DWAE – ePortfolios response overview

This week for the DWAE comments, I took a look at Kim and Laurie’s responses.

Laurie’s analysis of Zanzucchi and Truong was very interesting to me because it centered on the function of the ePortfolio as a programmatic concern.  If I’m going to be entirely honest (and I think this is reflected in my comments on Wierszewski’s “Something Old, Something New”), I’m not entirely on board with the movement to offer up ePortfolios as a solution to programmatic concerns.  I view them, overall, as an expression of the ES trend towards novelty in pedagogy, which I don’t know that I always view as productive.  Laurie’s comments get to the heart of the programmatic benefits from a teacher training and curriculum-universalization perspective, and do display some real benefits of the ePortfolio process at the departmental level and above.

Similarly, Kim’s exploration of Bourelle, Bourelle, Rankins-Robertson, and Roen provides an interesting context for understanding ePortfolios as an extension of (and upgrade to) previously-existing methods for assessment, while also noting the exigency for the multimodal turn and the growth of the ePortfolio as tied to the economic concern of the centralized (and defunded) humanities.  By focusing on the constraints surrounding this tool, and the ways in which those constraints shape and provide boundaries to the “network” formed by the ePortfolio solution, Kim’s analysis serves my overall argument vis-a-vis Wierszewski very well (and also provides a non-assessment metric for quantitative study of the ePortfolio’s development).

All in all, I think that Kim and Laurie’s sources go far in demonstrating that my concerns from Wierszewski are well-founded – we may have put the cart before the horse by adopting the multimodal concern before we actually truly developed tools for assigning, creating, and assessing work in multimodal spaces.  There are exigencies here that must be understood and more fully incorporated into our disciplinary understanding before we can fully (and fairly) leverage the ePortfolio to the benefit of students.  However, the ePortfolio (as demonstrated by Bourelle et al. and Zanzucchi & Truong) has remarkable benefits for both instructors and administrators immediately.  The question, then, is whether this technology provides a negative benefit to students while lacking overall definitions and protocols of design, is generally neutral due to its being situated in revised versions of traditional assessment and assignment practices (as demonstrated by Wierszewski’s study of what feedback forms appear in multimodal composition assessments), or is generally positive (as argued by Laurie and Kim in their assessments of their sources.)

For myself, I’m guessing the answer is somewhere in the range of “neutral,” but my cynicism leads me to presume a negative impact until we have done more to demonstrate the ePortfolio’s pedagogical viability or superiority–and to tread carefully as a result.


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