Blogfolios – Something else for me to mess up…

I must make a confession. I’ve never quite “gotten” ePortfolios. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great idea to give students a webspace in which they can collect work, reflect on their learning, and present themselves. What has always thrown me is why we need a whole new set of specialized applications, standards, and procedures forced onto users. Looking at the first generation of ePortfolio tools out there, and skimming the mainstream literature on the subject, it sounded like all of the mistakes that were made with the “Learning Object Economy” (ignoring users, ignoring what the rest of the Web was doing, raising the adoption bar with arcane standards, specialised tools that constrain individual creativity) were being made all over again.

When asked if I wanted to develop an ePortfolio for myself, I tactfully (I hope) demurred. My weblog was my personal portfolio, I said (and believed), and I collected my public works in an easily updated wiki page in the unlikely event somebody wanted to know more about what I’ve done.

I knew that my weblog had its shortcoming as a portfolio. Someone looking at my page for the past couple weeks would conclude that I spend my time in a catatonic depression over the endless technical difficulties that are driving my projects into the ground. In reality, that is only partly true. I also enjoy posting on issues not strictly related to my job, such as remix culture, my son, my sleep-deprivation hobby and what I had for lunch. If someone wanted to get a sense of how truly incompetent I am, they would be forced to do a bit of digging through my links — and that assumes a certain comfort by the reader with the weblog format (which simply cannot be assumed).

UBC’s ePortfolio Coordinator Kele Fleming had been intrigued by the notion of “Blogfolios” (which people such as David Tosh, Alan Levine, and others have been batting about for some time). So for a UBC event on ePortfolios late last year, I worked with Michelle Chua to develop one of my own. Michelle did some really impressive conceptual and programming work with Movable Type, and my resulting online portfolio can be viewed at: http://careo.elearning.ubc.ca/weblogs/brianlamb/.

I could improve things greatly by revising the content I rammed in there, but nonetheless I think there are some advantages to this approach to the online portfolio.

* It puts my main professional activities right up front — so it’s undoubtedly a better introduction to my work than my weblog is…
* I am able to manage it using my existing MT login account, and didn’t have to learn a new ePortfolio system.
* I am using Feed2JS to push my Abject Learning content over to the notebook section, so it will display relatively fresh content without me having to post it there.
* No additional licensing or infrastucture costs. All the money spent was on local development and customisation.

I wish I could take credit for this Blogfolio, but all the really clever work was done by Michelle, who did a student Blogfolio of her own. The reaction at the ePortfolio conference was very positive — and we had a number of immediate requests from attendees who wanted one for themselves… The existing Blogfolios were prototypes, really, so it will be interesting to learn if this approach is scalable. Michelle is working on it.

Michelle, Kele and I are on tap to co-present a workshop on creating professional Blogfolios this Thursday — hopefully we will learn more then. If this sucker flies, we will look into ways to share what we’ve done.

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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