Electronic Portfolios, Blogs, and The Imaginary Audience

Every time I attend a “edutech” conference, I get excited to attend a session about electronic portfolios. Every time, I come away with more questions than answers.

I am a believer in the power of portfolio assessment – it’s the power of turning over goal setting, of building reflective learners, of giving kids more control over their own learning and outcomes. Students in my classes have been required to create electronic portfolios on a variety of blog platforms, currently WordPress. Last year, my colleagues and I created a curriculum for our grade 10 English course that is based on portfolio conferences for the final exam and as assessments throughout the year. It worked fairly well, we tweaked, and now are doing this at both the 9th and 10th grade levels.

However, while these electronic portfolios are open on the Internet, they do not have any inherent “authentic audience.” I get embarrassed for anyone who makes this claim about blogs, that they have a “potential” global audience. Of course, it’s true in theory. But there is a little competition for this audience.

Take you, for example. You are either A) my mum or B) someone who landed here from a Twitter link. I sometimes publicize my blog posts, but I never make lists of 50, 25, or 5 useful ways to do something with a piece of technology, which would increase traffic, possibly. Such posts seem popular. I know this, because I am becoming ever more literate in ways educators in particular communicate online and in ways they self-promote to grow their audience.

You see, blogs don’t come with a built in audience. But this is the point that some people use to trumpet the use of blogs for portfolios and to criticize the use of blogs for portfolios. Blogs are dangerous invasions of privacy. Blogs are powerful global platforms. Neither is entirely true. Both perspectives take our eyes off of the practice of portfolio assessment.