Where’s the creativity in your ePortfolio?

K.Park/ March 7, 2021/ 1 comments

ISTE Student Standard 6

Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.

  • 6a – Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
  • 6b – Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
  • 6c – Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
  • 6d – Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

ISTE Coaches Standards

  • 4a – Collaborate with educators to develop authentic, active learning experiences that foster student agency, deepen content mastery and allow students to demonstrate their competency.

Introduction

As I was reflecting on the ISTE Student Standards this past week, I have found myself wondering if I am creative and if so, how much?  Sometimes when I think about creativity, it’s the genius of someone like Beethoven or Handel – who created these masterpieces from nothing (though I’m sure there was a lot of hard work and trial and error).  But what if you’re more like me, where you tinker with things and make small adaptations; not one of those individuals who creates something original, are you still creative?  The answer is yes, but how as an educator, do you foster creativity amongst all learners?

Question 

The topic I want to explore this time is fostering creativity in design projects, like digital portfolios for all students.

Encouraging Creativity

I don’t like making things from scratch and in fact, it can be really hard for me to think of something new out of nothing. I have long thought that I am not a creative person because I don’t create original work.  Things like writing music or doing improvisation on the piano or impromptu speeches in class, when I was younger wasn’t enjoyable.  Playing music and reinterpreting or associating my feelings or a particular memory with a piece on the piano or flute, though….that was the sweet spot for me.

It’s the same for my website here.  One of the first things I did was hunt for a theme and then modify.  Over the past quarter, I’ve changed my theme, navigation, colors, and images multiple times. In fact, I would say I’m constantly making adjustments here and there to make my site better, but without the theme putting many pieces in the places where I needed, my site wouldn’t have come together that well.

An act of creativity can be grand and inspiring, such as crafting a beautiful painting or designing an innovative company. But an idea need not be artistic or world-changing to count as creative.

Psychology Today

I think one of the first and most important things instructors can do when they’re looking to foster creativity, is to talk about what creativity means and looks like in everyday life.  It’s not always an epiphany moment, sometimes it’s through consistent hard work and just plain tinkering, that something turns into innovation.

Creativity & Portfolios

Higher education needs to see creativity within the important role it plays in preparing people for an uncertain and ever more complex world of work; a world that requires people to utilise their creative as well as their analytical capacities. 

Jackson, 2006

In a study done at the Dublin Institute of Technology, the researchers specifically asked if ePortfolios foster creativity, in a professional development context. The ePortfolios created by students were fairly typical of what an ePortfolio might include, reflections, lessons learned, etc.  

These were questions the researchers wanted to address:

  • Was creativity encouraged?
  • How did we support creativity?
  • Were there barriers to creativity?
  • Was the ePortfolio tool suitable for supporting creativity?
  • Did assessment criteria support creativity?

Overall, they found that creativity wasn’t really encouraged or supported, and that the tools used and assessments should be adjusted to foster creativity.

In the slides you can see the authors advocating specific ways they could enhance creativity more, like incorporating the Four P’s of Creativity. In another paper on a study about the integration of Design Thinking as part of the ePortfolio process, they determined that there was creativity, it just may not have been very deep and that they could do further analysis on the activities leading up to the ePortfolio to address that (Metz, S. M., & Albernhe-Giordan, H. 2010).

Ultimately, it seems the act of creating a portfolio itself isn’t necessarily creative.  It is with intentional application of creative theories that are incorporated throughout the entire development process of the portfolio that bring creativity and innovation to life. 

Creativity is a muscle; it needs to be exercised to be preserved and grow. This suggests that teaching of creativity skills should be incorporated into prevailing school curricula.

Pringle, 2020

Regarding templates…

I think templates are great.  They save time, particularly for websites, like a WordPress theme, it puts a lot of pieces in the right places and then allows a person to go through and modify or adapt to their heart’s content.  The catch is to not be so tied to the template that every course becomes a cookie cutter course.  

At work, due to the pandemic, we modified a Canvas teaching template that was shared with us by another university in our network, because we knew it would help faculty and students meet most needs for designing and navigating an online course, when applied to a course.  But then we always encouraged people to adapt the template.  

I think similarly to how my office provided a course template for instructors, when it comes to digital portfolios, we resort to a template.  But in the case of a project in a classroom, we may be more prescriptive with it because we need to assess the work, which an inhibit the creative process.

Assessing Creativity

When students are invited to meet criteria in new and different ways, they are provided with an opportunity to demonstrate and develop their creativity. Opening up the possibilities for how students meet criteria requires transforming the typically predetermined pathways into TBD pathways, thus introducing uncertainty (Beghetto).

If we take Beghetto’s statement about assessing creativity: “Assessing classroom creativity is different, because we want to determine whether students can meet expected criteria in unexpected ways,” then we would see that most assessments focus on an expected outcome at each stage (Problem, Process, Product, Criteria) of a task.  By breaking assessments down like this, it becomes easier to insert a To Be Determined mindset, that allows students to creatively develop solutions, while still meeting the predetermined requirements or standards of a particular assessment.

Chart showing 5 different ways the assessment process (Problem, Process, Product, Criteria) can incorporate creativity by students in the classroom, while still meeting standards or assessment criteria.

The chart shows how each step can be replaced with something the student determines rather than what the instructor has predetermined.
Chart showing 5 different ways the assessment process (Problem, Process, Product, Criteria) can incorporate creativity by students in the classroom, while still meeting standards or assessment criteria.

Conclusion

I believe the creation of an eportfolio can encourage creativity and be helpful for students, but it also requires instructors to create an environment that encourages creativity.  This means looking at assumptions of what being creative looks like and means, evaluating and reflecting on whether or not the feedback given focuses on the the creative process students are growing through or if it focus on a comparison of the final products, and finally, if their overall assessment process allows students any agency or creativity in how they meet the final criteria.

Lastly, as a tech person, I can’t forget to remind you that if you require students to use a particular tool as part of the development of the ePortfolio, that you should also make sure the tool is accessible, you understand the student privacy implications, but also that you’re prepared to provide support or training or can connect students with someone, either a department on campus or an external resource, that can help students learn how to use the tool effectively and well. Otherwise, the tool can detract from the learning and creativity that could take place, because students are focused on learning the tool.

Resources

Metz, S. M., & Albernhe-Giordan, H. (2010). E-Portfolio: a pedagogical tool to enhance creativity in student’s project design. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2(2), 3563-3567. https://https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.03.552

O’Keeffe, M., O’Rourke, K.C., Donnelly, R. (2011) Can ePortfolios foster creativity? An evaluative study in a professional development context. https://www.slideshare.net/muir31/evaluating-if-eportfolios-foster-creativity 

Psychology today. Creativity. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/creativity

Pringle, Z. Ph.D. (2020). Psychology Today. Creativity can be taught. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/creativity-the-art-and-science/202006/creativity-can-be-taught

Beghetto, R. (2020). Assessing creativity: a palette of possibilities (a collection of essays). Assessment that supports classroom creativity. pp. 26 – pp 32. https://www.legofoundation.com/media/2825/assessing-creativity_may2020.pdf

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Karen! Good read! I have to say, I actually “hit the nail on the head” when I first started reading your post when you noted that a lot of the time, creativity is not encouraged. It seems like there may be certain areas in a student’s academic career where there is a definite need for creativity and to show it, but not in a lot of areas. Thanks for your post!

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