In making an e-portfolio, students are asked to collect and reflect on their academic work, as well as on their professional, extracurricular, or even personal experiences. Does this process affect what and how students learn? Several students offer their insights and share their e-portfolios.
RACHEL GRZYCH (’12) — College of Education
I thought that an e-portfolio might be useful when I started looking for a job. But it's much more valuable than that. The process taught me how to reflect — not just on teaching, but on how to teach — by "reading" what I'd done and learning from my experiences. In the portfolio class, we had to dig deeper and think harder. Overtime, I got better at that.
Until I was taught to reflect, I hadn't realized the effect certain experiences had had on me as an educator. For example, one pattern I saw was that, in teaching, differentiation matters and was important to me. Through real-world experiences, I had learned how to teach a lesson in many different ways, at the same time, so I could reach each student with an approach or activity that matched his or her learning style. But before reflecting, I hadn't realized that differentiation had come to play such a strong role in my teaching. Building an e-portfolio has made me a better teacher.
KATIE JOHNSON (’15) — College of Communication
When I first heard we had to make an e-portfolio, I was intimidated. The idea of putting together my work, making it look nice, and reflecting on it — scary! But it was easy to make my portfolio my own, and I liked that. Also, I liked the opportunity to see other people’s opinions and writing styles — those of my friends, peers, and classmates. That encouraged me to raise the bar for my own work. Typically, once a class is over, it’s out of mind. But with reflection, I can see why what I’ve learned matters. Now, I question whether and how the content in a class, or even an assignment, is important to me, and I’m challenging myself to choose classes carefully. I’m putting more thought into my education.
LYNDSAY WHITFIELD (’11) — College of Education
I had never imagined being asked to reflect on what I’d learned at DePaul, on why I wanted to become a teacher, and on all the experiences in between. I’ve taken a lot of steps to get to where I am today, and now I appreciate having a way to communicate that journey to others, to say in effect that I’m not just another teacher. My e-portfolio tells a lot about the kind of person I am, about my character and my achievements.
For example, when I was in high school, I tried to qualify for state in two sports. Integrating that experience with my education goals, I could see a common thread: kids struggle and can drift in the wrong direction if someone isn’t pushing them forward, even when they fail. By learning to look for the “ah-ha” moments in my education and experiences, I ended up seeing the importance of being flexible, of being able to change course to get results.
ALEX PANOS (MA ’11) — College of Education
Building an e-portfolio was all about defining a professional identity. In the class, we wrote narratives that exposed, in the telling, what each of us is really good at. For example, I shared my story about piloting a summer reading program; in the discussion, I could see what I’d learned from that experience, what I’d gained from it, what I had put into it, and what I had taken away. The portfolio that came after really connected my experiences to my role as an educator, illustrating how these shaped and supported each other. Starting this process early probably enables students to think reflectively as they progress in their educations.
Above and beyond sharpening my professional identity, the process taught me things about myself. In listening to my stories, my peers said they could see that I stand up for people and advocate for my students; that was a nice thing to discover. It’s good to some out of school with an idea of who you are!
DANIEL KUMMERER (’14) — College of Communication
The value for me in making a portfolio was seeing all my work together in one place. In an English class, I’d write a paper, get it back, put it somewhere, and never see it again. But with an e-portfolio, I can revisit old work and understand what needed to be fixed: I learned that there’s always room for improvement. I’m also glad I was able to capture and reflect on my best assignment, a “letter to the editor” of the New York Times. Since, we were told to write seriously, I sent my letter to the paper. It was published! That was amazing. And it’s saved in my portfolio. Since I’m going into journalism, the practical lessons I learned in making my e-portfolio will apply in the future.
DOUG DALRYMPLE (’12) — School for New Learning
I’ve been an IT guy for 30 years. After I got my three daughters through college, I decided it was time to go back to school and finish my own degree. I’m getting a BA in information systems with an emphasis on IT governance — basically an extension of what I’ve been doing in my career. My academic writing class was a pilot group for Digication in SNL. I think it’s a great tool, especially if you’re young and just out of school or changing careers, because it gives you an opportunity to create your own professional brand — it’s a great way to show off what you can do. The idea of integrated knowledge fits well with the SNL philosophy; building a portfolio makes that concept concrete by enabling students to visualize what they’ve learned.
In this video, College of Education (COE) students talk about how building an Integrative Knowledge E-portfolio enabled them to look at what they know and what they do through different lenses, resulting in a new view of their intellectual journeys as well as a deeper understanding of their professional beliefs, values, and frames of reference. Simply said, the students came to know themselves better, and that self knowledge is deeply affecting their work in the world. The video was produced by G. Joseph Miller IV (student assistant) and Calley O’Neil (coordinator), both in the COE Center for Educational Technology.