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Review of the Literature
ICT and implementing ePortfolios in CTE
Department of Education, Lamar University
EDLD 5314: Digital Learning in a Local and Global Context
Dr. Julene Reed
October 31, 2021
Review of the Literature
Pennsylvania faces a shortage of people to fill the ‘Middle Skills’ positions, defined as those that require certification or an Associate Degree, (Career Readiness Indicator for the Future Ready PA Index and ESSA Accountability: Guidelines for Evidence Collection, Monitoring, and Reporting). Pennsylvania has decided to place an emphasis on writing skills for Career and Technical Education, (referred to as CTE), students, with the Teacher Assistance Program, (TAP), providing professional development for CTE teachers to implement five different writing styles in CTE, (Moschetta & Lewis, 2020). To do so, implementing ePortfolios in CTE will offer an opportunity for students to meet these challenges by having an electronic, web-based portfolio that includes accomplishments, samples of writing, work, and reflections demonstrating learning growth and commitment to their chosen career path. This literature review will examine articles that highlight the benefits utilizing ePortfolios in CTE classrooms can have on student engagement, writing skills, and learning, along with barriers to implementation.
What are e-Portfolios? E-portfolios are the digital evidence of learning, (Harapnuik, 2019; Turns, Cuddihy, & Guan, (2010); Morris, 2021). In other words, the ePortfolio is a personalized account of their learning journey documented in a web-based platform. It contains projects in a format of the learner’s choice, written work, reflections, feedback, and items of interest to the learner, such as other blogs, video channels, career information, etc. As a result, each ePortfolio is different in appearance, layout, structure, and content, reflecting the thinking of the individual learner, (Gabi, Mavengere, and Tatnall, (2019). Just as no two people think exactly alike, no two ePortfolios should be the same. In other words, e-portfolios are a new way for learners to take part in their learning and interact with the curriculum, (Harapnuik, 2020, quoting Dewey, 1938).
Benefits to e-portfolios. The benefits regarding the implementation of e-portfolios are numerous. The benefits are not just for students; teachers become better writers as well when implementing e-portfolios, (Alsamadani, 2017). The primary method for this improvement is reflective blogging. When we reflect on our experiences, we are internalizing these learning events, making connections to prior learning, and ties to expected future learning, (Worthington et al., 2019; Wilkinson, 2019: Harapnuik, 2020). The ePortfolio allows for collaboration, group projects, and peer feedback on their work and reflections. Of importance to improving writing skills with ePortfolios is that the learner has a heightened awareness of their work, (Valentine, 2011). They are posting this ‘on the web’ for the world to see. This separates this work from the normal, just get it done and submit assignments, (Babaee & Tikoduadua, 2013). What ePortfolios are not is a solution to poor writing skills. They are a valuable tool to use, to implement writing curriculum in a format that the learner recognizes as familiar, and already being used by this generation, (Pinchuk & Sokolyuk, 2018). We cannot simply say ‘start blogging’ and expect better results. The key aspects are what they always are, curriculum and pedagogy, (Kardos et al., 2009).
Barriers to implementation. Barriers to implementation of e-portfolios are almost as numerous as the benefits. As expected, access to technology, internet access, limited broadband access, software, and a needed one to one student to device ratio are the up-front barriers to e-portfolio implementation. These issues will be amplified the lower on the socio-economic ladder the learner is, (Holmgren, 2012; Serdyukov, 2017). These are issues that the pandemic, and the resulting funds for virtual instruction of learners across all levels of the socio-economic spectrum have helped to correct.
