My ICT research project has fallen to the back of the priority queue in recent times although my mind hasn't let go of its existence and the need to pay it some more attention. I did take a day out of the last term to get my two project participants up and going. My action research question was, "Are teacher e-portfolios sustainable?" But now as I reflect on that day and the choices made by my two colleagues and the questions they asked along the way, I'm inclined to think that maybe there's a more fundamental question to be asking. Sure, I got the initial grant by honing in on one of the topics listed as worthy of investigation but what's the point of following that through to its fairly vague conclusion if I think there is something important that comes in at a more basic level.
Here's what I'm thinking.
Portfolios are driven by purpose. No purpose equals why bother? An e-portfolio has another complicating factor - technology savviness for both the creator and for the audience. I noticed that with my two colleagues. Neither could be classified as luddites and they both had their individual purposes sorted out but I found that they needed to be shown various options (ie. edublogs or elgg) and then stepped through the process of registering, posting content, creating links. So, I'm guessing that the average teacher isn't going to creating their own e-portfolio anytime soon because (a) the purpose isn't there if you are already permanently employed and the system (merit selection or transfer) still mainly uses paper based methods of verifyig skills and achievements, (b) they don't have the technical expertise or confidence to use web based applications and tools for a purpose like the creation of an e-portfolio without support and (c) it would take a lot of time and effort for something that may or not be used in the professional setting. Let's take it as a given that e-portfolios are useful as a way of documenting professional growth, collecting evidence of expertise and lifelong learning. But unless teachers have a specific purpose beyond their immediate role in the classroom - leadership aspirations, consultancy opportunities, AST1 or working internationally - I don't think that we will see a mass take-up of the e-portfolio concept.
So maybe things need to take a step back. Rather than worrying about whether teachers will get into e-portfolios or not, the question should be more along the lines of "How do we get teachers developing an online presence?" To me, that seems to be the genuine starting point for some many classroom teachers who need to make the mental shift from using the internet as a read-only resource to the benefits of the Read/Write web.
I'm hitting the Publish button now and letting my brain percolate a little longer.