Digital Writing Portfolios in First Year Writing
DePaul University: 2009-2018
Drawing on project, programmatic, and departmental histories, we document in these pages some of our concerted efforts in the development of digital writing portfolios in First Year Writing at DePaul.
Our program's digital writing portfolio pre-history dates back to the mid-1990's when we collected paper, hard-copy portfolios. These print portfolios served important and compelling learning goals, as they have been used in writing studies since at least the early 1990's. As is the case at most universities, however, the logistics and lack of space precluded any sane storage, archiving, or longitudinal reviews of thousands of collected portfolios.
We formalized the print-portfolio process in 2001, focusing students' and instructors' efforts toward a productive and meta-cognitively aware collection-selection-reflection-presentation process.
By 2009, individual instructors had already begun using some of the popular and freely available web-based tools, and we began to focus our efforts around a few of them, which you can view in the 2009 link.
In 2010 we continued focusing on a range of digital portfolio tools and we participated in a pilot of Digication with two other DePaul units -- the College of Education and the School for New Learning -- and some of our experiences are detailed in the 2010 link. Our programmatic portfolio guidelines represent our focused and collective aspirations:
- What are purposes of the First-Year Writing Digital Portfolio – from the perspectives of students, teachers, and administrators?
- Who are the audiences for students’ digital portfolios?
- What should be included in students’ digital portfolios?
- Who will decide?
- What will it look like?
- What happens to the students’ digital portfolios after a course is over?
- What difference will students’ digital portfolios make?
In 2011 Digication was adopted campus-wide at DePaul, and we began to build on our pilot-study findings toward programmatic-wide implementation. Because First Year Writing is a gateway to DePaul, where almost all students will pass through our curriculum, we draw on our disciplinary knowledge in literacy and technology to provide students with contemporary writing pedagogy, multimodal meaning-making opportunities, and provide learning experiences for cross-disciplinary and lifelong-learning contexts, all of which are amenable for portfolio presentations.
In 2012-13, with our implementation complete -- 75 faculty and 2650 students in the Autumn Quarter of 2012 -- we now focus on integrated faculty professional development activities such as student/writer identity formation, the ethics of disclosure, how, when, and where reflection gets taught, and the problem of performance vs. reflection.
Our 2013-14 plans include a new Portfolio Pedagogy Task Force in which we ask,
- How should portfolios be introduced to students? When?
- What portfolio assignments work well?
- What reflective statement assignments work well?
- What does a successful portfolio look like?
- What elements must a portfolio contain?
- What technical elements of Digication and design should be taught and by whom?
- How much workshop time to work on the portfolio should students be given?
- How can we shape things so the portfolio displays “best” work, not all work?
- What percentage of grade should the portfolio be?
- How do we effectively and efficiently assess individual portfolios?
Several members of the DePaul campus portfolio communiy, including First Year Writing, collaborated and participated with the three-year Inter/National Portfolio Cohort, resulting in the co-authored "Finding Common Ground: Identifying and Eliciting Metacognition in ePortfolios Across Contexts" (PDF)
We also focused on opportunities and challenges for responding to student work in Digication.
In 2016-17, we are reviewing and testing Digication's newest version, in Beta-testing form, in anticipation of a new adoption in the Autumn Quarter, 2017
During 2017-18, we are learning Digitcation's new interface in training sessions and workshops. Some fundamentals remain the same, some have changed, and some look & feel more contemproary, in typograpghic and layout terms. What has changed most dramatically in the 20+years of digital writing portfolios, of course, are the technologies of literacy and the technology platforms that we increasingly use to do our textual and multimodal writing and composing. The generations of change in programmatic portfolio issues:
- First generation: portfolio concepts: collect, select, reflect, assess, and present; experimenting with media, but no real emphasis on technology. Rather, the emphasis is in purpose and audience.
- Second generation: medium à media; interests in interfaces; navigational options and preferences; links, principally internal.
- Third generation: external links; diversity of links; design, ethics, security
- Fourth generation: annotation of links—giving the appearance of context and context itself; different kinds of reflection, related to genre
- Fifth generation: repurposing, remediating; multimodality and mashup.