It is the broader pedagogical barriers that are harder to address. The need to improve our teaching skills for writing in content areas is a major barrier. The reluctance of content teachers to teach writing because of a lack of perceived skills is another, (SREB, 2013; Marsden & Piggot-Irvine, 2012). In addition to the reluctance of CTE teachers to teach writing, there is also going to be push back from the students, since CTE teachers are not “English” teachers. Before any meaningful action plan can take place, professional development for content teachers’ to emphasize writing skills should take place, (SREB, 2013). The emphasis should be on writing for the teacher’s content area, using the same language the subject uses. Who better than content area teachers to grade and understand the language used in their area, (Chauvin & Theodore, 2015)? Another way to improve our skills in teaching writing is to blog ourselves. One study demonstrated that the teacher writing skills improved along with the students writing skills, (Alsamadani, 2017). Teaching writing skills using proven resources such as the “5 insights for implementing writing by discipline or area of content”, (Chauvin and Theodore, 2015), and “Eleven elements of effective adolescent writing instruction”, (SREB, 2013), are a good place to start. The other major pedagogical barrier is training and implementing e-portfolios for teachers to model in the classroom. Whether we are modeling writing skills, e-portfolio creation, or any other skill, modeling is a highly effective means of instruction, (Graham, et al, 2016). Again, it is about pedagogy, not technology that will determine the success of student e-portfolios.
Global Lessons Learned in Technology Implementation
Progressing through the research available for e-portfolio implementation to improve writing skills worldwide, a picture is developing for technology implementation worldwide. This picture is clear in some aspects, and blurry in others. If we examine the following criteria, it will demonstrate areas that are clearly developing new ways of incorporating technology. It will also demonstrate other areas that to fully develop, need refinement.
When looking at the successful implementation of writing skills through blogging in an e-portfolio, it becomes apparent that the successful implementation of e-portfolios has occurred throughout the world. The e-portfolio allows for collaboration, group projects, and peer feedback on their work and reflections, (Babaee, & Tikoduadua, 2013). In some cases, the e-portfolio is successfully used for assessment of learning and the use of reflective blogging for assessments as well, (Turns, et. Al, 2010; Worthington, et. Al, 2019; Zeer & Stepanova, 2018), is a successful implementation of information communication technologies in education.
Also apparent is as information communication technologies have gained broader practice in our educational system, it has had a positive impact on our nations productivity as compared to nations that have not placed an emphasis on fully integrating technologies in the classroom, (Basu, Fernald, Oulton, & Srinivasan, 2003).
What Could Have Been Done Better?
When we look at this topic, is easy to pick apart the work of others after the fact. When caught in the whirlwind of daily life, the forest gets lost for the trees. In light of this, having infrastructure, support mechanisms, and ensuring all students have access are primary areas of improvement. Too many assumptions regarding universal internet access in some cases, along with assuming that cell phone usage translates into technological competency are the areas that need to be addressed in the majority of cases where problems occurred, (Pooja, 2021; Serdyukov, 2017; Turns, Cuddihy, & Guan, 2010). We know that students are consumers of technology, not active users of technology. This is especially apparent when you look at the study by Pooja in 2021; “Adopting digital technologies in vocational education at the time of crisis,” where students had a high degree of comfort using technology. Every aspect saw gains in the learner’s ability to use and adapt to new lessons and projects. This carried through to the student’s attitude about learning, enjoyment of learning and experience blogging. They saw learning as an enjoyable experience, rather than drudgery in all cases but two. This was true for all aspects of the learning experience except in one very important area. The ability to incorporate technology into their learning and translate their experiences to transition from being consumers of technology, to active learners utilizing technology. This same position was previously reported in articles such as; Critical Thinking Assessment via Eportfolio – TRANS 2021, and a report by; Turns, Cuddihy, & Guan, in 2010, “I thought this was going to be a waste of time: How portfolio construction can support student learning from project-based experiences.” While this may sound discouraging, it gives us hope in what our goals with e-portfolios are: to transform students into life-long learners, able to use and access information throughout their lives. These studies focused primarily on secondary school students. When you look at further studies at the post-secondary level, you see changes in ability that are a resulting of maturing into the role of life-long learner, (Kardos, et. al., 2009; Zeer, & Stepanova, 2018).
