About a year and a half ago I embarked on a process to develop my eportfolio – though it was a personal, introspective process, I decided to allow public access to my site as it evolves. I was rather uncomfortable with so many people potentially seeing so much information about me, however, since the line of work of percolab is eportfolios and collaborative processes and I was frustrated that we could never see the result of each others « private » process, I had no choice. So there I was, in a place of discomfort – but deep down I knew that such visibility might have its rewards. And indeed it does.
Darren Cambridge, international researcher and author on eportfolios, chose to analyse my ePortfolio for a book he is writing and he sent me a draft of the chapter that refers to my work. Darren links my process to concepts of « integrity » and « employabilty » in ways that only someone from outside looking in could. He points out ideas that I share:
Knowing what one’s capabilities, values, dispositions and relationships are or could be is not enough. Rather, individuals must develop organizing principles to help them prioritize their attention and to establish the boundaries between their roles, developing a holistic understanding of their identity as a coherent system.
Darren gets what I was trying to do, a self-representation that is « more than an aggregation of discrete reflections on specific experiences, pieces of evidence of isolated competencies, or a repository of goals ». Darren sums up my vision for me:
..learning is a lifewide and lifelong process, requiring individual motivation to take personal responsibility for one’s holistic development. By embracing their curiosity, values, and passions, individuals can grow into more effective family members, workers, and community leaders. This learning is best supported in resource-rich environments that are welcoming to diverse people and personalized to each person, inviting connection and collaboration. Rather than being divorced form daily life, these environments should be integrated within them. Learning technology in its broadest sense – composed both of electronic tools such as wikis and conceptual tools such as competency frameworks – is most powerful when it adds flexibility and broadens access, serving as a heuristic that stimulates and guides, but doesn’t constrain individuals in their efforts to better themselves.
But Darren goes even further, he sees how I am was trying to go get somewhere different, and indeed this is part of the foundation of percolab.
Slade’s use of competencies differs from the typical approach in many employability-orientated eportfolio programs, doing more than just identifying competencies, matching them to the needs of the market, and engaging in learning that makes for a stronger alignment of personal skills and organizational needs. She goes further to document and examine both the personal and professional elements of her life using an overarching theory of how she wishes to develop as a person and to contribute to the development of others. While her approach places personal choice and personal responsibility front and center, it suggests that there are other factors that need to be taken into account in making good choices beyond what potential employers or clients say they want. In this way, it differ from the dominant discourse of employability and lifelong learning in most Western societies, which frames the individual role as shaping the self in ways that strengthen the economy.
And Darren understands also how, without ever saying it, I used my eportfolio to develop my professionalism and capacity to innovate in my area of speciality, learning design. The structure and process I developed is in line with the theory « supporting self-sponsored learning through cultivating distributed, flexible, content-rich spaces and tools that connect learners ».
Darren thinks that my portfolio is « a powerful example of how integrity, the linking of private and public life through systems thinking, is important to defining excellence within a profession » and that in general:
The health of a profession should be judged by how well it enables its members to do « good work ». The meaning of « good » in good work is two-fold: good in the sense of expertise, doing work well, and good in the sense of ethics, doing work that serves the good. » Defining the good that a profession should do and enabling it s members to do it requires more than occupation-specific competencies. It also requires taking into consideration the values, beliefs, and commitments held by its members, considering commonalities and conflict in relationship to the public’s expectations of the profession.
Darren and I both see the potential of eportfolios to help many under-appreciated professions (from waitresses to welders) that in fact involve « considerable, multiple intelligences and cognitive sophistication » to « argue for their right to the means for professional self-definition. » Indeed , percolab has been looking at how eportfolios can help develop the professional identity and credibility in the field of youth workers and volunteers.
And so my little eportfolio undertaking is put in a larger perspective, a gift Darren offers me, serving to clarify, solidify and enrich ideas that were were searching to be formalised. His words inspire me forward. Thank you Darren. I will no longer doubt that making my eportfolio publicly accessible was the right decision.
Note: The text of the book, once published, may differ from that in the passages quoted above.