Cultivating an Identity in the Information Age Using ePortfolios

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Cultivating an Identity in the Information Age Using ePortfolios

James Mundie, INSYS 597B, Spring 2010, May 5th, 2010

Abstract: Does technology such as ePortfolios enable learners to cultivate an identity that enables lifelong, lifewide, and lifedeep learning? As our society transitions from an industrial economy to an information economy, new ways of learning are emerging based on Constructivist epistemologies to address serious flaws in the way educational institutions treat education as a business. Current institutions, both formal and informal were created to address the needs of a dying era. Technology is rapidly changing the way we do everything, leading to an empowered and consumer savvy educational audience. This combined with a perfect storm of depressed economy, skyrocketing tuition, and frozen or shrinking state appropriations is causing institutions to take a hard look at the way they educate learners. This paper analyzes three research studies to determine whether a portfolio approach can help learners to cultivate the identity they need to take an active part in their own education. Results of these studies are promising, but more research is needed to make sure that the educational institution is able to maintain relevance in the coming decades.


Reflection: This was a paper I wrote in the spring of 2010 for a class about informal learning environments. It analyzes 3 cases of the institutional use of ePortfolios using strands 4-6 of the 6-Strand framework presented in the report "Learning Science in Informal Environments (2009)" by Bell et. al., commissioned by the National Research Council. Strands 4-6 concern reflection of, engagement in, and identification with an enterprise, respectively. The 6-Strand framework was developed around Science Learning, but in this paper I am expanding it to consider learning in any discipline.

I would have liked more time to spend on this paper, and maybe one day I will return to it. It was an interesting exercise to look at data collected in some other studies, but ultimately I felt like I had more to say about the analysis of the data. The bottom line is there was a strict limit of 12 double-spaced pages, which is really 6 real pages, and I felt that I needed almost that much to lay out my argument let alone warrant it. So I feel like the conclusion is a little weak. 

Also, in this paper I make alot of assertions along the lines of 'higher ed as a commodity business (and this is a bad(tm) thing)' and 'impending inevitable doom' type stuff that may come across as somewhat jaded or negative in terms of outlook for the future of higher ed and education in general. I think this is the pulse in the field right now. I think there is enough going on from both external pressures (complaints about high tuition and overall quality of experience, as well as speculation that higher ed isn't even needed anymore) and internal speculation (what are we doing to move education into the 21st century?) to justify a gloomy outlook, but I also hope this paper is taken as evidence that things are slowly changing -- educators are trying new things, and students are having a certain amount of success using these new techniques. Where appropriate I have tried to justify these assertions with citations from the literature.

The paper explores the question Does technology enable learners to cultivate an identity that enables lifelong, lifewide, and lifedeep learning?


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