December 4, 2002
Purdue teacher-education students make the grade with e-portfolios
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. As the first semester of the 2002-03 school year ends, Purdue University's future K-12 teachers will be evaluated for the first time on a new high-tech assessment tool, the electronic portfolio, or e-portfolio.
More than 600 students in three beginning teacher-education courses began using the Purdue Electronic Portfolio (PEP) system this semester. Jill Lesh, coordinator of the Purdue Program for Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology (known as P3T3) project, said the students are creating electronic archives related to their coursework, called artifacts, in their own Web-based portfolios to document their professional growth and their understanding of what it means to be a teacher.
"The e-portfolios will be used throughout their teacher preparation program at Purdue," Lesh said. "For the first time, instructors will approve and critique files submitted through the e-portfolio system for each of the three courses."
The Purdue School of Education developed the e-portfolio program during the past two years through the U.S. Department of Education's Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to use Technology (or PT3 program). The programs are aimed at preparing teachers to use technology effectively in the classroom. Purdue tested the e-portfolio last semester.
James D. Lehman, project director and head of Purdue's Department of Curriculum and Instruction, said both the national and Purdue programs address concerns raised in recent years by a number of national reports that have decried the lack of technological preparation for prospective teachers. Purdue's program came about after more than five years of reform planning by faculty and administrators in the School of Education.
"The information technology revolution has changed the very fabric of society," Lehman said. "Technology knowledge and skills are increasingly viewed as essential to success. The e-portfolio program is one of the ways we're reforming the way teachers are taught and the way in which they will teach their students."
Lehman said Purdue's program prepares teacher-education students to effectively utilize computers and allied technologies for personal productivity, for documenting and reflecting on teaching practice, and for effective teaching and learning.
The e-portfolio system works like this:
Students create files, or artifacts, with narratives. An artifact is essentially a Web page that includes components, such as the student's picture, course information, standards information and a student's narrative, that addresses particular teaching standards represented by the work done. The student can choose a variety of media forms to represent a given performance standard. Each artifact also includes components that students choose to include such as links to specific files they created and uploaded. This could be word processing documents, photos or digital videos.
Students can post lesson plans, term papers and other documents, and even video clips of classroom interaction with students during their student-teaching experiences.
The system enables the ongoing collection and archiving of relevant performances selected by each aspiring teacher. The use of an artifact template simplifies the process while still giving individual students options to customize the presentation around performance themes or categories.
The Web-based system allows students a chance to store easily accessible representations of their work and teaches them to think about and reflect on the work, Lehman said.
In Purdue's assessment system, an overall review occurs at four points in the students' academic careers. At each of these points, a committee will check the students' portfolios to ensure that they are making appropriate progress.
Faculty members also can log in anytime to evaluate the students' work. Most files will be created as part of courses so the system links individual students' work to the courses in which they are created. An instructor can retrieve all of the students' work for a particular course during a semester for assessment.
Because it is Web-based, students can access the e-portfolio system from any place that has an Internet connection.
Purdue's School of Education integrates technology in other ways as well.
The Purdue-East Chicago distant field experience partnership, now in its fifth semester, uses technology that allows a class of beginning teacher-education students at Purdue a chance to observe and interact with second- or third-graders at Harrison Elementary School in East Chicago, Ind. Two-way Internet-based videoconferencing equipment makes it possible for students to get a multicultural experience in an urban setting.
Purdue's technology-based teaching innovations brought the Public Broadcast Service station, WHRO-TV in Norfolk, Va., to campus last month to film two half-hour documentaries. The films will feature Purdue's e-portfolio and distance field experience projects to showcase U.S. Department of Education supported technology preparation initiatives.
Lehman said that teaching future educators how to best use technology is imperative, but that it still remains a means to an end.
"We believe the changes that we've made to better prepare our teachers will, in turn, improve the education for those school children that they touch," he said.
Writer: Grant Flora, (765) 494-2073, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: James D. Lehman, (765) 494-5670, email@example.com
Jill Lesh, (765) 494-0568, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com
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