Opened Forever: The Transformative Power of ePortfolios

The following is a piece I wrote about my ePortfolio work for the English Department newsletter at Lane Community College.


All afternoon it rained, then
such power came down from the clouds
on a yellow thread,
as authoritative as God is supposed to be.
When it hit the tree, her body
opened forever.
–Mary Oliver (From “Rain)

lightening tree

My work with ePortfolios has been, to my professional “body,” as powerful as the yellow thread to the tree in Oliver’s poem. The results of using ePortfolios in my Honors writing classes, as well as creating and maintaining my own professional ePortfolio, has “opened forever” my professional self to a whole new and exciting range of possibilities and experiences.

I will be the first to admit that I was a best skeptical, and at worst, terrified, of the concept of integrating ePortfolios into my teaching.  However, when I became an Honors Program faculty member,  I felt that if I was teaching in a program that had an ePortfolio requirement, then ePortfolios were now a necessary component of my pedagogical and professional life.

So I began considering how I might be able to effectively incorporate ePortfolios into my pedagogical framework. I was fortunate to attend AAEEBL’s Annual ePortfolio Conference in Summer 2013, at the start of this journey.  It was the knowledge I gained from that experience and the sense of community I felt at the conference that gave me a strong foundation to begin integrating ePortfolios into my pedagogical practices.  This conference was also where I began creating my own ePortfolio.

Over the course of the following year, as I began to help students engage ePortfolios in my WR122_H class, and to built my own ePortfolio, I began to feel the transformative power of ePortfolios splitting open my professional life in wonderful ways.

The work my students produced in WR122_H with an ePortfolio requirement was significantly higher in quality than the work I’d seen students produce before in this course.  I think that the fact that students understood that ePortfolios had a “real,” public audience beyond our classroom was one factor in the increased quality of their work.  The other major factor, I believe, was the constant need for metacognition as they built their ePortfolios. As students’ ability to document their thinking processes grew, their critical thinking abilities deepened. I was honored to be able to return to AAEEBL this past summer and present some of the work my students produced last year, and speak to the process of embedding ePortfolios into my pedagogical practices.

Creating and building an ePortfolio has had a powerful impact on my own work, as well.  I feel both empowered and obligated to be metacognitive about my professional activities. This helps make my teaching more transparent and accessible to my students, who can access my ePortfolio.  It helps me more effectively guide student use of ePortfolios, as I understand first-hand the frustrations and limitations that sometimes arise, as well as how much time it takes to maintain an ePortfolio. And, it has also helped me better understand the connections between different areas within my own professional life and to see and celebrate my professional growth.

As part of my continuing work with ePortfolios, this academic year I will be hosting an ePortfolio Reading Group, open to all faculty.  The first meeting will be held Friday, October 17, from 11:30-1pm in Center 447.  If you are interested in joining us, please email me at lushias@lanecc.edu, and I will provide you with a PDF of the reading material. You can also visit the Lane’s ePortfolio Theory Reading Group Blog for readings and more information. Hope to see you there!

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