This name comes from an article by Will Richardson on his blog weblogg-ed and the idea behind it should be discussed when talking about web based open portfolios.
Who hasn't searched for their name on the internet to see what turns up? All of that under your name that may or may not actually be you is your g-portfolio. Even those parts that aren't really you? Well yes, until you can show that it isn't you and create an online identity that people see is you. Your brand, image, online identity, it has many different names but none truly accommodate all of the different facets of you that will be included whether you want them to or not. But how can we control that? Should we? And what does that mean for us and our students?
But first, how does that work? Search engines employ programs called spiders to 'crawl' around the internet referencing sites, checking links and providing the information to provide a search. Any web page unless protected by a password or a specific piece of code is indexed and added to the search engines database, this then provides the information on the screen that appears when a search is undertaken.
During this indexing process information is gathered from any pages including blogs and retained as searchable material in the database. This can include any names that are used and is where we need to start thinking about the g-portfolio or digital footprint.
A g-portfolio is the collection of information about a person that can be obtained by performing a search using their name. The more unique a persons name the easier it is to refine the search and find their g-portfolio or digital footprint, all the things that they have published, created or joined on the internet. I say all, but this isn't quite correct, for instance it doesn't include some wall gardens such as Facebook and don't expect an adults bank details to appear, however the amount of details that can be found out is quite impressive.
So imagine in the future that a potential employer performs a search on your name. What would they find out? What should they find out? What would you want them to find out? What they find out is your g-portfolio. This is the part that you want to think about, the online identity and the snapshot of you that it is giving someone of a you that is….. a creative, knowledgeable person, someone with passion, ideas, a thoughtful web presence, or….. someone else? And what about all of those other people with your name appearing at the same time?
This is about a more proactive choice of controlling that g-portfolio, putting your best face forward and trying to bring the pieces into a more cohesive whole. How does the e-portfolio that a school sets up for a student fit into all this? Well maybe this is the first step in helping a student create it. The applications and technology are going to change, but the basic ideas of online identity, digital citizenship, branding, accountability, openness, cognition, reflective thought, learning, authenticity and a self-awareness of what being online means is not. These are what we should be aiming for with our e-portofolis, not a focus on the tool.
It is possible to create a walled garden for the e-portfolios and something to be considered by all of the stakeholders. The school could make them password protected to keep out the search engine spiders. It is also possible to include code that stops these spiders from referencing the site as well but leaves it open for a wider audience. More details about that is here.
What does that leave a student at the age of 18 leaving school as their online identity? Is it just all of those things that they signed up for and did on their own outside of school and nothing to show for their hard work at school? How about the portability of the system when a student gets to that age, should they be able to take their e-portfolio away with them from the school system?
There are some important considerations that need to be thought about by a school when undertaking a web based portfolio system. They should be analysed, discussed, researched and discussed some more before a decision is taken. It may be that a school decides to raise the walls and keep the students penned in, 'safe' and provide systems that keep this information within the school. I don't believe that this is responsibly preparing our students as digital citizens and making them knowledgeable about all of their online decisions. Will this stop them having a g-portfolio? Absolutely not. Everything they do outside of school will be up there front and centre. Should that be the first and only thing a person sees about one of our students?
For the sake of keeping this blog post succinct as it is I haven't discussed the issue of first and last names being used on the internet, or even aliases that can become an identity. That'll be saved for another post.