Is a profile in social software a learning e-portfolio? If not, could any benefits be found from linking the two?
AbstractThis article compares learning e-portfolios with profiles in social software environments (like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn). The similarities are that both are forums for self representation. The difference between the two is that the self will be represented for different purposes. In the social profile the purpose is to be one among a crowd (whether this crowd is a group of friends or a group of professionals). You can express yourself only through the ways the software deems important. In e-portfolios the purpose is to “show and tell” competences and growth – and to express this in free text and visual fashioning. This is difficult in existing social software. In an e-portfolio the way you represent yourself shows a communicative competence. Should educational institutions then ignore or even ban the use of profiles? The article suggests a way in which they might benefit from a double strategy: Firstly through employment of a programme of learning e-portfolios (Qvortrup, Lund, Ellmin) to enable and empower the pupils/students as learners. In the literature on e-portfolios one of the main conclusions is that reflecting on learning enables the learner to understand and appreciate own competences. Secondly, the strategy is to enable the student to benefit from social software ability to establish relations – and to focus on the competence of creating and maintaining professional relationships. This strategy is beneficial because it addresses a problem often encountered when employing a program of e-portfolios. The students feel no “inner need” to fill them out. They do not view the e-portfolio as a means of persuading their readers – possibly because they are, through the e-portfolio, talking to an unknown audience. The e-portfolio is here discussed as rhetorical discourse focusing of Lhoyd Bitzer’s concept of the rhetorical situation. The one thing lacking in establishing a true rhetorical situation in Bitzer’s sense is the presence of “specific persons”, the speaker is addressing. Linking e-portfolios to social software makes the creation of the e-portfolio a personal issue – you are talking to your contacts/friends. The article finishes by exhibiting an example of a double programme as described above at a programme for Multimedia Designers at LILLEBAELT Academy of Professional Higher Education.
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