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ePortfolios and Narrative, is there anything in common?

It strikes me that creating certain types of e-Portfolios, such as a product or process based portfolios, has things in common with story writing or narrative. Both require us to think about similar things such as the subject and themes/topics, purpose, audience, etc.

Wikipedia defines narrative as:
"A narrative (or story) is any account that presents connected events,[1] and may be organized into various categories: non-fiction (e.g. New Journalism, creative non-fiction, biographies, and historiography); fictionalized accounts of historical events (e.g. anecdotes, myths and legends); and fiction proper (i.e. literature in prose, such as short stories and novels, and sometimes in poetry and drama, although in drama the events are primarily being shown instead of told). Narrative is found in all forms of human creativity and art, including speech, writing, songs, film, television, video games, photography, theatre, and visual arts such as painting, with the modern art movements refusing the narrative in favour of the abstract and conceptual) that describes a sequence of events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to tell", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled".[2] "

"e-Portfolios" would appear to fit neatly into the forms of creativity Wikipedia mention above, and are perhaps a 21st century version of story telling, integrating text, pictures, audio, multimedia, interactive media and social networking.

As I gain experience with e-Portfolios and working with staff and students in their adoption of them I am more and more certain that when we create an e-Portfolio we are in most cases telling a story. At least I am convinced that a good portfolio from the point of view of the audience resembles a good story. Therefore I presume that the process of creating an e-Portfolio would not be too dissimilar to the process of creating a narrative. This is something I would like to explore in 2013, and examine the linkages as a way for introducing people to e-Portfolios.

It is my goal at the University of Canberra to help staff and students to learn about and exploit the potential of e-Portfolios for their present and future careers. If story telling or narrative is an analogy it would be help people transfer these skills to e-Portfolio development and give them a lead in or head start. Mention "portfolio" and many people I talk to have a different idea and some uncertainty of what one is - "e-Portfolio" especially so.

If I ask students to create an "e-portfolio of their project work during semester" there would be many blank faces, if I ask students to create a narrative around their project work during a semester through images, video, commentary, using a blog - wouldn't it be a more useful way of having everyone understand the task and be on the same page? At the end of semester I might say, you have all created an "e-Portfolio" of your work. In Occupational Therapy students are asked to use e-Portfolios to develop and document their Clinical Reasoning. These reflective artifacts could in fact form part of a larger portfolio of the student experience, a larger story - a bigger picture. In all cases, once the essence of what we are asking students to do is understood by the student they tend, from my experience, to face the learning curve of the technology with much more motivation and enthusiasm. Therefore the technical knowledge and skills they require to achieve the goal are obtained more readily and this aspect becomes less of an issue for students.

Later this year I will investigate the processes and features of good narrative to see what aspects can be applied to creating e-Portfolios. If there are similarities it would be useful information for people new to e-Portfolios to help get them started.


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