Applying Lessons Learned
These studies have had a profound impact upon e-portfolio implementation of e-portfolios in CTE classrooms to improve writing skills through reflective blogging. The case studies have revealed a desperate need for planning all details, (future reflection). This is apparent in the need for access to the internet, sufficient broadband capabilities, a one-to-one device to student ratio, technology support for when things go wrong, (not if), and e-portfolio platforms that are easy for students to use, (Nore, & Lahn, 2014; Serdyukov, 2017). This area is one where assumptions contain pitfalls for implementation of e-portfolios. A common mistake is assuming the internet resources available are sufficient. By not increasing capacity in bandwidth, internet speed, broadband, or server capacity to handle additional users leads to frequent internet slow-downs, crashes, and inability to access broadband for videos, (Serdyukov, 2017). This is something that we need to improve upon for our students. Student access when not at school is still an issue over a year and a half after the initial pandemic shutdowns in March of 2020.
Another area that the global studies brought to light was the need for teacher training and buy-in. These areas are just as important as the technological issues previously addressed. Thorough teacher training to alleviate skepticism, push back, and increase buy-in of early adopters is crucial to e-portfolio implementation. As Turns, Cuddihy, & Guan, in 2010 learned, starting with a negative outlook on e-portfolios, “…a waste of time…,” had a negative impact on the implementation and initial buy-in of other teachers. From the reading, it was the student buy-in is what brought the teachers around. Avoiding this mistake through professional learning is paramount. Additionally, one of the pieces that to emphasize is how well e-portfolios and reflective blogging lend themselves to project based learning, (PBL), (Worthington, et. al., 2019; Zeer & Stepanova, 2018). This is at the heart of what CTE teachers do on a daily basis. Producing projects, products, and materials is competency based education at its finest.
Gaps in the Research
While looking for research to support the improvement of writing skills using ePortfolios and reflective blogging, it became clear that there is a lack of study of the subject in the United States. It appears to be a topic that is studied more abroad by schools teaching English as a second language than here in the United States, for example studies by Marsden and Piggot-Irvine, (2012); and Alsamadani, (2017). Whether that is a result of our reliance on standardized tests, and the resulting reinforcement of the factory model of teaching, or a reflection of poor writing instruction at the middle and high school level, (SREB. 2013), or any combination of changing demographics, attention spans, and the aforementioned we can discuss at length without reaching any definitive conclusions. In light of this, we need to demonstrate the positive aspects of e-portfolio implementation, specifically the improvement of writing skills and critical thinking by researching these topics here in the United States.
Questions for Future Study
One of the areas for future study is the impact of e-portfolios and reflective blogging have on student learning in the United States. It is frustrating as an educator and researcher to see the distinct lack of research materials available from studies conducted in the United States. Even though some were not included in this literature review, reading studies regarding the implementation of e-portfolios and reflective blogging in CTE throughout the world including; the South Pacific, India, Europe, even Russia and Communist China have conducted studies on this topic, yet complete comprehensive studies regarding the topic are nearly non-existent in the United States. A researcher has to piece together various articles and research to build a complete picture of the topic here. An additional area of concentration is on secondary project based education and implementing e-portfolios outside of CTE classes.
To summarize, improving writing, critical thinking, and life-long learning skills is a paramount concern if we want to remain a leader in an information based economy. In some cases of negative outlook by teachers, the students themselves can lead the way with their adoption of e-portfolios in classrooms, (Turns, Cuddihy, & Guan, in 2010). We know that internalizing this learning in a constructivist model not only allows learning to take place, but it also leads to alternate connections in learning, moving beyond ‘sit and get’,(Harapnuik, 2015). These are those “what if” moments that help to advance the human experience, (Sinek, 2017).
