One of ten Digital Ethics in ePortfolios Principles
Educators are aware of equity-related challenges and address learning needs related to each student’s identities, cultures, and backgrounds as they create ePortfolios.
The creation of ePortfolios happens within a multitude of contexts: The country you live in, your institution, the dominant academic culture, the platform provider’s approach or philosophy, the personal beliefs of each educator, and also the intersection of identities, cultures, and backgrounds of the individual learners. Students, educators, administrators, and ePortfolio platform providers must
- gain awareness of equity-related challenges, e.g., assumptions, biases, social and institutional barriers, that students face when building and sharing ePortfolios;
- take action by constructing equity-minded ePortfolio assignments; and
- review the ePortfolio experience with students regularly to ask about any equity-related issues that may impact their motivation, opportunities, and achievement.
To create an environment where learners feel welcome and encouraged to participate fully in ePortfolio activities that often involve revealing who they are, every stakeholder must consider how to foster each person’s sense of belonging in a class, at an educational institution, and in a field or discipline. The process involves honoring and making visible the diversity of the educational community by designing ePortfolio instruction that is equitable for diverse learners. It also respects the intersection of each learner’s identity, culture, and background by paying attention to how those different backgrounds and experiences can be communicated and interpreted within an ePortfolio.
Creating an ePortfolio can involve different levels of risk for marginalized and multiply marginalized ePortfolio creators. Such risks, starting with the instructor and continuing with additional audiences, may include bias, assumptions regarding digital access, and expectations regarding sharing personal information.
Strategies for increasing diversity
- Finding out more about learners, including their identity, culture, and background and creating ePortfolio assignments based on an asset model.
- Creating ePortfolio assignments that include resources representing different perspectives about underlying course topics and that are based on an asset model.
- Citing a diverse set of perspectives to support the arguments you make as a learner through your ePortfolio artifacts and reflections, respecting conventions and institutional guidelines in regard to artifact sharing.
Strategies for increasing equity
- Facilitating a class discussion with your entire class about how to balance 1) presenting one’s identity, culture, and background throughout an ePortfolio, and 2) addressing viewers’ potential biases.
- Providing support and resources for students, educators, and staff, e.g., the Peralta Equity Rubric, that help them to address equity concepts in ePortfolio-related activities.
- Encouraging students to ask for what they need to have a better learning experience with portfolios, including support for creating mobile-friendly and low-bandwidth artifacts, captioning multimedia resources, and understanding their importance.
Strategies for increasing inclusion
- Asking portfolio questions that encourage students to reference their own cultural and social backgrounds and show them that these are welcomed while providing space for students to self-select the extent to which they share their personal lives.
- Considering ePortfolio artifacts and reflections for how the use of language may be interpreted by diverse readers from other backgrounds and cultures.
- Teaching students how to design accessible ePortfolios by including alternate formats of their ePortfolio artifacts as reviewers, classmates, community members, or employers may use assistive technologies.
Strategies for increasing belonging
- Creating a positive environment built on trust, and forming relationships with students. This includes taking their personal stories into consideration when formulating portfolio questions, giving feedback, and assessing portfolios to encourage sharing without judgment.
- Accepting that there are many ways of gaining knowledge and understanding and being open to explore these with students. That may also involve revising activities to incorporate these different ways for students to feel heard, accepted, and safe.
- Giving students some choice of expression in their portfolios, educators signal to the students that their ways of learning and expression are valued. It is up to the students to settle on the approach that suits them best (see also Universal Design of Learning).
Strategies for decolonization
- Including members from the learners’ community, e.g. elders from an Indigenous community, in the design of portfolio activities to ensure they are culturally appropriate, allow learners to draw from their own knowledge traditions, and align with the community’s practices. Seek their advice on the best approach of working with the community, sharing results appropriately, and creating an environment beneficial to everyone.
- Balancing knowledge traditions requires gaining awareness of how different cultures, including but not limited to Indigenous Peoples, share and gain knowledge (process) as well as how they view the world (context).
- Respecting and adhering to cultural norms and concepts from Indigenous and other cultures that may differ vastly from the dominant culture.
Note: Each scenario is associated with one of the concepts primarily. However, often other concepts play into it as well.
