In the early 1990's parents were parents and teachers were teachers. Few institution other than Parent Centre paid much heed to parents as teachers or developing a home school partnership in learning. The concept of life long learners was more of a threat to the masses in a time of growing redundancies and unemployment.
At this time New Zealand schools began sending students home from primary schools with portfolios. These large scrapbooks contained annotated examples of their work that documented their learning during the year. They came home with the mid and end of year reports and provided teachers and parents with real examples to discuss when they met for the parent interviews.
The portfolio was designed for a particular purpose at a time when multimedia was technical and the internet ran at 14k on dial-up.
Jumping forward to 2011, there have been incremental changes to the portfolio. The greatest of these for some schools has been the digitising of the content. The challenge has been to bring the students learning together in one place on the internet and to have it accessible all year round and beyond.
Travelling along the developmental timeline with the eportfolio has been the online learning environment. Often these two concepts blur into a single task that has many teachers suffering from techno brain burnout even before anyone mentions social media and digital citizenship.
The eportfolio lies just beyond the grasp of many classroom teachers. A promised land perceived to be inhabited by the truly dedicated and skilled teachers of the future. The failure to produce an eportfolio that works for all students and teachers lies not in the dedication of teachers, the design of the software or the implementation but in the basic concept. The portfolio has been part of the learning landscape for less than twenty years. It is time to create a model that meets today's needs. A model that takes advantage of today's technology but is not driven by a need to be an expert in that technology. It needs to be as simple as the introduction of the ball point pen was to the school room. It has to be easy to implement and the advantages must be immediately obvious.
A web portal to student learning is one solution I am exploring this term. It can be best described as a starting point people can pass through to travel into the student's personal learning world. This model creates one place for students, teachers and family to go to in order to enter the student's learning space anytime, anywhere. Today's tools easily allow areas to be open to the public or closed to all but a selected few. Templates can be developed to allow schools to define minimum content but not limit the enthusiasm and creativity of individual teachers and students.
The best place for a teacher to start is with their own web portal. The Virtual Learning Network offers a place to start. Why not sign up and create your own space now.
Remember the golden rule as stated by Confucius:
Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.
Create your own web portal before you ask your students to do the same.