You are all working in this course in Macaulay’s eportfolio system.  And some of you also already have eportfolios of your own. And in fact, the concept of eportfolios is one that fits very nicely into this course and into this unit.  We use eportfolios at Macaulay in a lot of different ways–sometimes as blogs, sometimes as travel journals, sometimes as course websites, sometimes as complete learning management systems (like in this course).  There may be as many types of eportfolios as there are types of students and types of learning activities that students can engage in.

But there is a traditional view of an eportfolio–and a view (a different one, slightly) that connects to reflection, to going meta, to directing and understanding your own learning.  To learning to learn.

A portfolio is a collection of artifacts, a collection of objects, which demonstrate your skill or learning in a particular subject or over a particular period of time.  An artist has a portfolio, and in education, we started using the term for a kind of writing assessment.  During a writing class, students would take their best pieces of writing, polish them nicely, improve them through re-writing, and put those best pieces, with the earlier drafts, and a cover letter or some reflective piece, in a nice folder which they could submit at the end of the class.  It would give a bigger, better, picture of the student’s work and learning than just one exam or term paper could ever give.

An “eportfolio” (sometimes it’s “e-portfolio” or “ePortfolio” or even “digital portfolio” or “d-portfolio”) was an electronic, online version of that folder.  The concept then expanded to include more than just one class, or more than just one type of assignment.  Think of the box of your old school papers and report cards and drawings and clay birds that your mother might have in a closet or a basement or a cupboard.  You could go look through that box, and show it to other people, and pull out the best work, and explain what it showed about you and your learning.  And the “e” version of that just makes it easier to show and explain and organize and reorganize.

Charles Willson Peale, The Artist in His Museum, 1822, oil on canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art; The George W.Elkins CollectionYou can read more about how we at Macaulay wanted to expand this idea even further–by thinking of the eportfolio as a cabinet of curiosities or the “museum of me” (I mean you).  I won’t repeat that here–read it on the main eportfolio site, if you haven’t yet. Your eportfolio (and it’s OK if you haven’t built it yet–or you started it and then took a long pause–it’s a process, and it continues from whenever and wherever you start, without ever being really “finished”) is a museum of you, and you can continue to add to it, and show it to other people, and walk through it yourself, as long as you’re a Macaulay student and (we hope) even longer than that.  An eportfolio is a place to collect the artifacts (maybe not the right word, but it’s better than “evidence,” which is the term that is often used for eportfolios.  “Artifacts” are things that you make, “evidence” is something that you leave behind–and it makes me feel like you’re a criminal) of your learning.  You collect them as you create them.  And you reflect on them–you explain to yourself or others, what they mean and show about you and what you’re learning.  And you present them to other people: your grandmother, your graduate school admissions committee, your prospective employer.

Have you got your eportfolio started yet? Maybe this is a good time to give some thought to how you plan to build it.  Or maybe it’s just going to grow, when the time comes, without a plan.  Sometimes the best museums might just grow that way.