Scenario #1 (Diversity)
You are an administrator and tasked to collect portfolios to include in a public showcase of the work done by students and educators in your programme. You do not have access to all portfolios created because many of them are confidential and only shared with educators for assessment purposes. You create a poster that you can attach to emails to educators and also students for them to get in touch with you if they want to share their portfolio or know of someone whom you could ask. You send the poster to programmes on campus, including student organizations and programmes that support marginalized student populations, like the Advocates for Disabilities organization, the Black Student Union, the Association for Indonesian Students, etc.
You catch up with each student and educator who proposed a portfolio and make sure that they are fully aware of the conditions of sharing, where their portfolios will appear and for how long. You check that the content follows your institution’s copyright and acceptable use policies. If re-use permissions are restricted, you may ask the portfolio creator to provide you with a revision that adheres more to the guidelines set for the showcase.
When you select portfolios for the final showcase, you make sure to have a range of different portfolios, topics, and perspectives that represent the diversity that you have in your programme.
Scenario #2 (Equity)
You are an ePortfolio platform provider and want to increase learning equity for students creating their ePortfolio experiences. You and your team must address a variety of equity-related challenges. First, to support students who do not have reliable access to devices and/or the Internet, you work to make the interface more mobile-friendly, to create simple pathways for media to be converted to formats that require less bandwidth, and to provide automated prompts for students to consider using multiple formats to showcase their knowledge and skills.
Next, to support ePortfolio creators who are not represented in the images and media on your organization’s website and marketing collateral, you create a design campaign that more accurately reflects the diversity of higher education students. Further, the images and media show that a diverse set of students uses your ePortfolio platform to share work in a range of disciplines, especially science, technology, engineering, and math.
Last, to prevent the use of learner analytics from perpetuating inequities you engage the entire team in activities that ask a diverse group of professionals to review how you construct algorithms as well as how you train educators and administrators to interpret the data.
Scenario #3 (Inclusion)
You are an educator and are aware of the importance of making your students feel welcome in their learning environments to engage them fully. You understand that building trust and forming personal relationships with your students is a crucial part in this, especially because you ask your students to create a learning portfolio in which they will share personal thoughts, opinions, and stories. By knowing your students better on a personal level, you can engage them in a respectful, equitable, and inclusive way that takes their personal stories into consideration.
You begin the process by working with students to construct community norms that foster a safe environment where educators and students alike hold themselves accountable, treat each other with respect, and allow everyone to share as much as they are willing to. Some students may seem like an open book and talk about their entire life’s history while others are more selective. As a class you agree to accept the entire range of participation, as it is up to each person to decide what and how they want to share.
You also discuss the concept of creating a ‘brave space’ to intentionally build diversity and social justice and incorporate some example brave space agreement guidelines such as a) listen to understand, not to respond; b) address the idea, not the person; c) explore, recognize, and acknowledge your privilege; and d) make space by sharing speaking time. As a part of this discussion, ask students to consider the differences between an inclusive learning space and the public digital world.
Scenario #4 (Belonging)
You are a student and are tasked to create an employability portfolio showcasing your skills and competencies. As you are applying for a graduate role, you know the audience of your portfolio. Your educator suggests you find out about cultural practices of the company, the social environment in which it operates, and its diversity and inclusion practices to tailor your portfolio appropriately. This also helps you dig deeper into the company itself and get to know its vision and values.
Your educator encourages you to include a reflection about how your values align with working in the company’s professional field. You decide to include statements that show appreciation for employer actions that foster belonging among the workers, such as being recognized for positive contributions to an organization, being able to express opinions respectfully and freely, and receiving feedback that supports personal growth. You show your draft portfolio to someone in the company if you already have a contact there or someone in the same industry to receive feedback. If needed, you review your portfolio and make it even more specific.
Scenario #5 (Decolonization)
You are an educator in a class in which ePortfolios are introduced for the first time. Traditionally, this class is taken by a wide range of students, including many Indigenous learners from the community. You want to ensure that you are culturally appropriate in your activities and also tie your activities to the wider study programme. To avoid asking one of your Indigenous colleagues to speak for an entire group or to perform unpaid work, you contact the Cultural Advisor at your institution. You ask to meet with them to discuss your ePortfolio project.
