Why I use WordPress rather than IfL’s reflect tool

This morning I read a blog post by David Hopkins on the idea of the bPortfolio replacing the ePortfolio which made me look back at my blog to see what I had written about ePortfolios in the past and came across my post about the ePortfolio conundrum from January 2010. I don’t think we are any closer to solving the problem that I presented back then, but David’s post does back this up, and is for me my reflective portfolio of choice.

Like many other educators in the FE sector I am a member of the IfL. Personally I get no benefit from being a member, and when I asked them to justify the value for money before renewing my subscription, the top item on the list was my access to the IfL Reflect tool. This didn’t help convince me as I chose not to use it, for a variety of reasons:-

Reflect is based on the tool PebblePad which some people really like, and has some very good qualities but the way it works is very personal (which is it’s intention) but by being personal it means that some people will like the way that it works, and others won’t. I for some reason fit into the category of it not working for me.

However more importantly the reason why I choose to use WordPress for my reflective practice, is I am in complete control of the area, and I can personalise it to the way that I want it to work. Also it can never be taken away from me. With Reflect, if I ceased to be a member of the IfL I would lose that area, which to me goes against the notion of Continuous Professional Development. Defenders of Reflect will tell me that I could export my portfolio if I did leave IfL, but that isn’t the same as being able to continue using it as it is, which is what I want.

There are different ways to use WordPress. I use the wordpress.com site, which hosts my blog for free me. If I wanted to (and had the technical ability to) I could download the wordpress software onto my own server and run it from there. If I wanted to switch from one to another, I could easily back up the blog, and then re-import it into the other environment. With WordPress I have so many options

  • I can write and edit entries easily from my iphone.
  • I can send an email which updates my blog.
  • I can integrate images, video, sound easily.
  • I can attach files easily.
  • I can keep the blog private, or public.
  • And the list goes on.

So it will be interesting to see if the idea of the bPortfolio (blog portfolio) that David Hopkin’s mentions does replace the ePortfolio. If it does then I am already converted.


The e-portfolio conundrum

In 2005 the Government produced a document called ‘Harnessing Technology’ which laid out the Governments idea for the direction of learning technology in schools, FE and HE for the next 5 or so years. This was a very challenging document and had many targets (most of which haven’t been achieved) but one of these was the idea that learners would have an e-portfolio that would follow them through their educational career from cradle to grave.

In the last year or so I have worked with many education providers, who are in the process of choosing or implementing an e-portfolio system, and most of them are struggling to a lesser or greater extent – which doesn’t surprise me, as there are a handful of fundamental problems:-

Most institutions are wanting to implement a single e-portfolio system, as they have 1 MIS system, 1 VLE, 1 Email system etc. It makes sense to have just 1 e-portfolio system. But there is a problem here, in that the requirements of a portfolio for someone doing an NVQ in plumbing, is different to the requirements of a trainee teaching wanting to reflect on their practice, which is different to a foundation level learner with a disability, wanting to show evidence of their work experience, and no one tool can effectively cover all of these needs. So when an institution chooses one system, they will either aim for the middle ground and get a ‘one-size fits-none’ solution, or they will choose a system that meets the needs of some of the courses very well, and is completely unusable by all the others.

Who owns the e-portfolio? It is highly desirable from a technical point of view for the institution to host the portfolio, this way they can back it up, link it to the existing MIS or VLE system and ensure there is no inappropriate use. However with this the portfolio will belong to the institution – what happens when the learner leaves? Many will say they can package the portfolio up and burn it to a CD which is given to the learner, but how do they access this, and more importantly how do they continue using it. For courses like teacher training or health related the courses, the idea of continuing professional development is that they continue to reflect on their practise throughout their professional working careers, so they need to have the ability to continue using whatever tool they are using for their reflective practice.

In my opinion both of these problems are solvable, but it does require institutions to accept the need for potentially multiple systems, and for institutions to make use of people that can help the practitioners to choose the right model for their situation. This is the harder of the 2 concepts to grasp, and they may have that skill in house or they may need to look outside for that expertise.