can be used to measure academic achievement, growth over a period of time, or the accomplishment of state standards (Niguidula, 2005). The use of electronic portfolios in the Manatee County (Florida) School District (MCSD) is in its infancy stage, having been implemented for 2 years. The school district recently adopted a new mission statement; "The mission of Manatee County School District is to inspire our students with a passion for learning, empowered to pursue their dreams confidently and creatively while contributing to our community, nation, and world" (Manatee County School District, 2005). This new mission is one part of a new strategic plan titled EdVantage.

The word portfolio comes from the Latin words portare, meaning to carry, and foglio, meaning sheet of paper. A primary purpose of any type of portfolio assessment is to teach students how to evaluate their own work via application of quality standards and personal goals. Portfolios seem to mirror the comprehension and performance of a student (Gibbs, 2004). "Making an educational experience relevant and meaningful should include making the method of assessment relevant and meaningful" (Lambert, 2007, p. 78). Using portfolios provides for authentic and meaningful collection and assessment of student work that demonstrates achievement or improvement. Portfolios "create the opportunity to involve learners in directing, documenting, and evaluating their own learning" (Lambert, 2007, p. 7S) Implicit in these meaningful collections is evidence of student self-reflection (Lambert, 2007).

Current state testing requirements have caused students to question that they are being taught "the test" and that there is no relevance to their learning. However, research indicates that if students connect their work to governmental standards they see value and relevance to their work (Ring & Foti, 2003). Yet, finding ways to show students the connection is not an easy task. Many researchers and educators feel that portfolio assessment is superior and a more accurate indicator of a student's progress than more conventional types of assessment. Assessing student learning using more authentic methods is a current favored topic among state and federal agencies and has made a significant impact on the literature in pedagogy since the early 1980s (Lambert, 2007). Additionally, portfolios provide opportunities for students to showcase their talents, creativity, and individuality, as well as technological capabilities. The "beauty of [the use of] e-portfolios is that it fosters active learning not only in the areas of subject contents but also in the use of technology" (Lambert, 2007, p. 76). Motivating students to be high achievers and to have a desire to attend school has always been a difficult task for educators. However, as students become active learners while constructing their eFolios, they assume ownership of their learning and a desire to attend class while submitting quality assignments.

The EdVantage plan is the result of over 6,000 hours of teamwork by more than 190 Manatee County community leaders and School District employees (Manatee County School District, 2005), with a core team of 18 community members and 18 school board employees. The strategic objectives of EdVantage are to have each student actively engaged in the following goals by the year 2010: (1) continually demonstrate enthusiasm for the selfdirected pursuit of knowledge, (2) articulate personal goals, create plans to achieve those goals, and exhibit progress toward their attainment, (3) continually participate in democratic processes, and (4) actively engage in global outreach (Manatee County School District, 2005). …

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