I’ve been a longtime proponent of student portfolios and one of the most appealing things about Web logs for me has been the obvious ease with which they could be used to create an online repository of student work and reflection. I’ve written a lot about this here, and these struggles aren’t new, but I’ve been trying to slowly work toward implementing them on some small scale with the hopes that the idea would grow. Today I sat with my English Dept. supervisor and explored the idea in more detail, and it became obvious that despite the promise, there are still some serious issues to work through and some serious differences between online portfolios and digital portfolios.

The biggest stumbling block is the potential for plagiarism. I’ve done some testing, and the good news is that Manila sites that are Editor’s Only sites are not Google-ized. Posts from our Creative Writing class (which is a closed site) haven’t come up in Google searches to this point while most stuff from open sites usually shows up within a matter of weeks if not days. So making all the sites eds only would solve the problem to some extent. But one of the reasons I like the Web log is the open publishing aspect of it. That, to me, is one of the most important parts of the portfolio process, the one part that until now has been the most difficult to accomplish. But if student Web logs were online, I don’t think it would be a big step for kids to find work done by students in earlier sections of the same course. (Yes, a good teacher will be looking at process for any assignment, but it’s easier to start at the end and work backwards in many cases.)

The other issue is the carrying forward of teacher comments that are most often found in writing on student work. Unless teachers input those comments into the Web log, which they certainly could do, there would have to be another way of capturing them.

So I’m weighing the pros and cons here with a general tepid response from teachers in the department primarily due, I think, to an incomplete understanding of how this would work. The plan has to be clearer before I can sell it. I’m sure there will be more about this later.