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Sarah Stewart eportfolio

Sarah Stewart is a midwife and midwifery educator in New Zealand. Here, she tells us about building her eportfolio and blog without using a commercial package, and she lists some of the websites she has found helpful.

1. Why do you have an eportfolio?

Professionally, as a midwife I have to have a portfolio as part of the statutory regulations of New Zealand. As an academic and researcher it is also important to have a more detailed and complete account of my work for career advancement and as evidence of my work and achievements if I want to seek a new job. I had not attended to my paper portfolio for years because it was so cumbersome and unappealing. So I decided to have an e-portfolio because it is easier to manage than my traditional portfolio, particulary as so much of my work now is electronic eg my blog.

2. What are the advantages?

I am far more motivated to keep my e-portfolio up to date compared to my traditional one, especially as I have it ‘open’ for anyone to peruse and it is easier for me to manage. Because it is online, I can access it from anywhere as long as I can access the Internet. It hooks into my electronic personal learning environment.

Another advantage is that I can use other media than text to present my work. For example, if I want to tell a story about something I have done and the learning I have gained, I can make a video or slidecast – this is much more likely to engage the reader than reams and reams of ‘boring’ text. Finally, I love having my eportfolio in an ‘open’ space because it allows peer review as well as a way of advertising my work which hopefully will lead to further consultation and collaboration.

3. What are the disadvantages?

The way I have chosen to present my e-portfolio is in a wiki, so one disadvantage initially was that it took a while to work out the technology. If I had my time again, I would probably develop my blog into an e-portfolio rather than have two seperate tools. The other major disadvantage for me is turning my paper work (ie certificates) into an electronic form such as a pdf and then storing it before I can then link it into my e-portfolio.

There are e-Portfolio programs that do that work for you and store documents electonically but the disadvantage of those programs is that you are restricted to the program’s layout thus reducing your freedopm to be innovative. Having said that, the taylor-made e-portfolio programs do give you guidance which may be a good thing if you are new to the e-portfolio concept.

The other issue with an electronic portfolio, especially with one that is ‘open’ is that you have to be very careful about what you write and how you write it. As a health professional I have to think carefully about how I present my activities as a midwife so I do not compromise my patients’ privavcy and do not open myself up to charges of unprofessional disclosure and /or documentation. That can restrict my reflection and how I write about my thoughts and insights, so I have to find a way to reflect in a meaningful manner that does no harm to my patients or my professional reputation.

4. What are your top tips for someone wanting to have a really good eportfolio, and make good use of it?

1. Don’t be afraid to be innovative.
2. You may need more than one eportfolio – a ‘work in progress’ and a presentation portfolio that you use for a specific purpose.
3. Don’t forget that a portfolio includes reflection on your activities, what you have learned and what you plan to do about it in the future.
4. Be concise – think about what people want to know – don’t be boring .

5. Are there eportfolios or websites that have really inspired or helped you?

Michele Martin writes The Bamboo Project Blog. Here are some good entries:
Five reasons why you need a portfolio and seven reasons why it should be on line
Guide to using free tools to create an online portfolio
Using Del.ici.ous to create an easy, alwyas updated online portfolio