Together you review the learning outcomes of your course and discuss how you can create a positive environment for all students and ask reflective questions that encourage your students to share their learning and thinking in the best ways for them. Since the Cultural Advisor has a unique perspective due to their personal Indigenous identity, they suggest you start conversations with other community members to learn from them and to get to know the broad variety of Indigenous voices. There is no single Indigenous identity, and one person cannot speak for them all. This will give you a good foundation to see your students’ identities and how you can best support them.
You realize that incorporating Indigenous ways of learning, communicating and collaborating will also benefit all other students for they create an environment of inquiry, sharing, supporting each other, learning together and learning from each other. You further determine that the portfolio is a great vehicle for giving students that freedom of self-expression and inviting them to choose their own ways of representing themselves.
You may introduce your students to the use of Traditional Knowledge Labels to identify specific knowledge and resources to express how these can be shared and used in research.
Scenario #6 (Multiple)
You are an educator and teach a course that includes the creation of a semester-long learning portfolio as well as assessment portfolios. Before the start of the semester, you review your inclusive teaching statement and adjust it if needed. You include the statement in your syllabus and lead a discussion in the first class session with your students to ensure that they understand what that means for their learning, how they approach their class activities, and what they can expect of you and each other. Together, you establish group agreements that everyone agrees to, including a plan on how to deal with offenses.
Throughout the semester, you reflect on your practice and how you support students in their personal learning journeys that they express and share in their portfolios and make adjustments to your interactions and how you give feedback as needed. You also review your scaffolding of portfolio work as the semester progresses as you may see that students require less guidance the more experience they have creating their own portfolios and engaging with other students’ portfolios.
In a department meeting, you discuss your experiences in your course with other educators to share how the portfolio has helped your students form meaningful relationships with each other and with you and how that can influence their further studies with other educators. You help each other find common elements in each course that you can use to link the individual courses and show students how they can progress from one to another and keep up with their portfolio work. Your learning designer, who works across all courses in your department, supports you to create that cohesion.
We would like to thank everyone who has supported the research and our learning on this topic, especially those we interviewed: Prof. Dr. Marie Battiste (University of Saskatchewan in Canada), Chris Cormack (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe; Catalyst IT in Aotearoa New Zealand), Dr. Frankie Egan (Monash University in Australia), Hinerangi Eruera Murphy (Ngāti Awa; Te Whare Wānanga ō Awanuiārangi in Aotearoa New Zealand), Chelsea Finnie (Catalyst IT in Aotearoa New Zealand), Prof. Dr. JaneMaree Maher (Monash University in Australia), Dr. Emily van der Nagel (Monash University in Australia), Prof. Dr. Chavella Pittman (Effective Faculty in the U.S.A.), Prof. Dr. Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou; University of Waikato – Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato in Aotearoa New Zealand), Dr. Zala Volcic (Monash University in Australia).
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- Asset Model: A model that allows learners to show their strengths, skills, and interests through their work.
- DEIBD: Combinations of concepts–Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging, Decolonization–are known by a number of different abbreviations, e.g. DI, DEI, DEIB. In these principles, we have included the ‘Decolonization’ aspect to make it visible.
- Diversity: The presence of difference or what makes each person unique.
- Equity: “Freedom from biases, assumptions and institutional barriers that negatively impact learners’ motivation, opportunities and achievements.” – Peralta Community College District – Online Equity Initiative
- Inclusion: The process of making each person feel valued and welcome
- Belonging: “…the extent to which students feel personally accepted, respected, included, and supported by others in the school social environment” (Goodenow and Grady, 1993, p. 80).
- Decolonization: “Decolonization, once viewed as the formal process of handing over the instruments of government, is now recognized as a long-term process involving the bureaucratic, cultural, linguistic and psychological divesting of colonial power” (Smith, 1999, p. 98).
- Intersectional identity: Interconnected and overlapping aspects of one’s identity, culture and background that, in different combinations, can amplify discrimination or privilege. See also intersectionality.
- Intersectionality: “a framework for conceptualizing a person, group of people, or social problem as affected by a number of discriminations and disadvantages. It takes into account people’s overlapping identities and experiences in order to understand the complexity of prejudices and privileges they face” (Kort, 2019, para. 3).