In light of the Blogs at Penn State project I have been thinking and talking quite a bit about how that platform can be used as a digital publishing platform … much less a blog, but a way to enable personal content management. I’ve written about this before, but have some additional thoughts to share … these are new ideas I am working on so bear with me.
I’ve mentioned before how the Blogs at PSU work — a central service that allows individuals to publish into their personal webspace. We all get at least 500 MB here at PSU and getting more isn’t difficult. We have recently been working on rolling out Protected Personal space as well. What Protected Personal does is allow anyone at PSU to publish into a protected directory within their personal webspace. It has a really nice permissions toolset so I can easily restrict or expose content inside Protected to only the people I decide to. This is an important step for us on a whole bunch of levels, but I want to focus on how it might be used as part of a personal ePortfolio environment.
You can obviously put anything you want into Protected space — including the automatic publishing of a PSU Blog. The way I’d like to frame this revolves around the notion that I would set up a master blog in protected that would act as my personal repository — essentially a place for me to collect everything I do while a student at PSU. I would use categories and keywords to organize everything including day to day class notes, the creation of papers, the place I stuff pictures, and really anything else I create while at the University.
Now the process of creating a solid ePortfolio relies on a few important concepts — an ePortfolio needs to be reflective and it needs to be made up of artifacts related to my personal and academic goals. So imagine as a student you are given a checklist of objectives or goals you should work towards in a given field of study. You would then be asked to work through the creation of a balanced scorecard that would have your personal goals on it as well. It would give you a roadmap to follow as you collect evidence of your growth. As you move through the semesters the idea would be to put everything in the repository while categorizing things as they happen with an eye on your goals — maybe even use your goals as categories.
At any given interval it would then be easy to go into the protected repository and critically select the strongest pieces of evidence and post them to a public ePortfolio site — also published and managed via the Blogs at PSU. The idea being that as you move them into public view you spend time reflecting on the work and soliciting feedback from others via the comments. Faculty and administrators could utilize your evidence by direct linking in departmental assessment activities as well if necessary.
I think the keys here revolve around making a few changes not to the technology, but to the ways we work with students as they move through their academic careers. Sitting down with them as they enter a program and helping them establish their personal goals so that they balance them with the goals of their program — that is critical. Showing them how to collect as much evidence as they can, knowing full well that only a subset of the repository entries will ever see the light of day in their portfolios is also a fundamental shift in thinking. Imagine a protected respiratory that would hold an entire academic careers’ worth of intellectual development and learning evidence. All of it would be tagged, categorized, and ready for searching, selecting, and reflecting on. I see it as a potential opportunity to shift the way we ask students to think about their academic careers … what do you think?