I’ve just returned from the AAEEBL 2013 Conference in wonderful Boston. It was our first year at the Hynes Convention Center, and I do miss the waterfront a bit. It was near Fenway Park, so the Sox fans were in full presence, and it was a different slice of Boston for sure. It’s a great town though.
And the conference was so fantastic. This is the fourth conference and the numbers continue to grow. This year brought some new things: badges and the ignite sessions were among the tops for me. Badges were offered to attendees for all sorts of activities, and I got two… I think there is something to this badging concept, and it will be interesting to watch it mature overtime.
But the conference, for me, was really about the keynotes. Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say, it was about what the keynotes represented. And, I’ll apologize right now that I didn’t get to see Tracy Penny-Light’s keynote on the last day due to travel issues, especially because she’s one of my mostest favorite people in the community. I did follow her talk a bit via tweets, and I know I missed a good one. But, to the ones I saw…
Bret Eynon and Randy Bass started us off on Tuesday with a rendition of the Catalyst model, links forthcoming in January. I’ll have to post more on that here, but the strong thing with this duo is the notion that we sit and a critical moment in higher education transformation, both technologically and pedagogically, and we have strong evidence that ePortfolio in the presence of other higher impact practices and a strong feedback network are highly effective tools. We are gathering evidence from a variety of places now, and that sets an exciting tone for us.
And this is not just the United States. I met and talked with many from overseas, including some dynamic thinkers from Australia. Though they too are struggling with funding and adoption issues, as we are, their sense of how to put these concepts of professional reflection and lifelong monitoring are something to learn from. They have a different approach to education, one person remarked in a session, where college is not an assumed state of learning: much more learning is practical and career oriented, and the portfolios offer a transportability of job skills in different environments — something we’ve been working to make more understand in the US too. Anyway, Randy and Bret got me really excited to think of the maturation of the ePortfolio concept — away from the glossy, “what’s-next” newness and into a concept full of potential and complexity.
On Wednesday, Helen Chen and Gary Brown ran down this year’s AAEEBL survey, which again shows the maturation of the field. They are reporting now that 52% of college students report creating an ePortfolio for one use or another. A variety of technologies are growing to meet the demand of assessment and personal learning management, and it’s exciting to see the variety of adoption strategies that institutions around the country are taking. It’s an interesting time, because even those who do it may not realize they are doing ePortfolio or may still have a very reductive concept of it — “links on a webpage” was how it was being described this year. So, while we have steady growth in adoption, that growth brings with it an ever-increasing need for clarity of definition — both of values and of purpose. Two powerful framing sessions.
And in between those were wealth of stories. I went to sessions on small, task-based portfolios and programmatic models of adoption. I engaged with many folks at lunch who were looking to get started. I was really liking how many different institutions I saw there. A few schools — IUPUI, I’m looking at you — had a good number from their campus there, but most had 1-3.
We were lucky to have Don Orth, from our College of CNRE, and Emily Denoon, English Major and ePortfolio eMentor come with us and present on Thursday morning. I hear rumors of video being available, and if so, I’ll share. We’ll also get the slides up soon.
The session was wonderful though, as Don and Emily explained the understanding and transformation that takes place when ePortfolio is there to make the learning really visible and one student works directly with another and with their shared passions. I can’t thank them enough for their work and for the way they represent Virginia Tech’s real caring about education. I just got goose bumps.
All, in all, it was a powerful conference to me. I do believe that we’re getting a better understanding of when and where to use ePortfolios, not to mention how to use them, and we’re also seeing more in the US consider issues of scale so that we can get all of our students out there creating and expressing their lives.