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Using ICTs to support use of Portfolios in learning

Rhyon Whittle, Memorial University of Newfoundland


Current portfolio development methods present difficulties in terms of storing and searching through the information, as the data are gathered through a writing based approach (Chang, 2002). Due to the volume of paper-based information gathered over time, traditional portfolios are not well suited for easy viewing (Chang, Liang, & Chen, 2013). Traditional portfolios are also prone to be underutilized; because of their format, they may remain unused once their initial purpose has been fulfilled (Horton, 2004). They are described as “physically unwieldy”, and transporting them for review is described as “a very laborious proposition” (Strudler & Wetzel, 2005, p. 419). Additionally, their physical nature makes it possible for portfolios to be misplaced (Strudler & Wetzel, 2005), thereby losing all the work the portfolio represents.

In addition, traditional portfolios are not naturally designed for convenient sharing; it proves challenging to provide access to multiple viewers (Smith, 2003). Even where an effort is made to develop portfolios in formats suited for distribution, there are still challenges related to the updating of distributed versions (Smith, 2003). Also, they are not able to easily catalogue the development and growth of the learner (Abrami, Venkatesh, Meyer, & Wade, 2013). Portfolio revision poses a challenge because traditionally designed portfolios are not easily updated with new content (Horton, 2004). Their nature limits the ability to readily revise any component of the portfolio in response to recommendations for improvement (Smith, 2003). Traditional portfolios are also ill suited for the inclusion of audio and video; they will miss the opportunity to capture items best represented in multimedia form (Abrami, et al., 2013). Additionally, where audio and video are provided, it is often burdensome to set up the required equipment to facilitate viewing of the content (Smith, 2003).

Role of ICTs

ICT enabled portfolios offer the option of incorporating multimedia into the documenting of work (Meyer, Abrami, Wade, Aslan, & Deault, 2010). Unlike traditional portfolios, they are not limited to documenting information on paper only (Bartlett & Sherry, 2004). Multimedia files, including audio recordings, can be linked from the electronic portfolio (Wade, Abrami, & Sclater, 2005). Additionally, videos, scanned photos, and special effects/ sound effects can be added into the portfolio to increase customization (Barlett & Sherry, 2004).

E-portfolios also facilitate reflection on the learning process, and provide the opportunity to trace the learner’s growth towards achieving their current level of competence (Meyer, et al, 2010). They allow for the gathering of acceptable evidence of learner development (Bartlett & Sherry, 2004). The ICT assisted portfolio is able to do this because its digital nature allows for more effective cataloguing of information related to the learning process (Wade, Abrami, & Sclater, 2005). Overall, electronic based portfolios ease the process of tracking learner growth, as they allow users to keep track of changes in their views on a specific topic, enabling review at a later date to see how their thoughts have changed (Avraamidou & Zembal-Saul, 2006).

Electronic portfolios also allow for increased ease when storing and moving the portfolio from place to place (Barlett & Sherry, 2004). The ease of sharing is increased because students are able to share with multiple sources from a single, central electronic repository (Wade, Abrami, & Sclater, 2005). In a study of 88 students where 43 students used electronic portfolio tools, the students using e-portfolios indicated that sharing was encouraged because of the ease of access via links (Chang, Tseng, Liang, & Chen, 2013). The electronic portfolio also has benefits beyond its immediate use (Bartlett & Sherry, 2004). In a survey of 23 undergraduate students conducted after developing electronic portfolios, 78.25% indicated that they would use their portfolio after its initial creation for job searching purposes (Bartlett & Sherry, 2004). 86.96% of the respondents indicated they plan to use the portfolio for reflection on their development as a teacher/ professional (Bartlett & Sherry, 2004). Only 17.39% of respondents indicated that they have no plans to use the portfolio in any way in the future (Bartlett & Sherry, 2004).

Lastly, electronic portfolios are easily updated with new information; as living documents, they can be continuously updated, even over an extended period (Horton, 2004). This ability can also support the creation of useful digital assets that can be referred to in the future (Horton, 2004). Since e-portfolios can be accessed as long as network connections are available, learners may be more likely to take the opportunity to revisit the portfolio for reflection triggered by feedback on their work (Cambridge, Fernandez, Kahn, Kirkpatrick, & Smith, 2008).


The use of technology and the introduction of the hardware and software necessary to facilitate portfolio development can prove to be obstacles for those unaccustomed to the use of technology (Horton, 2004). In research conducted on electronic portfolios, users unfamiliar with technology had to learn about the use of new software and hardware such as different operating systems and cameras (Horton, 2004) in order to successfully participate in the portfolio development exercise. Unfamiliarity with technical concepts such as hyper-linking, scanned document sizes, and file storage protocol may challenge new users (Horton, 2004).

However, a 2007- 2008 school year study of the ePEARL electronic portfolio system involving 16 Canadian teachers indicated that comfort levels with technology were not a significant factor in the use of electronic portfolio software (Meyer, et al, 2011). Even where it was necessary to invest time to learn about the ePEARL software, teachers who had medium and high levels of e-portfolio implementation within the classroom indicated that the learning related benefits derived from its implementation justified the additional effort of learning about the electronic portfolio tool (Meyer, et al, 2011). This is true even when the students have limited knowledge of the technologies used to create the portfolios to begin with (Horton, 2004). Further, the act of creating an ICT enabled portfolio helps the learner develop ICT related skills (Wade, Abrami, & Sclater, 2005). This skill development occurs because the learner is motivated by the opportunity to work to develop his or her own materials (Smith, 2002).

Works cited

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