What if we broaden the opportunity for those “what if” moments to the general student population? Where can that take us? ePortfolios allow learners to track their own learning, giving them an idea of how far they have come on their journey, and where they are going. Importantly, they will have a record of this process in digital format to share with others, collaborating in a manner that was unimaginable only 30 years ago, (Gates, 2015). Sharing ideas, work, and reflections on their learning to the world at large to also learn and reflect upon is a gift, miracle, or one of the marvels of the modern world. ePortfolios will allow us to expand the human experience in ways that we cannot see for ourselves from where we are at in the journey. Just as prehistoric peoples could not see where their descendants’ journey was taking them when drawing on the walls of a cave, the use of ePortfolios and the critical thinking and learning they inspire will lead our students on a journey that we can only try to imagine.
Alsamadani H., (2017). The Effectiveness of Using Online Blogging for Students’ Individual and Group Writing. Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education. Retrieved from eric.ed.gov, 6/21/2021. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1165114.pdf
Babaee, M. B., & Tikoduadua, M. T. (2013). E‐Portfolios: A New Trend in Formative Writing Assessment. International Journal of Modern Education Forum, 2(2).
Basu, S., Fernald, J. G., Oulton, N., & Srinivasan, S. (2003). The Case of the Missing Productivity Growth, or Does Information Technology Explain Why Productivity Accelerated in the United States but Not in the United Kingdom? NBER Macroeconomics Annual, 18, 9–63. https://doi.org/10.1086/ma.18.3585244
Brecko, B. N., Kampylis, P. & Punie, Y. (2014). Mainstreaming ICT-enabled Innovation in Education and Training in Europe: Policy actions for sustainability, scalability and impact at system level. JRC Scientific and Policy Reports. Seville: JRC-IPTS. doi:10.2788/52088
Cambridge International Education Teaching and Learning Team. (2021). Getting started with Reflective Practice. Cambridge-Community.Org.Uk. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.cambridge-community.org.uk/professional-development/gswrp/index.html
Chauvin R. and Theodore K., (2015). Teaching Content-Area Literacy and Disciplinary Literacy. SEDL Insights, Vol. 3, No. 1, Spring 2015. Retrieved from sedl.org 06/21/2021. https://sedl.org/insights/3-/teaching_content_area_literacy_and_disciplinary_literacy.pdf
Critical Thinking Assessment via Eportfolio – TRANS Nr. 23. (2021). https://www.inst.at/. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://www.inst.at/trans/23/critical-thinking-assessment-via-eportfolio/
Curran, B. (2019, February 19). How Blogging Can Improve Student Writing (Opinion). Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/opinion-how-blogging-can-improve-student-writing/2012/11
Gabi, J., Mavengere, N., Tatnall, A., (2019), Making use of portfolios to enhance learning. Sustainable ICT, Education and Learning, pages 24-29. Springer International Publishing.
Graham, S., Bruch, J., Fitzgerald, J., Friedrich, L., Furgeson, J., Greene, K., Kim, J., Lyskawa, J., Olson, C.B., & Smither Wulsin, C. (2016). Teaching secondary students to write effectively (NCEE 2017-4002). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from the NCEE website: http://whatworks.ed.gov.
Harapnuik, D. 2019, June 7. Why Use an ePortfolio. It’s About Learning. http://www.harapnuik.org/?page_id=6063
Holmgren, R. (2012). Preparations for Practical Exercises in Vocational Education: Can ICT-based Distance Instruction be an Alternative to Face-to-face Instruction? An Empirical Contribution. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 46, 1152–1161. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.05.266
Kardos, R. L., Cook, J. M., Butson, R. J., & Kardos, T. B. (2009). The development of an ePortfolio for life-long reflective learning and auditable professional certification. European Journal of Dental Education, 13(3), 135–141. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0579.2008.00551.x
Kilbane, C. R., & Milman, N. B. (2017). Examining the Impact of the Creation of Digital Portfolios by High School Teachers and Their Students on Teaching and Learning. International Journal of EPortfolio, 7(1). https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1142755.pdf
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