eLiterate on ePort(able)Folios

Michael Feldstein has written in a few concise paragraphs, one of the best frameworks for looking at electronic portfolios, via a “box of stuff” in the basement metaphor:

Anyway, I’ve said on a number of occasions that ePortfolios are a lot like artificial intelligence in that they will be only a year away for the next ten years… The real problem is that, for all the many different definitions of ePortfolios out there, we have a bizillion different sets of application requirements which are not being looked at holistically. We’re trying to solve the wrong problems.

… the box of papers in the basement. You know, the one with all your notebooks, your tests, your essays…maybe your thesis…? … does anybody ever really think of that box as a portfolio? Personally, I think of it as my “stuff.” If I want to put together a portfolio, I’ll go through my stuff and pull out the best stuff. A portfolio is, roughly, a portable folio. Emphasis on portable. My box of stuff isn’t terribly portable, nor would I have any reason to port it around with me except on those rare and exceptionally distasteful times when I’m moving all of my stuff. I need my box of stuff to put together my portfolio, but the box of stuff is not a portfolio in itself.

and further down:

So to support ePortfolio applications of all types, we need two things: A big box for stuff and some smaller…um…folios that are easy to fill with carefully selected subsets of the stuff. In other words, we need to give students a personal file storage system that’s linked to a personal publishing system.

So what might be the big box? Is it the web itself? Is it a (dreaded word) “repository”? Is it a formal content management system? Is it .. “mySpace” (not suggesting, just asking). Michael seems to be asking if we really need to build these large scale eportfolio systems or look more at some simpler services (like a weblog API) that can take content form somewhere, wisk it through a template, and roll on top some comment and access controls. Smells like a weblog app to me.

Let’s keep it simple. An ePortfolio is a lightweight personal publishing system that should sit on top of an LMS’s personal file management system.

Amen, brother Michael.

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. big box = your blog + flickr + del.icio.us + etc…

    portable folio = stuff from your big box tagged with “portfolio”

    easier said than done, though – most people I’ve been working with want an “ePortfolio” that is more like a presentation than a live aggregate document…

  2. I did end up using the dreaded word in my response to your comment on my post, but I agree that it needs to be lightweight. The main issue is that students need for their work to automagically be put into their boxes of stuff. If you don’t want to call that box a “repository”, that’s OK with me. “Box” works too. We should definitely take care to avoid overcomplicating.

  3. The elusive eportfolio, it’s like podcasting, a catchall phrase. I like the box of stuff in the cellar metaphor, even though here in S California cellars or basements, (am I revealing my roots?) are non existent. The caveat I see is that by the time I’ve put something in the basement, I’ve essentially moved on from it. I think D’arcy’s approach is moving in the right direction and as he’s suggested, most people aren’t yet thinking out of the box, (ooops no pun intented :)) enough. Might this be another example of the paradigmatic cleft between immigrants and the native? Between our capacity to expand our mental models?
    What if undergraduates started building their presence (via MySpace, Delicious, etc) from the moment they entered the university. What about an expanded Mr Potato as a metaphor?

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